Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK5, Rewarding Ride !

When Giulio Cesare Carcano first drafted out his plans for a transverse V-twin motorcycle engine there’s little likelihood he believed his brainchild would still be alive and well half a century later. Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK5...

Stemming from the factory’s bid to win a prestigious contract to provide police bikes the resultant machine was a winner straight out of the packet but, crucially, offered a wholly unforeseen future. After a rejig the original V7 morphed into a long legged sporting machine before becoming one of the defining Italian thorough breds of the late 1970s in the guise of the Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1. This 850cc twin has gone onto become one of the most iconic machines of the period and, as it often the way, more are now thought to exist than the factory actually made.

As prices have gone up and up so certain elements have Le Mans’d the cooking versions of the 850. Such is the cache of the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk1 that Mk2s are often retro detailed to look like the more valuable machine. As the competition moved on, Moto Guzzi ploughed its own furrow and reworked the big twin to ultimately deliver five variations on a theme.

The Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk4 seems to be generally despised for its odd handling courtesy of a 16in front wheel but it call came back on track with the so-called Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 which is our subject matter this time. What we have here is arguably one of the most accessible and viable Guzzi twins. Graced with an under square motor it has huge loping ability yet thanks to a four valve top end can still turn out the power and oomph: 56lb-ft of torque allied to a genuine 72,6 HP at the rear wheel makes for a hugely rewarding ride.

Compared to the almost universally slandered Mk4 the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 also handles rather better due to the simple but obvious route of bolting the fairing to the frame and not nailing half of it to the handlebars. It would appear that the knee jerk reaction to the previous model also finally got the factory to address other long running issues. Apparently the Mk5 even has decent switchgear; something you’d take for granted on a Japanese bike but not, apparently, on something as quirky as a Guzzi. Strictly speaking there’s no official Mk4 or Mk5; it’s the wheel size that effectively differentiates the two bikes, in official Guzzi speak they’re all Moto Guzzi 1000s.

In many ways the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 brought the bike back to where the earlier S3 and 750S precursors had been. Long and stable with that characteristic shaft drive the bike requires advanced warning of bends and a committed and considered line through them. The process isn’t wrong or counterintuitive, just different as essentially Guzzi-esque. Suspension is of the firm to the robust variety but again it goes with the territory.

Owning and riding a big Mandelo twin is a totally different experience to anything Japanese. It’s all a whole lot more committed and visceral, there’s an almost organic, living, feeling to a Guzzi that you simply cannot get from an anodyne Japanese four. If you fancied a period mile eater with character then the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 bears serious consideration.

Two hundred miles at a time is viable thanks to the riding position and the fairing; 250 miles on one tank of fuel is readily achievable. Down sides to Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 ownership include a set of throttle springs that would tax a body builder, the previously mentioned hard suspension and sometimes variable approach to build quality. The good news is that many will have been modified to address the first two issues and on point three there’s a wealth of aftermarket upgrades out there to address any long standing issues.

Ultimately owning any of the so-called period Moto Guzzis is about commitment, dedication, perseverance, adaptability and, possibly, a desire to step aside from conventionality. If you are truly in love with across the frame fours and have little or no affinity with bikes with fewer cylinders then the Le Mans is unlikely to be for you. However, if you have a hankering for something different, packed with personality, that rewards patience then it’s certainly worth pursuing.

What to Buy and How Much to Pay ?

The maelstrom that is the current classic market has seen most bikes escalate in value and especially the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk1 and Mk2 models. Inevitably this has had a knock on effect on the less desirable versions as the early ones spiral upwards and out of reach of most potential buyers. For a long while the Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 lived in the shadow of the 850 versions and was tainted by association with the Mk4 but things have changed dramatically over the last couple of years.

A rough and tatty Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk5 will now command around £1800 and a good tidy example in fine fettle is unlikely to go for much less than £3000-£3500. Anything much above this would have to be in exceptional condition and come with an assurance that it’s not an ex-display or museum piece that will come with all the attendant issues. Guzzis are overtly riding machines so examples on offer with that unforgettable patina of regular use and considered upgrades are definitely the ones to go for.

Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK5 Specs

Engine : 4-Stroke, Air Cooled, V-Twin 978.8cc, OHV 4-Valves per Cylinder
Bore x Stroke : 78 x 88 mm
Maximum Power : 72,6 HP @ 7.250 RPM
Maximum Torque : 56 lb-ft @ 5.000 RPM
Transmission : 5-Speed, Shaft Final Drive
Compression Ratio : 9.5 : 1
Induction : 2 x Dell’Orto 40 mm Carb

Front Suspension : Telescopic Fork Variable Damping
Rear Suspension : Dual Shocks, 5-Way Preload Adjustable
Front Brake : 2 x 270 mm Disc, 2-Piston Caliper
Rear Brake : Single 270 mm Disc
Front Tyres : 100/90 - V18
Rear Tyres : 120/90 - V18
Fuel Capacity : 5.5 Gallons (25 Litres)
Dry Weight : 216 Kg
Wheelbase : 1. 499 mm

Price : £3000 - £3500