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Review: 2011 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer


Posted on July 26th, by Andrew in Café Racer, Review. 33 comments

“Moto” = motor, “Guzzi” = to grin like an idiot inside your helmet (click for a larger version)

Most countries have their associated stereotypes. Apparently Australia is full of lunatic blonde animal hunters, the U.S. is populated solely by gun-toting Christians and the UK is full of pasty people who constantly complain about the weather and finish every sentence with the word “Guv’nor”. Of course, for the most part that is all baloney. Turns out that McCartney and Wonder were right – people are the same wherever you go. But there’s one particular cliché I have found to be true. Italians do dress well – very well indeed.

Enter stage left the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer – a very dapper version of the already pretty damn suave V7 Café. If the standard model is meant to conjure long-forgotten images of the “good ol’ days” with it’s upswept pipes and obvious design cues from the original 70’s V7, the Racer looks about as subtle as the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie. But is it “amore”, or is it just a one-ride stand?

Initial Impressions

As I saunter up to the bike at Guzzi’s Australian headquarters I take mental notes of what parts of the bike strike me and in what order. First and foremost the racing numbers jump out at you; thanks to their positioning there’s nary an angle, save maybe from directly behind the thing, that you don’t see them screaming “I GO FAST!” into your retinas. Then you cop the chrome tank and badges, followed immediately by the two-tone leather strap holding the thing in place. Also notice the well-stitched suede leather seat for your discerning arse cakes. Check and check. Finally you peep the polished red frame and all that lovely detailing that Guzzi are known for. This isn’t a bike you’d issue to someone on the witness protection program – it’s just about as “look at me” as you can get without flashing your junk at the Pope. The pipes you see are a set of Arrow “track only” option catalogue extras – an A$1200 cost over and above the bike’s RRP of A$16,490, itself a A$2000 premium on the standard V7 model.

I sign the paperwork, get shown the very first V4 Tuono in the country, grab the keys and off I go. The first surprise is that the riding position is nigh on perfect. Despite it’s looks and pretentions, this is an all-day rider. There’s absolutely no weight on the wrists, with a very comfy upright body position and low peg height bringing some big cushions and rugs to the already “seems like I’m sitting on my favorite sofa” affair. A nice touch is that my knees seem to rest naturally on the top of the rocker covers, serving as a cool reminder of just what a unique bike it was I was riding. And although the go lump does sit rather wide, the bike is on the slim side which only adds to its chuckability. It’s wet weight is listed at 200 kgs (440 lbs.) but I would have guessed quite a bit less than that if challenged. It all adds up to an friendly, immediate familiarity that had me riding the thing like I’ve owned it for years.

The instruments are as clear and readable as they are trad; very simple white-on-black jobbies that seem nicely understated. Good to see that Guzzi added a little restraint in the mix. They do feel rather highly placed though, and I personally have never really seen the point of having an outside temperature on a vehicle where you are already freaking outside. But then again Sydney isn’t exactly known for it’s wild climate extremes. The rest of the controls are, like the dials, similarly mild with nothing that really shines or irks on or about the ‘bars with the exception of the limited edition numbers pasted there on the top triple. It’s a constant but welcome reminder that this bike is just that little bit more special than it’s other V7 stable mates.

Meet the world’s coolest knee warmers

Going, turning and stopping

Then we come to the jewel in the Italian crown; the V twin engine and pipe combination. Lorks-a-lordy, what a dream team. Ever met a stranger who suddenly feels like an old friend? I found myself distracted at traffic lights from the sheer pleasure of listening to the engine idle while the heavenly carbon burbles come out the back. “Chugga chugga chugga,” it shouts as it’s galloping down the asphalt – with an added “popple pop pop” on an over-run throttle. It struck me that this configuration was to bikes as a stonking great V8 is to a hotrod. It’s all rocking on idle and an intimidating lurch clockwise when you dump the planet juice into the carbs injectors away from a standstill. I was so impressed I began to compulsively rev the thing at any given opportunity just to hear that sublime roar again and scare passers-by. Guzzi stipulates that the Arrow pipes are for “track only”, but I found them to be more than OK for street use. After a few trips I caught myself smiling lots and ended up just having a whole wheelbarrow full of fun. Fun. That’s a word that came up on a regular basis when describing the bike. This thing is like a two-wheeled grin machine.

As with all the V7s the output is a fairly modest 49 HP at 6,800 rpm with torque spinning out at about 55 Nm once you hit 3,600 rpm. Now I know what you are going to say. No, it’s not a fire breathing bastard hell bent on ripping up the road and throwing it over the horizon. What it is, though, is a 120 mph bike with more than enough oomph to keep the average punter satisfied. Riding in and around Sydney I never once thought anything more than how perfectly suited the power, fueling, and delivery was to the overall package. Sure, it’s not going to win the TT and if you’re looking for a bike to kick your mate’s ass may I respectfully suggest you look at something other than a handmade Italian collector’s item.

Handling is managed by two tasty and adjustable Biturbo shocks (Italy’s answer to Öhlins) out back and a Marzocchi partnership at the windy end. They strike a really decent mix of firm intentions and comfort without ever being too crashy over crap roads or driveway entrances. Holding a decent speed through corners proves that the bike tracks well and a healthy dollop of revs thereafter doesn’t seem to upset any delicate balancing act despite what you’ve probably heard about boxers and horizontal vees being cornering recalcitrants. The brakes were up to the job without ever standing out as special or particularly talented.

A rack for drying tiny clothes is provided at no extra cost

Find yourself a nice open road and the bike really shows you just what its raison d’etre is. At 100 km/h (60 mph) it sits in 5th at about 4000 rpm and just basks in it’s own torquish sunshine, as do you. A twist of the throttle and you’re gone with a clean set of Pirelli Sport Demon heels. It’s moments like these that the bike feels perfectly right, perhaps giving away more than a little bit of it’s cruiser gene pool. Not in a bad way, though. Stop off for a refreshing fizzinated beverage on your day-tripping shenanigans and you are quickly reminded that the Guzzi doesn’t look like most other bikes on the road. Of course, most of us would be used to the inquisitive eyes of onlooker to varying degrees, but the Racer screams “look at me” from all of it’s red terracotta-tiled rooftops – especially to those virginal, non-city eyes.

The Red Chrome Eagles. I love that band

The not-so-good bits

So far so good, but then I turn my attentions to the gearbox. On paper it’s a standard 5-speed unit, which you’d hope would be up to the job of dunking the cogs in their oily pool without too much trouble, but in use things proved to be a little less elegant than that. “Agricultural” was the word that stuck in my head after a few days of left footwork on the bike. As always, there’s much to be said for getting used to a particular bike’s set-up, but it doesn’t take many false neutrals and “what damn gear am I in“ confusions to allow a ‘box to fall out of favor. This could have come down to a simple case of “thrashed press bike” syndrome but I’d want to be sure that if I were buying one, the Racer’s gearbox would be liveable-with on a long-term basis.

A handy reminder is always present should you forget the bike’s name

The good news is that the gearbox stands out as one of the few things about the bike that we didn’t like. A few slightly difficult morning starts was the only other real complaint I could level at the bike, and that seemed like something that you’d be able to rectify fairly easily. I’d have to also call out the bike’s key, which seemed a little low rent for such a special ride. As with the recently reviewed Zero electric bike, it seemed more “cheap filing cabinet” than “expensive Italian motorbike”.

Putting it all together

But there are a few bigger questions that must be asked. Firstly, is it worth the extra two grand o’ clams on top of the asking price for the standard V7? I’d have to say that the plush ride from the fancy springs, chrome tank, and that tasty leather tank strap pushes the issues firmly towards the “yes” side of things. The rear shocks alone are worth a cool grand, and if the chrome tank rocks your world I can’t see how you’d get out of doing it yourself for less than about $500. So even if the racing numbers get relegated to a shelf in your garage, you’d still have a cooler and better handling bike than the standard one.

Flying coffee, but faster café

But the bigger question here is a specific Pipeburn-related one, which goes just like this. Would you customise a limited edition Moto Guzzi? God knows it’s no Ducati Desmo, but is there any real reason to customise something that’s not stock to start with? Some of us may be satisfied with it’s looks to just enjoy riding it as stocker knowing full well that it’s been designed by some of the best eyes in the business. Others will holler that “café racers are meant to be customised by their owners, not by large multinational corporations.” And they’d be right to a degree; a true custom isn’t made in a batch of 500 units and should be by definition be bespoke.

But consider things for a moment. This isn’t a custom bike, it’s a limited edition run done in a café style and I reckon that it’s important to keep that in mind when thinking about where you stand. You’re either going to naturally drift into the “I love it and I’d buy it” camp, or you’d rather pick yourself up a clean base model and go to town via your own unique, winding route. Speaking from a position of experience, I’d also like to remind you all that some of us aren’t free-wheeling singletons with a whole heap of spare time on our hands to spend elbow-deep in oily crank cases. It’s these riders who want a trick look without the associated divorce and/or estranged offspring that I think the bike would really appeal to.

Scott celebrates the upcomming Def Leppard tour with some old school metal of his own

Il Conclusione

So, did we love it? Hell yes! Haven’t you been paying attention? The gearbox tried a little to spoil things for us but when it came time to hand it back to the Aussie Guzzies we were more than a little sorry to see her off. If this Italian is anything to go by, they not only dress well but they make us feel bloody happy to be alive. Seems like Mr Guzzi had a thing or two in life figured out. Who needs amore, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll when there are bikes like this to ride. Well OK, maybe we’ll keep the amore. Pipeburn recommended.

Many thanks to Bruce Allan for the additional photography.





  • http://garageprojectmotorcycles.tumblr.com/ Rex Havoc

    "This isn’t a bike you’d issue to someone on the witness protection program – it’s just about as “look at me” as you can get without flashing your junk at the Pope".

    Classic.

    Very good writing, made me laugh, think and mentally bookmark.

    Spot on with the paragraph before conclusion. Good on Guzzi for having the balls to take it from concept to showroom. I'm sure it'll sell well now and be sought after in 10 or so years.

  • Trundich

    bring that mirrors to hell at first)

  • http://suncookcarpentry.com WillyP

    I'd loose lose mirrors and number plates in a hurry. No, not lose them, pack them away carefully for possible future return, but I think some nice bar end mirrors would look much nicer. I am sure Guzzi put those mirrors on for legal reasons. And I am not so sure I like the chrome tank. But I'd have a tank bag on there anyway.

    Although, I think for 5 g's, I would rather build my own. I end up doing that anyway with every bike I own.

    This might be a good investment, a bike to put away with no mileage on it, but then you can't ride it, and where's the fun in that?

  • woods

    A nice bike but too flashy for my tastes, I would be from the group that would customize a stock V7. It is an interesting design being from Italy, they usually don't go so far with the flashy stuff. Italians have been known to take an agressive design but finish it with restraint and taste, this goes outside of that box in my opinion.

  • 10 Bones

    I totally DIGGIN' on the number plates! They harken a better time, back when motorcycles were "built not bought". I adore the early 1980's Superbikes of the Lawson/Cooley days, and the *not quite regulation* number plates look a little bit like that. Who cares if they're on some "Sharp Dressed Italian" bike … I mean, are you about prestige? Or are you about releasing the Speed Soul within the perfection that is … the motorcycle.

    :)

    Nicely done … numberplates and all!

    Signed .. "gun totin' Christian" HAA!!!! just playin' along here folks. (American and neither one).

  • Greybeard

    Tart's purse.
    MUCH rather have at least an 850. That'd still be in keeping with Guzzi's lore.

    Naah…a thousand. One liter and call it done.

  • Phil

    theyre a great looking bike. ive seen one in person too and they really do look fantastic. i would probably remove the big racing numbers and put on some small bar-end mirrors and leave it at that.

  • Triumph176

    Strange. I just saw this bike's twin at a Triumph/Ducati/Aprilia dealer in Denver, CO about a week ago. Thought it was a special someone did to sell at the shop.

  • Ian

    Dreadful. Dressed up like a Chrstmas tree, looks like a man with more money than taste went mental in the aftermarket accessories catalogue. And a chrome painted plastic tank? Come on. I'd much rather have a Thruxton than this.

  • Conor

    Just bought one today. Thought about it a long time. But the truth is, the minute I saw a picture I knew I was going to buy one. Crazy money and stupid. But it is a thing of beauty. First shaft drive and first Italian. But will keep a VFR800 VTEC in the garage.

  • GuitarSlinger

    If that isn't the most gorgeous Guzzi I've ever laid eyes on , I don't know what is . Jeeze that bike is a stunner from every angel !

    Molto Grazzi

  • http://www.fatbiker.co.uk GuzziGuy

    I've looked at one of these… In the pictures they look great, in the metal they look even better…. Really nice looking bike. FYI, in the UK there are bike available over the initial 500 build quota so its not as special as initially advertised :-)

  • http://kustomsandchoppers.com/ JCKustom13

    The only thing I don't like on the bike is the mirrors, I don't know why I just never liked mirrors but they are removable. Its a nice bike!

  • outtacontrolla

    Yea , but the weather is shit over here Guv'nor !
    Nifty lookin' Cafe racer even if it lacks Muscle .
    #59

  • http://www.pipeburn.com Andrew

    @ JCKustom13 – Never liked mirrors? Have you ever thought that you may be a vampire?

  • Mr paranoid

    Picked up mine two days ago.

    Sensational bike (the modified Arrow mufflers help for sure).

    The comments on the gearbox are accurate – but a small deal.

    Wish the weather would improve……………….

  • P.J. Flyer

    I rode the standard 750 when it hit the US market and found the engine fine for cruiseing the back roads, but a little busy on the interstate at 65mph, now that the speed limit is now 70mph and traffic moves at 75+, I would like to see that bike stateside with a bigger engine. The big Guzzi's have a relaxed pace at speed, the 750 doesn't, maybe they could milk 15 more horsepower out of it and regear it. As far as looks go, sign me up!

  • mgm

    Too much flair. Overkill. Fail. Bob the read fender, loose the loathsome number plates. Rethink all the chrome. Then you might have something close to purrty. So many wonderful Guzzi specials & this is what they come up with. Just dreadful.

  • http://www.mrlowlight.com Roger

    I couldn't agree with Ian more, this thing is all bling and no taste…..it reminds me of Italian guys taste in sneakers….you know the gold coloured one's with white piping, just shit awful.

  • Paul Jenkins

    I changed my Griso 1100 for this bike.
    I saw it and I just had to have it.
    Any concerns I had about it's relative lack of grunt quickly dissapeared.
    It really doesn't feel slow, probably because a good spread of torque stops the engine feeling laboured.
    It's fine in a straight line and easier to ride in built up places than any other bike I've owned.
    Best of all, I'm getting 60 miles per gallon.
    One day, just after I had run it in I took it out and thrashed it everywhere for a good 50 miles, and it still gave me 50 miles per gallon.
    Wasn't expecting that.
    After 30 years of riding I've re discovered what the meaning of fun is on a bike.
    It really isn't about big numbers.
    It's about how a bike makes you feel and in this case, it's like a million dollars.

  • james

    Amazing looking bike

    Even better in the metal.

    I just put a deposit on one.

    I first saw it at a dealers Italian bike open day.

    Funny thing was a new Ducati Diavel was parked right next to it and was getting totally blanked whilst the V7 got all the attention and photos taken.

    It completely stole the show and I didn't hear one negative comment.

  • nibs

    These kind of bikes ie: the V7, Bonneville, Thruxton, the new Norton Commando, Kawa W850 and the new CB1100 are fabulous bikes. You just can't beat retro standards for sheer riding enjoyment.

  • GuzziGuy

    Some of the complaints from other posters are valid re the looks. The way you have to look at is bike is that are getting lots for the money. The rear shocks alone costs a fortune. I do think the chrome tank is a bit bright and would look to replace it with either a standard v7 tank from eBay or really go to town and have an alloy tank made for it. That would really look good. The rest of the bike is great.

    In the UK dealers are offering it on a 50% deposit and 50% two years later with 0% finance. Some will even throw in the Arrow exhausts in for free as long as the list price stays the same Guzzi don't like their dealers discounting the bike…That makes this bike very attractive…

    I know that power is down when comparing it to something like the Bonneville but you are getting shaft drive and something more individual. I like bonne's a lot but they are everywhere in one form or another. Be brave and a v7 really could be a rewarding ride.

  • GuzziGuy

    Something else to add… If you don't like the front number screen replace it with a screen from dartflyscreens.com

    Their screen looks the part on the V7

  • Paul Jenkins

    I took the number plates off mine.
    It's four bolts under the seat and two for the front.
    Takes a couple of minutes and makes the bike look loads better.
    I nver thought the chrome tank looked right in photo's but in reality, it looks awsome on the bike.

  • GuzziGuy

    Paul. Do you have images available of your V7 with the number plates removed?

  • Paul Jenkins
  • GuzziGuy

    Thanks Paul. Looks really good

  • Steve Maguire

    I bought one, I love it. Done 1400 miles in 6 weeks, 600 of them in 2 days. Not an ache or a gripe. And as its a take on a tried and tested classic I get complemented on the fantastic restoration i've done!!!

  • Steve Maguire

    Numbers off….windshield off…..so much better.

  • jason

    I am looking to buy one of these but cannot find one anywhere. Looking for the silver one. If yo have one, contact me

  • Rich Bike

    Had a Thruxton, loved it and modded the hell out of it. Made it fast (ish) and even tracked it a few times. Must say, the Thruxton is faster, brakes better and likes to get thrashed. Having said that, my new V7 is more "classic" in both its looks and how it handles. I too found the tranny to be a bit "rough", but after adjusting the shifter and clutch lever, false neutrals became a thing of the past. Front brake sucks when going fast, new pads are on the way.
    Looks are objective. I too, don't like the numbers on the tail, but I can't get myself to remove them, they are so part of the bike! Mine has a black tank and the red on black combo is to die for. Vibrations are good. I looove it.

    Great article! Nice to see you appreciate the bike for what it is…and not hate it for what it is not!

  • http://www.klimb.com Dmitry Kalashnikov

    I picked up mine a few moths ago, #5 (first one in US). I love it. It is my favorite bike of all time … very comfortable, light, handles great, power delivery is smooth & mellow (unlike my ducati sport classic). Pictures don't really do it justice — it looks much better in-person.