2004 BMW Rockster vs. Moto Guzzi Ballabio

MotorcycleUSA Staff | October 24, 2003
2004 BMW Rockster vs. Moto Guzzi Ballabio
These two air-cooled Twins make similar horsepower and torque at their peaks, but the Rockster has a power advantage until 6500 rpm.

One area in which BMW separated itself from the Guzzi is in the transmission. While both machines recently received updated six-speed gearboxes, the Rockster’s performed flawlessly. The Ballabio’s transmission, while light of throws and a huge improvement over what was offered a couple of years ago, served up a few false neutrals between second and third, and later, between third and fourth.

The Rockster outclassed the Ballabio further with superior suspension and handling capabilities. The combination of the nonadjustable Telelever front suspension and rear monoshock (preload and rebound damping adjustable) provide a stable base for ripping through curvaceous canyons at high speeds. Its front-end stability is most welcome when pushed hard. Furthermore, the Telelever is excellent at combating front-end dive when grabbing a fistfull of brakes, even if front-end feedback is a bit diluted compared to a well-set-up telescopic fork.

BMW’s rear suspension offers quick adjustment rebound damping and a remote preload adjuster, both of which we would recommend increasing if you plan on hitting sinuous roads. One of our few complaints regarding the Rockster suspension’s are the sway of the rear end from the shaft drive when the bike is pushed hard and the harshness of the rear end over sharp-edged bumps. But, for the casual rider, its suspension performs admirably.

The Guzzi, with its fully adjustable Sachs Boge monoshock and Marzocchi inverted fork does an excellent job of smoothing out road undulations. But the Ballabio’s ride and suspension is much more firm and harsh than the cushy Rockster, and it doesn’t quite match the BMW in terms of refinement. And in high-performance situations, the front end of the Guzzi exhibited a nervousness that left us uneasy about how close we’ve come to the finding its limitations, even with the stock steering damper cranked down. Its 25-degree rake with 103mm of trail is much more radical steering geometry than the Rockster’s generous 27-degree rake and 127mm of trail.

2004 BMW Rockster vs. Moto Guzzi Ballabio
Neither bike pretends to be a sportbike, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve sinuous roads and emerge with a smile.

Another area where these two exotic Twins differ is in the braking systems. The Ballabio boasts a set of Brembo Gold series 4-piston calipers with 320mm stainless-steel floating discs in the front and a single stainless steel 282mm fixed disc with a twin-piston caliper in the rear. The Guzzi’s stopping power is outstanding, providing excellent feel in both the front and rear. We did notice the brake lever coming back to the bar when riding hard over long periods of time in the canyons, but a simple adjustment on the hydraulically actuated lever bought back more lever travel.

BMW is one of the few motorcycle manufacturers that offer anti-lock brakes as an option on all its models. For many, ABS, which boosts the Rockster’s MSRP from $10,790 to $12,990, is a welcome alternative in an industry that has been slow to adopt this safety feature. 

MotorcycleUSA Staff