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Richardson’s thoughts and words on the V100

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For those who don’t know Dave Richardson, he owned the Seattle dealership Moto International, and had strong ties to Guzzi Italy as well as authored the “bible” Guzziology for older Guzzi owners. Enjoy.

Posted on FB…

Here's something probably just for my motorcycle friends.

Guzzi V100 Mandello

I’m honored that a few friends have asked my opinion of the new Moto Guzzi. Really, I don’t know any more than what’s in the press, although I have seen something similar in the past. I would like to offer a perspective to hopefully illustrate the importance this motorcycle represents and the lineage and development it took to get to this point.

To begin, back in the 1960s, larger motorcycles were typically what we call non-unit, having a separate engine and transmission. The exception was mainly Japanese, smaller, and/or two-stroke motorcycles. By the late ’60s, the British were becoming unit-constructed, leaving non-unit to mainly to BMW and Moto Guzzi, the manufacturers aligning their crankshafts with the centerline of their motorcycles longitudinally, rather than across it transversely. Unit construction typically saves weight, space, and cost.

My impression of chassis design in those days was to build the powerplant, then loop some tubes around it. And the mantra apparently was to make a low center of gravity. If powerplants dictated frame design, then Guzzi was definitely at a disadvantage. For their powerplant was long, forcing the swingarm to be shorter than desired in order to maintain a reasonable wheelbase. While reasonably stable, early Guzzis were a bit ponderous and didn’t respond well to heavy loading rearward.

As one would expect, Guzzi immediately began developing their recently-introduced 700cc platform, improving and diversifying it. But always, new developments were piecemeal; there may be a new engine, frame, or chassis, but not all three at the same time. And so, each new design was compromised to work with older componentry, I suspect because of a constant need for expediency and economy.

The one totally new Guzzi was the small twin, introduced in 1978, following a similar non-unit formula. This caused the new line to always be difficult for Guzzi to build for a competitive price; smaller isn’t necessarily cheaper. The same year, Honda introduced their similar CX500. Like it or not, it did illustrate a different formula for designing a shaft-drive longitudinal V-twin, notably with unit construction and a competitive price.

Guzzi’s first development for the big twin after a slight displacement increase was a five-speed transmission in place of the original four-speed. Luckily, the result was an interchangeable unit, no longer than the original, probably because this update was anticipated and therefore allowed for, so no real changes in chassis or engine accompanied it. Soon followed a semi-automatic transmission, also directly interchangeable.

Next came Lino Tonti’s frame for the V7 Sport. Raising the engine made for lighter handling. At the same time, Tonti wanted a lower frontal area. In order to achieve this, the generator on top of the engine had to find a new home, becoming an alternator on the crankshaft’s nose. After that, nothing much changed for the next two decades until John Wittner further refined the engine’s position in his design for the Daytona 1000. The frame was new and the old engine had new heads with belt-driven cams, but the old five-speed remained. At about the same time, the Quota was first developed. Its unique dimensions required another new chassis but continued with the existing drivetrain.

By the mid-1990s, a valuable new transmission had been developed that not only held six gears rather than five, but was actually shorter. How was this possible? By essentially building it as a dual-range three-speed. And so, this six-speed is shorter front to back but a little chunkier where bulk hardly matters. It was first displayed on the never-produced Ippogrifo 750 small twin, shown in 1996. A new series of sport models was introduced in 1997, the Sport 1100i, Centauro, and Daytona RS, but they soldiered on with the same basic five-speed that had served for now a quarter of a century.

Aside from all this, an entirely new engine was developed at Guzzi called the VA10: V for V-twin, A for aqua cooled, and 10 for 1000cc. As I’ve heard, this was largely the work of one man and not particularly the focus of Guzzi development at that time. It featured chain-driven double-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, water cooling, fuel injection, and unit construction, supposedly with chain and shaft final-drive options. The intakes were in the middle of the V with exhausts to the outside. The V angle was reduced to 75° (the Honda CX500 was 80°), which helped make the inlet tracts straighter for more power and centralized engine weight slightly for easier cornering, although the heads were enormous. It was first envisioned as an engine for World Superbike competition. Under Aprilia’s ownership in the early 2000s, its role was expanded to include a 1200 street bike and a 1400 tourer. The engine was to be mounted level in shaft-drive applications and canted forward with a chain for enhanced forward weight bias.

Indeed, motorcycle design was evolving to where engine design was dictated by chassis requirements. The old idea of low center of gravity being best was slayed in the early 1980s when Honda built a 500cc two-stroke grand prix racer with an underslung fuel tank and its great volume of lightweight exhaust expansion chambers over the top. It was an immense failure. Just as motorcycle steering changes between low and higher speeds, we were learning that while a low center of gravity was great for low speeds, such as a scooter, a higher center of gravity made it easier to steer into a corner, as the weight was closer to the roll center and therefore had less leverage working against the rider.

Aprilia was a great believer in this. They learned to improve their V-twin sport bike by raising its engine in the frame. Some felt that the VA10 vaulted Guzzi from having an engine that limited handling all the way to one with advantages in weight placement that none could match.

Finally for the new millennium, the shorter transmission from the Ippogrifo was applied to an update of the Sport 1100i, the V11 Sport. But again, the new design was mated to old components; the chassis stayed the same, with what to me was an embarrassingly wasted space behind the transmission.

In 2001, Guzzi showed dealers a prototype update to the V11 Sport with its alternator moved to the top of the engine, which was then moved forward for a more forward weight bias. This development didn’t see production until it was applied to the Breva 1100 in 2005 (2006 in the US).

This Breva combined a new frame and transmission with essentially a leftover V11 Sport engine, save for the change of alternator positioning plus other details. But how was this change possible when the Tonti frame required the alternator’s relocation to the front of the crankshaft? Probably because the thinking had evolved on frame design. In Tonti’s time, frames were made of round steel frame tubes reaching straight back from the steering head, thus leaving no room for a bulky generator. In modern times, sturdy frames are designed with steel tubes or formed aluminum sheet rounding wide transverse four-cylinder engines. And so, allowing room for Guzzi’s alternator was now straightforward.

But why a new transmission? The five-speed was over thirty years old by then and still being used while the six-speed was being retired after half a decade. The reasons seem to be cost and new requirements. It surely cost more to make the complicated early six-speed. And now, the output shaft needed to be moved more to the side to make room for the standard of modern rear tires, the 180mm.

There was another reason that I discovered later but never heard described by Moto Guzzi: the output shaft was also rotated down so that the engine would mount higher. This was revolutionary. Up until then, every longitudinal motorcycle I’d studied had the crankshaft, transmission input & output shafts, and driveshaft all on the same plane. This development was the logical extension of modern thinking about a raised weight center. Indeed, customers taking test rides regularly raved of the Breva 1100’s light steering compared to their older models while some did feel that this new bike was a bit tall and awkward at really low speeds. This transmission went on to serve in all big twins except 1100cc Californias until the recent discontinuation of the 1400s and 8Vs.
Almost exactly ten years ago, September 16, 2011, eight years to the day since I got married in Guzzi’s home town of Mandello del Lario, I was back there as a guest of the US Guzzi importer along with two other US dealers to talk business. Guzzi was celebrating their 90th anniversary with the announcement of a 40 million Euro investment by owner Piaggio, about half in new models and half in facilities. No specific models were named, although the California 1400 was then known to be in development. A plan was outlined for the facilities, however, showing a new production plant, hotel, and other amenities to make this a true gathering place for Guzzisti.

After the weekend’s events, we were back on the road to Aprilia near Venice where we had our business meeting. Afterwards, we were invited to see their Research & Development Center where Guzzis are also developed. As expected, we saw the California 1400 in progress. I was underwhelmed by it, as the engine was basically an overbored 1200 8V hooked up to the same transmission in a stretched frame. Also, there were soon-to-be introduced updated V7s with more power plus a lovely prototype that never saw production. Down a hallway we passed two advanced Guzzi V-twin engines, one the familiar VA10 I recognized and the other I’d never seen. We were led to a room where stood a completely new Guzzi motorcycle. Its engine was like nothing I’d ever seen. Like the VA10, it was apparently water-cooled with the intakes in the middle of the V, and double-overhead cams with four valves per cylinder, and unit construction. Unlike its predecessor, it combined shaft drive with the lean-forward attitude promised only for the chain-drive VA10. The powerplant seemed little longer than a Guzzi big-twin engine alone, allowing for a long swingarm and driveshaft. It was said to be 1300cc and about 130 horsepower.

Early in 2012, Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno announced the upcoming new Guzzi simply as water-cooled and 1300cc. As exciting as that was… it was the last I heard of it. I asked about it once and was shrugged off, leaving me to think of it as just another prototype that didn’t make it to production. If it had, Moto Guzzi would have progressed from non-unit to unit construction before BMW did, for what that’s worth.

About 2013 I did hear that they planned an entirely new motorcycle for Guzzi’s centennial, which then seemed a long way away. But I also knew that these developments take time. What might it be? Discontinuing the 8Vs and 1400s certainly left the door open for a replacement in that range. But the world was changing. Climate change had become dramatic and governments and vehicle manufacturers were reacting with the mandate and promise of more or exclusively electric vehicles in the future. Where would Guzzi be? A company known for the charismatic rumble of their V-twins might have a difficult time finding its place in a world of silent & smooth electric motors. As much as Guzzisti clamored for a new engine, I had trouble imagining Piaggio making the necessary long-term investment in a new engine that may only be viable for ten years. It seemed difficult for them to go forward, but impossible not to.

When the V7 850s were announced earlier this year I wondered: is this it? Is this all that’s new for the centennial? I could imagine it. My impression was that the V7 IIIs were disappointing in sales (although they deserved much better), the V85s were a big success (at least in 2019), and 2020 was probably a mess. Maybe between all that and the perceived future of gasoline-powered motorcycles, the 850s were the best they could reasonably do for the centennial.
Instead, I’m guessing Guzzi had what I’d call a K100 moment. As the story goes, in the late 1970s BMW faced a major decision whether or not to continue in the motorcycle business. It was either shut down bike production or invest in a whole new design to attract a larger customer base. Thus was born the K series that saved BMW motorcycles and grew their sales tremendously. The genius was building a more mainstream series of models that appealed to new customers while building the traditional horizontal twins for their existing customers, not that there weren’t some crossovers, but at least they were doing much more than just satisfying the same people.

I remember being at the Guzzi factory in 2001 for the 80th anniversary and talking with their marketing manager. He said to me, “You see these people here,” referring to the vast crowd of Guzzisti in attendance. “These people will not save us.”
Indeed, then as before and ever since, there have not been enough people wanting what we love about Moto Guzzis. But, with Guzzi never before doing more than evolving existing designs, there was little chance of attracting a significantly larger clientele.

This is that chance, and that great bet: the V100 Mandello. Guzzisti are already complaining about it, but there’s nothing new in that. In the end, they will buy it; they can’t help themselves. But the real proof in the pudding will be how the rest of the motorcycling world reacts to it. I’ve seen Guzzi refer to it as a sport-tourer, which is a little surprising as that has never been a popular market segment. Then again, a sport bike appeals to an even narrower market segment and a standard rarely excites a lot of people. The logical model would be an adventure-touring bike, but Guzzi launched one of those just three years ago in a similar displacement category. Time will tell, as the V100 will surely be the basis of future developments in various market segments and displacements.
The basic engine architecture of the V100 is very familiar in comparison to the 1300 prototype. Thankfully, the rest of the motorcycle isn’t, as that one was ugly! There are major differences but the lineage is obvious. And in that regard, I’d like to suggest no hesitation about this entirely new model. I can assure you that this one has existed in running condition for at least a decade and only made better in that time.

Why smaller? I don’t know but I can guess. Making it the centennial bike, it’s obviously appropriate that it be 1000cc, especially since Guzzi’s recent style in model designations is to drop the final digit from the displacement, thus the V100. Also, starting small leaves more room for enlargements in future model years, so not only model selection but displacement increases as well. Speaking of the latter, I can’t help looking at this new engine and imagining a second pair of cylinders added, making it a V-four. I know, an overactive imagination.

The real detail of this engine remains to be revealed in November. Curiously, it appears to still be an engine bolted to a transmission behind, making it non-unit construction, but it seems to lack the usual clear delineation of engine and transmission functions, making it unit-construction. For example, the chain case has been removed from the front of the engine, no doubt to allow the heavier cylinders to be located further forward, and various ancillary functions relocated behind the engine, but cased by the combination of the engine and transmission. The clutch is definitely on the back of the transmission and apparently not centered on the crankshaft, no doubt so that the two counter-rotate to reduce adverse rotational forces. The VA10 appeared to have something (clutch or alternator) centered on the front of the crankshaft with a timing chest behind it and cam chains behind that. So, it had few of the forward weight bias advantages of the V100. But, I think the VA10 had some breathing advantages. It certainly was reported to make more horsepower, and out of less displacement, but it was conceived more as a race engine. The VA10 was also wide and bulky. Engineering is full of tradeoffs.

This is truly more than just another new model. Think of the magnitude: the first new architecture in 55 years (Yes, I ignore Guzzi’s two strokes and inline engines shared with Benelli). I’m calling it Second Generation (second gen for short) to differentiate it and honor it for all that it represents. After all, it might be the last completely new gasoline-powered Moto Guzzi motorcycle.
Completing the story, going back those ten years to when I first saw this new bike, at that same time we were promised a new production facility along with a hotel and visitor amenities. I had heard that various legal and environmental issues obstructed progress on that. But now, along with the V100 Mandello, Guzzi has announced groundbreaking in 2022. Moto Guzzi’s second century has truly and spectacularly begun!


VA10 engine:
Va10 eng VA10 vs OHC eng
 

Raven

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Dave has a lot of knowledge of engine design and motorcycle engineering in general. Interesting information for sure.
 

ciaoitalo

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Great read, thanks for posting! Man, if this is a big hit, a liquid cooled Guzzi V4 would be so cool!
 

scottmastrocinque

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This article is interesting and it prompted me the reflect upon my lifetime interaction with BMW motorcycles. I remember the first K bikes and how people called them “flying bricks”. They did indeed rescue the company as the venerable R100 engine platform although undeniably rugged for what it was, it was so long in the the tooth and frankly, completely uninteresting to potential new buyers.

I was directly involved with BMW during the late 90’s and early 2000, and witnessed firsthand, the disastrous R1200 fiasco where BMW actually had leadership that was convinced, that David Robbs ugly bastard bike was going to somehow displace Harley Davidson riders over to BMW. That went over like a lead paperweight. Unbelievably they have done it again with the butt ugly and insanely overpriced R18. Already the model is being heavily discounted at some dealerships as flooring charges are killing their profits.

Moto Guzzi is now at the same precipice as BMW was back then.

I think the Italians are smarter than BMW though.

BMW’s problem now is that they literally exploded all over the motorcycle world with way too many models, too many lukewarm versions of the same crap (R-Nine-T), and then even into foreign garbage produced badge-engineered shit (G310R made in India) which the used market is flooded with units for unbelievable throw away pricing. (The twist in the story now is that old R100 platform motorcycles are now trading on the internet for insane money, often times 3-4x what the units sold for new!)

Moto Guzzi is proceeding cautiously and if they use this new platform to carefully create a new generation of models, slowly and deliberately, I think it will carry the company forward.

Unfortunately, the real lynchpin of this whole situation relies on new customers in new markets, and here in the USA, this is going to mean that serious effort and design is going to have to be given to redesigning from the ground up, a solid, long term, economically viable, dealer model that is workable for all involved. This attrition of dealers in the USA, has significantly damaged Moto Guzzi and currently directly hinders market penetration, expansion, and growth.

Mega dealerships and ridiculous boutique type corporate id stores do not work and a Moto Guzzi only shop, literally starves into bankruptcy. There needs to be as massive a change in the dealership network here as radical as the new V100 Mandello. Without it, I doubt that any engine or motorcycle will keep Moto Guzzi in the black instead of red.

Case in point, in my state, Ohio, you have Cadre Cycle in Cincinnati. That’s it.

If you are a potential new buyer, would that cause you concern? You bet it does and anybody who thinks otherwise, has their head up their backside!

Are you listening Piaggio?
 
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Moto-Uno

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Interesting , I too was working in a BMW shop when the flying bricks came out and was sent with a few others for a week
long training session . ABS and fuel injection were kinda novel then . Perfectly boring motorcycles with a maintenance
schedule that would bankrupt your average motorcyclist at the time . Did I mention anything about those crappy
endlessly leaking forks :) . So , how do I feel about them , well my better half can't stand to even look at them ! Peter
 

scottmastrocinque

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:D

Say what you will but for several years, our entire service loaner fleet was old K100’s, RS and RT.

Bosch Motronic quirks, ABS I and leaky forks aside…

They were bulletproof workhorses and we had several with 70k+ miles (one with 150k) that never once failed to bring a customer back to the shop to pick up their “modern” BMW motorcycle!
 

Moto-Uno

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Was that because no one bought them ? :) . I had to add that . Peter
Truth be told ( I can't believe I'm saying this ) , for a while I thought the K75 was kinda desirable .
 

john zibell

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Was that because no one bought them ? :) . I had to add that . Peter
Truth be told ( I can't believe I'm saying this ) , for a while I thought the K75 was kinda desirable .


The K75 particularly the S version is a very good machine. I never understood why the cylinders on the Ks were on the wrong side. The early K100s would smoke terribly on start up. BMW later pinned the rings to reduce the smoke effect.
 

scottmastrocinque

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Hey, I love K bikes! Always have always will. Especially K75’s!

I’ve owned 2 K75-S , 2 K100-RS, and a K1100-RS which was my favorite BMW road touring bike. I could make unbelievable time traveling with that motorcycle.
 

groundhog105

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My ridding buddy just restored his 1985 K100 RS at 205,000 miles. He bought it new from Brattain Motors in San Diego in 1984. The bike never let him down and he had it serviced by the book. San Diego BMW mechanic Rich went thru the motor, trans and final drive and said the pistons and bores were still in factory spec.
 

scottmastrocinque

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My ridding buddy just restored his 1985 K100 RS at 205,000 miles. He bought it new from Brattain Motors in San Diego in 1984. The bike never let him down and he had it serviced by the book. San Diego BMW mechanic Rich went thru the motor, trans and final drive and said the pistons and bores were still in factory spec.

I was Sales Manager at Brattin Motors for many years!

Rich Flores is a old friend of mine and the best BMW Master mechanic I have ever known. You can literally hand him a nut, bolt, or part and he will tell you every motorcycle that part is on. He’s a god mechanic!

We worked together at Brattin 20 years ago!

I took these pictures of Rich, working on K bikes, for the web page I made on 4/7/2001…we were both a lot younger then!

34CD019A DC9C 4C66 96EC EC234EE118CF C7433EDF 698C 4DEB 94D8 8BF65480DBF3

OMG you have me digging through my computer’s dark places!

Me circa 2003 at the BMW Club breakfast representing Brattin Motors and then my R60 find that I bought to restore and low and behold in the background, one of those 100k+ mile loaner K bikes I talked about.

But wait! What’s that funny red thing by the door with a visible cylinder pointing towards the sky? :p

64126B9A 546C 4974 B2E1 53A5878A6D16
75DFED7E 161E 4874 AD0C 8B1B522C3CD4
 
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groundhog105

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A1FDAC11 DBE1 47C5 AF5A B06F07B293FF Scott, you may have known the owner of the K100RS I was referring to. His name is Bob Shellum and he was a Master Gunny in the Marines. He rode the wheels off that bike the first 6 years or so when he bought it making several trips around the US and up to Alaska. Here’s a picture of Bob after restoration. Shellum is the guy with the face hair.
Your certainly right about Rich. That guy is an incredible mechanic
563A839C 55EE 4476 937B 800CBBEC6A65
 
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