Moto Guzzi – Superalce

www.supercoolbikes.com

www.supercoolbikes.com

The Moto Guzzi Superalce, born under fire from the Russian steppes to the African desert!

I have always wanted to learn more about the golden age of Moto Guzzi. The time before the v-twin. The time when Moto Guzzi was known as a builder of quality, solid, reliable production motorcycles and synonimous with racing success on the track.

The days when Moto Guzzi built single cylinder motorcycles for as long as it has been producing its famous v-twin engined bikes. Single cylinder thumpers that “delivered its power stroke every other lampost” in the words of Mike Walker.

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www.supercoolbikes.com

These bikes are so solid there are a great many still around, but I hadn’t managed to convince an owner to write a feature…until Ziorido joined Squadra Guzzista, that is. He owns the impressive looking Superalce in the picture and is also the proud owner of a Galetto, one of the most successful Moto Guzzi motorcycles of all time. He agreed to write his feature but I had to wait until he returned from holiday…the suspense was gripping…

“Italy and the war. It is true, the Superalce is a military motorcycle. The last and most powerful real war machines available to the Italian Army at that point in time. It did not participate directly inSecond World War military operations as it was, in fact, produced from 1946 but the project was born from the toughest experiences and most testing conditions for any vehicle’s design, that of military armed conflict. The machine was forged in campaigns, terrain, and varying conditions stretching from Russia, through Europe, and as far as Africa. The Superalce was born from the battlefields where the “Duce” threw Italy into the “Great Fascist War” as he called it.

Even though the Superalce did not see action in World War II, Italy’s troops had been on a war footing since the mid 1930s following the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. The bike’s predecessor, the Alce (Elk) had been developed as the prime motorcycle for the army from the earlier GT20. This bike had been an improvement over the original army bike, the GT17 of 1936, but had improved ground clearance (a necessity for a military motorcycle) although it retained the 13.2bhp overhead exhaust and side valve motor.

The Alce had the addition of an oil pump automatic valve, an improved frame, and changes to the exhaust system to enable it to operate in a variety of conditions. It continued in production until 1958 even though it had been supplanted operationally in 1946 by the Superalce. interestingly, the Alce was also available in the form of a small truck under the name Trialce.

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www.supercoolbikes.com

Initially, the Alce’s role was primarily that of mount for the army’s dispatch riders but its reliable, rugged design was recognised and adapted for use as a reconnaisance vehicle and could be seen as a mount for light machine guns such as the Breda 30 or even light artillery pieces for rapid incursion and infantry support functions. It gained legemndary status in the army and, from the shifting sands of the African Sahara to the extreme frosts of the Don river front in Russia bore the remnants of the Italian armies on their homeward journey, not just metaphorically but in many cases phisically.

When the Superalce arrived as successor to the mighty Alce it was immediately welcomed and universally loved by troops, gaining a reputation as a vehicle that did what it was asked and could be relied upon to perform without fuss or complaint…military qualities indeed!

The Superalce was not a radical departure for Moto Guzzi. The main change was in the engine layout as opposed to principal design. It no longer had side valves as had been the Mandello tradition since the earliest days but now carried a overhead valve arrangement. It was a simple and gradual development (a common and still current Guzzi trait) using the successful frame design from the series V motorcycles and Alce, and mating this with the newer overhead valve configured motor. It did not seem possible, but in this format the bike became even more robust, reliable, and powerful than its predecessor…a Superalce by name and nature!

The rest of the configuration was more traditional; horizontal cylinder layout, “Badminton” type external gears with four speed box, and the same drun brakes, forks and swingarm that had proved so effective in the Alce. One overtly obvious change had been the removal of the oil tank from its old exposed position. It was now incorporated into the design of the petrol tank assembly to enable the engine to be mounted higher in the frame.

This was the solution by which improved ground clearance was achieved and, with it, much greater performance over rugged terrain. The overall result was one of a longer, more Spartan motorcycle in appearance although not entirely unappealing, and a superior performer over the older model.

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www.supercoolbikes.com

Riding this bike is a thrilling experience. It is hard to imagine this motorcycle is now more than 60 years old. It is possible to glide effortlessly up hills without the slightest vibration being evident. This is remarkable for a single cylinder motorcycle without any apparent method of damping.

It is actually in mountainous or hilly terrain where the Superalce excells. It is a tireless hill climber pulling strongly from low down in the rev range in a way that doesn’t seem possible on a modern motorcycle. It was designed with off road uise in mind but is just as adept on tarmac, it’s only flaw being the braking which is not as strong as you would like.

The Superalce has been mostly overlooked by enthusiasts and collectors. The brutal-looking military based functional design with graceful 1940s touches has a kind of post-punk aesthetic appeal and is now gathering a devoted following thanks in no small part to its efficient and reliable mechanicals as well as its, undoubtedly Spartan, yet irresistible charm.”

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