The big capacity trailbike is a concept that’s never really caught on over in the UK, although interest is picking up, as bikers realise just how much fun these bikes can offer.
The Moto Guzzi Quota was a brave, early 1990s attempt to marry the traditional transverse V-twin engine, into a trail style package that could commute, tour and get slightly wild and crazy at the weekends. Some say the Quota 1000 never really worked, but if you’re shopping around for a used, large capacity trailie, the big lairy Guzzi could prove a bit of a bargain.
Just one thing though…make sure you have an inside leg measurement the size of a Transit van.
Never mind calling it the Quota, surely the perfect name for a big-bore Moto Guzzi trailbike would be the Arnold 1000 – after that big, handsome, musclebound, slightly backward poseur in the movies.
Apart from not being built in Austria or styled in the States, it’s the complete two-wheeled equivalent of Schwarzenegger.
You could even imagine him riding it, stripped to the waist and brandishing a blazing machine-gun while mumbling in that stupid accent. Guzzi have got the name just right, though, because the first definition of Quota in my Italian dictionary is ’height’. Ho Ho ho…
Presumably that’s someone at the factory’s idea of a joke – and they’d have been splitting their sides had they been watching as I spent what seemed like several back-breaking minutes straining to get the great monster onto its centrestand on a rough, stony surface. Big is not the word for the Quota. This motorcycle is HUUUUGE. Its seat is 890mm off the deck, making it around neck-high to the average Italian. I’m 6″4″ and felt short. Wheelbase is 1620mm – several inches longer than bruisers like BMW’s R100GS and Yamaha’s Super Tenere. Just to make life really interesting, there’s no sidestand on the Quota.
But you know what his friends say about Arnie – he’s such a sweet, gentle guy at heart. Real soft; great with kids. Sounds like bulls**t, but the Quota really is just like that too. Getting on it’s the difficult part.
Once you’ve done that you’ve passed the entrance-exam to a world of impossibly light controls, tractable power, nimble handling and comfortable cruising. Like its Daytona sister, the Quota has been a long time in the pipeline. Unlike the Daytona it’s still not here yet, having been delayed still further by the plastic fuel tank that annoyingly means it’s not strictly road-legal in this country – But if you ask your local Guzzi dealer nicely they’ll probably be able to order you one for just over £7000, (1994 price ) which puts the Quota on a par with Cagiva’s equally well-named 900 Elefant.
The Quota doesn’t share the Daytona’s new eight-valve motor, instead relying on the old 948cc Spada lump with its pushrods and two valves per pot. Like the sportster, though, the Quota is fitted with a Weber-Marelli fuel-injection system which helps give a peak power output of 70bhp at 6600rpm.
The healthy torque maximum of 58.5ft.lb arrives 600rpm earlier. Perhaps more revealingly, at just 3400rpm the big V-twin grunts out 56ft.lb – which is more than the aforementioned Super Ten makes even at its 6750rpm maximum.
If the engine’s not new then the frame certainly is. It consists of two large-section steel beams running from headstock to swing arm pivot, plus a duplex-cradle made from smaller square-section steel tubes. Forks are 42mm Marzocchi units with a suitably laid-back angle of attack. The same firm’s shock works via a rising-rate crank, but the swing arm has no Daytona-style parallelogram system to counter drive-shaft reaction.Each end has a full 200mm of travel, which goes some way to explaining the beast’s ludicrous height. But once you’ve clambered aboard – and provided your inside-leg measurement is up to putting at least one foot on terra firma – the Quota’s crows nest is a pleasant place to be.
Bars are high and wide, but there’s shelter of sorts behind the twin- headlamp fairing’s stubby screen. Riding position is roomy, with a decent flat perch for a pillion, and there’s a small carrier on the tailpiece.
First ride on the big dipper is a memorable experience. It fires-up with that time-honoured earthy thud, rocking and rolling with each warming flick of the wrist. And as you pull away the back-end rises round the drive-shaft, extending the shock to lift your seat still higher and give a view almost like that from the top of a double-decker bus.
In this fuel-injected form, Guzzi’s V-twin is an amazingly sophisticated motor for something that started life powering an ancient armoured car. Those torque figures barely do the Quota justice, because its low-rev delivery is fantastic. You can happily tool along as low as 1500rpm in top gear. Then when the light-action throttle is snapped open the bike dob-dobs crisply away, vibration disappearing at three grand while the tacho needle twirls towards the yellow warning mark set at 7000rpm.
The redline’s at nine thou but with so much low-down muscle available there was no point in revving that high. Better to short-shift up another gear – the five-speed box needs a cautious prod, especially on downchanges – and let the monster torque do the rest. Best I saw on the black-faced speedo was 180km/h, about a ton-ten, at which point on a crowded lakeside dual-carriageway the Quota was still pulling hard enough to make me think that Guzzi’s claim of 125mph is not that far out.
The chassis is good too, and not just because much of the motor’s increased smoothness is apparently down to the rigidity of the new frame. Approaching its top speed the Quota felt very stable, despite its long legs and exposed riding position. And although I wouldn’t be surprised to find a slight high-speed weave appearing when the tyres get worn, the big Guzzi’s broad seat is a relaxing place from which to watch a fast road disappear beneath your wheels.
Despite its size the Quota is not that heavy, at 210kg dry, and on twisty roads it handles surprisingly well. Front tyre is all of 21 inches in diameter but it’s quite narrow. With the help of those wide bars and a low centre of gravity the Guzzi was easy to flick round even the tightest of bends. And although both ends were set-up soft there was enough damping to make attacking even the local brand of tight blind bends enjoyable.
By trail-tyre standards the Pirelli MT50s put plenty of rubber on the road, and held on well. Even so, front-tyre grip would probably be what limited stopping-power on tarmac, given the bite of the four-pot front calipers on their twin 280mm discs. I barely used the footbrake, and can’t say I missed having to do so to work Guzzi’s traditional but seemingly abandoned linked braking set-up.
A few laps of the factory’s private motocross track showed the Quota to be a demon off-road iron, too. All that smooth power made it easy to slide the back wheel out of bends with a huge rooster-tail of dirt, and the suspension kept control as I made a perfect landing after flying over the big triple-jump. Actually, that last paragraph’s a lie.
Given knobblier tyres on its alloy rims and a burly motocross expert at the controls, the Quota might prove a great bike for off-road explorations. Or it might not. As for me, I didn’t even contemplate venturing an inch off the tarmac with that big bugger waiting to leap on me.
The Quota is road-biased even by the standards of big trailies, which is why it’s a shame that what is basically a very good bike should be compromised unnecessarily by its sheer size. Once it’s under way there’s no problem, but at a standstill…
Perhaps I’m being unduly sensitive on behalf of short people, but surely the Quota would be a handier tool if Guzzi shrunk it a bit by fitting firmer, shorter-travel suspension. As things stand, the Quota’s blend of comfort, looks, power-delivery and agility make for a very desirable motorcycle. Provided you’re built like Conan the Barbarian.
Get Moto Guzzi motorcycle insurance for the Quota.
Engine Aircooled SOHC 2-valve 90-degree transverse V-twin
Claimed power (bhp) 69bhp at 6400rpm
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Transmission Five speed
Carburation Weber-Marelli fuel-injection
Battery 12V 18Ah
Clutch Wet double-disc
Frame Steel twin-beam with duplex cradle
Front suspension 42mm Marzocchi fork, 200mm travel
Rear suspension Marzocchi monoshock with preload and rebound damping adjustment; 200mm travel
Brakes Twin 280mm discs, four-piston calipers (f), single 260mm disc, twin-piston caliper (r)
Tyres 90/90 x 21in Pirelli MT50 (f), 150/80 x 17in Pirelli MT50 (r)
Wheelbase 1620mm (64in)
Seat height 890mm (35in)
Dry weight 210kg (462lb)
Top speed 120mph
Fuel capacity 20 litres
Current price £7000 (approx)