The past is now
2008 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic
Claimed power: 48.8hp @ 6,800rpm
Top speed: 115mph
Engine: 744cc OHV, air-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 182kg (400lbs)
Fuel capacity / MPG: 17ltr (4.5gal) / 45mpg (est.)
Price: $11,000 (est.)
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. Bombing down the dramatic roads that twist and turn along the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy on an air-cooled 2008 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic, the time-honored designation “V7” emblazoned on its side panel, I can almost imagine it’s 1966 all over again, not 2008.
The very first Moto Guzzi V-twin was the loop-framed V7 700 of 1966, developed here at Mandello del Lario in what must be the most impossibly romantic setting for a motorcycle factory. On the original V7, the “V” referred to the V-twin engine configuration and the “7” to its 700cc capacity. The brand-spanking-new Guzzi I’m riding, the 2008 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic, has the same displacement as the very last Moto Guzzi model to display V7 on its flanks — the legendary, low and lithe 750cc Moto Guzzi V7 Sport of 1972-1974. And it’s still a transverse, 90 degree V-twin pushrod, similar in every important way to the Sport’s. Talk about continuity.
Forty years later
So what’s changed in 40 years? In some ways, not very much. Although essentially a restyled Breva, the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic is an undeniably good looking motorcycle. Guzzi has dug into its heritage and picked out key styling points from past models to make a medley of the best bits. Following Guzzi’s V-twin/shaft drive concept — and there’s nothing wrong with shouting out proudly the Italian version of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — and using the proven and reliable 2-valve Breva 750 fuel-injected engine, Guzzi designers have welded on a tubular subframe to cater to the “classic”-looking twin-shock rear end, along with a slight mishmash of parts like the attractive chrome-spoked wheels from Guzzi’s own Nevada cruiser model, and clocks and instruments from a batch originally destined for Ducati Monsters.
The fuel tank, in plastic rather than steel, mimics the lines and shape of the curvaceous tanks on the V7 Sport and Mk1 Le Mans. The triangular side panels with slatted black edges have elements of both the V7 Sport’s and some of the V7’s. The long dual seat, with room enough for a pillion, has “Moto Guzzi” printed in white on the rear so everyone following knows what you are riding, and it’s a nice touch. The engine and transmission are finished in black, and chromed rocker covers make the famous cylinders stand out. The black-faced clocks with chrome bezels remind of earlier Guzzis, as do the chrome passenger grab rails. The chrome is deep, the pearl white paintwork is lustrous, and the tank decals are classy — and so much better than the cheap plastic oval logo Guzzi used on some models up until now.
The Moto Guzzi V7 Classic on the road
Starting up the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic reveals no surprises. Under the warm Italian sun gracing my test ride the bar-mounted choke is barely needed, and after thumbing the starter button on the right cluster, the bike quickly settles into a regular and familiar idle. I should disclose that I like old Moto Guzzis, and in fact a couple from the mid 1970s reside in my garage. And while I’m trying hard not to make comparisons, isn’t that what Guzzi wants us to do by calling this bike the V7 Classic? I was worried the bike would sound watered down, muted, but the deep throb from the chrome Lafranconi silencers is impressive enough, especially when you’re sitting next to eight other bikes making the same sound. They must have worked at getting the right note: After all, anyone buying an Italian V-twin wants it to sound just that, and the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic makes the right music, in a polite and inoffensive manner.
The clutch is light, and getting into first gear is easy and painless. The gear ratios are sensibly spread out and I found no false neutrals, and in all the hours of riding, I didn’t have to adjust the clutch, which, like bikes of yore, is adjustable at the lever. Neither clutch nor brake levers are adjustable for reach. The bars are set at a comfortable height, and though they’re nothing like the old V7’s touring-type bars, they are wide enough to help hustle the bike through tight bends. The seat is firm but quite comfortable, with a small step in it to stop you from sliding backward. Nice stitching, too. There’s no redline on the tach (not that it’s really needed) and I occasionally had problems separating the tach from the speedo because of their small lettering and similar clock faces. Warning lights are clear and bright, and the digital readout gives plenty of information,
useful or not.
With its “small block” twin-cradle frame and 2-valve Breva engine, the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic is a physically small bike, and is more reminiscent of the old V50 rather than a Tonti T3 or loop frame V7. Its lack of weight and low center of gravity mean it handles very precisely, and a reasonable seat height of 31.7 inches should appeal to many female riders, novices and those shorter in stature. You feel positively in control maneuvering the Guzzi at slow speeds, pulling up at lights or taking it on and off the side stand. A main stand is, ridiculously, an optional extra.
I rode a wide variety of roads around Mandello, under the hot sun and in sudden rain showers, ranging from fast straights, fast sweeping bends and tight hairpins to mountain roads with loose gravel and busy urban areas with cobblestones. The bike’s suspension, with 40mm Marzocchi forks and Sachs rear shocks, took it all in stride, as did the Metzeler Lasertec tires. In fact, on smooth surfaces the ride is rather plush, though always firm in typical Italian tradition, inspiring confidence to sling it into corners without having to think too hard in advance.
The shaft drive is so smooth as to be unnoticeable, and only once, when changing impatiently into first for a hairpin and with the engine spinning too slowly, did it show itself, with a momentary lockup and tire squeal: rider, not machine, at fault. Brakes are Brembo, and as on the Breva, the single front 320mm floating disc and 4-piston caliper is plenty to haul the Guzzi down in a hurry — the rear providing extra if required — without being wooden or resorting to the old Guzzi linked system. I would prefer a dual-disc front if only because the single-disc setup looks cheap and unfinished.
The 750 engine produces just shy of 50hp at 6,800rpm. Nothing spectacular by any means, but perfectly adequate for this kind of motorcycle and what will be demanded of it. The Weber-Marelli injection system delivers the fuel pretty much without hiccup throughout the rev range. Acceleration is smooth, and there’s more than enough power in reserve for overtaking and more spirited riding. The only occasion I got the bike up to 7,000rpm was on a stretch of fast, multi-lane highway, accelerating in fourth at about 85mph, and the V7 felt like it was beginning to run out of steam. To be fair, without any wind screen, windblast prevents much more progress.
At high speed there’s a hint of vibration through the footrests, and the mirrors start to shake a little. Peak torque is 41lb/ft at 3,600rpm, and like an old-school Guzzi the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic loves to lazily cruise along in fourth or fifth gear at 2,000-3,500rpm, its torque propelling you along. You’ll spend most of the time making use of the bike’s broad midrange and enjoying the low-down V-twin grunt rather than worrying about rapid acceleration and top speeds. Though more power is always nice, Guzzi’s decision to use the 750 Breva engine and frame means there won’t be hotted up versions in the future. But that’s OK, because the V7 Classic is what it is: A simple and competent motorcycle with the bonus of good looks that make you feel good about what you’re riding, and that’s important to many motorcyclists. And it definitely creates a buzz. Parked outside elegant bars on the banks of Lake Como, old men discuss it, teenagers take photos and bikers take a second look. It’ll take you from bar to café or to work and back. Add a tank bag and screen, and you could tour on it, though not in European levels of comfort.
So what is it?
It’d be easy to be cynical and suggest Moto Guzzi is just jumping on the retro bandwagon to flog a few bikes, having seen the success the Triumph Bonneville, the V7 Classic’s most obvious competitor in style, price and performance. In England, the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic will be close to the cheapest Bonneville in terms of price (about $11,000 U.S., which is more than they cost here!). In some respects, Guzzi has more bragging rights than Triumph to produce such a model. The V-twin lineage stretches back unbroken for 40 years, and Guzzi was already defining “retro” back in 1990 with the 1000S, which was based on Guzzi’s 1970s sports 750s. Recent financial investment into the company and the design and production of Guzzi models like the Stelvio, Griso and track-dedicated MGS-01 show that the factory is trying to look forward, not backward.
Past and present owners of older Guzzis will find the V7 Classic has plenty of familiar V-twin charm, but is unavoidably sanitized and unchallenging to ride in comparison to the originals it’s based on. I kept looking at it, plotting various modifications like clip-ons, rear sets, a single seat, maybe spray it red, maybe some different mufflers, and so on. No doubt someone out there is already planning some trick parts as it’s a bike that will lend itself to being customized and modified — Guzzi is missing a money-spinning trick not having a range of attractive bolt-on goodies already in place; just look at what Harley and Triumph offer.
That said, no doubt the V7 Classic will attract many past Guzzi owners curious to own a new bike from the revitalized company that is reliable, effortless to ride yet looks like it was made in 1973. Guzzi says the bike will come in black in the future and there’ll be some accessories at some point, like a screen and some panniers — but in Guzzi fashion, there’s no idea when.
Overall, I enjoyed the easy going Moto Guzzi V7 Classic, and it’s easy to appreciate why Guzzi wants this type of roadster in its ever-expanding range. The V7 Classic is perfect for someone wanting to experience the gentler side of Italian motorcycling but with the safety net of a warranty and dealer network. Riders coming back to motorcycling could also be tempted by the mix of character, good looks and simplicity, and new motorcyclists wanting a traditionally styled bike would do well to consider the V7 Classic alongside other retro models as a first bike.
There’s no official word on whether the V7 Classic will be imported to the U.S., and even if it is, the weak dollar puts a serious collar on potential sales. But U.S. Aprilia/Guzzi brand manager Rick Panettieri was spotted riding in the launch for UK journalists, and judging by the smile on his face at the end of the riding day, the V7 Classic has a good chance of becoming a welcome addition to the Guzzi range in the U.S. MC