2010 Moto Guzzi V7 Cafe Classic

Road Test Review

Fun! Impractical, but fun. I traded in a 130-horsepower sport-touring bike for this 40-horse Moto Guzzi, and I had more fun with the retro classic. Granted, I did not take any trips, just day jaunts of up to 100 miles or so on back roads, but the V7 Cafe Classic gave me miles of smiles. Yes, I would have liked another 10 or 15 ponies, but 40 can keep my adrenalin buzzing.

What we have here is the Breva 750 engine and essential chassis done up in very sexy clothes. To my jaded eye it looks very appealing, like Sophia Loren in her prime, with a nicely curved gas tank, a comfortable solo saddle and clip-on handlebars. The ergonomics are great for batting down back roads for a couple of hours, with a modest crouched position, the bars not too low, the pegs not too far back; I’d call the design Café Comfortable. The café-style saddle, with the hump in place of a passenger seat, is well-padded and long enough to allow even tall people like me to stretch out.

The “café” style originated in England in the late ’50s. These were generally home-built, with as much emphasis on style as on speed, providing a racy look if not sterling performance. In those days the Brits had a saying: Forty horses and 400 pounds are good for the ton—a hundred miles per hour. The V7 is good for that, though the manual says that the curb weight is 436 pounds…quite honest, too, as the Rider scale read 439 pounds.

It was the Guzzi V7 Sport that really brought the design to the fore. In the early ’70s, production racing was the rage in Italy, and in June 1971 Moto Guzzi entered the previously unseen V7 Sport in the Monza 500-kilometer endurance race, coming in a respectable third. The first 150 production bikes arrived at dealers later that year, done up with a green tank and red frame (telaio rosso)—the Guzzi Green has been replicated here in the plastic tank. I wish the company had gone to the effort of doing the frame up in red. Ah, well, can’t have everything.

The Guzzi Eldorados had a heavier crank assembly, great for police duty and touring. When the original V7 Sport appeared, all that changed as the flywheels got considerably lighter and the revs went up another 1,000 rpm. When Premier Motors, the Guzzi U.S. importer in 1972, was advertising the bike, the ads claimed 70 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, and road testers were cheerfully spinning the engine to 7,500.
We certainly do not have that hot-shot engine in this new version, as in order to keep the price down to a modest $8,990, Guzzi elected to use the stock Breva unit in the new classic. The oversquare engine runs an 80mm bore and 74mm stroke, for a total of 744cc, and puts out a nice amount of torque even with the light flywheels; figures have shown more than 50 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm. The heads use two valves, with 36mm Weber-Marelli throttle bodies and a 9.6:1 compression ratio.

Key on, fast idle control on if it is cold, button pushed, the 90-degree V-twin burbles to life through the electronic fuel injection. The exhaust is well muffled—too muffled according to my Ducati GT750 friend with his Conti exhausts—and a blip of the throttle brings that slight side-to-side rocking sensation that all true Guzzisti love. The tach needle swings, and no redline is to be seen; the rider will soon find out that the rev-limiter cuts in about 7,800 rpm.

The pull on the single-disc dry clutch is light, using the traditional cable. The gearbox snicks into low without a complaint. The single-plate clutch smoothly brings the driveshaft into action, and I pull away effortlessly. The V7 feels light, delightfully easy to guide up my long, graveled driveway.

I’m out on the road, shifting into second. There’s a relatively long throw between the gears, but I get accustomed to it right away. In three minutes I’m on CA 41 headed for the coast, and the choke is off. Midmorning, no traffic, I whip through the curves along the creek then start the climb to Devil’s Gap, separating my house from the sea.

After reaching the ocean I go north on Highway 1 for a few miles, with the tach showing 4,000 rpm at 65 in fifth. Then I turn inland on Old Creek Road, which is eight miles of backroad bliss. The asphalt climbs up and around a reservoir, drops down to Old Creek itself, then up and over the spine of the Santa Lucia Range. No straights, just twists, up and down, the V7 engine cheerfully singing as I keep the tach between six and seven thousand. Flickability is a major asset here, and the bike goes from one side to the other effortlessly. A steepish 27.5-degree rake with 4.3 inches of trail and a 57-inch wheelbase help that. A downhill decreasing-radius, slightly off-camber turn puts many a rider on edge, but the Metzeler Lasertech tires grip happily; there is a 110/90-18 on the front, a 130/80-17 on the rear. With innertubes, of course, as spoked wheels provide the classic look. The front is happier here than on the rain grooves of our Southern California freeways, as it has the same tread design as the original Lazer ME33 design from the ’80s with a stickier compound.

There’s no question that the chassis is doing its job. The frame uses a steel double-cradle to hold the motor, with an alloy swingarm and a pair of shiny chrome shock absorbers at the back with almost 4 inches of travel and spring preload adjustment. Up front the 40mm fork has more than 5 inches of travel, though no adjustability. A fork brace ensures proper stability. The front wheel has a floating 320mm steel disc with a four-piston Brembo caliper, while the rear has a 230mm disc and two-piston caliper. Good brakes, by my standards, and I rarely use the rear pedal. As a matter of fact I find myself not using the brakes much at all, as it is far more entertaining to drop the transmission down a couple of gears when I want to slow for a corner.

Going up the hill are some very, very tight corners, and since the V7 has a tallish first gear, it is the perfect choice. Good power comes on above that 3,500-rpm figure, begins to wane at 7,000, and the gear ratios are properly spaced to allow the rider to stay within that rpm range all day long. Or until the rider wants to fuel up and take a break. With an enthusiastic hand on the throttle, mileage is about 40 mpg. And with almost four gallons in the tank, that means more than 150 miles; the fuel warning light comes on at around 120.

Up on the dash are a speedo and tach that look very much like the old Veglia instruments, except these have little digital displays for the odometer, tripmeter, temperature and time. Numbers on the speedo are small and too dimly lit to see well at night. Six little lights provide essential info, like a low-fuel warning, and an amber On Board Diagnostic light. Which lights up occasionally, but then turns itself off.

The locking seat comes off easily to reveal a small toolkit, lots of fuses and a battery where a battery ought to be—very accessible. A 200-page USE +MAINTENANCE BOOK is also there, with loads of consequential and inconsequential info such as: “Never use your vehicle to race other vehicles.” Unless you’re on a twisty back road where handling means more than horsepower.

Fun bike! Great looker! Though I would like a few more cavalli at the rear wheel….