Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing: 1979-1982 Moto Guzzi Le Mans CX100

A profile of the Moto Guzzi Le Mans CX100 and its primary contenders.

  • A period flyer for the CX100 highlights many features, including an oil filter.
    Image courtesy Moto Guzzi
  • 1977-1984 BMW R100RS
    Image courtesy BMW
  • 1980-1984 Hesketh V1000
    Image courtesy Hesketh

Moto Guzzi Le Mans CX100
Claimed power: 70-80hp @ 7,250rpm (approx.)
Top speed:
125mph (est.)
949cc air-cooled OHV V-twin
530lb (wet)
45mpg (avg.)
Price then/now:
$4,949 (1980)/$4,500-$6,500

The original Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans of 1976 was not much more (or less) than an endurance racer with turn signals. The 844cc engine featured filterless, bell-mouth 36mm Dell’Orto carburetors, a 10.2:1 compression ratio, and a sports exhaust for a claimed 81 horsepower. The Le Mans made little concession to creature comforts, but provided sparkling performance and handling for the sporting rider. It was a critical (and commercial) success in both Europe and North America.

The specification stayed largely the same until 1979, when the story got more complicated. That year, European markets got a MkII 850 Le Mans with similar specification but revised bodywork. The U.S. version, however, got the new 1000SP’s quieter, cleaner and somewhat detuned 949cc engine. Several sources have suggested this was a response to ever tightening noise and emission regulations, but Greg Field’s book Moto Guzzi Big Twins quotes Mike Berliner of U.S. importer Berliner Corporation saying it was simply a response to American dealers’ belief that bigger was better. Thus was born the U.S. market CX100, which was essentially a touring 1000SP Strada with MkII Le Mans bodywork.

The 949cc 90-degree air-cooled, overhead valve, wet sump, V-twin engine was fitted into the same Tonti dual cradle frame as before. Two Dell’Orto 30mm carbs (now with proper air filters) fed the iron-lined alloy cylinders running a 9.2:1 compression ratio, while a 280-watt alternator at the front of the engine ran the electrics. Power was transferred through the automotive-style twin-disc dry clutch to a 5-speed gearbox with shaft final drive, the final drive casing forming the right side swingarm tube. Three-position preload adjustable shock absorbers located the swingarm to the frame.

Both front and rear wheels were cast alloy, the front attached by Guzzi-designed, hydraulically-damped spring forks, and both wheels were 2.15-inch (WM3) section by 18-inch diameter. Tires were 110 section rear and 100 front.

The CX100 carried over Guzzi’s linked braking system: Pushing down the right-mounted foot pedal activated both the single Brembo rear disc caliper and one of the two front calipers at a ratio of 70 percent front, 30 percent rear; squeezing the hand lever then gripped the other front disc. Though many riders were suspicious, Rider concluded the setup worked well in their tests: “…the integrated system allows safe cornering on slick surfaces or for non-skid stopping beyond that of conventional brakes.” Stopping was “shorter and more stable,” they said.

5/21/2015 7:59:33 PM

I'd take any of the three. Or one of each!

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