You have to give Moto Guzzi credit for admitting that the new Bellagio is pitched against Harley-Davidson's 1200 Sportster. But still, Moto Guzzi seems to have missed the point. We're told the Guzzi Bellagio is better than the Harley Sportster because it has two front brakes and not one as the Harley Sportster, it delivers 74 horsepower (5 more then the Harley), at only 224kg (Harley 255kg) it's lighter, the suspension's adjustable, and so on.
All true and all irrelevant to someone who'll buy a Harley Sportster simply because it's a Harley-Davidson.
So it seems ironic that the Moto Guzzi deserves to steal Harley Sportster sales. Just like the Harley, outright performance doesn't matter, the sound, they way it shakes and the very low rev torque are all part of the pleasure. The engine follows Moto Guzzi's stock transverse cylinder, air-cooled V-twin configuration but it's all new, its 935.6cc capacity appearing on no other bike in the range. It's modern enough with fuel injection and twin-plug heads, using Moto Guzzi's excellent six-speed gearbox and clever single-sided swingarm shaft-drive system. But the important bit is, it feels good. At low revs the motor thumps and shudders pleasingly while still pulling strongly, 80% of max torque is available from 2800 to 4800rpm. The sound is mellow and distinctively Moto Guzzi, as the revs climb, it takes on a more urgent edge. It's quite a distinctive step, as the motor makes a good stab at adding a sporting dimension to the Moto Guzzi Bellagio.
The throttle response is clean, immediate and glitch-free, although excessive backlash in the transmission still makes the bike jerky at low speeds in the first few gears.
The handling is neutral and easy steering, ideal for the fairly new riders the Guzzi Bellagio is aimed at most. It swings through low- and high-speed turns in a very satisfyingly natural manner. Ground clearance is better than the Harley Sportster's.
Yes, the comparison is unimportant if you want a Harley, but the superior comfort, higher performance and better ease of use do give the Moto Guzzi Bellagio an extra dimension as an all-rounder or even a touring bike. Note the biggish 19-liter fuel tank, for example. But it is not a Harley and it will never sell like one. Still, it is a Moto Guzzi and Guzzi cruisers have always offered a better mix of usefulness with their own Italian look-at-me-style. It is easy to ride, versatile and pleasingly styled. On top of that, it feels good, as every cruiser should. I only have two words for this bike "Molto Bene" what is very good in Italian.