V7 is Classic
When a company has a history that dates back over 85 years, it is natural to have a desire to monetize that rich heritage. One can easily pigeonhole the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic as a retro bike that relies on its appearance to attract sales, rather than a viable modern motorcycle in its own right. Certainly, the Moto Guzzi V7’s initial appeal is visual, but that could be said of virtually any motorcycle. Fortunately, Moto Guzzi’s racing-striped beauty is far more than skin deep.
With a styling significantly based on the early- 1970s V7 Sport, the Classic is truly a retro motorcycle, in that it takes the rider back to simpler motorcycling days-a time when riding a sport bike did not force the rider to assume the posture of a pretzel or exploit a powerplant best-suited to a racetrack.
One cannot argue that Moto Guzzi got the visual cues correct-wire wheels, full coverage rear fender, single front disc, twin shocks, and a traditional headlight and easily assessed analog clocks. And, oh yes, the motor. Over 40 years after the first V7, Moto Guzzi continues to convey motorcycling pleasure from its transverse-mounted, air-cooled, pushrod V-twin, giving the marque a decided advantage when building a classic model. Displacing a now seemingly modest 744cc, the Guzzi powerplant is purely personable.
A nod to modernity, the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic engine is now fed by a Weber Marelli EFI system, and that traditionalist faux pas is mitigated by the ability to manually operate a choke-like fast idle circuit with a handlebar-mounted lever. With so much rotating mass, the motor has flawless power delivery, with no hitches, hits or stumbles, so the Guzzi EFI choice cannot be faulted. You twist the throttle and it naturally proceeds at a wholly manageable pace, all the while delivering a basso profundo sonata from the chrome Lafranconi exhausts.
Riding a beautiful motorcycle with such a nostalgic slant prodded me to avoid contemporary highways and byways, and head out for some old California, which still does exist if you know where to find it. Perusing the unpredictably twisting back roads of Somis, a tiny hamlet east of Ventura, the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic revealed its near perfection of the pathology of the leisurely ride.
The motor’s willingness to move from idle to rev limiter without drama makes its performance transparent, allowing the rider to focus on the soothing vibration and tone that emanates from its heart. This is not to say the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic is slow, though deliberate is not a pejorative in this context. Shifting is smooth, and the five speeds offered are ideally spaced. A single front disc may seem inadequate, but it is well matched to the engine’s thrust and compression braking attributes.
One feels almost incapable of error on the Moto Guzzi. You never feel as if you are in the wrong gear, and the relatively narrow Metzeler Lasertec tires deliver the power to the ground ably, while sticking nicely in corners. Turn-in is predictable, and the bike is nimble enough to accept mid-turn corrections gracefully.
Gliding through high-speed corners effortlessly, the V7’s 400-odd pounds disappeared beneath me. The suspension has a vintage look, but it supplies prevailing performance. There is no wallowing, yet the ride is not overly firm.
The ergonomics on the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic are flawless, with the footpegs and bars in a perfectly neutral array, just as bikes were delivered 40 years ago. There is something very reassuring about such a natural, unforced body positioning.
The V7 seat-flat and wide-is definitely a return to the past. In some ways, even though it is truly authentic in its design, it is one place where I am reminded that things are a bit better now. The seat is comfortable, to be sure, but it does not offer the same security that the rest of the ergonomics deliver. Still, I cannot fault Moto Guzzi’s decision to favor form over function, and I would volunteer that I may be a bit too sensitive in this region.
Regardless, I was tempted to install an accessory windscreen and bags, and take off for a freeway-free cross-country ride. This is not to say the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic isn’t freeway capable-a few long rides firmly established its interstate credentials-but its magic is best performed on back roads.
Such an enjoyable motorcycle is too good to keep hidden from society for long, but I did not feel right taking the V7 Classic to the gaudy glitz and glitter of somewhere like Hollywood and Highland, where superhero imposters rule the sidewalks. Instead, I found myself drawn to southern Los Angeles, where the roads are still wide, not as crowded as you would expect in the metropolis, the pace less frenetic, and low-rise continues to dominate the non-existent skyline.
The nimble Moto Guzzi V7 chassis and predictable power are an unbeatable combination around town. With a seat height just less than 32 inches, nearly anyone can touch down easily and many will be able to rest flatfooted at a red light. The mirrors do a fairly good job of keeping tabs on the action behind the Guzzi, though bar-end mirrors would enhance both their appearance and practicality.
In town, where roads can unexpectedly reveal brutal potholes, the V7’s semi-adjustable suspension is up to the task, though surely not plush. Also, the Guzzi’s classic shaft drive is most noticeable here, but I am content to consider that to be a feature, rather than a shortcoming. I did not miss the lack of a chain for a moment.
I stopped for a sublime pastrami sandwich at Johnny’s, a vintage stand on a grimy stretch of Adams Blvd. in the rough-and-tumble Jefferson Park neighborhood. Parking the bike at Johnny’s, I incongruently snapped a photo on my iPhone. Passersby nodded, thinking it was a rare vintage motorcycle and they were seeing something extraordinary, not realizing the truly amazing aspect of the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic is how much fun it is to ride.
Helmet: Shoei RJ-Platinum R
Jacket: Toschi Moto
Gloves: Tour Master Custom Middleweight
Pants: Icon Victory
Boots: Toschi Motard
Photography by Don Williams