Moto Guzzi’s V7 specials
Three variations on a theme. The theme is super cool Guzzis that stop and go really well. We’re in.
Guzzi keeps the retro V7 momentum going with three special editions: Rough, Carbon and Milano.
Modern bikes are just like any other technology – always chasing the next big thing. More power, better brakes, more safety; it can get relentless. But after spending a day riding the latest reincarnations of Moto Guzzi’s V7 model, I find myself asking – do we really need it?
Moto Guzzi should know – they’re steeped in tradition. The longest surviving European motorcycle manufacturer, Guzzi started making bikes in 1921. Despite many ups and downs through the decades, Guzzi bikes are still all made in Mandello del Lario, a small town on the shores of beautiful Lake Como, at the northern end of Italy.
Despite the terrain – nestled in the south of the Alps – this area is heavy with industry, which allows the factory to source its third-party suppliers from nearby. It’s not a cheap way to make bikes, but heritage and nationalism is important to the Italians. Thanks to the demand for modern retro-styled bikes taking their owners back to basics or a time long-since gone, the V7 is Moto Guzzi’s best seller by a long way. Research has shown that many customers buy a basic V7 Stone, then lavish it with options and accessories to personalise it.
The Classic brings nicer paint, chrome and spoked wheels to the party and now there are three new additions: the Milano, Rough and Carbon. The three are culminations of the factory raiding its parts bins
and accessory catalogues to create an individual look – the Milano is based on the higher spec Special, but has aluminium mudguards and side panels, cast wheels for a more 70s look, a seat from the V9 Roamer and a gloss grey finish to the tank. The Rough, a name I fear hadn’t been run past any UK staff, comes with mildly knobbly tyres, spoked wheels with black anodised rims, alloy mudguards and anodised alloy side panels, a cross brace on the handlebars and a matt –finish to the tank. The Carbon is based on the Stone but looks racier, with real carbon fibre mudguards, a smart seat and garish red calipers and rocker covers. So, with five models in the range, there should be a look that suits you and if not, that accessory catalogue awaits.
Under all the shiny bodywork, the bikes are essentially the same. The engine on the V7 III is actually from the V9, but sleeved to make 744cc, an unfortunate by-product of Euro 4.
The older V7 II engine couldn’t pass the engine noise tests, whereas the V9 engine has been designed with this in mind and has a myriad of airways inside to help. This has a benefit of a little more power, up to 52bhp @ 6200rpm, with torque up to 44lb-ft at similar revs. The disadvantage is more weight, up to 213kg fully fuelled and ready to rock, though it does carry it well. The rest of the bike is reassuringly familiar, at least to those with an interest in Moto Guzzi – single plate dry clutch, shaft drive and that sideways rock at standstill as you feed the transverse V-twin go-juice.
Before I ride one thing shines out – the quality of finish. Apart from some necessary but still ugly brake lines (that link the various brake parts to the ABS control unit, itself hidden nicely under the tank), everything fits nicely to provide an authentic old-school look. Paintwork, alloy parts, seat and clocks all really impress. Retro bikes need to deliver, but first they must look good.
ON THE ROAD
Italian bikes are often accidentally sabotaged with odd riding positions, but not the V7. To push around it feels lithe and unthreatening, the weight held low with an easy to operate centrestand. Toss a leg over and most will find the seat low and comfortable; in fact at 770mm the Guzzi is a hit with those short of leg, yet at over 6ft I felt it nicely gelled with the footrest and handlebars.
The original V9 suffered from lanky riders’ legs getting too close to the cylinders, yet the V7 has none of this.
Turn the key, hit the starter button and the bike settles down to a typical Guzzi rock, though never at risk of shimmying off the sidestand. The new clutch is much lighter than the previous engine, gears have a light but definite select and the fly-by-wire throttle feels direct and, well, not like a fly-by-wire throttle…
First is low and the steering lock is great, giving a very non-Italian ease of use at slow speed or in tight spaces. The shaft drive gives a slightly jerky gearchange until you get used to being slightly smoother, but the V-twin provides lovely engine braking and town riding becomes a doddle. Head out of town and you start to notice the V7 has to be worked to get up to speed quickly; but it’s fun. Twisting a throttle to the stop without fear of taking off brings a sense of achievement that more powerful bikes never experience and the riding position is so adaptable you can just move about on the seat to accommodate your pace. For at least half an hour 70mph works perfectly, showing up the only disappointment, a rather soft seat that becomes uncomfortable when in one position for more than a while. Trying to overtake from anything above 60mph takes a little thinking about, but then that’s like saying an Aprilia RSV4RR isn’t very good at carrying camping gear.
With the Moto Guzzi factory surrounded by Lake Como, and Lake Como surrounded by fantastic, quiet mountain roads with hairpins and constant ups and downs, there’s no surprise that the V7 excels at this sort of riding. The test riders must love their job. Up through the gears, flick left, flick right, the steering easy, light and totally forgiving – the relaxed rake and trail giving no threat of head-shaking, look ahead and carry on. Get to a hairpin and if you change down too many gears at once the rear wheel obviously locks up, but treat it as you would if it were yours (journalists struggle with this), change gear when you should and use the beautifully set up brakes to get you in if the engine braking isn’t enough. And despite the Euro 4 nonsense, the exhausts may be larger than before but still emit the characteristic soundtrack you expect, especially with the high mountain sides echoing it back to you as you ride. It’s fabulous fun and such a shame these roads are so far from the UK.
Those brakes need more than just a fleeting mention. The front end wears just a single disc but allied to the strong rear it gives more than enough stopping power for the speed and weight. Plus there’s ABS should you
need, though I couldn’t get it to activate, even with the average Pirelli Demon tyres fitted. The electronic ABS also means the V7 has traction control which has two levels, plus you can turn it off. Again, I couldn’t get it to operate, but in the wet it could prove helpful.
The V7 is one of the easiest bikes I’ve ridden in ages and I’ve used it before, but the word unthreatening comes into mind; however this is in no way a patronising statement.
Why does a bike have to scare you to be exciting? These three new models all ride in a similar way and have similar riding positions, so it really is a case of picking the one you like the look of the best.
A lot of super-scooter riders in the UK are looking at the V7 as a next step, according to Piaggio UK. Allied to new riders, A2 licence riders (the V7 can be made A2friendly with just a simple remap) and those who would like a classic Moto Guzzi but either find it difficult to kickstart or don’t want the issues of maintenance, then there are a lot of people coming to the V7.
We know it doesn’t have power overflowing, but then it comes from the same stable as the Aprilia RSV4 – if you want power, try that. Instead, the V7 is about enjoying the sheer pleasure of riding a bike, of embracing the freedom. This will, admittedly, be trickier riding down the M1 motorway for tank after tank, so choose a different road.
With low depreciation, low running costs and low numbers compared to the likes of Triumph Bonnevilles, the Moto Guzzi V7 Milano, Rough or Carbon are a great way to discover – or perhaps to rediscover – the love of riding bikes.
ABOVE: Each of the new models has the same 744cc transverse V-twin engine.
WORDS: Matt Hull PHOTOGRAPHY: Milagro
TOP: Red accents certainly make the V7 III Carbon stand out. ABOVE: Clear and functional clocks. The Milano and Rough get two, but the Carbon lacks a tacho.
The V7 III Milano is easy to ride and looks stunning with chromed pipes.
RIGHT: The Carbon’s lonely tacho.