The Moto Guzzi V50 Monza
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Although the V50 was lauded by the European motorcycling press, it was basically ignored in the U.S., where the market was becoming saturated with increasingly sophisticated and technically proficient bikes from Japan. To help shine the spotlight on its little twin, Moto Guzzi introduced the upmarket Moto Guzzi V50 Monza. Larger carbs (28mm instead of 24mm), plus bigger valves and revised intake and exhaust manifolds, netted a few extra ponies over the earlier V50 (48hp versus 45hp), while new bodywork in the style of Guzzi’s much-lauded 850cc Le Mans positioned the Monza as a European pocket rocket, a term that would come into vogue in a few years with introduction of the Kawasaki GPz550.
The European motoring press loved both the standard V50 and the Monza, which received rave reviews for its handling, judged clearly superior to any of the Japanese competitors in its class. Importantly, that included Honda’s CX500, which the Monza was frequently compared to as both bikes were small-displacement, shaft-driven V-twins, although the Honda was water-cooled.
Cycle loved the bike’s handling, calling the Moto Guzzi V50 Monza “amazingly stable, inspiring rider confidence at high speeds in a straight line or through fast sweepers. The Guzzi tracks through corners as if it were laser-guided.” A low weight of 353 pounds (dry) — almost 90 pounds lighter than the CX500! — was a major factor in the bike’s good manners. And while the words “shaft drive” and “sportbike” are often considered mutually exclusive, testers reported the Guzzi’s system worked flawlessly, with barely a hint of the up-and-down movement often experienced with shaft-driven bikes as the rider rolls on and off the throttle.
Although the bike’s boy-racer riding position was deemed to limit its in-town appeal, it all came together out on the road. “The crouch doesn’t make sense until you start cruising at 70-plus speeds on deserted roads,” Cycle continued, “and then everything else suddenly begins to work together.”
To stop, the Moto Guzzi V50 Monza employed Guzzi’s patented linked-braking system: The brake pedal operates both the rear disc and the front left disc, with the front right disc operating off the handlebar lever, a scheme still used today on new Moto Guzzi’s, including the California Vintage. And aside from a very Italian, almost institutional lack of concern for switch gear ergonomics, quality and reliability were judged as Monza strong points. From 1981 on, ignition was by 12-volt coils and breaker points instead of the finicky Bosch electronic ignition used at first.