A Moto Guzzi wasn’t the first motorcycle Billy Joel fell in love with. He'd be the first to admit that he rode for years without trying a Guzzi, and made it through all sorts of phases before he fell in love with the Goose. He rode Harleys for a while, had a few ‘crotch-rockets,' and was into custom cruisers. But it was in the 1980’s that he realized Guzzis were his preferred ride, thanks to their authentic style and performance.
Just what makes a Moto Guzzi’s performance so distinctive? For Joel, like so many other Guzzi fanatics, it’s the transverse twin-cylinder engine. As he told us:
"The twin-cylinders pull the torque side to side when you accelerate and somehow it balances the power. It has a good vibration. I call it the transverse vibration… Transverse Vibration, it’s a Good Sensation."
Billy has toured all over the world, and for years he brought a truck on tour to transport a half-dozen motorcycles for joyriding. A Moto Guzzi V7 Classic and a California Vintage were always on the truck because they “worked perfectly” wherever he went. Whether he was riding through the canyons of Southern California, to the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, or the Italian village of Mandello del Lario, right next to the Guzzi factory, he’s always felt that the performance of a Guzzi was unrivaled.
“You can also tell a Guzzi from a mile away. See the engine and say that’s a Goose, also the sound, very distinctive note in the exhaust. The Italian styling is remarkable.”
While he enjoys an extensive stable of motorcycles today, he never set out to become a collector. For Billy, his love affair with bikes just happened naturally. “I’m a collector by default. I got the bikes, I have to use them.” Billy currently owns over 60 motorcycles, many of which are kept at his garage, 20th Century Cycles on Long Island, NY. Moto Guzzi gems on display at his garage include various California, Ambassador, Le Mans and V7 custom and stock models.
“I tend to like retro styling. I like the way new things work, and I like the way old things look. My favorite designs are the V7 Sport and the Le Mans series. The new V7 Classic series got me again. What a terrific idea, a 750 based on an old V7 Sport. That’s probably the motorcycle I use the most.”
As Moto Guzzi celebrates its 91st year in 2012 (the brand is Europe’s oldest continuously operating motorcycle manufacturer), it continues to look to the future and find new ways to integrate retro styling with forward-thinking innovation – and Billy Joel is along for the ride.
“Italians build sex in to everything. It will be interesting to see how Moto Guzzi will build that into the new California 1400.”
See photos of some of the Moto Guzzis in Billy Joel's collection on the Moto Guzzi Americas Facebook page.