It’s time for another round of my favorite posts to share: Bought on Bike-urious. This time we’ve got a Le Mans that was offered up by a very passionate Guzzi fan. Now it’s in the garage of reader Thierry R!
Thierry kindly offered to share his experience, and I knew you’d appreciate it!
Sometime in October 2018, I saw an ’85 Moto Guzzi Le Mans IV showcased on Bike-urious. The bike, available on eBay, was completely restored from the frame up and represented everything that a young motorcyclist like me would have liked in a bike in 1985: fast, stylish, different. I bid on the bike on an impulse…and won, with a mixture of excitement (this is the coolest bike I will ever own) and dread (what am I going to tell my wife?).
A few days later a shiny white Le Mans arrived to my home in Chicago from Miami via a transport company. The seller went out of his way to document any issues, and educate me on all things Guzzi as I am more of a BMW airhead person. He took pictures of the bike being shipped. Perfect transaction from a classy, knowledgeable rider. But as the bike was making it to my garage, what was I truly getting into?
First important concept which I should have understood even prior to bidding: this is a garage queen. Fully restored, all original, low mileage, old tires.
October is not really a good time for riding in Chicago, especially a garage queen. I had to wait a little to ride her. No doubt, per the comments in Bike-urious, it was a well sorted bike.
All I knew from the literature about the IV in 1985 both in France and in the US was that the bike was considered to be “too little power and too expensive compared with the Japanese bikes, even the 750cc”. Shoddy electrics plus a last minute 16″ wheel replacement imposed by the owner at the time allegedly compromising stability complemented the negative picture. None of that has proved to be true or relevant for me so far.
Bottom line: this is a sensual bike: it smells like an old truck, the Dell’Orto carbs breathe rabidly like a wild animal, looks are stunning and she rides like a locomotive with a power boost after 5,000 rpm. Your rear end will be sore after 200 kms. The vibrations of the bike revving up are addictive. Don’t ride that bike in Chicago.
From a restoration standpoint the frame is impeccable and the red color adds to the visual impact, complemented by the red back of the black chrome exhausts. The white paint job was less successful as air bubbles have popped and parts will need to be repainted unfortunately. There is a guy for that in South Bend, Indiana. No big deal.
Mechanically, the bike is near perfect. No leaks, lots of available power, good compression, low oil consumption, no need for anything really. All I had to do was to change the spark plugs and replace the velocity stacks withair filters. It really feels like a new bike, except a few details I need to address like the fork bottoming out when braking hard at low speed, or one of the cab floaters being stuck.
However, on the road, the first rides were very frustrating. I could not go anywhere without losing a fairing screw in the first 50 kms. It was embarrassing as I mostly ride in groups. The blinkers stopped working early on and I lost a mirror due to vibrations. I found it on the side of the road without a scratch…I put blue Loctite on all fairing screws and the mirrors. Problem solved. For the blinkers, as part of doing some research, I was told that all the hand controls were bad quality and the likely culprit. They were new and part of the restoration. After checking the control switches with a multimeter and hours looking at the electric schema, a trip to the local part store and a 3-pin, $10 blinker relay resolved the issue.
The position is a little cramped for me and the original seat is really hard, which makes a long ride uncomfortable after a few hours. But that’s not what this bike is for. The machine and I found a common interest in negotiating rapid sharp curves at medium speed. The bike balances from one side to the next really easily and stays right on the trajectory without surprises. I do like the Guzzi brakes (front lever for one front disk, right pedal from other front disk and real brakes). That was another negative mentioned about that bike that turns to be an asset in my book.
Although the support groups are great and responsive, (my favorite is GuzziTech), parts are harder to find compared with a BMW airhead.
Now let’s address the 16″ wheel that supposedly was inducing instability at highway speed. Not only the bike is super stable but the smaller tire makes it easier to handle fast curves. Don’t believe what they say and check for yourself.
So all in all, this bike is a great complement to my beloved and dependable R90/6. Opposite characters, really.
Still working on the wife issue…I would be upset if I was in her shoes, too!