The reputation of Moto Guzzi has ridden high on the success of the 850cc and 1000cc V-twin range that continues to meet a significant demand on the market. Less common is the big V-twin's little sister the V35-V50 middleweight.
Moto Guzzi's chief designer in the mid seventies, Lino Tonti, developed a design that was to provide an important and innovative boost to Guzzi's success in the Eighties. Tonti's design closely followed that of the big Guzzi's having a 90 Degree V-twin, overhead valve four-stroke with shaft drive to the rear wheel. This initial design was to evolve into road, sports and trail bikes ranging from 350cc to 750cc and gain four valves per cylinder in the process. It was never to be as successful once taken out past 500cc. The design then proved disastrous with valves dropping, heads cracking and other components becoming un=predictable hand grenades, doing little for Guzzi's otherwise impeccable reputation for dependability. However all that was in the future.
The Monza, the model featured in this road-test has the physical dimensions and feel of a Japanese 250, a feature which has also endeared the standard model V50 to many City riders. Along with the renowned Guzzi reliability and braking the 500cc V-twin has sufficient performance to maintain the enthusiasm of its owners. Production of the new range of Vtwins in the late Seventies was not without its problems for the Guzzi factory. The Mandello factory was at full stretch producing the 850cc range and production of the middleweights needed to be shifted to the Innocenti factory in Milan. The home of Lambretta and the Italian mini-car was now to be used for less mundane transport.
The Monza is a delightful bike ro ride having the same traits that make the larger V-twins so popular, namely a relaxed pulsating engine, low maintenance shaft drive, linked brakes, a pleasant exhaust note, low centre of gravity, good engine accessibility, stable handling and good looks. Sounds too good to be true and in some ways it is. The Monza may look fast but it is in no way competitive against the Japanese hot-shot competition. The engine performance is sufficient to maintain a quick pace but its real Place is on the open road, not in stop light drags. The suspension follows Guzzi practice in that it is not up to scratch. With luck the suspension can be set up to perform adequately and although it never deteriorates to the point where handling is a hazard; it just isn't compliant enough for comfort and reacts harshly to bumps. Considering the price the bike commanded the finish also is not of a high enough standard. Paintwork fades and chips easily, chromework rusts readily and the engine alloy is difficult to maintain as the finish tarnishes easily.
Against all of this must be set the Guzzi's lively performance (the engine is happy to rev and is surprisingly punchy considering the low power output). Another feature is the ability of the machine to hug the road and to be thrown confidently through bends. Despite its lower power output the Moto Guzzi always performed well on the road in comparison to its competitors. There were two strong points in favour of the Guzzi Monza. One, it is extraordinarily compact and two, it has an excellent power to weight ratio.
The engine has a bore and stroke of 74mm X 57mm giving a capacity of 490cc;. Combined with a 10.4:1 compression ratio the Monza was claimed to produce 47 bhp at 7500rpm. The engine did not follow normal Guzzi practice in that the Monza pistons have concave crowns with flat heads, utilizing the Heron Head Principle as applied to Morini V-twins and Jaguar cars. These were most likely adopted for reasoms of economy than anything else. The cylinder barrels and heads are distinctively square, a style which has now been adopted on even the heavyweight Guzzis. Unlike the larger bikes the crankcase is in two pieces, split horizontally. An annoying feature of the heavyweight twins is the inaccessibility of the oil filter, however on the Monza, a disposable filter is housed externally on the sump and can be replaced with ease. The gearbox is mounted integrally with the engine but has it's own 90 weight oil capacity. The gear change is on the left-hand side and is a standard one down, four up arrangement. Final drive is, of course, shaft, with the universal joint protected by a rubber boot. As no kick starter is fitted it is fortunate that the electric start is reliable, utilizing a Bosch DG 12 volt 0.7hp starter motor. The double-cradle frame of the Monza follows standard Guzzi practice in being both solid and unbreakable. The bottom tubes are detachable allowing the frame to be lifted away from the motor/gearbox and drive shaft/rear wheel unit, thus giving excellent access to the whole engine.
The swing arm, pivots on the gearbox casting, and is an impressive piece of alloy casting. The wheels also are Campagnolo alloy castings with twelve spokes and a silver finish. Both wheels carry Brembo disc brakes, twin 260mm at the front and a shrouded 235mm rear. Naturally the brakes are linked, use of the foot brake transfers 70% of the braking effort to the right hand front disk and 30% to the rear disc. Use of the hand brake lever brings the left hand front disc into play. The result is impressive and secure braking on dry, wet or dirt roads. The feeling when a Guzzi squats under brakes is of immense stability.
Rear suspension is inadequately handled by Sebac air assisted shock absorbers. The front telescopic fork is Guzzi's own design and features sealed damper units which tend to quickly lose their damping ability. These units are also air assisted, however adjustment does little to help. The Monza is not a slow bike being capable of 105mph when you get down behind the bikini fairing and it certainly is a joy to ride. The bike is easy to control as there is no dramatic powerband to worry about. The engine runs in an un-stressed manner without any need to worry about the motor.
Fuel consumption is also good at approximately 58mpg. Lovely to look at, fun to ride, the pleasing chuff-chuff of the induction noise makes'up for poor quality control. The Monza stood Guzzi well in it's time and in my opinion the styling is more attractive than current offerings. My thanks to the Lunans for a ride on the Monza which they regretfully have been forced to sell since this article was written.
SPECIFICATIONS Previous Owners: Rob and Chris Lunan
Make: Moto Guzzi
Capacity: 490cc Bore/stroke: 74mm x 57mm
Engine: Heron head, Alloy engine,
V-Twin. Four-stroke. Two valves per cylinder
Power: claimed 47bhp at 7,500rpm
Dry weight: 169kg
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