Heritage Revisited: 2016 Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello

Moto Guzzi revives the Stornello with a new version of the V7 II and we look at the original.

2016 Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello

2016 Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello.

Photos by Roland Brown and Adam Bolton

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2016 Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello
Engine:
744cc air-cooled 90-degree V-twin, 9.6:1 compression ratio, 78.7mm x 73.7mm bore and stroke, 47hp @ 6,250rpm (claimed)
Top speed:
N/A
Fueling:
Weber-Marelli electronic fuel injection
Transmission:
6-speed, shaft final drive
Electrics:
12v, electronic ignition
Frame/wheelbase:
Dual downtube steel cradle/57in (1,450mm)
Suspension:
40mm telescopic forks front, dual shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes:
Single 12.6in (320mm) disc front, single 10.2 (260mm) disc rear
Tires:
100/90 x 18in front, 130/80 x 17in rear
Weight (dry):
419lb (190kg)
Seat height:
31.1in (790mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
5.8gal (22ltr)/45-50mpg (est.)
Price:
$11,190

After 95 years of continuous motorcycle production, Moto Guzzi has a rich heritage to draw from. The Italian company has been mining that heritage, recently resuscitating iconic models including the V7 and Eldorado.

Moto Guzzi, or at least Piaggio, the brand’s owners, has once again reached up to the storage shelf, bringing down the old cardboard box containing the names of some of the factory’s past successes, and this time they’ve pulled out and dusted off the Stornello. First presented as part of the Guzzi range back in 1960, the Stornello had the honor of not only being the first 125cc Guzzi ever produced, but also possibly the infamy of (apart from the odd late-ordered Nuovo Falcone) being the last ever 4-stroke single produced by Guzzi when it quietly disappeared from the range in late 1975. In between, and in various guises, the Stornello carried people reliably to work, metamorphosed into a factory International Six Days Trial-winning machine, and proved itself to be a robust little bike and a sales success to boot.

Roots of the new Stornello

The 2016 Moto Guzzi that now bears the Stornello name has, if viewed clinically, little to do with the original. Based on Guzzi’s V7 II introduced in 2015, it uses a 744cc air-cooled engine producing 47 horsepower at 6,250rpm and maximum torque of 44 foot-pounds at 3,000rpm. Antilock brakes and traction control are standard features on the V7 II range, and adding a 6-speed gearbox and lowering the engine in the frame have all helped the V7 become Guzzi’s best seller. So the mechanics are proven and established, but what is the “Stornello” name all about?

To see Guzzi’s starting point, I look at a photo of my own 1973 Stornello Scrambler (see Page 50 of this article). The new Stornello is definitely a good looker, and my eye is drawn first to the paint scheme of pastel white fuel tank and Guzzi red frame. This bianco rosso is taken directly from the early 1970s Stornello Scrambler. The high-level 2-into-1 Arrow exhaust system snakes its way under the right hand cylinder, with a grille to protect the rider’s leg, taking inspiration from the hi-level Lafranconi silencer and exhaust system on the 1973 Stornello.

That system copied the exhaust used on the works Stornellos, but with rectangular mufflers. The new Stornello has compulsory spoked wheels and is fitted with on/offroad tires. The hand-brushed aluminum fenders are the perfect look for this style of machine and are complemented by the aluminum race number holders.

The long and low black saddle — with the Guzzi logo tastefully stitched into the back of it — offroad-style foot pegs, rubber fork gaiters and tank knee rubbers all combine to complete the Scrambler look.

Subtle details including the Guzzi eagle etched onto the front fender and the Arrow muffler and the Stornello logo etched onto the number plates are classy, and you’re constantly reminded that you’re riding a limited edition factory special (only 1,000 will be built) thanks to each bike’s individual production number stamped on the top yoke.

On the road

What is refreshing about the new Moto Guzzi V7s, no matter the configuration, is that for a sub-50 horsepower motorcycle they are a doddle to ride. That may not be enough for some, but in the real world, filled with city streets and two-lane back roads, the Stornello is perfect two-wheeled transport. That’s because horsepower doesn’t really factor into it; torque does. With peak torque kicking in at 3,000rpm, you can pretty much be in any gear, twist the throttle, and get a move on. It’s one of the principal pleasures of being mounted astride a Guzzi V-twin of any age, but of this age, even better.

Fuelling from the single throttle body and twin injectors is smooth and glitch-free all the way through the rev range, apart from a niggly low revs speed snatch that all fuel-injected Guzzis seem to suffer from in various degrees. It’s a minor point, but care and a firm throttle are needed in turning around in tight circles. On the move, the 6-speed gearbox, which has also had the spacing between its ratios reduced, is slick and easy to use, as is the improved and light clutch. In combination with the smooth torque and power delivery, fast overtaking is easy and drama free.

Rider’s ergonomics are well thought out. I’m 5 feet 10 inches tall, and I found the spacing between the bars, well-padded seat and foot pegs gave a comfortable riding position, upright but not forced and giving good visibility of the road ahead. The brakes, with ABS, are excellent, the single front 320mm disc with four-piston Brembo caliper more than strong enough. The non-adjustable traction control supplies confidence in spades, especially over some of the gravel-infested lanes I rode through, but can be switched off if required. The changes made to the V7 II engine/frame geometry, including lowering the rider’s footrests and lowering the angle of the driveshaft universal joint really shine through on this bike. And weighing in at 420 pounds, the Stornello is light and agile enough to flick around — maybe the original Stornello’s ISDT genes are starting to show through.

After a good ride I jump off and I’m grinning from ear to ear because the Stornello is so easy to ride and so easy to enjoy. Yet despite its enduro-style lines, the Stornello is no offroad motorcycle, and to be fair, Moto Guzzi doesn’t call it a scrambler in their official literature, but an accessorized version of a street machine.

Marco Lambri, director of the Piaggio Group Style Centre, who supervised development of the new Stornello, says that “since the Fifties, making street bikes which are also suited for soft offroad use has been a normal operation. For Moto Guzzi this is nothing new: Our heritage is full of this type of interpretation.”

The semi-knobby tires fitted onto the 18-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels are made by Golden Tyre in Korea and were excellent on the road and on the gravel, too. I rode the Stornello on some gravel roads and across a field with lumps, bumps and mud, but that’s as far as any offroad possibilities go. The non-adjustable 40mm telescopic forks are fine on the road, but are just too harsh offroad. There’s also no bash plate for the engine, nor is there one on offer in the extensive Guzzi accessories catalog because the Stornello is simply not built to go any farther than the verges of your local dirt road, although with a 5.8-gallon fuel tank and 1 gallon reserve there should be plenty of miles to travel between fuel stops.

The Stornello is a friendly, well-designed and distinctive motorcycle that encapsulates what biking is meant to offer — fun. Moto Guzzi has cleverly raided its tradition and heritage and applied some up-to-the-minute technology to come up with its own “Scrambler Style,” and with this Stornello, that’s what it’s all about, the style.

The original Stornello Scrambler 125

In the early to mid 1970s, scramblers, trials and motocross bikes were all the rage, reflecting the massive popularity of offroad sport at the time. In Italy, things were no different. Virtually every major manufacturer keen to cash in on the craze offered something with knobby tires and raised handlebars.

Moto Guzzi’s “offroad” offering, the Stornello Scrambler 125, was produced between 1971 and 1974. In contrast to many other factories, Guzzi actually had a pedigree in offroad machines. Their 235cc Lodola and 125 Stornello factory trials bikes had much success in the early 1960s, including a haul of gold medals at the ISDT in 1963. The Stornello Regolarità 125cc model was short-lived, but a sales success.

A 125cc 4-stroke, the Stornello Scrambler was a basic but tough little bike, and carried forward the Stornello name that had been around since 1960. Stornellos had gained a reputation as reliable and practical bikes and had been around in Turismo and Sport form, as well as the aforementioned trials bikes. As a relatively cheap-to-produce lightweight based around a single cylinder pushrod engine, the success of the Stornello is seen in its 15-year production period. The Scrambler was produced alongside its sister model the Stornello Turismo, which was a 160cc machine, and the two models shared only engine parts, the frame and some cycle parts. 

The bike shown here is actually mine. It came to me as part of a swap with a friend in Italy. I had some Vespas that he wanted, and he had a few bikes, including some nice MV singles, a Gilera and a Mondial, that I fancied. Standing forlornly at the back of the shed was the Stornello Scrambler, alongside another one that had been repainted. Strangely enough, my friend was almost disparaging about them, and ended up throwing them into the deal for virtually nothing. “They’re worthless,” he opined, but I was drawn to the 125.

I have a thing about old Guzzis anyway, but this Stornello was in completely original condition from the day it left the factory. It had a couple of bits and pieces missing, dodgy old tires, but unusually for a 125 in Italy, it hadn’t been messed with. In the toolbox in a plastic bag were its original Italian documents showing that it was constructed towards the end of 1973, and sold to its one owner in April 1974. The bike had been used up until the late 1980s, covering only 11,000 miles, and then dry stored and forgotten about until I got my hands on it.

Only 1,500 Scramblers were made between its introduction in January 1971 and its demise at the end of 1974. It was a model that was neither fish nor fowl, having been watered down from its original prototype seen in 1969, which was a much more specialist offroad machine like the Stornello Regolarità of a couple of years before. The production Scrambler had a seat for two and a tachometer and speedometer, and was designed to let the rider make trips around town, and then enjoy some light offroading in the local woods. Having put some miles on the resuscitated Scrambler, this designation is exactly what the bike excels at; no more, no less.

Starting the bike is simple, once the rider has gotten over the surprise of there being two keys in the chrome CEV headlamp. One sits in a normal position on top and controls the lights, but there is also a green idiot light to show when the lights are illuminated. The other key sits at the bottom left hand of the lamp and works the ignition circuit. Once contact is made through the 6-volt coil, flywheel magneto and points system, and the choke lever on top of the carburetor is operated, it takes just one kick on the folding kickstart lever (located on the left side) to start the Stornello. The bike settles easily into the slow and easy, classic Guzzi idle.

The seat is well padded and comfy even with its 43-year-old foam, and the high-ish and braced handle bars are well within reach. The clutch is light, and first gear is selected with a toe-up on the lever found on the right side of the engine.

The Stornello takes off nicely. The engine is tractable, and you don’t need many revs showing on the Veglia tach to just crawl along. The gearbox and clutch work sweetly together, and although the first couple of gears are on the high side, third and upwards are fine for road riding. The suspension works really well, and the adjustable Sebac shocks soak up the bumps efficiently. The knobby tires aren’t ideal on blacktop, but the brakes are excellent and they work in tandem with engine braking to slow things down. There is some vibration to be felt through the bars at “cruising” speeds of around 50mph. On the road then, it is a decent and solid little bike.

The U.K. is not the easiest place to go and ride offroad on a whim, so I take the Scrambler to a field belonging to someone I know and ride it around in the mud to get a feel. Excellent! In fact, it feels more sure-footed than on the road, no doubt due to the tires actually being used for their designated purpose, and the gear ratios and long forks make sense, especially at slower speeds. I can’t resist the temptation of splashing through a nearby ford, either, and I spend the next half hour riding up and down and through and around it.

The handling is surprisingly good even on the submerged boulders and stones that litter the river bed, and the high-level exhaust and small bash plate at the front of the engine come into their own as practical additions to the Scrambler’s offroad adeptness.

A quick clean with an oily rag is all the Stornello needs after its ride, and in fact this bike will remain an “oily rag” bike. It’s nice to have a bike in a condition that reflects its age and runs well, and there’s no need for restoration of anything.

The Stornello Scrambler is a robust and simple to run all-rounder and will be used as such. It also has the charisma of a Guzzi single, the pizzazz of an early 1970s Italian trial bike, and enough rarity value to draw curious onlookers when parked up. It’s already a favorite in my collection. MC