10 Days with the latest retro motorcycle from Moto Guzzi
2010 Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic
First introduced: 2009
Claimed power: 49hp @ 6,800rpm
Top speed: 115mph (as tested)
Engine type: 744cc OHV air-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 400lb (182kg)
MPG: 47mpg (avg.)
Around here, we spend enough time riding, working on and living with old motorcycles that we often forget what it’s like to ride new motorcycles. For the Classic Experience, we normally give readers an inside look at what it’s like to ride and live with old bikes.
But not this time. Instead, we thought it’d be fun to change things up a bit and share what it’s like to ride and live with a new, vintage-styled retro motorcycle, in this case the 2010 Moto Guzzi 7 Café Classic.
Our 2010 Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic was delivered to the MC offices by John van Dam who operates a motorcycle shipping company called Van Dam Trucking (www.vandamtrucking.com). With fewer than 700 miles showing on the clock, it was definitely one of the newest bikes we’ve ever sampled, and as soon as John got it off the truck, all of the motorcycle-riding staff here took it for a quick spin around the block.
First impressions were highly favorable, and we all agreed the styling of the V7 Café Classic works even better in person than it does in photos. The bike’s balanced proportions and tastefully distributed chrome details work well with its weird/awesome “Solaris Green” paint, a flat-ish hue reminiscent of the green used on the original V7 Sport in 1971.
Chrome clip-ons (faithfully duplicating the original V7 Sport’s “swan neck” handlebars) and mirrors give the bike a low and purposeful look, and the bum-stop café-style seat fits the bill perfectly. Chrome spoked rims and upswept mufflers enforce the bike’s classic presence. It may be a new bike, but its simplicity and retro dressing make it feel familiar in the best possible way.
Getting familiar with our new ride, one of the first things we noticed was how lithe and light the Café seemed.
Though many of us around here get in ample riding time on larger touring bikes, there’s a pretty good collection of old-school standards in the parking lot on any given day, from editor Hall’s 1973 Yamaha TX650 to ad man Bob Legault’s 1984 Honda CB700 Nighthawk. Even so, the Café still felt lighter and shorter than many of them.
At roughly 450 pounds wet, the Moto Guzzi weighs almost the same as the 1973 BMW R75/5 Hall’s been kicking around on recently, yet it feels significantly smaller. That “small” feeling is due in part to the V7 Café Classic's slightly lower seat height than the BMW’s (31.6 inches versus 33.4 inches; almost 2 inches shorter).
Further, the shape of its gas tank (a dead ringer for the unit used on the original 1971 V7 Sport, it’s thinner at the top and rear and wider at the front with a noticeable bump-out at the bottom) combined with its low bars encourage a forward-leaning riding position that contributes to a compact, low center-of-gravity feeling. It’s decidedly old-school, and made us feel right at home.
The gorgeous clip-on bars mount below the top triple-clamp, but their “swan neck” upward reach puts them at the perfect height for us; they’re not only comfortable, they look great, too. Though the bars aren’t adjustable for up/down angle, they are adjustable front to back. We left them in their stock setting, which we found to be quite nice.
The seat feels cushy and supportive at first, but doesn’t encourage long saddle time; we found it’s good for about two hours before things start to go numb. Unlike some café-style bikes where you have to reach back with your feet to find the pegs, the ones on the V7 Café Classic are comfortably low and forward, nicely balanced to the stretch to the handlebars.
With a twist of the choke (actually an enrichner for the electronic fuel injection) and a push of the starter button on the right hand switchgear, the twin fires to a slow idle. A bit of throttle helps keep it chugging along as it warms, as the 2-valve twin is a bit cold-blooded even in 70-degree temps. Once warm, it only takes a light push on the shifter after pulling in the low-effort clutch to engage first gear, and with just a little throttle to bring the engine up to speed you’re feeding in the clutch and pulling away. No fuss, no drama, just a nice smooth take off.
With the stock exhaust the Café makes a nice enough sound, but it’s a bit quiet for our tastes. As the revs rise you feel like you’re starting to make some noise, but truth be told, you’re the only one that can hear much of the Moto Guzzi’s mellow sound. Though not exactly loud-pipe fans ourselves, we’d consider swapping the mufflers for something just a bit throatier, especially if it would buy us a few more horsepower, something we think the Moto Guzzi could use.
True to its heritage, the Moto Guzzi’s pushrod mill pulls happily up to around 7,000rpm. The tachometer has no redline, (though we’re told that it’s 7,800rpm) and as the power curve is broad and flat, we found ourselves routinely searching for another gear before then anyway. “Zippy” describes the Moto Guzzi well, as the engine provides plenty of forward thrust in town, getting you in and out of traffic with aplomb. In fact, aside from the bum-stop-style seat that discourages wearing any sort of tail pack, we found the little Moto Guzzi a lovely tool for town and city riding and roads where you rarely get above 45mph anyway.
Once out of town and free of traffic and congestion, a quick downshift and a healthy twist of the throttle is all it takes to scoot up to (and past) legal speeds. It’s a perfect back road bomber, as the combination of good power, relatively light weight, easy steering and a just-stiff-enough suspension make it easy to push on your favorite back road. The clip-on bars come into play here, which make tossing the Guz around corners relatively easy, despite the fact the bars aren’t very wide. Though we were too lazy to dig out a tank bag with straps, we were disappointed to discover the Café’s plastic tank won’t accept a magnetic tank bag.
The torquey engine works well with the evenly-spaced gear ratios in the transmission, which got smoother as the miles added up. Early on in our test, we found the shifting a little balky between second and third and fourth and fifth, but that seemed to clear up as the miles rolled on. And while the shaft final drive doesn’t have any wizardry to inhibit shaft effect, the rise/fall familiar to many shaft drive machines, the V7 Café Classic is settled and poised, throttle on or off. Plus, the shaft drive keeps things clean at the back — no chain lube flying around here! — and means there’s no chain to worry about adjusting or replacing.
All in all, from in-town riding and daily commuting, to a 350-mile Sunday breakfast blast, the little Moto Guzzi comported itself well with most everything we threw at it, within reason.
Why the qualifier? For one, it’s not a long-distance tourer, although depending on your height, size and comfort requirements, with a bit of soft luggage it would be fun for a weekend full of curvy roads. It will run 80mph down the interstate all day, but when you get stuck behind a semi running 70mph and you need to pass him, prepare well, because the Guzzi is slow to build steam at higher speeds. For another, even though we all know that the cool café’s are made for solo riding, we’d really like to see an optional two-up saddle and rear foot pegs for the occasional passenger. (While we hear these are in the works at Guzzi, they’re not available yet). Also, some riders found that with no fairing the wind started to wear on their arms and neck after a bit. Others of us, however, found the forward-leaning seating position let us use the breeze as a bit of a prop. An accessory sport windshield is available from Guzzi, and though it might disturb the café look, it could help a new owner pile on highway miles.
Minor niggling aside, we think the Café’s a heck of a bike for anyone looking for a good-looking, classic-leaning machine. As much as we love our old bikes, we’ll admit that it’s nice to have one bike in the garage that needs minimal maintenance and that’s always ready to go at a moment’s notice.
And on that level the Guzzi performed perfectly. All told, we put a tad over 1,200 miles on our little V7 Café Classic, and during that time it never failed to start, used zero oil, and everything worked every time. Fit and finish on our test bike was excellent, and the bike felt solidly assembled. We did have a grab handle bolt come loose, but that was it in terms of actual problems. And in terms of economy the Guzzi was a superstar, never returning less than 45mpg even when pushed hard, and usually recording closer to 50mpg.
What you get, then, is a new bike with all the benefits that usually brings. You also get what we think is one of the best looking bikes on the market, a simple, honest machine with modern equipment and modern reliability dressed with classic sensibility. It’s a natural Classic Experience. MC