Moto Guzzi’s Modern Classic


Somewhere back in the mists of time I spent a lot of time dreaming of riding a Moto Guzzi Le Mans 850. I was at the harrowing cusp of adolescence at the time, so this bike was about as unattainable as Farrah Fawcett (images of both the Charlie’s Angel and the Guzzi adorned my bedroom wall at the time).

A new supermarket opened directly opposite the place I lived, and the motorbike was on display as the first prize in some sort of promotional competition.

Needless to say, I got my dad to enter a couple of dozen times (as you had to be over eighteen to enter). Every day after school I would nip over to the supermarket and stare at the thing. I would pull its levers when the security guard wasn’t looking, and run my gaze over the engine and the exhaust and those mag wheels as if I knew what I was looking at.

The cliché goes that first loves never die.

And I have to admit, every now and then I sit and trawl the web for images of this machine. Trying to work out what remains so appealing about the bike, it’s now obvious.

At the time of its release in 1976, the streets were awash to full fairing Japanese machines with a colour pallet full of yellows and red white and blue stripes. The Guzzi’s stretched out, bulbous pots and duotone meanness represented everything other than that; everything exotic and desirable.

It represented, in other words, getting the hell out of there. And that is what I wanted to get.

Ironic, really, that a thing as banal and spirit crushing as the local supermarket should offer this powerful totem of escape as a promotional prize.