You know the feeling of finding the perfect suit? Any outfit that makes you more confident in everything you do—your steps a little crisper, your handshake a little firmer—is the kind of "feels good, looks good and you know it" experience I had riding the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer over the course of a late-September L.A. weekend.
The V7 Racer is a ode to the original red-frame V7 Sport Telaio Rosso, housing its legendary 90-degree V-twin engine inside the frame, a creation of famed engine designer Giulio Cesare Carcano. It harkens back to the days when racing wasn't about fully-padded spacesuits and leaning so low your knees touch the ground. It's a throwback, and design-minded riders are certainly going to love this bike. It's flat-out beautiful.
Spoke wheels and subtle red metallics that criss-cross throughout the engine interior evoke vintage Grand Prix style and Steve McQueen cruising the streets of Monaco. The Italian V7 Racer has the same kind of wide appeal as the quintessentially-Italian film classic, "La Dolce Vita"—you'll feel like Marcello Rubini on this thing. The Italian heritage is no accident. Moto Guzzi celebrates its 90th anniversary with the release of the limited-edition racer, which honors the timeless cool of the cafe racer style born from the 1960s European counterculture group, The Rockers, who would "record race" to reach 100 miles per hour before the song playing on the jukebox ended.
Myself, I had Los Angeles as my racetrack. After a morning ride across Hollywood, it was time see what was underneath the looks, and test it in the turns. I took it up to Mulholland Drive—one of my favorite rides for its 30 miles of uninterrupted turns, and a great place to try the speed, handling and brakes of any bike.
It certainly lived up to its racing bike legacy, shining on the curves. I'm over six feet and normally on a new bike, it takes me a few days to get really comfortable with leaning deep into the curve and letting the machine do the work for me as I gas through it. With the V7 racer, I never had that feeling. I was comfortable from the first time I leaned in, making for one of my best Mulholland rides ever. The V7 racer also felt good on a longer, 90-minute drive, carving quickly and easily down the coast from L.A. to Costa Mesa.
Packing just 744 CCs and 45-50 horsepower with a top speed listed at 120 miles per hour, the bike isn't known for its power. It pops in lower gears but doesn't have a lot of oomph in the high gears, and it just can't compete with higher-performance engines. As the bike speeds into the triple digits, there tends to be some rattle in the foot pegs, but that's just a guess—I would never actually go that fast.
That said, the relative lack of power didn't interfere with my enjoyment. It's a racer, meant to champion speed through efficiency and turns, not the long sprint. While some may question the absence of rattle and hum, I preferred the quieter aggressive purr.
This bike is a fantastic ride with good balance, size, power and suspension, as well as a classic cafe racer experience, thanks to the adjustable Bitubo shocks and the front Marzocchi fork. They have a give-and-take that seems to mesh with the road precisely when you need the support.
The handlebar position takes pressure off the wrists and keeps the rider naturally engaged, with the option of leaning forward or sitting more upright. Little flares on both sides of the gas canister fit comfortably against the knees, regardless of a rider's height.
The number "7" markings on the bike are consistent across the line, a clear and immediate visual tie to the bike's racing history, but likely one that will polarize riders when it comes to aesthetics. The cafe racer culture always leaned on customization, so I wouldn't be surprised if people take to their garages to individualize their ride. It remains to be seen whether the company will allow for custom-ordered numbers down the road.
The bike marks somewhat of a renaissance for Moto Guzzi in the U.S. Starting at $9,790, the bike is a damn good buy—if you can get your hands on one. They're only selling a few of these bad boys, so they're bound to be a hot ticket. If you're one of the lucky ones, you'll get yourself the admiration of passersby, and a solid ride that should meet your expectations.