Photography by Kevin Wing...
If sport cruisers are, in fact, the "next big thing," Moto Guzzi's Jackal looks like a prime contender for the crown in this new category. It stands to reason that the Italians, with their long tradition of sporting motorcycles, would play hard even in this somewhat unconventional arena.
For the enthusiast looking for a large helping of sport in his cruiser, the Jackal has plenty to offer. Start with the 90-degree across-the-frame V-twin, which is the same basic design that powers Moto Guzzi's sportbikes. The fuel-injected 1064cc engine doesn't perform like your typical 1100cc V-twin and will motor away from some V-twins with half again as much displacement. It makes good power from idle and pulls more rpm than most other cruising V-twins.
The Jackal gets by without...
The Jackal gets by without the chrome and glitter of some of the other California models.
But handling is what separates this bike from other cruisers. The suspension is firm and heavily damped. Combined with a rigid chassis, this produces a bike that is unflaggingly steady in corners of all speeds and surfaces. It doesn't bob or weave when you hit a bump or make a ham-fisted steering correction, and the steering is responsive and predictable. The Jackal also offers more cornering lean angle than most other sporting-oriented cruisers, and you can bend it pretty deep before the pegs begin to drag.
The 90-degree, 1064cc engine...
The 90-degree, 1064cc engine is the same style that's found in the old California series, but with a bit less exterior glitter.
Yes, unlike other Guzzi cruisers, the Jackal has footpegs, not floorboards. The pegs are higher and farther back than the California series' floorboards, and they bring your feet back and up from the California's location. Best of all, the pegs and the brake pedal agree on where your foot should be, so reaching the brake pedal is much less awkward than on the floorboard-equipped Guzzis we have ridden in the past.
The Jackal lacks both the...
The Jackal lacks both the chrome and the tachometer found on the California cruiser's instrument cluster.
Another welcome change from previous Guzzi cruisers is the saddle's shape. Stock Guzzi cruiser saddles have always crowded us forward, banging our knees on the projecting cylinder heads and making us feel cramped. This bike's long, relatively flat, two-piece saddle gives plenty of room. In fact, some riders said that when they were sitting most comfortably on it, they weren't backed up to the step in the saddle. That's not to imply the seat is perfect. Saying it's firm would be putting it gently. Despite a good position, size and shape, the Jackal saddle began to tenderize us in less than an hour. It's very Italian, and combined with the firm (but virtually never harsh) ride, it will give your hindquarters a workout.
It's too big for this bike...
It's too big for this bike but this big two-bulb taillight might look good upside-down under the rear fender of some big wide cruiser.
However, reaching the brake pedal isn't quite as critical as it was on previous Guzzi cruisers because--unlike those bikes--the Jackal does not have integrated (or linked) brakes. The pedal just operates the rear disc brake, and the handlebar lever controls the front wheel's single caliper. We recognize the various advantages of linked brakes, which ensure that in a panic stop a rider who just stands on the pedal will get full power from the critical front brake. However, having learned to use independent brakes, we (and most of the experienced riders we know) prefer to apply each brake individually. The Jackal's brakes are strong and progressive.
The bike also vibrates a bit. While cruising down the road at moderate throttle settings, the mild shaking causes the mirrors to blur. Even though you feel the vibration, it isn't uncomfortable. However, when you open the throttle, the magnitude of the vibration rises to unpleasant levels.
The sporting personality of...
The sporting personality of the Jackal demanded footpegs and did away with Guzzi's traditional linked brakes.
Limited comfort isn't the only uncruiserly aspect of the Jackal. The bike has fewer polished or chromed pieces and other visual highlights than most cruisers, even other Moto Guzzi cruisers. Resting amidst our small fleet of test bikes, it looked downright plain. We like the solid-red paint with its simple falcon tank logo, and think the single instrument (just a speedo) is cleaner than the more functional two-gauge group of the other Guzzi cruisers. On the other hand, eyesores such as the emissions canisters hung on the rear frame downtubes and the ugly fuel-injection mechanism on display, don't do much to foster pride of ownership. The big dual-pod taillight also demands too much attention.
But buyers aren't likely to select the Jackal for its looks; they are more likely to be attracted to the way a winding road looks from the saddle of this bike. This newest Moto Guzzi clearly emphasizes the first half of the sport-cruiser formula, which should make corner-cruisers very happy.
Moto Guzzi Jackal
Suggested base price: $8495
Engine type: Air-cooled, 90-degree transverse V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 1 intake valve, 1 exhaust valve, operated by pushrods
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1064cc, 92 x 80mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Carburetion: EFI, 40mm throats
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft
Dry weight: 542 lb
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 18.0 x 2.5 in. front, 17.0 x 3.5 in. rear
Front brake: Four-piston, double-action caliper, 12.6-in. disc
Rear brake: Two-piston, double-action caliper, 11.1-in. disc
Front suspension: 45mm stanchions
Rear suspension: Two dampers, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 72.7 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.72 sec., 96.9 mph