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Bike Profile - Posted 8th July 2009

Moto Guzzi Nevada 750
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Jim Peace spends quality time with a recent Moto Guzzi 750 V-Twin and reckons it's really not classic...

Do you know what I like about RealClassic? It's the fact that nobody tries to define 'Classic'. The RealClassic website and magazine feature all sort of machines; it would appear that any motorbike that is interesting may be included. As far as I'm concerned almost all motorbikes are interesting, therefore they are almost all 'Classic'.

'Simples' as Alexander the meerkat might say.

But you will note that I was careful to put 'almost'.

The reason for this preamble is that I am writing about a motorbike that was the complete antithesis of Classic. It was not old; it was not very well made; the performance was average, and the only thing that was any good was the braking system. So why did I buy it? Well, at the time of purchase I was suffering from sciatica. Pause for sharp intake of breath from those of you who've been through this. It is very painful, and it makes pushing motorbikes around almost impossible, so I needed something light. I wasn't prepared to give up riding, or even settle for anything less than a 750 so I bought the lightest bike I could find. A Moto Guzzi Nevada.*

Guzzi cruisers always look to me like they've been squished from behind... Moto Guzzi Nevada

For me, ownership of a new - as in new to me - motorbike always seems to go in phases. I see an advert, go to inspect the machine, like the look of it, and buy it. Riding it home I realise I've bought a heap of junk and wonder why I was so stupid. Then I fiddle around with it a bit, begin to get used to it and can see myself being able to like it. After a while I get the hang of it, learn to ignore any little problems, or even quite big ones, and really start to enjoy it. At this point I may even begin to rave about it.

After more time I begin to realise that the bike isn't actually that good and start to become disillusioned. Then I get really fed up and sell it, usually for about half what it's worth, because I'm a lousy salesman and hate hassle. Normally this entire process takes about a year to eighteen months but I kept the Guzzi for three years, so maybe it wasn't so bad after all.

Moto Guzzi Brochure... Moto Guzzi Nevada

It certainly started badly, however. When I collected the bike all the controls were set wrongly. The handlebars were tipped so far back that the mirrors were almost behind me, the brake and gear lever were set up for different sized feet and the rear suspension had been screwed down so hard it kicked like mule. Also the carbs had a flat spot the size of Norfolk. This was because the bike had been restricted to 34bhp by putting grommets in the inlet tracts and lowering the carb needles to compensate. When de-restricting it no-one had put the needles back correctly. Once I'd sorted all this out the bike went quite well and I started to enjoy it.

Much has been written about Moto Guzzi brakes, and those on the Nevada were excellent. This was not because they were linked, as on other Guzzis; it was because they weren't. They worked independently. The rear brake worked fine, no problems. The front single disc, however, with a four pot Brembo calliper, was, quite frankly, the best front brake I have ever used. Brilliant.

Look out! here come the squishers!... Moto Guzzi Nevada

That, however, is where the superlatives stop. Everything else was pretty average, except for the gearbox, which was dreadful, and the electrics, about which more later. Oh, and the speedometer; just don't mention the speedometer.

The gearbox was noisy, particularly in third and top, and it was almost impossible to make a clean change. Crunch, clonk, with a variable selection of neutrals. The overall gearing was about 10% too high, which meant using fourth as 'top' and fifth as an overdrive. With shaft drive, of course, you can't just change a sprocket. The engine had a very nasty vibration patch at around 4000 rpm, which equated to 60mph in top. This did not help matters. The engine speed clutch was very sensitive and I stalled the bike all the time. I never got used to it. And it wasn't me; it didn't happen on any other bike.

Are having fun yet?

The electrics were OK until someone asked me about them. Waiting on a French quayside after a continental trip I got chatting to the owner of an elderly BMW boxer. He looked at my bike.

'Had any problems with the electrics?' he asked pleasantly.

'None at all', I replied, feeling a bit smug.

I knew immediately that I should have touched wood, crossed my fingers, or even said a prayer. As we rode off the ferry at midnight at Newhaven docks the Beemer rider came up behind me.

'You've got no rear light', he shouted.

This wasn't a problem as I was carrying a full set of spare bulbs as per EEC regulations. Only when I went to take the old one out the entire rear light unit fell to pieces in my hand, completely corroded away.

'Merde', I muttered, still thinking in French.

I wasn't going to wait for daylight so I rode the fifty miles home, reckoning that if I went fast enough nothing would come up behind me. Anyway, I had reflectors. I replaced the light unit with a cheap jobby from an auto jumble which looked fine, worked well and didn't corrode. Then the ignition switch packed up and, of course, I had to buy the whole steering lock as well.

A week or so later the right hand side panel fell off. I rescued it from the clutches of a small rhododendron but as I went to replace it I could see that the fuse holder was in several bits and just held in place by the connecting wires. Gaffer tape and slow glue sorted that out.

And it is 'Gaffer' tape. Not Gaffa tape, or Duct tape or even Duck tape. It is named after movie electricians who are known as 'Gaffers'. And it doesn't work on ducts. Slow glue is a lot safer than Super Glue because you don't get stuck to things. You may have to hold them together for twenty minutes, but it's a small price to pay.

Oh, and the horns fell off. Annually; just like a reindeer. The flimsy brackets would snap and I'd find the hooters dangling on their wires. New brackets made from Russian tank armour sorted that out.

Now, the speedo. It was not a Veglia, as you might expect, but made by a firm called ITI. The first time it packed up was in Italy, when the drive went. I rode home with no speedometer, which was annoying as I like to know how far I've been.

A year later, in France, the odometers began to run slow, then packed up altogether. No-one, but no-one repairs Italian speedometers and the lads at Corsa Italiano couldn't get me a new head, not even from Italy. Googling for ITI speedos I came across an American website and it became clear that odometers packing up was very common fault. It was also clear that the Americans had bought up all the spare MPH heads. I contemplated the use of electronics, and looked at some rather nice digital instruments.

Then, at a Shepton Mallett auto jumble, I spotted a speedo head from an early Hinckley Thunderbird which looked right and appeared as if it might fit. It didn't go straight on, but some careful adjustments (or bodges, if you prefer) enabled me to mount it up. And joy of joys, the gearing was right. By this time, however, I'd had enough and the bike had to go. I almost gave it away.

Sportsters on eBay.co.uk

The Moto Guzzi Nevada has been around for a very long time in 750 and 350 versions. The 350 is very rare and terminally gutless, and was phased out many years ago. The 750 replaced the 650 Florida, which was actually a very nice bike, in about 1990, and, apart from minor details and the introduction of fuel injection in 2005, has remained much the same. Basically it is a cruiser, a smaller version of the California. It has the power, size and weight of a 500, and it does look good. Being a 90 degree V-Twin it sounds a bit like a Ducati if you give it a good handful and use a bit of imagination.

I've said the performance was average, but, actually for a 48bhp shaftie it wasn't really that bad. Being light it would crack along and the handling was pretty good, too.

Post-Paintjob. '|The bikes clean; take a photo, quick!'

In fairness mine never let me down on the road. I used it for three long continental trips and it never misfired once. I also toured England in a day, covering 716 miles. After two years of ownership I got Tony at Cyclesprays to respray it from boring silver and white to exciting Italian racing red and black. The quality of Tony's work is superb and the bike thus gained a new lease of life. The little Guzzi was quite comfortable, and, as I mentioned before, easy to push around.

All the time I kept it I tried to kid myself it was fun to ride and even more fun having to fiddle with it. But it wasn't, really. Even so I wouldn't condemn it completely. I have it on good authority (Well, Mo at Corsa Italiano) that the newer models are much better. Moto Guzzis have their own particular charm, and an excellent owners' club. I wouldn't want to stop anybody from trying one.

-------------

*Yes, we too can think of many bikes which would be lighter and quite possibly nicer than a Moto Guzzi Nevada. But this is Jim's tale so we let him tell it howevertheheck he likes.


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