By Fish, with An DeYoung
Photography: Angelica Rubalcaba
Rider: An DeYoung
2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Moto Guzzi’s V7, and the debut of the V7 III iterations of the venerable line. Moto Guzzi is celebrating with a $9,999 chrome-tanked Anniversario version, limited to 750 units. The standard V7 III line-up includes the racy-looking $9,990 Racer, famous for the amounts of drool it induces in the selvedge denim crowd; the simple, spoked-wheeled $8,490 Special, with its classically-proportioned dual clocks; and the cast-wheeled, matte-painted $7,990 Stone, which I’d call the stripper if it weren’t so damn classy.
In addition to the expected marketing innuendos of charism, tradition, and heritage, Moto Guzzi has put quite a bit of work into the V7s: the frame has been “revamped and reinforced,” and features new geometry that “guarantees more dynamic cornering,” and the 90-degree, two-valve pushrod V-twin features new aluminum heads, pistons and cylinders, along with a host of other internal and external updates.
I got my first real taste of Guzzi life when Surj tossed me the keys to our tangerine V9 Roamer last year (“Middleweight Moto Guzzi – 2016 V9 Roamer” – November 2016). I was a bit leery of the sideways engine and lack of a chain, but the Roamer managed to endear me with its unapologetic quirks and personality.
That’s quite a feat, considering how deeply steeped I am in the world of the American V-twin.
The Roamer offers what I call style first ergonomics. To be more blunt, freeway speeds resulted in me clinging to the bars for dear life, as the Roamer lacks other effective ways to stay mounted. The upside: a sweet profile in store windows.
The Stone, on the other hand, puts you in a quintessentially standard, comfortable position. It echoes the British bikes of the Seventies, with an ever-so-slight forward lean, your feet directly below your shoulders. My 6-foot frame is right at home.
Riding the Stone is a blend of vintage-cool fun and modern convenience. The speedometer is emphatically classic at first glance, but also offers an easy to read digital display that’s managed easily by a single button on the left control. This display conveys information like fuel economy, gear selection, trip meter, as well as redline indicator and traction control settings.
The features controlled by that display are seamlessly blended into a convincingly classic and clean aesthetic, a package that works well, with a surprising lack of the usual mystery, quirks and idiosyncrasies.
At least not in the electronics. Riding any Guzzi is always a uniformly unique experience, a study in quirkiness, awash in old-timey feel: shaft jack, torque twisting and leaning. Things that seem to have been refined out of so many modern classics.
Yet the Stone rubs these eccentricities and peculiarities right in your face.
With the Roamer, what won me over was the engine—if there’s anything the Italians can do, it’s tune an engine. The V9 has a power curve that seems almost endless, yet it remains curvy. There’s none of this flat, boring stuff—the V9 engine has a mildly lumpy idle as if the cam has some healthy lift and just a hint of overlap in the duration. It smooths out at about 2k, but rewards aggressive throttle all the way to the 6,250 rpm redline.
What’s impressive here is how the V7’s smaller mill manages to feel almost identical to the V9, with only a near-imperceptible drop in grunt. The numbers reinforce that perception: the V7’s 744 ccs make 51 hp and 44 ft-lbs while the 900 only gets you a bit more: 55 hp and 46 ft-lbs.
I prefer how the V7 feels slightly more high-strung. The V9 is perfectly content to settle in and just cruise at 80 MPH, while the V7 wants you to run up and down the gears as if you’re in some sort of bug stomping contest. It has a very playful character.
The V7’s running gear is fairly typical for the genre list of components: 40mm conventional forks and twin rear shocks with adjustable preload. It’s not exciting on paper, but the Guzzi magic rears its head again and the steel cradle chassis makes great use of the tools it’s been given. The 17” rear / 18” front combo offers a lighter-than-expected turn-in while still maintaining good composure over the lovely road surfaces so common in the greater Bay Area.
As with any proper Italian motorcycle, Brembo supplies the stoppers, and they’re solid: I found the single front disc to offer good initial bite and a nice progressive feel, with enough power to facilitate hustling the bike through your favorite string of curves, Highway 36 for example. The bike’s dual-channel ABS is much more transparent than the V9’s system, which I termed “bipolar,” thanks to the rear’s slow actuation and propensity for significant skidding before kicking in: “like a spineless politician, the rear is something of a flip-flopper: both anti- and pro-locking.”
In addition to ABS, there’s two-step traction control, offering settings for wet and normal conditions. The wet setting is so invasive that none of us left the bike in it for longer than it took to say, “Well, that’s too much,” but like the ABS, the TC (in normal mode) doesn’t get in the way of having a good time—and if it does, you can turn it off.
But back to those twisties—oh yeah, the Stone is really fun in the twisties. It certainly oozes authenticity and style, but it doesn’t lose out on agility. Hard parts do find the deck, but minor adjustments in body position and technique result in more-than-enjoyable paces around the private CityBike test track.
No caveats needed here: approach the turn, squeeze the brakes, stomp on some bugs, pitch the bike over, roll through the turn, release the brakes, apply throttle, run back up through the gears. Repeat until satisfied.
With this third iteration of its V7 line, Moto Guzzi has assembled a versatile set of modern classic options, and the no-frills, base model Stone, with its $7,999 price tag, offers an easy entry into the world of looks-cool-but-actually-starts-reliably. Guzzi also offers a catalog of bits and bobs to equip the UIM Stone for almost any purpose this side of serious off-road or heavy touring. This is a motorcycle that doesn’t compromise on style or character, with a lineage that makes the word authenticity actually applicable in a literal, correct sense.
An: Romancing The Stone
For many years now, my mister and I have had a 1970 Moto Guzzi Ambassador in our garage. Heel / toe shifter, no brakes to speak of, and marks its territory wherever it’s parked.
It’s charming really.
The first time I rode it was downright terrifying. Stopping at intersections took foresight and planning. It’s like a two-wheeled tractor.
Last ridden at the Sacramento 2014 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, where it Hansel-and-Greteled a trail of oil for riders with even less functional motorcycles to follow if they fell behind, it’s currently on display at Shasta Smith’s Vintage Monkey in Sacramento, awaiting a rebuild of something… or everything.
It’s through this damaged lens that I view Moto Guzzi motorcycles.
But this didn’t stop me from attempting to escape the heat of Sacramento for a day twisting through the Oakland hills and beyond on our Stone with Editor Expensive Dirt-only Wheels. Unfortunately, it was uncomfortably hot by Oakland standards, and toasty enough even by Sacramento standards, that I wondered whether I should have just stayed in the Sac. So much for escaping the heat.
My first thoughts as we rolled the Stone out of the garage? A bit of a sigh, and an internal question: “Why didn’t I buy that little hot rod V7 Sport years ago?”
Maybe it was because my knees hit the valve covers?
So I threw a red boot over the Stone, and upon settling in, found that my knees did not touch the valve covers.
Damn. Did I imagine that whole “this bike doesn’t fit me” thing? Weird.
I’d planned ahead for the ride, remembering my last Guzzi-mounted jumping and jumbling about on the supposed roads of Oakland, aboard the not-exactly-ADV-spec-suspension-equipped Griso. That planning involved a sports bra to match my red boots, so I hopped on and fired old-but-new blue up.
The Stone (and other Guzzis) offer a familiar feel for me, with a bit of side-to-side reminiscent of my first /5 airhead, maybe like the Ambassador, although that thing hasn’t run in long enough that I can’t really recall.
It’s nimble and quick, easy to get used to, easy to arc through the twisties, and I quickly got smoother with each corner. (The roads did not.)
I overcooked it a little in a couple corners and discovered the single front disc didn’t feel quite as strong as I might hope, although it felt like vise grips compared to the “brakes” on my Ambassador. Front and rear combined turned out to be plenty stoppy enough, however, when the car that moved over to let Editor Big-Ass GS by didn’t bother to check for other vehicles before reentering the road.
Three cheers for covering the front brake! My “Least Likely to Crash the Press Bike” title remains intact.
My time on the Stone was brief—the usual chasing Surj around the East Bay hills, then down to the bowels of Oakland for a typically “gritty” CityBike photoshoot. Surprisingly we didn’t encounter any grumpy representatives of The Law this time, or anyone dressed up like one, tearing into a McMuffin while commanding us to leave with a threat of “I’ll tell my boss.”
In that all-too-short time, I came away with good impressions of the Stone. The seat is comfortable, the bars and pegs live in good locations—not like our chosen photoshoot ‘hood, somewhere between gentrifying hipster and oh shit we gotta get outta here.
It left no puddles when parked, and started every time with no weird noises. I was even able to match my nail polish to the pretty blue tank.