Moto Guzzi has been making the V7 model since the mid-1960s, and the formula has largely held true to that original design. A V-twin with the cylinders jutting left and right? Check. Shaft drive? Check. Magnificent sound? You’re damn right. In sync of the company’s centennial, the new generation is revamped with a better chassis, more powerful engine and new electronics, and it still has a properly vintage feel.
(Full Disclosure: Moto Guzzi invited me to warm Palm Springs, California, to test the new V7 motorcycle on some great SoCal roads. I paid for my travel, driving my own car rather than flying. Moto Guzzi did put me up in a nice hotel for two nights and fed me good food.)
With a gentle but deliberate nudge of the starter button the engine fires up, the torque reaction thumping the bike over to the right. At idle, the two cylinders bap-bap-bap away, seemingly independently, begging for more revs and speed. The brown leather seat, deep blue bodywork, twin gauges, dual chrome pipes and wire wheels all contribute to a gorgeous throwback bike. I could have convinced myself that this was the 1960s — until I was passed by a Palm Springs Special (a certified pre-owned Bentley Continental GTC).
Moto Guzzi has been building motorcycles in Mandello del Lario, Italy, on the shores of Lake Como, for 100 years. The company has been making the V7 since 1967, and claims it to be the first Italian bike with a large-displacement engine. As its entry level ride, the V7 serves well as an easy-riding machine with plenty of power, though not so much you’ll get into trouble. It’s the kind of bike that a beginner could learn to ride on, and it’s quick enough that there would never be a need to step up to something bigger. You won’t be setting any track records on this motorcycle, but I think you’ll always have a blast.
The 2021 V7 is a total re-do, from the tires to the mirrors. The new chassis, while still constructed of steel tubing, is 10 percent stiffer than the one it replaces, which should provide more stability at speed and a more predictable platform through the corners. There is also a stronger swingarm, a thicker driveshaft and a wider rear tire to deliver the grip a modern bike should have. New Kayaba shocks with longer travel, plus a thicker saddle and rubber-isolated foot pegs, contribute to improved rider comfort.
The engine is derived from Guzzi’s V85 TT off-roader and is also new for the V7. The engineers in Italy prize character and emotion over outright style, but this 850cc air-cooled V-twin is a gem of a motivator — one that fully complies with Euro 5 emissions limits. A new cylinder head design contributes to a higher 7,200 rpm redline, which is truly welcome. Engine management has been updated to include two levels of traction control.
By bumping the V7's displacement 100 extra cubic centimeters, it has welcomed 13 additional ponies into the paddock and is now up to 65 HP, and torque is bumped up to 54 lb-ft. For a bike weighing 480 pounds full of fuel, that’s adequate power. Hammer the throttle and you’re moving, but it really comes alive above 4,500 rpm. That’s where the twin’s sound really wakes up and jumps from an intense rumble to a full on roaring symphony.
The V7 is available in two varieties for 2021, the Stone and the Special. The Stone is the more modern ride, with an LED headlight, blackout aesthetics, matte paint, an all-digital gauge and aluminum wheels. For this year only, there is a Centenario edition with in green and silver, which throws back to Guzzi’s iconic Otto cilindri grand prix race bike of the 1950s. If you prefer the shiny paint and chrome throwback looks, you can hop on the Special, which I rode in these pictures. It came with twin gauges, a plethora of chromed bits, a headlight with a bulb and spoked wheels. The differences between the Stone and Special are largely cosmetic.
We could not have asked for better weather, better roads or more appropriate bikes for this ride. The warm California sun beckoned us up into the mountains above Palm Springs, up State Route 74 to Idyllwild, down 243 into Banning, and back to base. Great ride, good roads — I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Even at elevation, the temperature never dropped below 63 Fahrenheit, which is just magnificent riding weather. The worst of it was the run back from Banning to Palm Springs, as the SR 111 saw me about as wind-beaten as I’ve ever been on a motorcycle. It’s no surprise that the area is packed with huge electri-generating windmills. The wind is brutal!
From the moment I cranked over the engine and felt the bike shift under me, I knew that I’d be in for a riot of a good time. Moto Guzzi bikes are kind of infamous for vibration induced by the chunky idle of the V engine, its cylinders sitting perpendicular to the direction of the bike’s travel. The layout, with the crankshaft placed fore-and-aft, can influence the trajectory of the bike; as you throttle-on you can feel the bike wanting to rotate to the right. It takes a bit of getting used to, but traits like this make the V7 appealing when you know what’s coming.
With relatively narrow tires and modest grip, you’re not likely to spend a lot of time scraping the footpegs, but as a weekend ride it’s positively perfect. There’s no wind protection, so you likely won’t spend hours on end logging highway miles, but find a twisty ribbon of pavement and the bike comes alive. Classic aesthetics with a good ride is a great combo, and the V7 delivers in spades.
My first few minutes on the bike felt foreign. Lately, I’ve been riding big American bikes, so the sub-500 pounds of the V7 felt comparatively dainty and frail. After 20 minutes of negotiating street traffic and getting onto roads with curves, however, we came to a handshake agreement and swiftly became friends. Over the course of the day, we grew to understand each other quite well. When it was time to say goodbye, I was actually a bit distraught.
The V7 invites an intimate relationship between the motorcycle and the rider. It’s easy to tell what this bike is doing and how to influence its movements, as it should be. Yes, it vibrates a lot, and the ergonomics are a little tricky for this 6-foot-2 guy, but it’s as familiar as an old friend in very short order. This bike is the shape of a friend, as the kids on social media say.
The V7's defining feature is the engine. It’s a rip-roaring V-twin that just wants to have a good time with you. While the engine is purely a machine for turning gasoline into vibrations, noise and occasionally speed, the transmission and driveline are incredibly smooth operators that are hard to beat. The shifter on this thing is precise, and the clutch feel is great. With a decent miles-per-gallon number and a huge fuel tank, the V7 should be able to do at least a weekend’s worth of riding without needing to refuel.
AND THAT SOUND!
Moto Guzzi sells style. They aren’t the best, fastest or most comfortable bikes for the money, and they don’t always make a lot of sense on paper. Who buys a motorcycle because it makes sense on paper? Motorcycling is an emotional motivation, and the V7 plays that card early and often.
It’s a uniquely stylish machine, and the fit and finish of materials are exceptional. The reasons for buying a Moto Guzzi are similar to reasons a watch person might buy a Breitling Superocean over a Rolex Submariner, or an Alfa Giulia over a BMW 3 Series. You buy it because you like it and how it makes you look.
In typical Italian fashion, some of the electronics aren’t always functional. The V7 Special I was riding offered a fuel economy readout on the digital dashboard displaying both instant and average mileage. On flat ground at 2,500 rpm in fifth gear, the instant readout said I was getting no better than 15 MPG, and under throttle I frequently saw numbers dip as low as 7. At the end of the ride it said I’d averaged around 12 mpg all day. Considering we’d ridden about 150 miles, and the tank holds 5.5 gallons, I’m going to have to go ahead and say there’s something wrong with those numbers. Moto Guzzi says mpg should be solidly in the 50s.
The switchgear feels a bit loose and dainty. Buttons with frequent touch, like the turn signals, don’t have a positive engagement, so it’s a bit difficult to feel what they’re doing while riding.
The mirrors are a little tough to adjust on the fly without tools. It’s nice that they are difficult to bump out of adjustment, and you only need to adjust them once, but one of my mirrors was poorly aligned. I had to wait until I reached our lunch stop to fix it.
This is a personal: I don’t really love matte paint, and I don’t really love chrome, so neither bike is exactly what I want aesthetically. I found that I preferred the chrome throwback look of the Special over the matte Stone, but looking on Moto Guzzi’s website, I see the Stone is available in an orange color that could be really appealing, even in matte.
Considering that the V7 Stone kicks off the lineup at just $8,990, it’s a pretty good deal when compared with something like the similar-spec Triumph Street Twin at $9,400. It’s targeting the same people who like Triumphs or Ducati Scramblers, or maybe a Royal Enfield rider looking for a bit more speed and quality. If you want the V7 100th Anniversary model, it’ll run $9,190. The fully chromed Special will cost you $9,490. Of the current models, I’d have the orange Aranciano Rame Stone model mentioned earlier.
In my opinion, though, the solid move here is to wait for the cafe-style V7 Racer to make its debut. While Moto Guzzi is still tight-lipped on whether this might become available, I’d bet on it making a bow later this year or just ahead of next season. The V7 is an excellent base for a sportier ride, and the current 750cc V7 Racer III is already a much-loved bike among enthusiasts. If you don’t want to risk the holdout, you can get a great bike now.