Moto Guzzi Cafe
Like the first fluttering skirts of a Roman spring, Moto Guzzi’s alluringly sleek V7 Café Classic intends to provoke a riot of impure thoughts along the Eternal City’s cobblestoned streets.
The bike’s brassy Legnano green bodywork seizes your attention before passing it along to the upswept pipes, slightly raised clip-ons, and zaftig tank.
Essaying Moto Guzzi’s hallowed V7 Sport, which helped to vault the storied Italian marque out of a thorny patch in 1971, the Café Classic squeezes the Northern Italian heritage gland while managing to look entirely capable of fulfilling modern performance expectations.
Although it lacks the V7 Sport’s distinctive telaio rosso and straight silencers, the Café Classic radiates an atavistic vibe in tribute to the early ’70s superbike, beginning with the finned underbite of the 744cc 90-degree transverse V-twin motor.
Twin shocks, spoke wheels and period Veglia-esque clocks add to the Classic’s vintage virtue, while the blacked-out frame, fenders, drivetrain, fork lowers, and a fast idle lever address more modern sensibilities.
Settle into the comfortable bullet seat and it becomes clear that full, upright mirrors clash with the sexy, café-racing spirit of this bike, especially when contrasted against the smart instrumentation and elegant, aero-inspired filler cap.
The mirrors lend the V7’s clean profile a weird insect-like character and look clunky from the cockpit-like Monica Bellucci modeling LensCrafters. It would sacrifice some measure of practicality, but bar-end or dental mirrors would be a much better fit for a bike this poised and pretty.
Fire up the electronically fuel-injected twin and the two-valves-per-cylinder pushrod mill reacts with a transverse torque tug as you roll on the throttle, accompanied by a gutsy burble from the reverse-cone silencers.
The 31.7-inch seat height, relatively high pegs and café-style bars sculpt some comfortable ergos, provided you are not over six-feet tall.
The spongy five-speed gearbox with shaft final drive engages smoothly, although a firm kick is required when shifting from first to second to avoid a dunce-rev in neutral.
Release the firm clutch, open the throttle and you will have one of two reactions: If you are an experienced rider who has sampled similarly retro-flavored offerings (e.g. Harley’s new Sportster Forty-Eight), you will find the power output dainty by comparison.
If, however, you are a new or re-entry rider, the manageable 50 horsepower and 39 ft/lbs of torque will certainly feel adequate. Paired with the Classic’s nimble handling, it will inspire confidence from the first time you drop into the saddle. Let the hair-splitting begin.
Around town, the V7 is agile and extremely responsive in traffic. A bike, a café racer nonetheless, that handles as compliantly as the Classic would certainly benefit from increased pull off the line, but the torque curve quickly catches up as you accelerate, peaking at an early 3600 rpm; once you’re out of the basement, power is well apportioned throughout the rev range, even if shifting feels a bit mushy.
The engine’s phlegmatic character, combined with the bike’s lightweight tractability, low seat and moderate, wrist-friendly bars are further indications that Moto Guzzi is positioning the Café Classic as a racy-looking, albeit non-intimidating, lure to new riders.
By investing the Café Classic with a reasonably potent midrange and ample ground clearance, Guzzi has likewise crafted a bike that riders can grow into. The nearly flickable machine handles bends well, abetted by the firm Marzocchi 40mm fork and preload-adjustable twin rear shocks.
The Café Classic feels remarkably locked in as you push back against the bum-stop seat and lean it over. Fast, uphill sweepers are right in the Guzzi’s wheelhouse.
Whanging the throttle produces an appropriately sporty grunt from the silencers. The big 320mm single disc, four-piston front and 260mm rear Brembos are more than qualified to pull down the 436-pound runabout in a hurry.
While the Café Classic’s urbanized character shines within city limits, it is decidedly less at home on the highway. Although the Guzzi displays decent power at a gallop, tucking in low and pushing the speedo past 70 mph increases engine vibrations to a distracting level.
Worse, while riding on Los Angeles freeways, the front Metzeler Lasertec tire shimmies in the rain grooves like a coked-up pole dancer.
The narrow bars and tight rake that make the Café Classic so adept in the corners don’t exactly contribute to a sense of stability. A more-reassuring choice of rubber, especially on a bike aimed at new riders, would be welcome.
Those looking for a more potent, vintage-themed motorcycle might be drawn to the Ducati SportClassic GT 1000 or a Triumph Bonneville based on their spec sheets alone, but the increased popularity of heritage inspired bikes means there is also room for a nostalgic machine with a more reserved character.
The Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic fulfills its promise exceptionally well, recapturing the spirit of the venerated 1970s landmark V7 Sport and celebrating the company’s heritage in a way that can be appreciated by riders of any level of experience.
There are compromises to be made along the way (such as using a plastic tank to keep the bike’s weight down), but taken on its own terms, the Café Classic is stylish, fun, and capable of producing its own brand of exhilaration, whether it is weaving through city traffic like a hummingbird or ticking at the curb while you sip an espresso, collecting glances from passers by, their faces a peculiar shade of Legnano green.
Motorcycle Riding Apparel
- Helmet: Shoei RJ Platinum R
- Eyewear: TAG Heuer Squadra
- Jacket: Schott Classic Horsehide Racer
- Gloves: Shift Stryker
- Jeans: Shift Lowdown
- Boots: Wesco Boss