It’s no secret that we’re not huge cruiser fans around here. So any mail titled “Moto Guzzi California” is sure to be opened with a little trepidation.
Don’t get us wrong—by all accounts, the California is a fantastic motorcycle. But with a curb weight of roughly 700lbs, is it really sporting material?
Stefano Venier reckons so—and we believe him. Based in Brooklyn, Venier Customs have yet to send us a Moto Guzzi that we didn’t instantly love. Still, the question remains: why pick the California?
“How it happened is kind of interesting,” says Stefano. “I was approached by Andy Chase (a NY-based musician and producer) after he fell in love with the Diabola V35C. We were impressed with Moto Guzzi’s new 1380cc engine, much more than the California 1400 Touring bike it was built for.
“We felt there would be some magic if we joined forces and modified one.”
“After spending an afternoon together we realized we shared the same design aesthetic and had an obvious chemistry. We left that first day inspired and childishly excited about collaborating on something neither of us had done before.”
Step one was stripping the 2013-model California down. With the frame as a starting point, the next two months were spent shaping foam prototypes of the new bodywork. Those were then sent off to a metal fabricator to translate into steel.
Just about all the bodywork on the Guzzi is hand-made—from the curvaceous tank, to the fenders, side covers and seat. The headlight bucket’s new too, and houses both the stock light and speedo (“which was no small feat,” quips Stefano.) And there’s even a removable nose fairing, if you prefer a racier look.
The tail light’s a slim LED affair, neatly integrated into the seat. And the rear turn signals are embedded in the frame rails, with Motogadget bar end units doing duty up front. Both the rear-set foot controls and clip-on bars are from Tarozzi, with a pair of billet aluminum grips capping things off.
Other than an engine re-tune, the running gear on the California’s been left pretty standard, right down to the electrics, suspension, brakes and even tires. “They were already pretty incredible,” says Stefano, “and the bike was brand new when we started, so why not?”
The exhaust’s new though: it’s a fully custom setup from Mass Moto and it sounds good (check the video below).
Venier Customs are known for their elegant liveries, and the California’s no exception. It’s been done in a sublime gloss black, with a single dark grey stripe on the tank to help accentuate the beauty of its curves. Nothing’s been left to chance, with even the lower engine cover fasteners getting the blacked-out treatment.
With the ‘C2’ done and dusted, Stefano’s looking to the next phase: producing and selling it as a limited edition, in both café and touring guises. “The idea here is to create a motorcycle that completely uses the full potential of the California 1400’s wonderfully designed base,” he explains.
“I think Moto Guzzi made their best motorcycle ever, but this bike has a very aggressive engine that really deserves to be used in a much different, more exciting kind of setup.”
“We’ve tried to do it justice.” Good news, Stefano: you’ve succeeded.