Moto Guzzi V50 Monza

Moto Guzzi V50 Monza Road Test

Moto Guzzi V50 MonzaMoto Guzzi, having carved out a niche in the big vee market, isn’t best known for small capacity machines, but they do know their stuff when it comes to scaling their designs down.

It may be small, but the V50 is packed with typical Moto Guzzi features, making it a real sports bike, albeit in a compact package. Approach a V50 Monza for the first time and the overriding impression is that of an unfeasibly small and compact machine. The seat is low, as are the bars, and the engine looks tiny as it nestles beneath the streamlined tank. The overall size is little more than a 125cc machine and only the fairing elevates the bike’s height to anywhere near that of a proper middleweight. Its is easy to mock the V50 as a mere toy, but that idea is soon knocked to the back of your mind once some time has been spent in the saddle.

Moto Guzzi V50The V50 is low, appearing to be little more than a toy, and it’s a simple matter of rocking the bike forward to get it off the centre-stand and ready for action. The low-slung engine and gearbox assembly make a modest impression sitting close to the centre of gravity and the well¬ balanced machine just sits there awaiting the signal to go.

Air assisted suspension, fitted to both the front and the rear on the Monza, is light years ahead of any contemporary Japanese product, and more akin to the after-market Marzocchi items many would end up fitting to their oriental machines. Every bump and pothole rapidly disappears in a smoothly damped and almost unnoticeable action from each end. The bike is well balanced and, in its own special way, quite agile, making it far better to ride than its contemporaries. A CX500 or XS500 could never hold a tight line and romp into, around, and out of corners like this Latin lovely. It really is sports biking but at a slower pace, enabling the rider to take in more of the scenery and with the added bonus of keeping the points score down on their licence.

In keeping with many Latin machines from the period, gear changes take a bit of getting used to and the combination of a lazy engine and a single-plate dry clutch requires the very best of gear-shifting co¬ordination. The larger capacity Guzzis, with the exception of the pure sports models, transmit their power via a helical-cut gearbox that is generally a slicker thing to shift ratios around. The V50 has a straight-cut gearbox to make the most of the smaller power output produced by the 500cc V-twin engine. Once mastered, cogs can be swapped without the clutch, although downshifts still require deft use of it to marry engine revolutions with road speed, you wouldn’t want to get that bit wrong too often.

V50 MonzaApply the choke, via the plastic lever situated just under the left Dell’Orto, and a prod of the starter button breathes some life into the little 90¬degree V-twin. The usual Guzzi rocking sensation, caused by the torque reaction of the engine, is evident but, once warmed up, the bike quickly settles into a pleasing, bass-heavy and rhythmic tick-over. First gear goes in with a hefty clunk from a standstill as the large clutch barely clears itself from the engine revolutions, and there is certainly no need to check that the neutral light has gone out before setting off. Once moving, however, the clutch gives no further complaint.

Rarely do the smaller capacity machines from an established big bike maker ever live up to the performance and general demeanour of their bigger brothers and sisters but the V50 does. It is just like a mini Le Mans, and every bit the real Guzzi experience, a perfectly scaled down version of bigger machines in the stable. Great savings in weight throughout the machine, allied to a superb chassis design make the machine a real delight, with every one of the 40-plus horses thumping home its authority. From low revs, the V-twin takes a huge inward breath, like any classical tenor, before clearing the throats of its twin round slide Dell’Ortos, some hesitation is apparent, and it doesn’t exude the flawless set up of a Japanese machine, but is not as pronounced as on the models with flat slide carbs.

Guzzi V50On the move the bike needs a firm hand to make it go where you want it; the Monza definitely has a mind and spirit all of its own. However, once the ground rules have been established, the experience is an eminently enjoyable one. With confidence increasing, great liberties can be taken on the approach to corners; the chassis tightens nicely once a bit of lean is introduced, making the sharp end steer true and enabling high speeds to be maintained instead of cogging down and losing momentum before entering a bend slowly. The relatively light overall weight doesn’t overload the tyres, resulting in good grip and an enhanced tread life as the miles rack up.

Stopping is more than adequately taken care of by a trio of Brembo cast iron discs, 260mm front and 235mm rear, grabbed by Moto Guzzi’s own design of caliper, similar in looks and operation to a Brembo design. In typical Guzzi style, the front left and the rear calipers are linked via a splitter valve just above the rear master cylinder. The linked brakes work so well they can catch the first time Guzzi owner unawares: you think the bike is slowing down nicely simply by using the front brake lever and then, simply by adding some rear stopper, the effect is nothing less than staggering. With all three brakes working fully, the little V-twin stops so well your eyes are left out on stalks, and it feels as if any more stopping power would damage internal organs. The right foot pedal applies a split of around 75/25 per cent to the front and rear calipers respectively, during the 70s, Moto Guzzi claimed that the system was probably the best in the world and I, for one, wouldn’t argue with that claim.

Moto Guzzi V50 Model history

V50The V50 grew out of an exciting time for the Mandello de Lario, based Moto Guzzi concern. During the 70s, the South American business guru Alejandro de Tomaso had rescued the company from its government ownership and certain bankruptcy. With his takeover came some fresh ideas, and the cash to do something about it. Ever since the V7 sport had appeared, the brand had possessed a big bike in the product range to do battle with the other manufacturers, and that sparked the idea of a smaller capacity machine also capable of taking on the might of the Japanese.

The designer of the V7 sport, Ing Lino Tonti. penned the new power plant that was to become Guzzi’s middleweight saviour, with a completely new 350 and 500cc unit. Cheap to produce, and yet staggeringly effective, Heron cylinder heads were the centre-piece of the engine design, the combustion chambers being forged into the piston tops, rather than machined into each cylinder head, with the result that the valves can be kept vertical in the flat heads for simplicity and ease of manufacturing. Basically, each cylinder head can be machined while held in one flat position, greatly aiding the automated processes used throughout the manufacturing process.

The complete engine and rear wheel assembly was then assembled as one unit before the rest of the chassis was lowered on it. A pair of separate frame rails was then bolted in place to complete the twin loop steel frame. The V35 350cc version was never officially imported into the UK. though a handful did creep in as grey imports. and was originally intended to beat the tough Italian taxation – 35 per cent of the total price – on machines over 350cc.

Moto Guzzi MonzaFirst drawn up in the early part of 1975, the small capacity machines were hurried through pre-production and prototype testing to hit the show stands at the 1976 Cologne Show. The timing could not have been better as, with the only other new bikes of note being Yamaha’s XS 250 and 360, the limelight was Guzzi’s for the stealing. The engine design lived on until the mid 80s, seeing active duty in a variety of designs including the cruiser and trail models of 1982.

Moto Guzzi V50 Timeline

The first V50 was launched at the Cologne show of that year.

The first of the production models start to roll off the production line but compared to their Japanese counterparts the price was high. It did sell well however making it one of the most popular Guzzi’s of the 70s

A new, fully automated, factory is built to produce the Moto Guzzi range and the MKII V50 is the first machine to emerge from the factory.

The last of the V50 sports range, the MKIII is introduced. This model saw a 3bhp increase in power

The cruiser style V50C and the dual sport V50 trail bike were the final throws of the 500cc Guzzi engine.

Moto Guzzi V50 Monza Specifications

  • Engine – air-cooled four- stroke, 90deg twin, two pushrod actuated valves per cylinder
  • Capacity – 490cc
  • Bore/stroke – 74 x 57mm
  • Power – 45bhp @ 7500rpm
  • Torque – 31ft-lb @4800 rpm
  • Carburetion – 2 x 24mm Dell Orto flat slides
  • Transmission – 5-speed dry clutch shaft final drive
  • Frame – steel tube twin cradle
  • Suspension – 35mm telescopic forks. Twin air shocks rear adjustable for spring pre load
  • Brakes – 260mm discs 2-piston calipers. 235mm disc 2-piston caliper
  • Wheels – 100/80 x 18 front and rear
  • Weight – 152kgs
  • Top speed – 105mph
  • Wheelbase – 1395mm
  • Fuel capacity – 16.5ltrs

Moto Guzzi V50 Monza Gallery

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