Gas & Oil Motorcycles builds a 60s-style beach cruiser…
For 2001, Moto Guzzi introduced the California Stone, a stripped-down Italian cruiser built around the company’s 1064cc / 74-bhp V-twin, complete with Magneti Marelli fuel injection and self-adjusting hydraulic valves.
The old Guzzi twin has been winning the hearts of Guzzisti for decades. What’s more, the California 1100, though appearing quite ungainly, was light on its feet for a 250-kg machine:
“How can an Italian antique outperform Japanese computer design in their high-tech factories? Well, the Moto Guzzi California 1100EV handles amazingly well with much less wobble and wallow than most Japanese cruisers of the time.” –MCN
When Matej and the crew of Prague’s Gas & Oil Bespoke Motorcycles received this 20-year-old Guzzi in the shop, it had seen much better days. However, the owner loved his old Guzzi and wanted to bring it back to life, shedding some of original cruiser’s awkward bulk for a more classic 60s style:
“We kinda built it with just the image of a sunset drive along the beach, no racing, no rushing but still enough power to go anywhere you want.”
Mechanics, aesthetics, and performance were all addressed. The Gas & Oil crew rebuilt the forks and shaft drive, replaced the rear suspension, and tuned the ECU to work with DT1 filters and a new exhaust system.
“That allowed us to get 1300 figures out of 1100 engine.”
The tank was one of the bigger jobs, a complete one-off unit built to work with the original FI system. Other highlights include the custom side covers, fenders, saddle with color-matched grips, and custom fork covers with integrated headlight mount.
Custom foot controls rarely get the attention they should; they can completely change the ergonomics and riding experience. In this case, Matej and crew ditched the OEM forward controls in favor of handmade mid controls and pegs.
The result is a leaner, more powerful, and much more stylish Italian cruiser:
“We call it “Mentol” [Czech for “Menthol”] for obvious reasons. Even though there was a lot of work with all those custom parts and shapes, the color itself just took it to another 60s beach bike level.”
Below, we talk to Matej for the full details on the build, along with more photos courtesy of Jakub Frey (@jakubfreyphotography).
Custom Moto Guzzi California Stone: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
It’s a Moto Guzzi 1100 California Stone that was produced between 2001 and 2003.
• Why was this bike built?
With us it’s mostly same every time, which means it was a customer project. He really liked his old Guzzi but it was in pretty poor shape when it arrived; we changed that.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The original shape of the California was pretty bulky, complicated, and looked really heavy. Main task was to simplify it as much as possible, to make it look light and go for those classic shapes that we like. So you can definitely see some 60s in that motorcycle now.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Let’s start with functional stuff. Final drive renewal was needed, cause it was leaking, same with front forks, and while we were doing the suspension, rear shocks were a must-have. Airbox was dismissed and replaced by pair of DT1 filters, which combined with new exhausts led to ECU tuning, and that allowed us to get 1300 figures out of 1100 engine. And of course some wiring was needed as well.
Let’s go for looks. There are obviously huge changes and the main job here was definitely the gas tank, which is completely custom, and includes the original and bit weird injection system. Apart from that we went for a classic shape with straight lines along the frame, which just felt natural to us. But this kinda disconnected the original side panels from the rest, so those are custom too, simple triangle shape with rear brake pump hidden on one side and electrics (fuses, ecu, etc.) on the other.
The original rear fender goes all the way behind the wheel, which definitely wasn’t our goal, so we stuck to the shorter and sportier variant with no need of cutting original frame. New leather saddle was of course a way to go as well. Leather is color matched with grips. Speaking of grips, we got rid of the original 24 mm handlebars housing and with help of a Yamaha SR500 housing, we switched to classic 22s by Renthal.
The Guzzi didn’t have a front light at all when it arrived, so a new solution was needed and we went down that classic road yet again, giving the fork tubes larger diameter covers and building a stylish holder. Front fender was lightened as well, showing us more of those new Bridgestone Battlaxes.
What is not obvious on first sight but is inherently important for the final result are foot pegs and pedals. 100% handmade, moving leg riding position from chopper forward controls to straight sitting position — simple system with exhaust holders in pack.
Rims were polished and engine valve covers got new paint and aluminium protectors.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
We call it “Mentol” [Czech for “Menthol”] for obvious reasons. Even though there was a lot of work with all those custom parts and shapes, the color itself just took it to another 60s beach bike level.
• How would you classify this bike?
Yeah; classification can be a problem. Originally chopper/cruiser redesigned in the name of café racer simplicity but still suitable for long rides. We are not sure and honestly why you should stick to boxes and style names? We kinda built it with just the image of a sunset drive along the beach, no racing, no rushing but still enough power to go anywhere you want.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
Moto Guzzi is often nicknamed as the Italian Tractor in our workshop, and it kinda sums it up. Low revving, rumble noise, turning right when revved. It’s heavy but easily controllable, giving you a sweet amount of power. I mean, you still can feel the chopper vibes but in whole different package. Riding it is just pure chill.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Of course it’s hard to pick just one thing when everything works together, but the gas tank was a real challenge and we think it turned out great. And the new foot peg position was also interesting part to build.
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Photos: Jakub Frey (@jakubfreyphotography)
Nice bike. However no Guzzi should Never be baby blue.
I can’t hardley wait for the brown seat and skinny jean fad to end.
The large displacement Guzzi should be a two-place affair. I’d want to carry a pillion, (second rider) for more comfort, a rear-fender (front too) that actually sheds water onto the ground that allows detachable bags for touring, and I think I’d want both a somewhat more upright kickstand and the centerstand to allow for easy parking. Does not have to be “heavy” though of course a Guzzi will typically run 500lbs or close in regular config. I don’t like heavy images or weight, but I do like some civility to be able to have a friend along with me and be able to go a few state’s ride long.