Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica: The Methuselah of Motorcycle Racing

Alan Cathcart rides Sammy Miller’s 120-degree V-twin 500cc Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica.

| September/October 2013

1951 Moto Guzzi 500 Bicilindrica
Claimed power:
52hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 130mph (est.)
Engine: 494cc air-cooled OHC 120-degree V-twin, 68mm x 68mm bore and stroke
Weight: 319lb (145kg)

Longevity isn’t usually a characteristic of factory racing motorcycles. Competition with the opposition is the target of any manufacturer going racing, and that often means trying and discarding different designs before coming up with a race-winning package. The trick then becomes staying a step ahead to maintain that winning streak.   

That’s evolution, competition style. It’s the way of the world, making the idea of a works racer that stays competitive for 18 years (1933 to 1951) rather than just months truly remarkable. The 120-degree V-twin 500cc Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica, whose evolution mirrored the evolution of the racing motorcycle from a pushrod-engined boneshaker with zero rear suspension to a swingarm-equipped modern cammy racer, was an almost mystical motorcycle whose unique design has never been copied. It is the Methuselah of motorcycle racing.

Through the years

Although roughly a dozen were built for the factory race team, Moto Guzzi Bicilindricas are few and far between nowadays, and until recently it was some time since one had last appeared in action anywhere in the world. The circa 1947 postwar version in the Moto Guzzi museum at Mandello del Lario sadly never runs, making the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed appearance of Sammy Miller’s two latest acquisitions, all the more exciting for Guzzisti everywhere.

Miller has uncovered two examples of Moto Guzzi’s exotic 500cc Grand Prix hardware, which for the past few decades have lain unseen in a private Italian collection — a mid-1950s 500cc V8 and the 500cc Bicilindrica that preceded it. MC 

For more from Alan Cathcart, read A Little Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica History.  

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