The Journey, Not the Destination

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus

The hovel I call my shop has been pretty active of late, what with editor Hall’s ongoing Norton Commando project and the recent addition of two “new” bikes to the hovel for my kids, daughter Madeline and son Charlie.

For the past few years, now 23-year-old Madeline has been riding our 1976 Suzuki GT185. Rated at a modest 21 horsepower and weighing in at less than 300 pounds, it’s been an excellent starter bike; not too powerful and easy to handle. And at $400 it was a bargain, all the better for a first-time motorcycle.

Madeline’s enjoyed the Suzuki, but a few months back she suggested she was ready to move up the motorcycle scale, at least incrementally, expressing interest in getting something she could ride farther and with more confidence on the highway. She’s not thinking about going cross country — yet — but she does have visions of day trips and weekend adventures in the country. She’s capable physically, but didn’t want anything too large or powerful. So what to get?

As luck would have it, the answer appeared in the form of a 1980 Moto Guzzi V50 II, a bike I’ve admired ever since a this-is-so-much-fun-it-can’t-be-legal RetroTours romp across the back roads of West Virginia on ’70s Italian twins in 2012. The ’79 V50 I rode during that tour was my introduction to Guzzi’s little 500cc V-twin. Light and torquey, it’s one of the great mid-sized bikes of its era, blessed with excellent road manners and more than enough oomph for passing. Critics dislike its linked braking system (the rear and front left discs operate off the foot pedal, the front right disc off the hand lever), but I love the way it works, providing confident, balanced braking, a quality especially appreciated by a dad sending his daughter out to do battle on the open road.

The bike appeared thanks to Moto Guzzi fan Ray Roske, who introduced me to reader and vintage bike nut Greg Garcia after I asked Ray if he might know anyone with a V50 for sale. Greg bought the little Guzzi, a low-mileage Pennsylvania barn find, in 2011. Showing just over 7,400 miles when he turned it over to me, it’s exactly what we wanted: a solid, lovingly maintained machine that’s not so nice you’re scared to ride it.

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