2003 Moto Guzzi Breva V 750 IE
The guys from Mandello need a new type of buyer indeed. Dunno if you’ve noticed, but it’s already a few years that Moto-Guzzi’s offerings are centered around customs and cruisers/tourers. As lovely as those V11’s are, it’s the California 1100’s and Nevada 750’s that have been keeping Guzzi afloat. Alas, since the Aprilia takeover, Guzzi are starting to see black ink again in the balance sheets, and so time for a new effort in a different direction. Accordingly, the new 750 carries a symbolic name, Breva, which is the name of the wind that blows in spring over the Lago di Como, bringing in good weather.
Before swinging even half a leg over the Breva, my first reaction was like yeah, nice indeed. Extra tasty curves and details give the Breva a very up-to-date look that’s on the other hand quite classical too. The nod towards the classic scene is evident in the choice of metallic colors. It’s not hard to see that the efforts of the staff at Marabese Design–the studio that handled the styling–headed in a very different direction than the creators of the BMW CS650.
With its visually singular engine in full view and an erect riding position, the Breva is a true roadster, a do-it-all kind of ride with a pinch of sporty stance. Good to see that under the scrutinizing eyes of the design-conscious Aprilia management, no skimping or half measures were taken on details. Plenty of sculpted cast alloy brackets, a small smoked screen and Brembo Gold series brakes give the Breva an air of quality not usually found in entry-level bikes.
If that engine looks familiar it’s because as “new” as the Breva is, its engine is still based on the “small block” Guzzi twin from the late 70’s V50’s. It has received an ultra-serious revamp since its last incarnation as the power unit for the 750 Nevada, complete with full digital management of its new injection and ignition systems. A lambda probe gas sensor supplies real time feedback to the engine management for constant low emissions adjustment, and what’s left passes through catalytic converters. Guzzi’s engineers sought drivability from this engine, which explains how a 750 can be called a beginner’s tool. Claimed power is only 48 hp, which doesn’t make much sense until you understand that many European countries limit beginners to 50 hp until they’re 21 years old. It then makes more sense to fatten the torque curve rather than shoot for peak figures. In any case, the 750 Breva falls in line power-wise with the above mentioned models, only it supplies its torque peak at a meager 3600 rpm–something a high-revving 500 dohc twin can only dream of.
On the cycle side of things, the Breva is again, a mix of old and new. Frame seems familiar but attached to it are very nice pieces, stuff I would’ve killed for when I was a starving student with a Guzzi V50 III rat-bike held together with duct tape. Nice forks and a hefty single front disk, light looking cast wheels, braided brake hose, and yes! No linked brakes thank God! But then, I could have been even happier without those twin shocks. They’re simpler and more economical to be sure, but my back could be in better shape today if it wasn’t for those twin nasty Marzocchis of my old V50 (the Breva wears Bitubos).
Start the Breva and it settles immediately into that typical Guzzi rock and roll–shocking if you’re coming from an oriental ride but nothing special compared to a Beemer or a Sporty. The EFI and Lamabada thing have the engine pumping steady right from the word go, and a few twists of the throttle reveal a response that’s really quick and requires zero effort–no more heavy-sprung carb slides to lift here. Amazingly, clutch-pull effort has been reduced to made-in-Japan levels, no mean feat for a single-disc auto type clutch. The smooth and easy operation theme continues with sweet-shifting gears.
As it would turn out, this bike is all about sweetness and friendliness. After a few minutes of riding towards the mountains in front of Mandello del Lario shore with quite heavy traffic around, the Breva conveys a feeling of total ease of operation. It starts with a textbook standard riding position and very light and intuitive steering. Then, with peak torque coming on so early, the Breva shoots forward nicely with short throttle bursts. Just as well, the engine soon shows that although it’ll climb to almost 7K when given time, there isn’t too much point in taking it past 5.5K rpm. Trying to keep pace with the quick local Guzzi road testers that accompanied us journos for the ride, it soon become obvious that on this twisty mountain road the best trait of the Breva was its agility. A short wheelbase, wide handlebars and narrow tires make the Breva one quick-steering bike, and even in ultra-tight hairpins I had no trouble apexing earlier to make my move on the other oh, yes you can already guess. this journo demo ride soon turned into a mini hill-climb race and the Breva can be fun as long as you don’t forget that you’re on touring-spec Bridgestone BT45’s and that twin shocks are still twin shocks.
In fast bends the Breva was not exactly sat on rails over the bumps. So handling is just pretty much level with most entry-level bikes, but not really in the league of the Monster 620 or BMW CS650. Then again, it’s a bit pointless to force wiggles out of this bike, the Breva is really into a different game. After separating from the balls-out riding group, I could take things easier, let the Breva chug along at a less frenzied pace and even enjoy the view. The seamless pull of the engine really encourages you to do so and even points out that Guzzi have indeed the longest track record with EFI. Heck, this thing pulled out from some really slow turns in the wrong gear from as low as 1500 rpm. As for top speed, no straight stretches long enough ever appeared, but at 90 mph the Breva was still pulling so my guess would be about 100-105 mph. For light to medium range touring, the Breva engine supplies a nice, smooth cruise at 80 mph, with just enough light and unobtrusive vibration to let you know there’s a V-twin pumping down there and not some hydrogen fuel cell. With its comfy seat and suspension dialed in at the stiff side of plushy, the Breva felt like it could be ridden on day-long loops without much strain. The small smoked fairing does reduce wind pressure on the torso, and the straight bar bend puts you in good balance with wind pressure up to 85mph.
The huge front brake that could have had the word “stoppie” rather than Brembo embossed on the caliper was for me a bit of a disappointment–maybe these were not yet run-in pads or maybe hydraulic pump ratios were chosen to prevent newbies from panic-locking the wheel? Whatever the reason, the mother of all stoppies was not to be, and I ended up using the excellent rear more than usual. Only one other complaint: Although gear shifting is now really effortless, a missed gear was picked up every now and then. More precision please.
Guzzi’s intentions with the Breva become even clearer upon looking at the “loaded” version of the bike that was on show. A hard luggage kit hints at touring duties and no less important, there is a “lady’s saddle” option which lowers saddle height by a useful 1.5 inches. Hats off for giving the height-challenged–male or female–some consideration. And just like the way the California 1100 was the unexpected winner in many a cruiser comparo, the Breva might yet turn out to be one of the better deals out there for entry level road riders. In Italy it’s going to undercut the Monster 620/BMW 650 price by a few hundred Euros, and it’s a much more lavishly finished and equipped machine than the way-cheaper Japanese 500 twins–a classic case of business school strategies put to good use in identifying a market niche, married to good classic looks. The Breva is not going to make anybody’s blood boil, it’s too refined and elegant for that, but as a groovy machine that you’d be happy to send your young sister/brother/wife on for their first ride, it’s hard to fault.