Moto Guzzi is rolling out a trio of reborn classics, designed for the entry-level… (Moto Guzzi )
A big buzzword at the recently concluded Progressive International Motorcycle Show was "entry-level." Everyone from Suzuki (with its GW250) to Honda (with its CB500 line) to KTM (with the return of its 690 Duke) was talking about bringing new customers to motorcycling -- especially younger riders and female riders -- by offering them stylish, affordable, easy-to-ride bikes.
After several hours on the 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Special, it occurred to me that the Italian manufacturer might have built a 750cc starter bike.
My first serious street bike was a 1970 Motoguzzi V7 Ambassador, bought through the Recycler from a guy who had Frankensteined it out with a Windjammer windshield and saddlebags designed for a BMW, held together by a shocking number of hose clamps.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2013 Honda Lineup
It was armed with a 750cc engine and a clunky four-speed gearbox, weighed way over 400 pounds and was said to put out 45 hp. Riding it was like wrestling a rhino. It shook and heaved at stoplights and bucked from block to block in the city. On the highway, it smoothed out when it hit about 55 mph, and it was beautiful to look at -- but for braking and cornering it was still a beast.
So I was excited to see what 40 years of motorcycling science has done to a classic.
The Special is beautiful to look at and scores very high points for pure rideability. It sits low (31.6 inches with an option to go a whole inch shorter) on a long, lean seat, over wide, rubbered foot pegs. The clutch pull is soft and the gearbox is smooth. The engine feels strong (50 hp, through a shaft-drive and five-speed gearbox) and the bike feels lighter than its 395 pounds.
The styling is classic, and the muffler report is divine -- a low, throaty sound that makes idling at the stoplight a sonic pleasure. The gauges are old school and timeless.
Moto Guzzi’s own website asks, "Who says you need a big motorcycle to reach far-away places?"
And that’s the curious thing. The Special feels little. I always felt like I was too tall for the old Ambassador, though I was never a hair over 6 feet. On the Special, I found myself knocking my knees into the tank and wishing there was a little more room between me and the foot pegs. I kept changing the handlebar position and my body position, but never felt entirely comfortable with the bike’s ergonomics.
That’s actually good news for smaller riders with shorter arms and legs -- female riders, for example.
Moto Guzzi's Michael Fiduk says, "With the line of V7s, the focus was not on making a competitor to a (Triumph) Thruxton to Bonneville. It was to re-imagine the classic Guzzi experience on a bike that's enjoyable to take on a long lazy Sunday afternoon ride."
The Special is just one of three new V7s headed for the market. Using the same frame, engine and components, Guzzi has also built the racy-looking V7 Racer and the naked version, the V7 Stone.
The Special has an MSRP of $8,990. The Racer costs a little more, the Stone a little less. All three are very attractive, and while they may not appeal to sport or performance bike fanciers, they could be very attractive to first-time buyers.
Long Beach Motorcycle Show: Erik Buell Rides Back
Long Beach motorcycle show: KTM hits the road
Long Beach motorcycle show: Triumph enters the touring market