Moto Guzzi V 50 II


Make Model

Moto Guzzi V 50 II


1979 - 80


Four stroke, 90° V twin, longitudinally mounted, OHV, 4 valve per cylinder


490 cc / 29.9 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 74 x 57 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 10.8:1


2x 24mm Dell'Orto carburetors


Battery powered inductive
Starting Electric

Max Power

48 hp / 35.7 kW @ 7500 rpm

Max Torque

Clutch Dry single plate


5 Speed 
Final Drive Shaft
Frame Duplex spine type

Front Suspension

Telehydraulic gas forks

Front Suspension

Telehydraulic gas forks

Rear Suspension

Swinging arm fork with hydraulic gas shock absorbers

Front Brakes

2x 270mm discs

Rear Brakes

Single 235mm disc

Front Tyre


Rear Tyre


Dry Weight

158 kg / 348 lbs

Fuel Capacity

16 Litres / 4.3 US gal

Consumption Average

54 mpg

Standing ¼ Mile  

15.0 sec / 89 mph

Top Speed

103 mph

Moto Guzzi's seldom-seen V50 500cc roadster is either the most beautiful, exotic and best handling mid-size bike made or an over-priced, under-powered small Twin. Which bike it is depends on the motorcyclist and only those who appreciate machines that are red, Italian and make all the right noises will be excited by the V50-II.

Moto Guzzi doesn't introduce an all-new motorcycle design every year, or every decade for that matter. After a dozen years of selling permutations on what began as the V7 and grew into 850 and 1000cc versions of sports and touring models, Guzzi has come up with a motorcycle that obviously looks like the large Guzzi, but is, in fact, entirely new.

Following recent Guzzi tradition the V50 has a 90° V-Twin engine driving a separate transmission through a dry clutch and from the transmission the power is delivered via a shaft to the rear hub. And while the size and general configuration is similar to a Honda CX500, the small Guzzi is as much like a Honda as it is like a Harley, that is, not at all. It is, instead, every millimeter a Guzzi.

For the basics, bore and stroke are 74 x 57mm for a displacement of 490cc. A central camshaft operates two valves in each head through those ghosts of motorcycles past, pushrods. It's air cooled, has a smallish 24mm Dell'Orto carb (with accelerator pump) feeding each cylinder, uses plain bearings on the heavy single throw crank and has a wet sump. The bike comes with Bosch electrics, starter, alternator and electronic ignition. An optional kick starter can be attached to the baby Goose, but it's not standard equipment.

Described thusly the little Goose sounds very much like the larger goose, yet it's a totally new design. Beginning with the crankcase, the older Guzzis had a one piece crankcase with the crank slid into the case. The V50 has a horizontally split crankcase that fastens together around the crank. While the old Goose oil filter mounted inside the crankcase and could only be removed after pulling the pan, the V50 has an externally-removable cartridge oil filter. The alternator is still mounted on the front of the crankshaft, but underneath the alternator at the very front of the engine are the magnetic pickups for the electronic ignition. The large Guzzis use a distributor driven off the cam and mounted inboard of the righthand cylinder, all filled with points. The new electronic ignition isn't just an electronic triggering mechanism, there's also full electronic ignition advance based on engine speed, eliminating the mechanical advancer commonly found on electronic ignitions.

The camshaft is chain driven (the same chain operates the oil pump) and has surprisingly radical cam timing. Measured at 1mm lift, the V50 has 248° of duration and 33 ° of overlap, making for more radical cam timing than most all the Japanese Fours. Of course the Goose's head is unlike any Japanese motorcycle in having a flat surface with the parallel valves mounted flush in the flat head. The combustion chamber is formed in the dished topped pistons. The flat head limits valve size, though some designers feel the flat heads can make more power than comparable hemi or pent-roof heads. However, in the V50's case they certainly don't.

Typically for a Guzzi, the detachable aluminum cylinders have chrome bores, unlike those of the Honda CX500.

At the rear of the V50 is a new single-plate dry clutch with diaphragm spring. The larger Guzzis use a double plate clutch with coil springs. Transmission design is also different. The input shaft on the transmission drives the mainshaft through a helical gear. Next to the main-shaft is a layshaft and three shift forks are operated from a drum shifter on the V50.

A driveshaft runs through a cast swing arm that pivots on the rear of the transmission. The rest of the frame, being normal Guzzi, uses a double cradle that unbolts so the engine can be pulled from the frame. The lower tubes bolt to the down-tubes at the front of the engine and run aft, bolting to the transmission case and ending where they support the rear foot-pegs. Upper frame rails extend back and have V-shaped tubes running down to the top of the transmission and back to the end of the frame.

As much a part of Guzzi design as the engine are the brakes. Triple discs, with the rear disc and one of the front discs linked and activated by the brake pedal have been on Guzzis since the 850T-3 was introduced in 1976. The other front disc is operated by the hand lever, though on the V50 the lever actuates the master cylinder by a cable, the master cylinder being located under the gas tank, a la BMW. Calipers are double piston Brembo.

Rear wheel removal is simplified on this Guzzi because the rear disc is mounted on the same side of the wheel as the drive unit. The disc and caliper don't have to be removed for the wheel to be removed as the wheel pulls off the drive unit and brake with a rubber cush drive linking the two. The rubber dampers are held into the wheel with small plugs that fit into holes in the wheel. It's a clean and convenient system.

Both wheels are cast aluminum alloy, 18 in. Suspension consists of Moto Guzzi's own forks with 4.9 in. of travel and shocks with 2.7 in. travel, certainly not long travel by contemporary standards.

Specifications, in the case of the V50, tell half the story about how the Guzzi works. Yet some of the story is hidden. For instance, the high 10.8:1 compression ratio and somewhat radical valve timing would indicate the V50 is a highly tuned, peaky racer sort of a motorcycle, which is not at all the case. Because of the small valves and small carbs the high compression ratio is there to help suck the mixture past the restrictions and manifold vacuum is likely high.

That also explains why the baby Goose will run on low octane fuel without pinging. The cam timing reduces actual compression and the less-than-inspiring volumetric efficiency combines to reduce actual cranking pressure more so the engine resists detonation even with large piston diameters. The result is a claimed 45 bhp at 7500 rpm and performance that suggests actual horsepower is closer to 40.

At least fuel mileage is good, in fact, better than the numbers would indicate. The 54 mpg shown in the data panel was our average for testing in the nearly mile high western Montana area. The riding was fast and the elevation high enough to richen mixtures substantially. We would expect the small Guzzi to return at least 60 mpg in our normal CW100 mi. mileage loop.

Despite having a weight that's light for a 400-class Twin, the 392 lb. V50 is no dragstrip terror. With a quarter mile performance of 15.93 sec. and terminal speed of 85.1 mph, the V50 is slower than any of the Japanese 400-class Twins or 500 Singles and far off the pace set by the KZ550. For comparison the KZ550 has dragstrip performance of 13.49 sec. at 95.23 mph while returning 63 mpg and spinning 4902 rpm at 60 mph on the highway. The V50's gearing isn't markedly different. It cruises at 4712 rpm at 60 mph, gives 54 mpg and the only reason it is so much slower accelerating than the lively Kawasaki is because it doesn't have as much horsepower. "

Why the V50 has such mild power for an otherwise sporting motorcycle is likely because the new V50 has replaced Moto Guzzi's ancient Falcone as a standard police motorcycle in Italy. To withstand police use, the V50 is in effect detuned. Moto Guzzi's V35, a 350cc version of the same motorcycle, is offered in Europe in a sporting configuration with larger 26mm carburetors and the small version manages to be faster than our 500cc test bike. Obviously there's more power hidden not too deeply inside the Guzzi's sharply-defined square-looking cylinders.

Some of the Moto Guzzi's low power could be attributed to the high elevation at which the bike was tested. At nearly a mile above sea level the V50 obviously lost both power and fuel mileage, but a change in elevation to even sea level still wouldn't put the little Goose anywhere near the head of its class as far as power is concerned.

Where the V50 is at the head of its class is in that nebulous area of handling and road feel that somehow connects a rider to the road with a machine called a motorcycle. Done right the motorcycle forms a-positive link between rider and road and doesn't get in the way. That's how the V50 does it. There are these handlebars, see, and they are positively linked to the front wheel and nothing else matters. There's no low speed wobble or high speed weave in the machine. There's hardly any inertia in the bike at all so the tiniest little touch of the handlebars results in the motorcycle turning that same tiny amount. Going around fast mountain corners the V50 rider can play with potholes or oil spots or bits of gravel on the road, diving under the spot or turning around the gravel while other bikes follow behind, their riders concentrating to aim the larger machines through a smooth arc because that's the only way to keep up with the nimble V50.

If there's a fault to the Moto Guzzi's handling it's that it's too responsive. Get off a larger bike and onto the Guzzi and a rider is apt to rest his weight on the handlebars where little bumps can make him feed steering pressure into the bars. As a result the V50 will move around in high speed corners unless the rider is oh so cautious not to touch the bars in the wrong way. Ridden properly the bike is stable. Whether a bike that responds this suddenly is good handling or overly sensitive, in the case of the V50, depends mostly on the temperament of the rider, one of the testers finding it ideal, another one saying it was a bit too sensitive.

Whether or not the V50 steers too quickly, its other handling qualities are superb. Way past the speed at which most four cylinder bikes will have touched down with something solid the V50 will begin smoking a folding footpeg, letting the rider know the end is near. But there's substantial cornering clearance left after the pegs scrape before the sidestand scrapes. And the stock tires, whether they be the Pirellis, Michelins or the Metzelers that came on the test V50 are all a cut above the usual rim protectors delivered on less expensive motorcycles. The suspension also helps handling, being tight and well controlled while absorbing any harsh bumps that might bounce the bike around. This isn't an ultra-plush suspension for a touring bike, it's on the V50 to assist the handling. It also happens to be acceptably comfortable, but that's not the top priority.

The same philosophical question of too much or just enough goes for the brakes as much as the handling. Guzzi has been installing nothing but its integrated braking system on its bikes for four years now and this is the first time we've had a test bike equipped with the system. It's important to remember that the Guzzi's brakes are a system, not just a quickly cobbled-up linking of brakes.

If office consensus is any indication, experienced riders don't take kindly to any fiddling of conventional brake design. The separate systems allow good riders to proportion the brakes as necessary for the best braking. Okay, a linked system might be of some use to beginners, but nobody around here would want an integrated system.

A ride on the V50, though, changed some minds on the subject. The V50's brakes worked far better than anyone imagined they would. At any speed a light tap on the brake pedal brings moderate stops with no problem. The more a rider gets accustomed to stomping on the pedal, the harder he steps, until he has the V50 lurching to a stop with nothing but the pedal. Pushed really hard the rear brake will lock up before the front if only the pedal is used. But the braking force available with just the brake pedal is about equal to all the braking force of an average motorcycle. Only on the Guzzi there's another disc up front adding to the ultimate braking power.

During braking tests the V50 stopped from 30 mph in 28 ft. and from 60 mph in 122 ft. As remarkable as those stopping distances are, they are only half the story. Control during the braking tests was excellent, the V50 chirping its tires but not locking them throughout the tests. Never did the bike get sideways or lose control and the all-out braking tests, normally the most dangerous part of testing, were even fun on the V50. Of course the light weight and easy control of the entire motorcycle helps the V50 in braking, but the brakes themselves are incredibly powerful, easy to control and not prone to fading during prolonged use.

Like the handling, however, the brakes aren't everyone's ideal. One rider still preferred a separate system so he can use just the rear brake during the infrequent off-course excursion or on unpaved roads, while another test rider said the V50 brakes were the best he'd ever used.

Overall comfort of the V50 is, like most of its other qualities, not a subject of universal acclaim. The firm, slightly narrow seat griped one rider after an hour's ride while others were unaffected. It is a flat seat, making it easy for a rider to move around when the urge strikes. And though it wouldn't be our first pick for a two-up trip to Argentina, it provides about average comfort for similarly sized motorcycles.

It's been years since a motorcycle made a sound worth commenting on so .it's nice to say the V50 has one of the nicest sounds ever made by a motorcycle. A block away you can hear the V50 riding toward you, not because it's loud, but because the sound is distinctive. Guzzi's V-Twin isn't like a Harley or a Ducati or the Honda. It has a powerful tone, well muffled yet threatening that under the muffled tone is a powerful machine. Mechanical noises are much lower on the V50 than on larger Guzzis so the exhaust note and noise from the intake system combine to announce its presence. And to the rider there's just a slight pounding throb accompanying the uneven rhythm, sort of like the beat lent to a band by a bass guitar. Wonderful noises.

Controls on the Guzzi were convenient, but not extraordinary. The new transmission is markedly better shifting than Guzzi transmissions have ever been, but it's no better than average when compared to the common Japanese motorcycles.

Other controls on the Moto Guzzi are a mixture of good, not so good, unusual and innovative. The textured but otherwise smooth grips are a good design but have such a small diameter that holding the throttle open requires too much effort. Extra-strong throttle return springs used in the square slide carbs exacerbate the problem and contribute to the feeling of limited performance because of the effort needed to change speeds. Both the clutch cable and brake cable have external adjusters near the lever ends, a nice touch, but clutch lever pressure is high; higher than it is on larger Moto Guzzis. Lighting controls on the V50 are new for Moto Guzzi and easier to reach due to small diameter of the controls and close proximity to the thumbs. However the signal light switch is a bit high on the control to make room for the headlight flasher/horn rocker switch while the high/low beam switch is inboard of the signal light switch. The headlight flasher and horn are connected to the same rocker switch so that when the lefthand side of the switch is pushed the headlight flashes the high beam, and when the righthand side is pushed the horn sounds while if the switch is mashed in the middle both the headlight and horn go on. It may sound screwy, but it's an effective combination once one learns how to use it.

' Guzzi finally has an instrument panel with warning lights for everything including signals and when the headlight is on, but the warning lights are so dim they may not be noticed on a sunny day. The ignition switch uses a convenient folding key, but this latest Guzzi doesn't have the fork lock incorporated with the ignition switch even though Guzzi was one of the first companies to adopt such a combination lock five years ago. One lever on the lefthand side of the engine controls the chokes of both carbs, but doesn't provide any half choke position. It's either all on or all off and that makes it hard to start the Goose, although once running there are no drive-ability problems.

Being Italian, the Moto Guzzi is in several ways different from any other motorcycle. Not only is the sidestand spring loaded so it snaps back to the motorcycle whenever the bike is touched, but the tab for the sidestand is only an inch away from the shift lever so the uninitiated can easily kick the bike into gear instead of putting down the sidestand if he isn't careful. Other differences, things like the double bulbs for the brakelight and taillight, dual petcocks, single reservoir for both brake master cylinders and simple hinged gas cap are nice touches. So is a 4.2 gal. gas tank that, coupled with the Guzzi's reasonable appetite for fuel, will give a 200 mi. range before one of the two petcocks has to be turned to reserve.

Since the V50 was introduced a couple of years ago there have been subtle styling touches creating the V50 II. The stylish cast swing arm is now painted silver rather than black while the headlight bracket has gone from chrome to a painted finish. But the turn signals have gone from chrome to a painted finish. But the turn signals have gone from flat black to chrome. Also, the polished aluminum alternator cover has been replaced by a black plastic piece with air vents and pinstriping has been added. Oh yes, the headlight mounting ring is now chromed, rather than flat black. Details? Certainly, but the end result is a striking appearance. Wherever the V50 was ridden it attracted motorcyclists and even non-motorcyclists who commented on its good looks. It has somehow managed that perfect blend between styling and function that never lets on that the motorcycle was styled to function.

Despite its exceptional handling and good looks, rest assured the V50 will never be a popular motorcycle. That's part of its charm. It is, above all else, an exotic motorcycle, available in much smaller quantities than any previous Guzzi. Evaluated as an exotic motorcycle, the V50 is nearly ideal, its temperate nature being easy to live with and its individualistic features and style clearly telling any other motorcycle it is not just like anything else.

Even the price contributes to its exotic nature, putting it clearly out of competition with the faster Japanese 500s or even 750s. With a list price in our area of $3149 the V50 is more expensive than any of the popular 500s, 650s or 750s while offering engine performance slightly lower than any of the popular 400-class Twins, surely another way of maintaining exclusivity, though due more to unfortunate circumstances than intent.

As nice as the V50 II is, Moto Guzzi should offer a more sporting version, like the V35 Imola sold in Europe with more power and Lemans-like fairing and styling. Then the performance would match the styling.

Exciting motorcycles don't have to be fast. The Moto Guzzi V50 proves that. It creates excitement through attractive lines, a musical exhaust note, handling that's so sensitive it could be called sensual and the rarity of a perfect mountain road.

Anybody out there want a well used soul? Only $3149. H

Source Cycle World 1980