2009 Moto Guzzi Café Classic

The retro hits just keep rolling

2009 moto guzzi cafe classic 1

2009 Moto Guzzi Café Classic.

Photo by James Adam Bolton

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2009 Moto Guzzi Cafe Classic
Claimed power:
 49hp @ 6,800rpm
Top speed: 115mph (est.)
Engine type: 744cc OHV, air-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 182kg (400lb)
Price: $9,000 (est.)
MPG:  45 (est.)

Following the launch of the V7 Classic last year, it was obvious Moto Guzzi would eventually produce something like the new V7 Café Classic. While last year’s V7 Classic suggested classily but sensibly what was in the cards, the Moto Guzzi Café Classic has burst on the scene, all luminescent paint and upswept chrome exhausts, taking over the current mantle of Guzzi’s glitziest roadster.

Moto Guzzi has decided to go whole-heartedly down the retro motorcycle route, and the Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic is the latest Guzzi to be given the treatment.. Essentially a restyled V7 Classic, the Café Classic is built around the Breva chassis and 750cc engine. Nothing wrong there, as the Breva 750 and the V7 Classic are both fine motorcycles, so using an already proven platform makes economic sense. But where last year’s V7 Classic took its styling clues from the “loop frame” V7 Specials of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Café has been designed specifically to mimic the beautiful lines of the V7 Sport, Guzzi’s iconic factory café racer from the early 1970s.

The result is very alluring. The sculpted fuel tank covered in lime-green paint and with a flush aero-type filler cap is a work of art, and is coupled with a café racer inspired solo bum-stop seat. The chrome exhausts are much more aggressively upswept than on the V7 Classic, and spoked wheels, black-faced clocks and lowered clip-ons complete the café racer feel.

In the saddle
Though it didn’t feel it at the time, basing the V7 Café Classic’s press launch in the middle of Rome was possibly a masterstroke, as we were forced to do battle with the lawless Roman traffic until reaching the surrounding countryside. Like the V7 Classic, the Moto Guzzi Café Classic proved itself well able to cope with city riding, even with the lower clip-ons — handling on the often badly rutted road surfaces in Rome was surefooted.

Riding on faster, open roads is far more rewarding and much more fun. At 5 feet, 11 inches tall, I found the riding position comfortable, with enough room to sit farther back and stretch over the tank to the clip-ons, though some of my 6-foot-plus colleagues moaned that the bars/footrests/seat “triangle” cramped their style. The clip-ons aren’t angled extremely, so they’re more like ace bars, and can be lowered on the fork legs and pulled forward or backward as desired — shame they’re not as graceful as the V7 Sport’s famous “swan neck” bars. There are no passenger pegs, a deal killer for some.

It’s a low, nimble motorcycle, a good first “big” motorcycle for beginners and shorter riders. That doesn’t mean it’s unchallenging for more experienced riders, as there’s plenty to get excited about. The 750cc Euro 3 engine from the Breva is an excellent all rounder, with plenty of zip to accelerate away from oncoming traffic, while its broad torque also means you can cope with slow moving traffic.

The V-twin produces approximately 50hp at 6,800rpm, is smooth and very capable, though a little vibration can be felt on the foot pegs when really caning the bike. But the engine holds no surprises for the rider; no confusing power bands, no fueling glitches — it revs freely and smoothly, and at highway speeds of 80mph-plus, it feels unburstable.

There’s no redline indicated on the classy black-faced dual digital/analog Veglia clocks, and top speed seems to be dictated on how effectively you can contort yourself into a café racer crouch — at one point I was very pleased, er, very surprised to see the Moto Guzzi Café Classic felt strong and stable at an indicated 111mph. It’s no sport bike however, and cracking the ton is about as far up the speedo as you’d want to go, especially without any kind of fairing.

The single-plate clutch is light and easy to use, though I still had to fine tune the free play at the bar adjuster, but that’s been the same on most Guzzis I’ve ridden. No need to play the gearbox, which has five speeds all sensibly spaced out. Once on the move, I tended to only use fourth or fifth, such is the torquey response from the engine. Gear changes are slick and precise, with none of the false neutrals of yesteryear.

As the bends get tighter, the Moto Guzzi Café Classic proves itself a stable and neutral handling machine. The rake on the Café's steel tubular frame and headstock is 27 degrees, and it certainly seems to turn quicker than other Guzzis. The 40mm Marzocchi forks (non-adjustable) and Sachs rear shocks (adjustable for preload) are up to the job, and even when rounding fast bends and confronted with stray dogs or cows in the road, the little Guzzi never shook its head in disdain.

The Metzeler Lasertec tires performed well too, and it’ll be even more of a fun machine with stickier rubber fitted. The front 320mm single disc is adequate, but I’d have preferred twin discs just for that extra safety factor; we fully expect another disc will be offered as an option or bolt-on kit in the near future. The 280mm rear disc works well, and there’s lots of engine braking, accompanied by a great Guzzi V-twin boom from the mufflers, modified, apparently, to supply said sound. That’s important, because the person who buys a V7 Café will be expecting something that looks good and sounds good, too.

There’s nothing to suggest the Moto Guzzi Café Classic can’t deliver the goods. Fit and finish is excellent, and I’m genuinely surprised I can’t find fault. The paint on the tank, side panels and mudguards is deep and lustrous, and the old fashioned gold Moto Guzzi eagle decal and Café Classic decals sit under coat after coat of clear. The rider’s view is uncluttered, and the switchgear falls easily to hand. The clocks themselves are handsome and effective, and even the top yoke — which is generic across the 750 range of bikes — has been treated to a chrome doodad that masks where the bars on other models are mounted — you can always clip your keys to it. Attention to detail means the steering stem nut has been drilled for that racer look, and the seat has the Guzzi logo neatly embossed into it. Chrome grab handles mimic those found on the old V7 Sport, handy for bungeeing things to if required.

Minus points are few. There’s no storage behind the side panels, and I gave up trying to remove the seat after fiddling with it for a minute or two. The yellow engine management warning light stayed on for long periods, but I just ignored it and kept riding, and it went out again. There’s also no center stand, but seeing as this bike is meant to embody the spirit of a café racer, stripped down for speed, it’s begrudgingly allowed.

There’s no word yet on when the Café Classic will come to the states, but it’s hard to believe Guzzi won’t take advantage of its growing favor in the U.S. For those who want something different, with genuinely exciting Italian motorcycling combined with special looks and a hint of exclusivity, the Café Classic will definitely appeal. At approximately $9,000 (about $500 more than the V7 Classic) the Guzzi will appeal to new riders and retro fans alike. The single seat may put off some potential buyers, though we understand there will be a dual seat available. As a modern take on the café racer theme, the Café Classic can boast as a genuine factory café racer just like its granddaddy, making the Guzzi as authentic as they come. It’s a great feel-good bike that’ll scratch, pose, tour and take you to work.

Moto Guzzi’s Luca Scopel: Back to the Future
The amount of top brass from the Piaggio/Aprilia group in attendance at the launch and their keenness to hear journos’ opinions shows that this retro/heritage range, which began with the California Vintage three years ago, is particularly important for Moto Guzzi. Luca Scopel, the young and enthusiastic category manager for Moto Guzzi, was very much involved in the design process of the V7 Café Classic from the beginning. He explains that Moto Guzzi is very intent on expanding and improving the 750-based heritage range. This includes preparing a range of accessories for the Café Classic, including adjustable rearsets, dual seats, passenger pegs, fly screens and other goodies.

Scopel studied the V7 Sport, so it’s no surprise there are so many styling points of reference to be seen on the new bike. “We didn’t want to build a replica,”  Scopel said, “and we avoided using exactly the same shade of paint deliberately — we have used a color called Solaris Green, which is not similar to the original V7 Sport green.” What about a red frame “Telaio Rosso” replica, I wondered (the first 200 or so race shop-built V7 Sports of 1971-1972 had red frames). “We have no plans for that,” he replied, “as we don’t consider the shape of the frame we are using suitable.” How about offering stripes and black silencers, as on the beautiful 1974 750S and 1975 S3? Scopel made no reply and just looked embarrassed, meaning that either he’d already thought of it, I’d put an idea in his head or I’d just revealed myself as a sad Guzzi bore to the man from Guzzi. Watch this space! MC