Italy has always been a country synonymous with desirable automobiles, beautifully crafted motorcycles, and, more importantly, equally fantastic food. Of all the motorcycle manufacturers to ever come out of the rolling hills and mediterranean coastline of this historic country, very few compare to Moto Guzzi.
Europe’s longest running motorcycle manufacturer, the eagle logo made its nest in 1921 among the scenic lookouts of Mandello del Lario in Northern Italy. They were bought in 2004 by the Piaggio group (Vespa and Aprilia, ring a bell?), but their history is a rich one, with many hallmarks in motorcycle racing and industry innovations such as the first motorcycle wind tunnel.
Enter the present day and Moto Guzzi has been producing classic motorcycles with touches of simplistic modernity and splashes of technology throughout its model line. The horizontally opposed V-twin engine and shaft drive have always been staples for the brand, and updated versions of its classic design have stood the test of time. Character plays a huge part in the brand’s recent growth, and the Moto Guzzi V7III Special looks like it ticks all the right boxes.
What is it?
The Moto Guzzi V7 has always been one of the most recognizable of all its bikes. 1967 was the year the first V7s rolled off the production line, and it has been enjoying steady sales and an increase in popularity over the years. Now on its third generation, and part of a lineup of other iterations of the V7 platform, the Moto Guzzi V7III Special features just the right amount of chrome bits and fantastic color combinations that make it look, well, special. Oh, and the spoked wheels are gorgeous.
The engine is an air-cooled 744cc transverse V-twin that’s good for 55hp and 60Nm of torque. Combine that torquey engine with a comfortable and natural seating position, and you have a platform for an accessible and “ride for days” motorcycle. It’s a lovingly put together motorcycle, with neat tucks of wiring, thoughtfully applied touches of aluminum, chrome, plastic bits, and a whole lot of faithfulness to its forefathers - it’s a motorcycle you can park and stare at forever.
While the blue and orange/silver stripe combination looks fantastically old-school and eye catching, I’m happy to report that the front and rear ABS and traction control come standard, upping the safety factor of the motorcycle considerably, and bringing it comfortably into the modern world.
Fuel injection is, of course, standard, as well as a comprehensive set of instrument clusters that indicate gear position, trip meters, and a host of warning lights. A fuel level readout would’ve been welcome for the 21 liter tank, but the low fuel light rarely comes on since the bike is a frugal 18km/l even with some spirited riding.
Switches and buttons all feel solid and well placed, there’s no rough looking parts or weird spacing to detract from the experience. There’s even a multimedia suite available that allows you to connect your phone to the bike via bluetooth to get data such as performance and trip info. Nifty stuff. Overall, just the right amount of technology that works in the background for a great ride.
What’s it like to ride?
It’s honestly one of the few bikes I’d start up and longingly stare at as the engine warms up; like savoring that fine wine after a hearty meal, or the last piece of perfectly cooked steak. The way the V7III Special shudders from side to side and vibrates when you start it up never gets old; just don’t leave your helmet or glasses on the seat, those are guaranteed to fall, trust me. It makes a throaty low end rumble that’s just loud enough to get anyone’s attention, yet quiet enough to slip into the garage late at night after a long day of riding.
Straddle the bike and you’ll notice that the seat and handlebar positions are so neutral that your extremities fall into place; it makes for worry free riding for hours, a far cry from the usual motorcycles we’ve reviewed where things start to ache or feel sore if you don’t shift your weight or take a break for a bit. Same goes for the pillion seat, as your passenger will enjoy the same comforts, making it a viable everyday commuter and tourer.
The shaft drive and transmission combo makes for some slick shifting, with no feeling of notchiness on any of the gears. There is, however, a weird sensation when downshifting hard, where the bike dives a bit, almost taken aback by your choice of gear, but that can be attributed to the torque and engine braking. It’s nothing to worry about and just gives the motorcycle a bit more of that character.
Buzzing around town is a breeze as you can clear most mirrors and traffic with ease, just be careful with sidewalks as the low twin pipes can create clearance issues. And we don’t want to scratch those beauties. It needs a bit more throttle when plodding along, as it can get pokey at times, chugging as if threatening to stall. Mix it up with the clutch, and after some getting used to, it’ll be second nature. Admire yourself in the shop mirrors and be prepared for conversations with random strangers, as every light is a chance for everyone to enjoy the V7III Special.
When the road opens up, the V7III Special will comfortably run in the triple digit speeds without complaint, easily topping off at 150-160kph. But that’s not the point of this motorcycle, as it rides happily in the 2,000 - 4,000rpm range, with enough oomph to overtake when desired. Take it to the mountain roads and you’ll find the chassis to be a willing companion. The front fork, while non-adjustable and not inverted, presents a good feel to the rider, while the rear suspension does the job well, and can be adjusted for preload.
The single 320mm disc with a Brembo caliper handles stopping duties, and provides for nice, progressive lever feel. The rear brake also dons a Brembo caliper wrapped around a 260mm disc. Tires, which are Pirelli Sport Demons out of the factory, are a great set of tires, providing all-around grip and performance for 99% of riding conditions; just don’t track it at the same level you’d track a sport bike. The brake and tire combo make for some exciting riding and confidence inspiring stops when you need it most, and that’s without the ABS kicking in.
I’m glad that Moto Guzzi is starting to make waves locally, with its distributor Bikerbox Inc, making the right decisions when it comes to product selection. It’s time that the Moto Guzzi name makes a comeback in the minds of local motorcyclists looking for a bike that’s rich in history and riding enjoyment.
The Moto Guzzi V7III Special is one of those few bikes that I would call an everyday bike; something you could commute, travel, and grab coffee with. You won’t look out of place at your usual hangout spot with the rest of the gang, and you’ll be sitting on over 90 years worth of history between your legs. And, compared to its rivals, the fit, finish, and fun factor are well worth the already attractive price of admission.
It’s a great package, and it’s worth that second look when shopping for a motorcycle, whether you’re starting out, or returning to your love for two wheels.