1976 Moto Guzzi 850-T3
“Take whichever bike you want”, Neil said to me before we headed out for an afternoon ride around Seely Lake in Montana. Of all the motorcycles in Neil’s incredibly expansive collection, only one really caught my attention. The Moto Guzzi 850-T3. Along the ride I kept thinking to myself “This motorcycle is perfection! I must own one, one fine day.”
A handful of months and tax returns later, and I found myself on a fine day, driving to Missoula to liberate said Moto Guzzi from Neil’s collection. I could tell he wasn’t particularly thrilled to give it up, but I think he knew it was going to a good loving home, where it would get lots of use, meticulous maintenance and many fond memories.
Even by today’s standards, the motorcycle is exemplary. Hydraulic Brembo disc brakes compliment stiff-walled laced wheels, along with a cushioned drive-shaft and a six gallon fuel tank, good for over 200 miles.
Originally designed for police work, the engine itself is simple, reliable, and easy to work on. Valve adjustments and inspections require minimal tools and can be done without removing a single piece of bodywork. Major top-end overhaul can also be done with the engine still in the frame. A two-valve per cylinder pushrod design, the motor has a astronomical (for its time) limit of 7,000 RPM’s.
On the road, the motorcycle is an absolute pleasure to ride, tickling all senses. The OEM exhaust pipes harken to a period before overzealous emissions agencies took interest in motorcycles. When it was alright for the user of a motorcycle to actually hear his engine as it runs. One can comfortably cruise, or grit ones teeth and tear into a corner at less than legal speeds on the bike. Even with 30+ year old tired and worn suspension components, the 850 glides through corners, the torque of the lumpy big twin sling-shotting you out the exit.
Despite recorded lifespans of over 300,000 miles, these motorcycles do have their share of known issues and problems. The majority of the electrical system is comprised of Lucas Electrics (You old Triumph owners, I can hear you groaning from here), which means bulbs, switches, and other ancillary (but still important) user controls often fail to function properly. The generator system is so weak, that even at idle the motorcycle lacks enough charge to keep even with the battery drain. Aftermarket stators and generators help this issue slightly, but putting on creature comforts like heated grips, or an electric vest is out. Driveshaft u-joints are known to fail unless routinely inspected for wear, leaving the rider walking or shelling out money for new rear drive casings.
Still, compared to the problems that can present in todays water-cooled machines, the simplicity and straight-forward nature of the Moto Guzzi keeps me grinning every time I sit on it and listen to the low thump-thump idle that only Guzzi’s give.
“The Goose” is currently residing with my father in Connecticut, both as a motorcycle I can use when I’m out there, and one he can use when I’m not. He’s replaced the seat, rebuilt the carburetors and kept it in great tune in that time.