Moto Guzzi isn’t really the most top-of-mind motorcycle brand. Nonetheless, the Italian brand covers quite a few pages in the history books. It’s the European motorcycle manufacturer with the longest continuous production, it has a rich racing past and it pioneered in many areas. Think of the integral brake system, the centerstand and the eight-cylinder engine.
Last year, the Moto Guzzi V7 celebrated its fiftieth birthday and got an update. The Roman three in its name indicates it’s the third update of the V7 generation that was introduced in 2012. The V7 III comes in a handful of variations. The Rough for example has scrambler accents, while the Racer has the sportiest look.
Garage Chris Smeyers lent me a demo V7 III Special for a week. In their showroom I also spotted a limited edition V7 III Anniversario with a beautiful chrome fuel tank, of which 750 are produced for the occasion of that fifty-year anniversary.
The Special has the most vintage-inspired style of the V7 range. The orange and gray lines on the fuel tank and flank panels nod to its ancestors, the Blu Zaffiro paint has a wonderful retro look, and the well-considered harmony between chrome and matte black powder coated parts proves that the North Italian designers don’t lack taste. The slightly upward bended double exhaust gives a sporty touch. And there’s also the nicely ribbed saddle, the passenger handgrip that twists beautifully around the back of the saddle and the (well, that’s been a while) unvarnished spoke wheels. Base price of the Special: $ 8,990 (USA) or 8.540 euro (Italy).
The V7 isn’t very generous on technology. ABS and (adjustable and disengageable) traction control are standard, and that’s about it. Still, this Guzzi has a shaft drive that impresses aesthetically: with its particularly slender design, it looks like a part of the swingarm at first glance.
The fuel tank also combines functionality with design. Its peculiar shape with a rather narrow top widens towards the bottom, announcing the V-twin. On the other hand it leaves a spot for your knees to easily clamp the tank.
A true gem, that yet drops the ball more than once. For example, the plastic caps on the fuel injectors. Looks unforgivable cheap. I also don’t understand why the footpegs didn’t get that nice matte black finish.
The longitudinal 744 cc V-twin (another visually crucial Moto Guzzi element) puts out 52 hp at 6200 rpm and 60 Nm at 4900 rpm. Nothing overwhelming, but more than enough for the life- and driving style that the V7 pursues: dolce far niente, simply enjoying life.
This Italian bike puts you at ease immediately. It’s more compact and lower than the pictures reveal. The sitting position on the spacious saddle is comfortably upright, the footpegs are where you expect them and the handlebars are easy to handle. The V7 is also very nimble, which inspires confidence. A relaxed ride-out on a nice, sunny day is what this bike seems to be built for.
The engine vibrates quite a lot, especially when cold, but it also gives the V7 a bit of stubbornness that perfectly fits its character. Moreover, the vibrations hardly (or even don’t) disturb.
Sportive driving isn’t really the V7 III’s favorite pastime. Even though the steering is swift and light, you’ll notice the rear becomes blurry rapidly when you attack curves in a more snappy way. Of course this undermines your confidence in the bike. You can adjust the preload of the rear suspension, but it’s the (non-adjustable) damping that’s the main cause. So be it. Racing the V7 won’t be the plan of many owners.
The dashboard discourages rushed ride-outs as well: at 4500 rpm a red light starts blinking and the digital display warns that it’s time to shift up, although the torque peak is slightly higher and the V7 even sounds good when you ignore all signals. Rich and deep, especially in low rpm’s.
But let’s go back to the dashboard. The V7 III Special has two analogue meters (speed and rpm), with a digital display in the left meter for time, trip meter, odometer, temperature, selected gear, consumption, etcetera. A fuel meter is missing, which is a pity. You’ll have to wait for the warning light to come on.
To tell the complete story, I have to mention that some electronics sometimes got lost. Trip meters that resetted automatically, a traction control with a will of its own, a very grumpy cold start. According to Chris (from Garage Chris Smeyers), a read-out would surely solve these issues.
The brakes never let me down and I always stopped exactly where I wanted to, but still I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that the single front disc had only just enough braking power, and it would really get edgy when driving (and braking) harder.
The six-speed transmission lacks transparency. It often gives little feedback, making you doubt whether you have or have not switched gears. Which sometimes ensures that you don’t shift, while the other time you shift two gears up or down because you hit the clutch pedal twice just to be sure.
Before we go to the conclusion, let’s have a look at some competitors shall we? If you want a classic looking motorcycle, you’’ll almost automatically consider the Triumph Bonneville. As far as I am concerned, the Moto Guzzi has higher vintage factor and the bike is a lot less common. Everyone drives a Bonneville, don’t they? The Ducati Scrambler may also come into view. In terms of fun, it steels the spotlights, but its design lacks the classic elegance that the Guzzi has. And if we look at the younger, urban target group that wants a stylish motorcycle, the audience that the Harley Street Rod is aiming for, the American may offer a more dynamic experience, but the Italian wins clearly in terms of agility and ergonomics, which in the city is probably more important. The Guzzi V7 is often overlooked, wrongfully so.
The Moto Guzzi V7 III Special has plenty of class. Its (mostly well-finished) design has just the right level of classic vintage style, without resorting to a chrome overkill. Perhaps the most modern part is that tiny digital display. The typical, longitudinal V-twin also contributes to its appearance and enhances the retro driving experience you expect. A little shaky, living things up a bit.
Race aficionados should avoid the V7 III. The 744 cc engine certainly isn’t dull, but the rear suspension creates a blurry experience in fast corners. The non-communicative clutch pedal could also use some attention.Two of the biggest shortcomings of this otherwise very seductive Italian.
+ Well-succeed retro look
+ Very accessible thanks to good sitting position and friendly motor character
+ Tons of personality
– Clutch pedal lacks feedback
– Blurry rear when riding sporty
Displacement: 744 cc
Bore: 80 mm
Travel: 74 mm
Timing system: 2 valves with light alloy pushrods and rockers
Maximum power: 38 kW (52 HP) at 6200 rpm
Maximum torque at crankshaft: 60 Nm at 4900 rpm
Exhaust system: 3-way catalytic converter with double lambda probe
Frame: Double cradle tubular frame in ALS steel with detachable elements
Wheelbase: 1463 mm
Trail: 106 mm
Headstock angle: 26.4°
Front suspension: Ø 40 mm hydraulic telescopic fork
Travel: 130 mm
Rear suspension: Die cast light alloy swing arm with 2 shock absorbers with adjustable spring preload
Wheel travel: 93 mm (shock absorber travel 80 mm)
Front Brake: Ø 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo callipers with 4 differently sized opposed pistons, ABS
Rear brake: Ø 260 mm, stainless steel disc, floating calliper with 2 pistons, ABS
Front wheel: 18″ spoked 100/90 (110/80 R18 as alternative)
Rear wheel: 17″ spoked 130/80
Saddle height: 770 mm
Length: 2185 mm
Height: 1110 mm
Minimum ground clearance: 150 mm
Fuel tank capacity: 21 litres (including 4 litre reserve)
Weight: 213 kg
Dry weight: 193 kg