The Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

Good-looking and fun to ride, the new Moto Guzzi V7 Racer adds another flavor to the café crowd.

Riding Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

The Moto Guzzi V7 Racer is no race bike, but it is quite a fun ride.

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2012 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer
Claimed power: 48.8hp @ 6,800rpm
Top speed: 115mph (est.)
Engine: 744cc air-cooled OHV 90-degree V-twin, 80mm x 74mm bore and stroke, 9.6:1 compression ratio
Weight (wet): 198kg (436lb)
MPG/Fuel capacity: 40-45mpg (observed)/4.5gal (17ltr)
Price now: $9,990

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: Regardless of how cool it looks, regardless of how much attention it draws with its go-fast boy racer good looks, the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer is emphatically not a racer. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the coolest retro bikes on the market.

The latest in Moto Guzzi’s V7 line of retro classics, the Racer draws a straight line to Moto Guzzi’s illustrious past and, more specifically, the bike that put it on the American performance map, the original 1971 V7 Sport. The V7 Sport posted notice that Moto Guzzi, known best at the time stateside for its large V-twin cruiser, the Ambassador, was equally capable at the performance game. Importantly, the V7 Sport laid the foundation for a generation of sport bikes from Moto Guzzi, including the immortal Le Mans in 1976.

Moto Guzzi’s star once burned bright in the U.S., but over the last several decades the American market hasn’t been quite so brilliant for the Italian maker. In a market that rewards flash with cash, Moto Guzzi has had a hard time measuring up against the continuing Japanese proliferation of models and the mechanical brilliance of rival Ducati. The V7 Racer doesn’t change all of that, but it does give Moto Guzzi an effective weapon in its arsenal.

Building up

We’ve been following Guzzi’s developing line of retro classics since the introduction of the V7 Classic in 2007. We praised the 2008 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic model (Motorcycle Classics, September/October 2008) for its mixture of good looks, character and simplicity. “New motorcyclists wanting a traditionally styled bike would do well to consider the V7 Classic alongside other retro models as a first bike,” we wrote. Our favorable impressions continued after a 10-day trial aboard the sportier 2010 Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic (Motorcycle Classics, September/October 2010), which we called “one of the best looking bikes on the market, a simple, honest machine with modern equipment and modern reliability dressed with classic sensibility.” Our favorable impressions continue with the V7 Racer, which broadens the line in character and style, both of which it has in spades.

Where the Classic is all about moderation, an approachable, unassuming machine with classic styling cues, the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer is all about excess and exuberance. From any angle, this is a bike that shouts to be noticed. The loud and proud café racer theme starts at the front with a tiny front windscreen/number plate wearing a huge “7” and continues to the rear with a plastic seat cowl, also festooned with a similarly-sized “7” on its flanks. In between are clip-on “swan neck” handlebars eliciting memories of Guzzis of yore, perforated pressed-aluminum side covers with “V7 Racer” decals, rebound-adjustable Bitubo piggyback shock absorbers, and punched and folded aluminum muffler hangers.

All of this is bolted to a standard V7 Classic frame, painted red (some sources say they’re hand-painted, although Guzzi makes no such claims) in homage to the original red-framed Telaio Rosso V7 Sport. Interestingly, unlike the Classic’s V7 Sport-inspired metal gas tank, the Racer’s is plastic, with minor deviations in shape. A nice touch here is the real leather faux hold-down straps running the length of the tank, accentuated by a real suede solo saddle. Unlike the now-discontinued V7 Café’s V7 Classic-sourced footgear, the Racer wears adjustable billet aluminum rearsets.

Mechanically, the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer doesn’t break any new ground. Power comes from the same 90-degree, 744cc “small block” V-twin powering the Classic, with the same claimed 48.8 horses at 6,800rpm. Brakes are the same single-disc Brembos — front and rear — as used on the Classic, and excepting the previously noted Bitubo shocks and a lightened steering stem (the same as used on the earlier V7 Café), the suspension is also identical to the Classic’s. Excluding the Racer’s reworked appearance, it’s basically a Classic with better shocks and stickier tires, shod as it is with Pirelli Sport Demons versus the Classic’s more touring-oriented Metzeler Lasertecs.

Getting moving

If all this makes you think the Racer is just a stylistically hopped-up Classic, well, you’d be right. What’s surprising, however, is how different it is from the Classic when things get moving.

Starting is a no-fuss affair. Insert key, thumb the “choke” lever on the left bar, turn the ignition on, hit the starter button and the fuel-injected pushrod twin rumbles to life. Cold running is a little choppy (our V7 Café was likewise a bit cold-blooded), but keeping the choke on (it actually does little more than lift the idle; the Guzzi’s injection system isn’t equipped with idle control motors) helps it maintain a steady idle as it warms up.

The clutch is nicely weighted, with a light pull and easy engagement, but first gear, at least with a cold engine, can be a little evasive, often requiring two stabs of the shifter to engage. That minor issue disappeared as the engine warmed up, and occurrences decreased as we added more miles to our test bike, which was delivered to us with a shade more than 1,900 miles on the clock. On the move, shifting is effortless if a little vague, but again, like cold shifts into first, it sharpens up as the bike warms up.

Throttle response is excellent, the little twin pulling cleanly from just off idle to our self-imposed redline of 7,500rpm (the tachometer has no redline). Maximum torque of 40.3ft/lb comes at 3,600rpm with a claimed maximum of 48.8 horsepower at 6,800rpm. The engine spins happily to 7,000rpm, but there’s little reward for taking it any farther.

And while 48.8 horsepower is tame by modern standards, it’s more than ample to motivate the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer. A relatively light weight of 436 pounds helps the Racer pull up to highway speeds easily, with 80mph coming up on the speedometer in short order. It doesn’t actually want to go much faster than that, but what’s surprising is how capably it gets to speed and, more importantly, holds it.

Our riding was a mix of city, two-lane and super slab, and while the Racer will hold its own on major freeways, it’s at its best on twisty back roads. Handling is quick and easy, aided by a relatively short wheelbase and forward seating position, which keeps rider weight up front where it should be. The low bars help here, too, and although they seem a bit narrow at first blush, they’re quite comfortable.

And it’s in the arena of comfort where the Racer really surprises. Although small by contemporary standards, it fits my 6-foot frame perfectly. The reach to the bars is easy and the rearsets — especially after minor adjustment — are nicely placed. A not-too-low saddle height of 31.6 inches keeps your legs from bunching up on you, and the bum-stop seat provides a reassuring positioning point during more aggressive riding. I found it a nicer riding position than the stock Classic.

Pulling it all together

So it’s no racer, but after riding the Racer, you’ll realize that just doesn’t matter. This is a solidly built motorcycle that should deliver miles and years of fun, reliable riding. And while the styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, the enthusiastic responses we got — especially at a local motorcycle gathering — suggest there are plenty of people out there who would love to own this bike. The average reaction was something to the effect of, “Damn, that’s excellent. Did you build it?” — most people thinking it must be a one-off custom.

At a suggested list price of $9,990 it’s not exactly cheap and is a full $1,000-plus pricier than Triumph’s café-themed Thruxton. But its brash looks trump the Thruxton’s more restrained appearance and the Racer really stands out in the new café racer crowd, especially those people more interested in style than performance. Fortunately, the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer has both. MC 

See how the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer compares with the Classic in Moto Guzzi V7 Classic: The New Old School Standard.