Moto Guzzi National Owners Club
Moto Guzzi National Owners Club
Moto Guzzi National Owners Club
Text size:  A  A

All Red 2002 V-11 LeMans - An Opinionated Review

I became interested in the V-11 LeMans as a result of test riding one at our 2001 MGNOC National in Grass Valley, California. My thanks to MGNA for providing demo bikes for all of the rally goers. You sold one for sure! After test riding, I went away thinking about the fact it was extremely stable, and compared to my '98 EV it was much faster. I was sold in one blast!

While riding the EV home to Kansas from California I pondered various ways I could go about making it more suitable to my own riding style, which is going places far and wide. To do that - for me it had to be made more comfortable.

Early in the same (2001) year I attended the 30th Annual Kansas MGNOC Rally and saw a V-11 Sport that belonged to Bob Alf, Omaha, Nebraska. Bob replaced the clip on bars with standard like bars he personally designed. These are very professional handlebars, machined out of solid billet.

Bob also designed and made the setup to move the front foot pegs and the foot controls forward and downward by a few inches. When I saw his V-11 Sport setting there at the rally I thought to myself, "If it had a fairing I could ride that."

The next day after seeing Bob's special V-11 Sport, it was, "Out of sight, out of mind." I gave no thought of my ever owning another Guzzi sport model. That was until I rode the V-11 LeMans in California.

During the two day ride home from California, I remembered and thought about Bob Alf's V-11 Sport. I considered all kinds of drastic solutions. But the main thing is, I knew it was possible to change things around to more suite me, because Bob Alf had already done that.

I've known Bob for 20 plus years, so I contacted him about the possibility of him building me the same setup (kit if you will). Bob agreed, but he said it would take time.

After returning home from the Italy, Texas Guzzi rally in early October, 2001, I removed the stock handlebars and sent the little short pieces (more like a couple of small pipes) to Bob. He needed those to be certain he copied what needed to be copied. In the same box, I included the top triple clamp so Bob could drill the holes in it for attaching the risers which would eventually be added.

I also removed all the candy apple red and gray body parts to be painted.

After several weeks, Bob shipped me the new handlebars. He used Harley Davidson risers and had those anodized black. Bob custom built the cap that holds the bars onto the risers (he's a talented guy, believe me!). Bob even had the bars anodized in a silver color to match the over all decor on my LeMans. He also threaded each handlebar end so the stock weights on each side could be screwed in. No easy task (I imagine) as these threads are a bit different than most. Everything associated with the bars looks like factory - actually better than factor. These new parts received a special human touch. They look tasty in fact!

Some time passed before Bob could complete the kit for the foot pegs and the controls. Finally, the day came and the package of parts arrived. When I opened the box, it was the same as before - perfect in every way. Everything was anodized to match the large two plates that fit on each side of the machine. These are red on the V-11 Sport, but silver on the V-11 LeMans. Beautiful, really beautiful!

All of the new pieces fit perfectly and went on a lot easier than the original pieces came off. It was an easy job for me because Bob took the time and made the effort to send me about three dozen photos - most of which had instructions on the back telling me exactly how to fit the pieces on. Everything was made easy as pie for me. No guess work needed on my part, period.

Bob designed the gear shift lever to fit right onto the shaft that comes out of the gear box. After the gear change lever goes on there's a support piece that fits onto the outer end. This part as all the rest is done amazingly well. Explaining this, in this way is like saying the human body has a red liquid inside and bones and some skin over everything and it works.

I'm not a technical person, and I'm sorry about going on and on about this, but the parts are almost breathtaking to look at. So nicely done, so pretty, and so much better looking than the original factory parts it isn't even funny.

By fitting the gear change lever directly on the shaft, there is no linkage of any kind to wear, or adjust. Why the factory doesn't do it this way is beyond me. Not only will this work better, last longer, it's a more simple design.

To those of you who are used to riding with your upper body in the wind - I salute you. You're tougher than I am! I plan to remain a wimp, so I contacted Gustafsson Fairing Screen in St. Augustine, Florida (904-824-2119), to see about finding a taller windscreen for the fairing.

I love the looks of the overall fairing and the over all design of the V-11 LeMans and the two go well together, in my opinion. However - with that said, the clear shield may look nice, it didn't do the job. Especially since I'm a guy that's use to riding behind a barn door.

Leif Gustafasson was friendly and helpful. For $110 he fixed me up with a new windscreen that is 5 plus inches taller than the original. It's also designed a little differently and indeed it is a vast improvement over the original. Before - with the stock screen, I had to wash my face shield at every gas stop. (Lots of bugs here in the summer months.) Now - I seldom get bugs on the face shield itself. The bugs mostly hit the top of my helmet. This new screen also takes more of the wind noise away as the strong wind blast doesn't hit my face shield as it did before. (I still wear ear plugs though.)

To each his/her own - for me the two colors for the 2002 V-11 LeMans don't get it. I knew way before I bought the LeMans, that it wouldn't remain the stock candy apple red and what I call "thud-gray". Sorry. While some of the people that saw the candy apple color thought it was more wonderful in every way - I don't like candy apple red all that much. However, to keep the cost down and to KISS, I would have painted the gray parts the same candy apple color but when I tried to get a computer match on the original factory red - I was told, "No go."

Not a problem! (I didn't like it anyway.) After I found out I would now have to pick out another color of red paint, I decided it would be good to pick a color that I could buy just about anywhere. And indeed I did just that. I can now purchase touchup paint in a small container with a brush, and I even found some of this paint in a small "bug-bomb" at Wal Mart. The color I went with is called "Bright Red" and is found on 2002 Ford pickup trucks.

At least ten people have asked, "Why didn't Guzzi do that!?" "Beats me", I told them. Of course, I love the color, I love the style of the bike, and I love riding the thing. And on top of all that - I can ride it farther and enjoy the long ride a great deal more with Bob's improvements.

Now that the foot pegs have been moved forward by approximately 3" and downward by approximately 3.5" I'll have a longer-more-comfortable riding range. By-the-way, this measurement is different from what I originally though the pegs would be. Whatever - this setup works great, and the whole machine sits better and just wants to be ridden more than ever.

Admittedly the V-11 LeMans isn't the fastest of the fast. It'll do a REAL 135 mph (been there, done that). Cycle World clocked their test bike at 137 mph. There are Japanese machines that will run and hide from the V-11 LeMans, but they aren't as pleasing to my eye as the LeMans (or any Guzzi LeMans for that matter). And these other machines don't have that LeMans thump! I love sitting on the thing and just listening to it. Guzzi engines have that, but the V-11 LeMans is more concentrated. Some of the others have been diluted too much - the LeMans has just the right flavor!

It's really difficult to keep it under a 100 mph. For sure - it'll cruise easily all day, fast enough for me to end up in jail (if I get caught!). And it feels so nice at those higher speeds, and does it so easy. Over all, the V-11 LeMans is smoother than the EV and far more stable at those high speeds. And when the EV won't go any faster, the LeMans isn't breathing hard. However, as a two-up motorcycle for Mary Jo and myself - the LeMans is worthless.

Gas mileage is a lot better with the V-11 LeMans compared to the EV and some others I've owned. Granted - the EV has huge saddlebags (I call my fancy ammo boxes) and the best fairing out there for protection, so it's pushing a lot of flat stuff, and this has to take away from the gas mileage. Besides that I ride it good and fast too, and speed doesn't make for good fuel mileage.

The LeMans gets 8-10 points, maybe sometimes better gas mileage at any given circumstance. The best mileage at highway speeds for the LeMans was near a REAL 50 mpg. The worse was 36 mpg running 80 and up and mostly way up, in a Kansas wind. In general, on a warm day, running a measly 75 mph, without a strong wind to deal with - the LeMans is apt to average around 45 mpg. I'm happy with that.

Warning! I've run out of gas two times now on the LeMans. The gas tank is rated at 5.5 gallons. For sure it holds 5.5 gallons. Unfortunately you can't get 5.5 gallons out of the thing unless you remove it and turn it upside down!

The first time it ran out of gas and after I returned home, I removed the gas tank and put it on my work bench at the same angle it would sit on the LeMans' frame. Then I filled the tank to the top with gasoline and then I drained out all of the fuel. I measured it as I drained it. I got a little less than 5 gallons out. There was about a half gallon still in the tank. The only way that could come out was by turning the tank over. Tough way to get that extra half gallon when you're out of gas.

Recently while running fast in very windy conditions, with no gas stations for a long ways, the low fuel idiot light came on. "No problem," I thought! "Shoot, I got a gallon left in the tank." At the time, I was about 40 miles from the nearest gas station, so I slowed down to an indicated 65 mph - thinking I could make it home with what was left. After about 25 miles or so, the LeMans started to sputter. I stopped, I tried to turn the idiot gas valve (same kind I had on my CAIIIi, and I hated that one too!). I was approximately twelve miles from home. I couldn't believe the LeMans was out of gas! After fooling around with the gas valve (you better have a pair of pliers or you'll never turn it in the first place), I hit the starter button and away we went. About 2-3 miles down the road it wanted to die, so I weaved and wobbled the thing and the engine picked up. For the 12 miles home, I had to wiggle and weave about every two miles, but I was able to get enough fuel out of there to get me home. The next day I rode it to the gas station one-half mile away. It never missed a lick. I filled the tank up until I could touch the gas with my little stubby nose. It took only 4.75 gallons. Supposedly there was 3/4 of a gallon still in there.

This is a touchy subject with me and for others. Less than five usable gallons is not good. I don't use my motorcycles for cruising Main Street! The EV comes with a tank that has a usable 4.7 gallons. Some brochures say 4.8, some say 4.9, and at least one says 5.0. Same tank - I don't get it. But one thing is for certain, you can only use 4.7 gallons. I spent a bunch of money to have a 7.7 gallon tank so I could ride without worry. I'm not really happy about having to carry a can of extra gas in the LeMans' saddle bag. Grrr.

Speaking of saddlebags. I found the these "Tekno" bags on MGNA's web page. They come with brackets specially for the V-11 Sport, V-11 LeMans, Rosso, etc. I like them a lot. They aren't very large, only 15 liters each. However they will expand to 30 liters each. They look weird sticking out there so far, when they are expanded, but come in handy now and then.

The brackets bolt onto the machine. Unlike Bob's kit, with the bags, I received no directions, and one of the bracket's needed a little adjustment with a long pry-bar. But they work well, and they have hard backing around the sides, top, bottom, and back. And too, they are lockable onto the bracket (if you wish to do so, I don't). And they snap off real easy to carry inside if needed.

The tank bag is also made by Tekno, and I found it on MGNA's web page as well. While it works well enough, and I have no real complaints about the tank bag, I'm not as thrilled with it as I am with the saddlebags. Other than not being RED (of course), the tank bag wiggles far too much. It doesn't really go anywhere, but it has a wide range of movement and flops to the left and right. What it needs is Velcro on the base and on the underside of the bag itself. This would hold it in place really well and still allow the bag to be removed from the strapped on base. By the way - the tank bag is held on by two (large teeth) zippers on each side. These zippers do a good job, but the bag still has a lot of left and right movement. Eventually I'll sew Velcro where needed. I already tried applying self adhesive Velcro to the base and the underside of the main bag. Nothing sticks to the material! Grrr.

The mirrors work well. Except I hate looking in a rear view mirror with an image smaller than what it really is. Dangerous! Besides, I need to have a good look at that white car behind me in case I need to be good

Soon, I'll remove the mirrors and take them to a glass shop to have REAL glass put in each mirror.

The seat isn't bad, but it isn't the best either. I replaced the original EV seat (worse than a pine board according to my wife, Mary Jo), with a custom seat from Rich Maund. I can sit on that seat literally from sunrise to sunset and feel mostly good at the end of the day. Wish I could say the same about the LeMans' saddle. The seat looks good in my eyes and I believe with the new foot peg kit from Bob Alf, even the seat will work better now. If I were taller, I'd try having more cushion added, but it's a reach to the ground for me as it is. I can ride farther on the LeMans seat than I ever could on my three Ambassadors seat's 25-30 years ago, so I shouldn't whine about the stock seat.

For me, I now have the perfect sport tourer. While it may not be as comfortable as my EV for the long haul - it's the purest fun machine I could ever hope for - and it's ALL RED.

Thanks to my dear friend Bob Alf for making the handlebar, foot pegs, and control setup for me. I definitely feel special.

Unfortunately, Bob doesn't want to make more kits. He's a busy guy and has too many irons in the fire for one thing. For sure he's told me in no-uncertain terms that he doesn't want to make any more kits. Maybe if you have a shoe box full of hundred dollar bills, he would change his mind, but don't hold your breath.