Moto Guzzi Centauro Road Test
Half man, half cruiser
I've got some simple advice for anyone who feels their social life has
been drop-kicked past the goal posts of life: buy a Centauro (pronounced
"chentoro"). Named after the mythical half-man half-horse, Moto Guzzi's
latest toy is guaranteed to start a conversation wherever it goes.
Plonking the Centauro on the footpath outside Melbourne's Cafe Racer
cappuccino emporium is as much a study in human nature as it is motorcycle
design. Anyone with an interest in bikes soon ends up crawling over it.
The styling is about as subtle as a smack in the head with a house brick,
and the questions from any rider within cooee come thick and fast. "How
big is it?", "What's it like to ride?", and inevitably, "What is it?"
That last is a fair question. The styling and high-tech spec sheet screams
Moto Guzzi's answer to Ducati's Monster -- a naked musclebike if you like.
Ride it, however, and you start thinking more along the lines of a cruiser
with 'attitude'. When you add in the price ($19,995 plus ORC) and crowd-pulling
ability, Honda's Valkyrie seems a more natural competitor.
NO MUCKING AROUND
Guzzi certainly hasn't mucked around when it comes to throwing the
best bits from the parts bin at the Centauro. Suspension is WP Racing tackle,
40mm upside-down forks on the sharp end and a remote reservoir monoshock
on the back. Compression and rebound damping adjustment is available at
both ends, with an allowance for preload alterations on the rear.
Four-spot Brembos do the braking work on the front (320mm discs), and
a twin-spot item graces the rear (282mm disc). The stylish Marchenisi wheels
are fitted with Pirelli Dragon rubber.
A slightly detuned version of the company's premium four-valve-per-pot,
fuel injected, 992cc Daytona powerplant is installed. The five-speed box
is complemented by the same double uni joint shaft you'll find on the Daytona
and 1100 Sport.
What all this means is that there's little the owner can, or would want
to, do to upgrade the bike. Suspension and rubber are already premium gear,
and there's nothing to whinge about in the braking department.
The frame is also a Daytona item, though there's been some fiddling
around to get the seat height down which seems to have resulted in reduced
suspension travel at the rear.
Flat bars, with the seat located a long way back, and forward-mounted
footpegs result in an un-natural riding position. The reach feels big even
for tall people, and the shape of the seat means there are no options on
where you sit.
The adjustable front brake lever is a welcome touch, while the switchgear
is basic fare which you'll find on several bikes such as the Ducati 916
and Honda VTR1000.
There's space for a pillion, which turned out to be more comfortable
than looks would suggest. Removing the seat hump is simple enough, though
I couldn't find the appropriate Allen key in the toolkit. Maybe it went
walkabout with another tester, though it's worth checking before you leave
Firing up the powerplant on a cold day reveals that it likes plenty
of warm-up time. Try riding off early and you're likely to be rewarded
with some coughing and farting -- not unlike most of us after a hard night...
A couple of minutes' idling, plus a few kays under the belt, and the Centauro's
ready to play.
There's been some debate in these pages before over whether cruiser/naked-bike
powerplants should be detuned when transferred from their more sporting
siblings. The petrolheads among us say no, and I'm one of them.
In the Centauro's case, the rework is fairly minor with power down from
a claimed 102ps at 8400rpm to 94 at 8200. Torque is said to be up from
9.0kg-m at 6600 to 10.0 at 5500. What has me mystified, though, is why
Guzzi chose the Daytona engine for this bike in preference to the 1100
two-valver. The latter would seem a more natural choice. Maybe there was
a marketing decision to give the model a high-tech profile.
The upshot is that the Australian spec bike doesn't appear to deliver
the performance revealed by Alan Cathcart in his report on the Euro version
last July. Former Deputy Ed Mike Sinclair, who has ridden a factory-supplied
Euro bike and this test version, backs this up.
While bottom and top end power are all you could ask for, there's a
point in the midrange (around 4000-4500rpm) where the grunt drops off noticeably
-- particularly in the higher gears. That engine speed equates to around
120km/h in top, and defies Sir Al's undoubtedly accurate "turbocharged
tractor" description of his test version's ability to provide clean stomp
in top from 2000.
You soon learn to ride around the midrange hole and, when you do, there's
plenty of urge available. I'd be very curious to see what a cleaner-breathing
set of mufflers could do for the performance.
With all the good gear included in the chassis, you'd expect the Centauro
to handle exceptionally well. The potential is certainly there, but I reckon
any owner would be well advised to do some careful fiddling before they
can expect to get the best out of their bike.
The combination of the rearward seating position and general 'tail-down'
stance of the machine means it tends to understeer in stock form. This
is soon overcome with a bit of body english. Throw some weight into the
curve and the bike reacts well, with plenty of stability. A bit of familiarity
will soon see you exploring the limits of the cornering clearance, which
You could probably risk losing a bit of the stability by setting the
machine up with a more 'nose down' attitude, by pulling the forks up through
the triple clamps a few mil and winding up the rear preload. As delivered,
it's one of the best of the cruiser class in this area.
The front suspension works particularly well on stock settings, while
the rear makes a reasonable fist of its limited travel. There's no hint
of shaft torque reaction, as the double uni joints allow the rear to squat
under power just like a 'normal' bike.
Speaking of torque reaction, there's the usual Guzzi twist to the right
when you blip the throttle -- something you'll always get with a transverse
engine layout -- but a gentle right wrist on the downshift reduces this
Did I mention the tyres? The tread of the Dragons rates as a fashion
statement on its own, and their performance matches the looks.
Brakes are conventional, with no linking of the rear and front systems
as per some Guzzi models. While there may be better stoppers on the market,
these are more than up to the task.
Shifting gears is typical Guzzi, requiring a relatively slow and firm
technique to get the best. You can shift without the clutch, though I wouldn't
bother. Clumsy changes up from third to fourth will find a false neutral.
The overall finish on Moto Guzzis has improved noticeably in recent
years, and this bike is no exception. There's some nice details, and the
general fit of the bodywork is very good.
The placement of the ignition coil at the front of the motor, in the
weather, is unusual, as is the low location of the oil cooler. Fortunately
the latter has a substantial stone guard.
Keeping that finish looking good is made unnecessarily challenging by
the self-retracting sidestand. It's too far forward to use safely unless
you get off the bike first, and really needs to be replaced with something
-- almost anything -- off another bike.
The Centauro delivers anything from 15 to 19km/lt fuel consumption
on a relatively young engine. There is an 18-litre tank which has a low
level warning that makes its presence felt at around 14 litres.
Maintenance and longevity has always been a high point of Guzzi twins.
The owner can tackle the tuning chores, including valve lash, and the powerplants
seem to last well. One thing to watch for is that the shaft uni joints
are kept lubricated. Replacement of a looked-after set falls due every
40,000km or so, and costs about the same as a chain and sprocket set.
We've got to that stage of the yarn where I'm supposed to come up with
some pithy concluding remarks, which either have you reaching for the chequebook
or Guzzi calling their lawyers.
I've said this before about Guzzis: if you're considering purchasing
one and have never ridden a twin from Mandello, try to score a decent demo
ride. They can be a little quirky and take time to settle in to.
The Centauro was a classic case. On the first ride I didn't like it,
but by about the third we were getting along famously. The styling ensures
you meet lots of people on your journey, and there's enough potential in
the chassis to ensure you have a ball along the way.
V10 Centauro Specifications