Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress: This ain’t your Granddaddy’s bagger!
The 2017 Moto Guzzi MGX 21 Flying Fortress takes that storied brand, which has been in continuous production since 1921 into full-throated adoption of high-tech cruiser design. Indeed, MGX stands for Moto Guzzi eXperimental; the number 21 makes reference to 1921, the first year motorcycles were produced at the Mandello del Lario factory.
In the alternative, the 21 also refers to the number of inches in its carbon-clad front wheel. Electronic ride enhancements abound and form a good part of the story of our latest cruiser.
The electronics suite is fully integrated as standard equipment as is the case with the California 1400. The electronic engine management system starts with the “full Ride-by-Wire” electronic throttle control that manages 3 different engine maps, which are selected from the handlebar controls. The ride modes include:
- VELOCE is the setting designed to tap the bike’s 96.6 HP @ 6,500 rpm and 89 ft-lbs of torque @ 3,000 rpm to maximum advantage for highest performance.
- TURISMO takes a little of the edge off the power to provide smooth power delivery more most riding situations.
- PIOGGIA is the map intended for low traction riding conditions, decreasing torque and engine brake management.
The MGX-21 is also equipped with two-channel ABS and an advanced three-setting (including “off”) traction control system.
A new cruise control system allows the rider to maintain the selected speed without touching the throttle, as well as increasing or decreasing cruising speed using a toggle button on the left-hand handlebar control. Speed can be temporarily increased by twisting the throttle with the system engaged; once released, the bike returns to the pre-set cruising speed. The system disengages automatically three ways: by applying the brakes, pressing the selector switch, or by twisting the throttle in the opposite direction. After being disengaged, the bike can return to the last cruise speed setting by pressing the “resume” button. LED headlights light the way.
The instrument cluster has a monochromatic, dot matrix display including the fuel level and engaged gear indicator, clock, average and instantaneous fuel consumption and air temperature indicator. The MGX-21 includes a stereo system, equipped with an AM/FM radio with a 25W per channel amplifier connected to a pair of loudspeakers and it manages the intercom system. A Bluetooth module, able to host up to five devices, and a USB socket allow interaction with external devices, including a smartphone that can be used as a music player or to manage the multimedia platform.
MG-MP is the Moto Guzzi system that connects a smartphone to the vehicle to allow it to be a source of trip information, to allow answering and hanging up telephone calls through the handlebar buttons and it can use the smartphone's voice recognition features to place calls or activate a playlist.
The heart of the MGX 21 is the air/oil cooled 90 degree transverse V-twin carried in an ALS steel twin tube cradle frame. It displaces 84.21 cu in (1,380 cc) and has an induction fan for the oil cooler, dual spark plugs and four valves per cylinder. The engine exhales via a black stainless steel, 2 into 2 system with crossover and 3-way catalytic converter.
Power gets to the ground via a single-plate clutch and six-speed overdrive transmission coupled to the traditional Cardan shaft final drive.
Carbon fiber is used in a number of applications such as the front fender, fuel tank panels, saddlebag lids, engine cover and the unusual lenticular carbon covers on the 21" alloy front wheel. In all, eleven components customarily fashioned of metal or plastic are fabricated in carbon fiber resulting in a claimed weight reduction of 35 lb., keeping overall weight down to a claimed 751 lbs. (341 kg with all fluids, battery but no fuel aboard).
Moto Guzzi launched the MGX-21 at the Sturgis Rally last year, with a number of top motorcycle journalists on-hand to get to know the machine.
Evans Brasfield reviewed the 2017 Moto Guzzi MGX-21 for Motorcycle.com: Of the bike’s claimed 751 lb. weight, Brasfield said, “Out on the road, the weight issue disappears, and the part of the credit goes to the riding position. The grips reach back to the rider, placing the upper body in a relaxed, slightly leaned forward position with the hands wide enough apart to give good leverage. The seat is on the firm side of comfortable and offers plenty of room to move around as the miles roll by.”
In his 500+ miles of riding the Flying Fortress, he noted the big Guzzi made a big impression on those who saw it: “The Moto Guzzi MGX-21’s styling, fit, and finish impressed most of the riders I encountered in Sturgis, at my hotel, at gas stops, or at restaurants. A couple riders actually came to a stop, blocking traffic, to ask me about the bike. The entire time I had the Guzzi, I felt like a rock star. They all commented on the MGX’s lines. Most liked the carbon fiber gracing the fenders, gas tank, and saddlebags. The engine and its red valve covers were big hits, though some were clearly puzzled by the orientation of the Vee. One couple asked if they could sit on it to see how it would feel two-up.”
Bradley Adams was on hand at Sturgis, South Dakota for Cycle World when Moto Guzzi rolled out the Flying Fortress production model for 2017. He found the handling and ride different from other bikes he’s tested, but ultimately, to his liking.
“The 21-inch front wheel takes a little more time to get used to and does cause a slightly different feeling at the entrance of the corner, but is ultimately pretty easy to forget about, and by lunch we were tipping the MGX into corners with absolute confidence. And as I’ve found with other Guzzi models, the chassis itself is a true gem, with good overall handling mannerisms through a corner and zero instability. On the MGX specifically, suspension is good, with enough plushness to keep you comfortable on a long ride, but enough firmness to keep the bike from moving around too much. And it all handles imperfections in the road better than any Harley bits I’ve yet tested.”
Perhaps nobody had more ride time to scope out the MGX-21 than Ron Lieback of Ultimate Motorcycling, who not only thrashed the big Moto Guzzi around the Black Hills of South Dakota, but rode the bike a total of about 3,000 miles. That gave him unusually good insight into the power and handling of the bike.
“When pushed, this bike loves the upper rpm range. Keep that twin cranking between 4500 and 7000 rpm for endless gratification. For most riders, there’s no lack of low-end torque in higher gears. I dogged her down to 1,500 rpm in sixth gear a few times, and the bike putted along comfortably,” he said.
“The faster you ride, the more stable the chassis feels, and comfort was never an issue. The 45mm forks are paired with 4.2 inches of travel, and the dual shock setup provides easy spring-preload adjustment with a knob above the right footpeg. I found five clicks out from full turn to be ideal for both comfort and sharp handling. This remained the go-to setting throughout over 3,000 miles of testing.”
Whether it’s considered a power cruiser with bags or a sport touring bike seems to be a matter of perspective and individual riding style. One thing seems certain—on both styling and performance, the new Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress had an impressive debut in the heart of Harley Country.