2011 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

Road Test Review

Vintage motorcycles are incredibly cool, but most riders are reluctant to put up with their drawbacks that can include meager power, lack of reliability and the potentially dangerous inconvenience of anti-stop brakes. What we would really prefer is a classic that performs like a modern bike—or a modern bike that looks like a classic.

If you concur with the above, feast your baby blues on Moto Guzzi’s V7 Racer. To create this homage to its V7 Sport of long ago, the good folks in Mandello del Lario re-created that ’70s café-style by means of a vestigial windscreen above a front number plate, brought it rearward with that classically shaped tank, then carried it along the suede-upholstered solo seat with its hump and side number plates. It’s all underpinned by those blacked-out, wire-spoke wheels.

Aesthetics aside, Moto Guzzi gave its V7 Racer modern function by planting an air-cooled, 744cc, 90-degree V-twin motor in a metallic red double-cradle, tube-steel frame. Sure, it’s still a pushrod motor with just two valves per cylinder, but this modern version ingests through a pair of Weber-Marelli electronic fuel injectors. Power is routed through a five-speed gearbox, hooked to a single-plate dry clutch and stampeded to the rear through a driveshaft.

Climb aboard the V7 Racer and notice the leather faux hold-down straps on the black composite tank, the plate on the steering stem (only 150 V7 Racers will be made, they’re numbered, and we got Number One!) protected by a little chromed grillwork, the classic-look tachometer and speedo. Nice touches abound such as the polished aluminum fork brace, the billet foot controls, the side panels, mounting brackets and such. Yes, of course, it has an electric starter, and possibly as another retro feature is provided with a fast idle lever for the EFI near the left grip. The clutch is cable actuated.

Seat height is 31.7 inches, yet the bike feels light and compact and weighs just 437 pounds wet. Hunker down over the low bar and slightly rearset foot controls and you’ll notice that the shift lever has an uncommonly long throw, and the clutch a wide engagement point.

We did not dyno test this little number, but the Guzzi folks claim it produces 48.8 horsepower at 6,800 rpm at the crankshaft—it actually feels stronger. Guzzi also claims that its torque peaks at just 3,600 rpm. Power is certainly adequate for a light solo rider, with a nice hit toward the top, and the motor is uncommonly smooth. Rumor has it that next year’s bike will be getting more power.

To remain true to the classic style, Guzzi’s designers had to somewhat compromise function. First, out on our favorite twisting roads that 18-inch front wheel (combined with the bike’s 57.0-inch wheelbase, 27.5-degree rake and 4.3 inches of trail) results in relatively slow steering, though the bike holds a line in smooth, fast sweepers very well. Secondly, though the Bitubo shocks look the part with their reservoirs, compression and 12-position rebound damping adjustments, their action is harsh and underdamped. The nonadjustable 40mm Marzocchi fork is also noticeably underdamped.

On the positive side Moto Guzzi gave the V7 Racer top-shelf brakes in the form of a single 320mm floating front disc with an opposed four-piston caliper, and a 260mm rear disc hugged by a single piston. Braking action is sure and well controlled.

The Racer makes some concessions to style: the standard monoposto (single seat) setup precludes carrying a passenger, and you’ll need to remove the seat cowl to carry a seatbag; a tankbag with straps also works fine. However, because Guzzi respects your love life, a dual seat and passenger pegs are available at extra cost. The stock rider’s seat is well padded and overall the bike is comfortable and well finished. That nylon tank holds a reasonable 4.5 gallons, and under our normal ham-fisted use the bike managed to turn a respectable 47.2 mpg average, giving it a range of more than 200 miles per tank.

Show up on the V7 racer at your next Sunday morning ride and you’re guaranteed to be swarmed, welcomed and have your back duly patted. Sure, with its old-school power, suspension and slow steering it may not be leading the pack against the modern bikes, yet despite its throwback styling, ol’ Goose No. 7 won’t be left far behind in the twisties, either. Consider that it sells for only $9,790, and you may well offer the V7 Racer a space in your own collection.