With the Guzzi factory opening its doors to the general public for one weekend a year, Dave Manning heads to Mandello del Lario for a look behind the famous red gate.
Like much of Italian industry, the Moto Guzzi factory has a shut-down period in late summer, celebrating its return to production by opening its doors to the general public.
All and sundry are allowed in to not only the amazing museum, but also to see the production area where bikes are assembled, as well as pretty much all of the factory, including the wind tunnel, and even the staff canteen for us lucky journos!
Perched on the edge of Lake Como, Mandello is a beautiful town, and the factory is located right in the centre, with the famous red factory gates opening on to a street, and directly opposite the railway station car park, packed with bikes over the weekend, spilling over on to the road and down every alley and side street.
All of the town joins in, with bikes (Guzzis, naturally) and bike parts liberally used in shop windows and restaurants. It’s clear that the factory plays a large part in the lives of most Mandellans, and reportedly there are some families that have had five generations working in the factory.
Consequently, there is very much a party atmosphere through the town, with lots of birra, plenty of gelato and copious espressos too.
And perhaps the most diverse and eclectic range of Moto Guzzi products that you’ll see outside of the factory museum.
I was expecting Le Mans, V50, V70 and Californias by the bucketload, but what was blatantly clear was just how many smaller-capacity Guzzis are being used, and many of them clearly on a regular basis.
I don’t think I’d actually ever seen a Galletto, Ladola or Stornello in the flesh before – most certainly not on the road in the UK – yet there they were, being used by all manner of folk, buzzing around Mandello as if they were the area’s prime form of transport. Actually, maybe they are…
But perhaps most surprising of all was the fact that, rather than classic V-twins such as early Le Mans or V50s, by far the most common classics were the horizontal single cylinder Falcones and Condors, and the number of 850cc Le Mans were even outnumbered by two-stroke singles and parallel twins!
Although that’s not to say that all the bikes there were of a smaller capacity, as there was pretty much at least one example of every road bike that Guzzi have ever made parked somewhere in Mandello over the weekend, and lots of customised versions as well, with the café racer still proving popular in northern Italy, albeit closely followed by the knobbly-tyred ‘street scrambler’ style machine.
And an impressive number of the new V85 TT model which is selling out in every market in which it is being sold, and for very good reasons that I can vouch for, having ridden one to Italy, in great comfort, for the weekend.
There were also a fair few examples of the new 1400cc transverse V-twins that the factory builds as well, yet the new bikes are of secondary interest to most of the visitors, with the classics, and the history of the brand, being the real reason to make the trip to the shores of Lake Como.
Moto Guzzi celebrate their centenary in 2021, and that will be a very special event – you have plenty of time to organise your trip, so do it!
View more images and read more News and Features in the December 2019 issue of Old Bike Mart – on sale now!