Moto-Guzzi Le Mans 850
1976 - 1978. 850cc OHV air-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Why you might like an 850 Le Mans ...
Looks: Moto Guzzi hit the style jackpot with this one.
Lower frame rails. They unbolt, thereby easing maintenance.
... and why you might not like one
Vibration: These Italian tractors slowly grind you down.
▲ Moto Guzzi 750S. You can draw a direct (and short) line between this 750cc V-twin and the 850cc Le Mans. Alejandro De Tomaso had purchased Moto Guzzi in 1972 and retained his own ideas about styling. The 750S was essentially a reworked V7, but the more angular tank and side panels gave the bike a profile that was very up-to-the-moment (if looking a little dated now). Features included swan-neck (adjustable) handlebars, Silentium "shark gill" mufflers, and twin Brembo calipers on cast iron discs up front. There are still a few 750Ss around, and at reasonable prices. We've even seen one or two that have been "up-cycled" into crude facsimiles of the Le Mans. But we'd leave 'em well alone. The 750S is a classic machine in its own right.
▲ Moto Guzzi 850T. Ideal for crossing the odd continent. Or two. This motorcycle, launched in 1974, was one of the progenitors of the 850 Le Mans. The 850T designation refers to 850cc (actually 844cc) and "T" for "Tonti" as in Lino Tonti who designed the frame and shoehorned in the (upgraded) engine from a Guzzi Eldorado. With around 68hp on tap, this 860T was capable of almost 120mph (under favourable conditions). It was launched with a single front disc, and became the T3 in 1975 when braking was upgraded with a trio very credible stoppers. As a great Guzzi all-rounder, this bike could be the right choice for most riders.
▲ Moto Guzzi Mk1 Le Mans Dell'Orto carb velocity stack. No air filters mean dust and particles in those famous Nigusil cylinder bores. Not a great idea in terms of durability. But the performance compensation is a fair trade off for most riders/owners.
▲ Harsh driveline on your Le Mans? Check the cush drive rubbers in the rear wheel. They're hard-wearing, but they do age and will give you a rougher take-off. Check the universal joints too. Little fixes make a huge difference (note: images are not to scale).
▲ Guzziology. If you buy a Le Mans, or pretty much any Guzzi, you'll want a copy of this book written by Guzzi guru Dave Richardson. Richardson also owns and runs Moto International (www.motointernational.com) and is considered by many as one of the cornerstones of the Guzzi world. Meanwhile, check the Moto Guzzi crank (image immediately above). It's a wonderfully designed and solid piece of Italian engineering. Very high mileages are reported for Guzzi engines, and they can be amazingly smooth if you get that special one or build 'em right.
▲ Many people talk of Moto Guzzi engines as being simple and agricultural. Crude even. And in many ways, so they are. But they're also well-thought-out pieces of very practical engineering. You need very few special tools. They're ideal for the home mechanic. There are no great mechanical mysteries within. And there are no end of upgrades. But okay, expect some roughness which you either accept or reject. Meanwhile, you have to work hard to break one.
▲ Moto Guzzi Mk2 Le Mans. Still handsome/sexy/devilish/enticing. But two years after the launch of the Mk1, the designers were on a slippery slope from radical to conventional. Don't misunderstand us; the Le Mans was, and is, a great bike. But as with great actors and rock stars, they're more interesting when they die young and leave a beautiful corpse rather than grow old and tired and ... well, sterile. Also available in blue and yellow. Note the rectangular headlamp and restyled fly screen-cum-half fairing.
▲ Moto Guzzi was using wind tunnel technology way back in the 1950s. This Italian manufacturer of "agricultural motorcycles" has for decades been a leader rather than a follower and a pioneer of new thinking. That's a Le Mans 1000 about to feel the blast from the giant fans (image immediately above, left). And to the right, that's a cockpit detail of Mk2. The Mk2 arrived in 1978 and stayed in production until 1980.
▲ In the 1960s, Luigi Stucchi began producing accessories to help personalise Moto Guzzi motorcycles. Based in Mandello del Lario, Italy, the firm manufactured everything from rear-sets and fork braces (image immediately above), to handlebars, crash bars, bodywork, saddlebags and suchlike. Today, the business is run by Luigi's son, Antonio, and the original stuff is sought after by the discerning cognoscenti. Think of Stucchi as Italian for Dunstall. Other Guzzi accessories hail from Tarozzi, Marzochhi and Lafranconi (to name but a few suppliers).
▲ 1000cc Moto Guzzi Le Mans. The bike became both better and worse in roughly equal measure. The Le Mans lost much of its hard-boiled charm and matured (if that's the right word) into a more refined (and even sedate) tourer with a half-fairing, a more upright riding position, and a more accommodating pillion. The bodywork was increased at the rear and a belly pan appeared.
▲ By 1984, the cubic capacity of the Le Mans has increased to 1000cc (actually 949cc). This was the Mk4. The style changes are obvious. But beneath the skin, Moto Guzzi had been reworking the bike in dozens of subtle, and not so subtle ways. However, the lean and compact sportster that was the Mk1 was gone. The Le Mans was now grazing.
▲ The sporting Moto Guzzi 1000S arrived in 1990, a direct descendant of the original Le Mans (or, more accurately, a direct descendant of the 750S). The wire wheels give this bike a more "classic" look. But the original Le Mans cast wheels (often erroneously referred to as "mag" wheels are durable and right for the period. Either bike is a treat.
1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Mk1 specifications
Lino Tonti's frame
Le Mans engine
Gearbox and clutch
Le Mans Mk1
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