2004 BMW Rockster vs. Moto Guzzi Ballabio

MotorcycleUSA Staff | October 24, 2003
2004 BMW Rockster vs. Moto Guzzi Ballabio
Wheelies are accesible with the twist of the throttle on the Rockster.

The Rockster’s dual 320mm discs and 4-piston calipers on front coupled with the single 276mm disc and twin-piston Brembo caliper in the rear respond immediately to a rider’s touch. The combination allows for rapid deceleration without the threat of leaving long black marks on the pavement (I guess that’s a good thing for some anyway!).

“While some riders may appreciate the ABS, I personally find them unnatural and don’t like letting the bike decide when to let off the brakes,” said former road racer Brian Chamberlain.

BMW spares no expense when it comes to safety and in an effort to cut stopping distances, the German manufacturer has added a servo-assisted EVO system which helps reduce the time from when your finger hits the lever to the time the pads grab the disc. The system may be useful, but most of our testers felt the brakes come on too abruptly and don’t offer much in the way of feel or feedback. Perhaps most annoying is the fact that the servo-assisted power brakes barely work when the engine isn’t running, making for some anxious moments when maneuvering the Rockster around a driveway or garage.

For those who don’t want the ABS system, the Rockster R1150R comes with standard brakes for over $2,000 less, putting the BMW on equal price footing with the Guzzi.

2004 BMW Rockster vs. Moto Guzzi Ballabio
Who can argue with Italian styling?

And the winner is…

We pushed these Twins on late summer days in the canyons of California and watched from the saddle as the fall colors of Oregon took hold of the deciduous trees. We whisked them through the curvaceous roads of Southern Oregon and not once during that time did a smile leave our face. While we try to be impartial and demanding of the machines we test, we couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves on these eccentric Euro machines.

The Rockster and Ballabio walk a fine line between their duties as performance machines and exotic Twins. While they can be ridden hard, they’re not the best choice as a track-day weapon. Rather, the Rockster and Ballabio are a couple of kids from Malibu that dress like gangstas. They look tough from afar, but are far from tough. 

MotorcycleUSA Staff