Moto Guzzi Le Mans

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Moto Guzzi Le Mans
ManufacturerMoto Guzzi
Production1976–1992 (2002–2004 new frame V11)
Predecessor750 S3
Engine844 cc (51.5 cu in) OHV 2-valve per cyl. air cooled, four-stroke, V-twin, longitudinally mounted
Transmission5-speed manual, shaft drive
SuspensionFront: telescopic forks
Rear: twin shocks adjustable for preload
BrakesFront: 2 x 300 mm (12 in) discs
Rear: Single 242 mm (9.5 in) disc
TiresFront: 4.10-18
Fuel capacity22.5 l (4.9 imp gal; 5.9 US gal)

The Moto Guzzi Le Mans is a sports motorcycle first manufactured in 1976 by Italian company Moto Guzzi. It was named after the 24-hour motorcycle endurance race at Le Mans in France. The Le Mans designation was first used for an 850 prototype, based on the V7, displayed at Premio Varrone in late 1972.[1]

The original 850 Le Mans was a café racer with clip-on handlebars and a bikini nose fairing, but later models were developed as sports tourers with a three-quarter fairing. A marketing success,[2] the Le Mans competed against Italian superbikes from Ducati and Laverda. The Le Mans spawned several successor models, a final version appearing in the late 1990s.

850 Le Mans[edit]

The Le Mans 850 café racer, or Le Mans Mark I (never officially labelled Mark I), was first shown at the Milan motorcycle show in November 1975,[3] and sales began in 1976. Like the 750S and the 750 S3, the Le Mans 850 was developed from the 53 hp[4] V7 Sport model of 1971,[5] but power was increased to 71 hp. The power output measured at the back wheel was 71 bhp, giving a top speed of 130 mph. Compared to its roadster sibling, the T3, the Le Mans had higher-compression domed pistons, larger engine valves, and Dell'Orto 36 mm pumper carbs with filterless velocity stacks.

The Mark I had two production runs with slight modifications. The first run, Series 1, had a round CEV taillight and continued until at least September 1976,[6]. Although it is often stated that fewer than 2,000 of these were made, Ian Falloon claims 219 were made in 1975 and a further 2,532 in 1976 although it is possible some of these were Series 2 bikes built at the end of the year.The Series 2 run totaled some 4,000 (2,548 in 1977, 1,737 in 1978).[7] Falloon gives total Mark I production as 7,036.[8] Series II bikes and had these modifications: a De Tomaso-designed rectangular taillight, a modified rear mudguard, black fork sliders and a more generous dual seat. The seat was a one-piece item of injection-moulded foam. Most Le Mans 850 bikes were red and black, but a few were metallic blue (Ice Blue),[9] and even fewer were white. Le Mans bikes gained a reputation for poor frame paint and rusting exhausts.[9]

Le Mans bikes exported to the United States had yellow side reflectors on CEV indicators, and a sealed-beam headlight as the OEM Aprilia headlight did not meet Department of Transport approval. These US sealed-beam units protruded in an ungainly way, spoiling the profile of the bike.

850 Le Mans II[edit]

Moto Guzzi Le Mans2.jpg

The Mark II was similar to the Mark I, but the small 'bikini" fairing became a larger full fairing, in three parts, incorporating indicators. The fairing had been tested in Moto Guzzi's wind tunnel (which had been used to test race bike fairings in the 1950s).[10] The new fairing had a rectangular headlight, rather than the earlier round item. Cylinder bores were not coated with Moto Guzzi's patented "Nikasil" until later. Front suspension became air-assisted. The brake calipers on the front wheel, previously mounted on the front, were now mounted behind the forks. The dualseat was the same and could carry a pillion. Further changes included a revised instrument cluster derived from the 1000cc SP. Brakes were linked, with the handlebar lever operating the front right caliper and the footbrake operating both the front left and rear caliper.

850 Le Mans III[edit]

The tank, seat, fairings were redesigned, and the instrument cluster was now dominated by a large white faced Veglia tachometer. An extensive technical re-design saw 80 changes from the Mk II model. Revised cylinder heads and barrels had a squared-off cooling-fin design. Pushrods were moved further from the bore centre, allowing for future increases in cylinder capacity. The engine had improved machining tolerances, revised carburation and exhaust systems, all of which gave an increase in power and torque. Minor changes were made to the rear suspension and to the front forks, with provision of linked air-assisted damping.[1]

Le Mans 1000 1984–1993[edit]

The Le Mans 1000 (also referred to as the MK4 le mans) appeared at the end of 1984 and continued with minor modifications until 1993. The two main production runs were known as Series 1 and Series 2. The Le Mans 1000 had a 949 cc engine with uprated 40 mm pumper carbs and the B10 camshaft from the production racer.

De Tomaso himself decreed a 16-inch front wheel and new Lario-styling for the Le Mans 1000 both were unpopular with Guzzi traditionalists and the press reviewers [11] Instead of redesigning the frame to incorporate a smaller front wheel, for the first year of poduction Guzzi simply fitted the smaller wheel into the existing frame (which was designed for an 18-inch wheel) without re-configuring the geometry, although wheelbase was lengthened to partially offset.[12] Sturdier 40mm forks were fitted, as were smaller (270 mm) semi-floating front discs. The new bike was now physically larger than the lean and low earlier Le Mans bikes, but performance was better than the 850cc predecessors; the increased capacity from 850 to 949cc was combined with 40mm pumper carbs, larger valves in the cylinder head and the production racing B10 camshaft for the first time. Complaints about the 16inch front wheel were answered by the following years 1985/86 versions which had modified flatter topped steering yokes (triple trees) which reduced the trail - in steel rather than alloy - to suit the 16incher. The Le Mans 1000, tuned by Dr John Wittner and including 16 inch front wheel, won the 1985 AMA Endurance Road Race Series in the USA. An 18-inch option became available in 1987. The Series 2 bikes included uprated Bitubo dampers and updated geometry. Most 1988 models were factory-fitted with the 18-inch wheel.[13]

Le Mans 1000 SE (Special Edition) 1986–1988[edit]

Released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the V7's appearance the 1000 SE was sold in late 1986, 1987, and also into 1988 for those in the US market. (Only 100 SE models were sold in the US.) All 1000 SE bikes were red and white, with a red seat, red cast wheels and most had black rocker covers, engine and lower rails. Some had black engines and transmissions. The gearing was closer and higher than the standard 1000.[1]

Le Mans 1000CI 1988–1993[edit]

The 1000CI included many updates of the previous version and included a range of color schemes. The Series 3 is sometimes called the Le Mans 1000 Mark V NT (new type) and was to be the final incarnation of the line of Moto Guzzi Le Mans models.[14] Main changes were a reversion to 18 inch front wheel and a larger half fairing which was frame mounted replacing the smaller headlamp fairing of the Mk3 and Mk4 - and much improved switchgear.


A 1973 factory prototype finished 4th in the 24-hour race at Barcelona's Montjuïc circuit. In 1977 Roy Armstrong won Britain's Avon Production Machine championship[15] on a standard bike fitted with production race kit, and it had multiple race success during the AMA Superbike Championship in the US.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Falloon, Ian (1999). Moto Guzzi Story. Haynes. p. 128. ISBN 1 85960 414 5.
  2. ^ Walker, Mick, Moto Guzzi Twins Restoration, p. 20
  3. ^ Falloon, Ian, Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible, p. 97
  4. ^ Motor Cycle News 4 Feb 2015
  5. ^ Robert Smith (May–June 2006). "1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans Mk1". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  6. ^ Classic Bike, October 2008, p50
  7. ^ Falloon, Ian (2008). Moto Guzzi Story. Second Edition. Haynes. p.140. ISBN 1 85960 414 5
  8. ^ Falloon, Ian (2008). Moto Guzzi Story. Second Edition. Haynes. p.222. ISBN 1 85960 414 5
  9. ^ a b Walker, Mick (1992). Illustrated Moto Guzzi Buyers Guide. Aston. pp. 86–87. ISBN 0 946627 74 6.
  10. ^ Falloon, Ian, Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible, p75
  11. ^ Falloon, Ian, Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible, pp. 97-104
  12. ^ Falloon, Ian, Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible, p 99
  13. ^ Falloon, Ian, Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible, p 104-6
  14. ^ Falloon, Ian, Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible, pp. 114-116
  15. ^ Clarke, R. M., Moto Guzzi Le Mans Performance Portfolio: 1976–1989, p. 4
  16. ^ Classic Bike, June 2009, pp.66-67

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