100 years Moto Guzzi – “Guzzi my great love”

Even the facade brings Moto Guzzi friends to revel. Yellow quarry stone, metal-framed windows, old industrial charm – all of this reminds you of the historic company headquarters on Lake Como, the destination of nostalgic tours of the Alps. The spirit of the brand also blows in the cooler Münsterland, through this former weaving mill in Laer, which has long been more than a motorcycle shop.

The doer behind the facade is Reinhard Bäcker. Racing driver, tuner, expert, specialist and twice the world’s best Guzzi dealer. The man lives Moto Guzzi, he breathes Moto Guzzi. Exactly the right thing for a lovingly grounded look at the 100th birthday of the Italians. “Moto Guzzi is doing better than ever,” says Baker, who feels the increasing new sales.

The current travel enduro V85 TT is finally conquering more converts, while the V7 appeals to those old customers who, realizing that 65 hp are enough, discard their well-kept old sports motorcycles. (Bike innovations for 2022)
Moto Guzzi

Bäcker’s first contact with Guzzi: the sporty 750 S from 1976.

This refers to machines like the Moto Guzzi 750 S3 from 1976, “my first contact with the brand”, as Reinhard Bäcker enthuses. “The drove as if someone had fulfilled all my wishes.” Fast, stable, great brakes. “Back then, the Japanese only had good engines, but no chassis. On the Guzzi, after three or four corners, I had no one behind me.”

In its early days, Moto Guzzi still built small motorcycles, single cylinders and racing machines. Modern history began with the characteristic V2, whose pots peeked out from under the tank to the left and right.

Guzzi’s trademark: longitudinally installed two-cylinder

A winning bike off the race track. Because the Italian police had demanded a model that could be repaired on the street and at the same time be fast enough to keep the ever faster cars in check. Moto Guzzi won the order with the first V7 and since 1967 has been building many versions of this longitudinally installed two-cylinder, which stretches its pots high into the wind and also allows more leaning than the BMW boxer. He became Guzzi’s trademark.
Moto Guzzi

The four-valve cylinders initially gave me a headache – nothing that Reinhard Bäcker couldn’t manage.

“With the 750 S3 I was able to go to the racetrack at the weekend, return home and briefly convert it for a six-week vacation in Corsica – no problem at all,” recalls Bäcker. The robust construction of the machines attracted the do-it-yourself screwdrivers – even those who couldn’t. At first they only ruined their machines, then the reputation of the brand at the same time.

Moto Guzzi have always been expensive, now they were also considered capricious. Wrongly, you just have to know how it’s done, says the dealer. Mileages of 100,000 kilometers and more are not uncommon for the first overhaul.

“The brand had two types of buyers – either athletes or frequent drivers who travel really far.” The former got their “Le Mans” in different generations, the others the Tourer or even a California – that’s what Europe’s early Harleys were called, with windscreen and running boards. Only the Guzzi had much better brakes. The brand was doing brilliantly in the mid-eighties. Reinhard Bäcker started at the Battle of Twins, a racing series for two-cylinders that got more and more pepper over the years. But at some point the fast Ducati pulled away from him on the straights.

“Yogurt cups”: Le Mans covered with plastic

The competitors, including the Japanese, had caught up and stayed on the gas. Moto Guzzi brought the next Le Mans, this time covered with plastic, which received the maximum verbal punishment from the fan community: “yoghurt cups”, the swear word for fully boarded Japanese. First came the wrong models, then a new company owner who had no sense for his customers. “That was the time when Moto Guzzi lost the sports riders to Ducati.”

Moto Guzzi

Timeless beauty: the Griso (2006 to 2011) with top chassis and brakes.

The brand recovered only slowly. The new models were great in detail, but sometimes the advertising was missing, sometimes the strategy. The quota came in 1992 as an opponent of the BMW GS – “but Guzzi never used his starts in the Paris-Dakar Rally for advertising purposes,” criticizes Bäcker.

From 1996, the Centauro shone with complex technology, but what did it look like? Her bombastic design failed. The “Griso” from 2006 is so great that Reinhard Bäcker rides two: a free-revving 850 as his favorite everyday bike, a tuned 1200 for the last wild hours on the race track.

“The Griso was the best two-valve ever. The first Guzzi that can spring.” Would it have become a retro hit like the BMW R Nine-T later? Who knows. “The Griso inspires so much confidence, it makes you a better motorcyclist.”

Finally, a Guzzi had gone through Aprilia’s state-of-the-art development center, where their factory racers also learn to win. Since Moto Guzzi was taken over again, first by Aprilia, then by Piaggio.

The halls in Laer are now a small factory museum

Reinhard Bäcker experienced this time as a dealer. First in his free workshop, then as a brand dealer who turned his passion into a profession. Twice, in 2007 and 2009, he was voted the best Moto Guzzi dealer in the world.

Also because his company offers everything from repairs to tuning, which today transforms his halls in Laer into a small factory museum. There are the used ones with patina, such as the Guzzi that Clint Eastwood drove in “Dirty Harry”.

In addition, the prepared classics, in all possible horsepower levels and price ranges. “Guzzi is like a big Lego set where the different parts fit together.” And if something doesn’t fit, the expert builds it on his own lathe or gets it from his worldwide network.

Moto Guzzi

Oil, rubber and espresso: the smell in the workshop, where new machines are just waiting on the stages.

As he got older, he became interested in older Guzzis, from the pre-V2 era. He has just restored a red Lodola from the year he was born in 1958. Next to it, waiting for this rebirth is a Galletto scooter, like the one driven by Mayor Peppone in Don Camillo. Nevertheless, Reinhard Bäcker can never deny his roots: “Whenever I meet the Guzzi bosses, I tell them: The brand needs a sports motorcycle.” There are rumors that connoisseurs would be heard in the anniversary year.

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