Breva 750ie was one
of the first new bikes to emerge from the Mandello factory
on the shores of Lake Como, following the take over of the
ailing Moto Guzzi company by the Aprilia Group a couple of
years ago. Launched in the UK at the beginning of 2003, the
Breva was a new type of Guzzi that maintained the company's
traditional values in a package that had design cues that
were aimed at a younger market. At its heart is the "trade
mark" 90-degree air-cooled V-twin engine that first appeared
way back in 1967 in the Guzzi V7, although it's been much
refined and updated since then, but the 2-valve head is still
pushrod operated although the fueling is now done by a Magnetti-Marelli
injection system. Also retained is the shaft drive to the
rear wheel and the double cradle tubular frame. All of these
visual clues leave you in no doubt that this is a Moto Guzzi,
but the whole package has very contemporary look to it.
The model that I had
on test was fitted with two optional extras, a plexiglas
windshield that replaced the standard small bikini
fairing, and the "Lady Seat" that
lowered the seat height from 790mm to 760mm. The larger windshield
did an excellent job of keeping the worst of the weather off
me and deflecting the airstream over my helmet, but at the
same time created some extra wind noise. The lowered seat
would be an excellent addition for those of a shortened leg
measurement, but being just under 6 feet tall myself and having
a fairly normal leg length, I found the riding position a
bit like sitting in an armchair, and my knees were well-bent
with both feet flat on the ground!
The whole package looked very well finished
and put together, and considering the bike was first registered
nearly 12 months previously, there were no signs of corrosion
on the fasteners and fittings and everything looked to be
in almost showroom condition. But it's also worth pointing
out that the bike had only done 1,100 miles since new so it
hadn't really had a very busy life.
It's an easy swing of the leg over the low
well-padded saddle, and when you turn the ignition key all
the lights come on and the analogue dials swing round to the
stops to let you know everything's OK. A quick prod of the
starter button and the V-twin rumbles into life. The twin
chrome exhausts look impressive, but they and the 3-way catalyst
are far too efficient at meeting the euro-noise limits, and
the whole thing sounds a little strangled. Don't worry too
much though, as this is a bike that you can "feel"
through every part of your body and you don't really need
a noisy pipe to release its character. Get the bike on the
move and the engine gently throbs through the frame, leaving
you in no doubt that this is a V-twin. The wide bars on the
Breva give it great maneuverability and all the controls operate
easily and without fuss. The bar-mounted mirrors give an excellent
view to the rear and are clear and sharp at all speeds.
have a bit of reputation when it comes to gearboxes, and the
one on the Breva is no exception. However, instead of being
plagued by false neutrals as is usually the case, this one
had a false first. On too many occasions, selecting first
from neutral when stationary simply extinguishes the neutral
light. Release the smooth and light clutch - and nothing happens.
Try again - zero movement. Through trial and error I found
the best method was to blip the throttle in neutral and while
the revs were dropping, pull in the clutch and bang it into
first. This nearly always worked, but a couple of times it
popped out of gear almost as soon as it started moving. The
whole thing was a bit of pain, which was a shame because as
soon as you got into second the gearchange was a dream - clutchless
upchanges were smooth and slick and traveling up and down
the ratios was a pleasure. Not that you needed to play with
the box that much as this engine develops so much torque right
across the rev-range that it will pull well no matter what
the speed and gear. And the injection system was flawless.
Assuming that you can get it into first gear,
the Breva has an impressive "party trick"
up its sleeve. Find some level ground, put your right hand
behind back (or in your pocket), gently release the clutch
and the bike will move off with only a small dip in the tickover
revs. Now release the clutch fully and the Breva will chug
along quite happily at about 5 or 6 mph on tickover. Cool!
a bit faster, the ride is pretty good as long as the road
surface is reasonably smooth, but if the going gets a bit
bumpy and/or you up the pace, then the weaknesses of the budget
non-adjustable suspension are exposed. The front is far too
soft and under-damped while the rear is the exact opposite.
Small bumps will really jar the backside without warning as
the front wheel has ridden over them without a murmur. Not
a real problem, as the well-padded saddle will soak up a lot
of the impact. However if you catch a bump mid-corner with
the bike well leant over, then the front gets real shakey
and on one occasion almost tore the bars out of my hands.
This isn't too clever, especially as the most likely purchaser
of the Breva is a rider without a great deal of riding experience.
The soft front forks also mean that the front dives quite
dramatically under braking, as the four pot Brembo caliper
grips the single front disc well. However this is easily cured
by sharing the braking load with the powerful and progressive
For a 'modern' design, the Breva is fitted
with strangely narrow section rubber, 110 at the front and
130 at the rear. The test bike came with Bridgestone BT45s,
and while they never gave any worries as far as grip was concerned,
they did have a tendency to "tramline" over imperfections
and joins in the road surface. I can't help thinking that
120 fronts and 160 rears would cure this problem and at the
same time improve the appearance of the bike.
But the real solution is not to ride the
Breva as if it was a sports bike, something that it quite
obviously isn't. This is a bike that 's designed for relaxed
and easy-going travel between A and B, although with it's
light handling, low centre of gravity, good steering lock
and smooth, seemless torque, it would also make an excellent
commuter. It's a shame that there are only two bungee points
on the bike, although Moto Guzzi can supply hard panniers
if you want to go touring. The Breva 750 will cruise quite
happily, effortlessly, and comfortably all day long at 85-90
mph, and if you really screw the throttle wide open then the
bike will get into low three-figure speeds. But the Breva
isn't really happy at these kind of speeds, so back it off
and get back to more licence-friendly rates of progress.
The single round headlamp
gives a wide, bright beam when on dip, and the main beam is
good enough for 60-80 mph night time travel. I took the Breva
for an overnight run down to north Devon along a lot of unlit
roads during this test, and I had no problems in seeing where
I was going. However, the blood-red instrument illumination
took some getting used to though, and the "idiot
lights" on the dash were a little too bright
for nighttime use. Especially annoying was the bright red
hazard warning light button in the middle.
less annoying, in fact positively welcomed was the fuel consumption.
I'll admit that I didn't pootle along on the Breva during
the test and yet in spite of this I still managed to get 57
mpg. With a 17-litre tank this means a very respectable
160 miles before the reserve light comes on, and then you've
still got a further 50 miles to find a petrol station.
I'll admit that this is the first time that
I've ridden a Guzzi, and I approached the test with a degree
of scepticism that had largely been fueled by apocryphal tales
of "ancient bikes powered by tractor engines that were
ridden by old pipe-smoking duffers". The Breva 750 puts
this preconception well and truly into touch. This is a modern
Moto Guzzi for the 21st century.
I can honestly say that I really enjoyed
riding the Breva. OK, it's not perfect and if I had one then
I'd get the front forks revalved and resprung, and I'd change
the rear dampers as well (Moto Guzzi can supply uprated units),
but that V-twin engine is a real gem and the whole package
is a very good ride for the less "press-on" style
of progress. Having said that, I can't wait to get my hands
on the Breva 1100 when it comes out later this year.