The Moto Guzzi Le Mans started life on the racing track back in 1971 when Dutchman Jan Kampen chosen to create a racing Moto Guzzi for the Zandvoort six hour race. Kampen’s bike had the Moto Guzzi V twin engine’s capability increased to 810cc. As Kampen and Moto Guzzi engineer Lino Tonti have been in regular interaction with one another, the thought of a higher capacity general performance Moto Guzzi inspired Tonti who got to work holding a match look of his personal.
Tonti’s plan was increasing engine capability to 844cc and he developed a racing bicycle with that motor capability and then entered it into the 1971 Bol d’Or 24 hour at Le Mans. The Moto Guzzi led the racing just for the first ten hours until a broken rocker slowed it down. Despite that failure the bike completed in a respectable 3rd place – and Lino Tonti just knew he was onto something.
From that successful starting Lino Tonti set about producing a profitable racing motorcycle as well as on using the racing bicycle as the grounds for a generation street bike. He showed the initial design concepts of his in the 1972 Premio Varrone design competitors. By 1973 Tonti had his design idea mostly finalized and his works prototype was joined in the 1973 Barcelona 24 hour where it finished fifth. Lino Tonti was all set for his prototype to get into production – though it wasn’t to be at this time. Both Moto Guzzi and Benelli had been run by Argentinian businessman Alejandro de Tomaso and also he made the executive decision to keep Benelli 6 spearhead his sports bicycles. And so the Moto Guzzi “Le Mans” was placed on hold for a few years, inevitably being proven at the Milan Motorcycle Show in November 1975 and entering generation in 1976. In the marketplace of the seventies, Moto Guzzi have been up against competition that is stiff from the intrusion of the Japanese motorcycles from the likes of Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki.
The cafe racer design of motorcycle had stayed trendy and it had been into that part of the industry that Tonti intended his brand new Le Mans to participate. Hence it was that Lino Tonti unveiled the Le Mans type within the cafe racer design with a diminutive “bikini” like leading fairing. The fairing was sufficiently little that a single commentator has discussed it as being “just about big enough to keep the ignition key from the slipstream”. The style staff at Moto Guzzi got the hair styling of the Le Mans correct however and the motorcycle has a thoroughly clean visual look to go with the overall performance it’d shown on the racing track. The bikini face fairing was compact so it offered the trendy appearance of any race track bike with no threat of it producing lift at speed.
850 Le Mans (The 850 Le Mans I)
The Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans had the 844cc 4 stroke OHV 2 valve per cylinder atmosphere cooled V twin engine as produced by Lino Tonti for the prototype models of his, producing a claimed 80bhp (measured strength at the back wheel was 71bhp). Compression ratio was 10.2:1. Transmission was a 5 speed gearbox and have a shaft drive. Top speed was around 130mph. The exhaust system was created by Lafranconi and also was whisper quiet. The 36mm Dell’Orto pumper carburettors have been supplied with cable coated velocity piles for air intake so that they weren’t quiet causing a number of riders humorously suggesting they felt the kneecaps of theirs may be sucked into the intakes.
This original Moto Guzzi V twin design was sound and somewhat old fashioned though it definitely delivered quickness reliably although quarter mile speed figures disappointed several. One product of that huge good motor because of its large crankshaft/flywheel assembly mounted longitudinally was the sense that the motorcycle would rotate sideways as the throttle was blipped. One thing that riders either appreciated, and did not, though it definitely provided the mountain bike personality. The frame on the 850 Le Mans would have been a derivation of which on the Moto Guzzi 750 S3. The forward forks have been telescopic whilst the back swing arm showcased twin shocks adaptable for pre load.
The braking system was of an incorporated class featuring twin Brembo 300mm forward discs along with a single 242mm rear disc. The integration of the braking system suggested the handlebar brake handle operated the forward right brake whilst the feet brake pedal operated the left front brake as well as the back brake. This particular amount of sophistication could have been believed better because several shaft drive Moto Guzzi V twins of this moment had shown a propensity for back wheel lock up. This was described by the Western Australian Police whenever they evaluated the Moto Guzzi police type in the mid seventies for instance. Wheels of the Le Mans had been cast alloy FPS (Fratelli Pedrini Sarezzo – Brescia) with 4.10 18 front tires and 4.25 18 at the back. The appearance of the 850 Le Mans was unmistakably, clean, and masterful Italian.
The average front fairing was fitted with an Aprilia headlight except for the United States market where Department of Transport regulations forced using a closed beam unit. The closed beam product protruded from the fairing spoiling the planned appearance. There have been 2 series variants of the very first design 850 Le Mans. The back lighting of the early Series one design was a round CEV device but after only aproximatelly 2 1000 bikes had been created this was transformed to a De Tomaso created rectangular tail lamp for the Series two. The gas tank was stepped and of 5.9 US gallon (22.5 liters) capacity. The bike’s seat extended up onto the gas tank in the Series one and was a 2 seater stepped look and so the pillion passenger sat a bit higher compared to the driver.
The Series two had several modest modifications which includes a unique back mudguard, black fork sliders, the De Tomaso tail lamp, and a much larger one piece hold made of injection molded foam. Paint color pattern for these bikes was generally white plus dark gray although several bikes had been produced in steel pink with orange all around the headlight on the fairing, and also an extremely few have been manufactured in white. About 4 thousand of the Series two bikes were made.
The Moto Guzzi Le Mans started as a fashionable and practically minimalist cafe racer design motorcycle built around a good motor as well as transmission with shaft drive and that helps make it in numerous aspects something such as a cafe racer BMW R Series except the motor is the bike and a V-twin has Italian without German styling. The gearbox was developed solidly and so the gear change was criticized as being maybe a little “agricultural” though it worked very well and also showed excellent endurance.
The name “Le Mans” must tell us immediately that this wasn’t intended as a sprinter though much distance marathon bike with all the blend of quickness and also sound reliability not only to go fast but to go on quick hour after hour. The longitudinally mounted V twin engine plus shaft drive provide the Moto Guzzi a different character to various other bicycles which includes the Harley Davidson V twins, the British bicycles, and all those from the Land of the Rising Sun.
The Moto Guzzi Le Mans got steadily weightier through the years as it “matured” therefore the later versions might be viewed as much more enhanced in certain respects, though the earlier versions are less heavy and there’s little performance difference between them and also the heavier bigger capacity ones. Overall, the Le Mans is a traditional motorcycle with hair styling which lives on in the contemporary Moto Guzzi range, and they offer a great reliability (if properly cared for) which may be sorely missing in numerous vintage bikes.