Riding out of the Moto Guzzi factory gates in Mandello del Lario, nestled on the banks of breathtaking Lake Como in Italy, it was easy to imagine how the designers came up with the V7s of yore. Fast-forward a few decades and the 2012 V7 Racer more than lives up to its replica racer inspired roots.
Launched as a sporty version of the V7 Classic last year, the latest Racer incarnation is now the only sports-focused V7 in the new range, being launched alongside the touring-biased V7 Special and entry level matt black V7 Stone.
All three bikes now benefit from a revised 744cc, air-cooled 90º small block V-twin – it’s claimed to be 70 percent new, and the first single throttle body V-twin Moto Guzzi engine. A Y-manifold links to a Magneti Marelli 38mm throttle body, and delivers a claimed 12 percent extra power and 10 percent more torque, with a new ECU and two oxygen sensors, plus a new head that has higher compression (now 10.2:1), revised squish area, larger intake ducts and a more centrally positioned spark plug hole. There’s also new rounded cylinder finning and a new filter box, now moved under the seat for easy access. The new mill is also claimed to be 10 percent more fuel efficient.
The transmission has also received some attention in the shape of a new gear preselector aimed at ironing out some of the traditional Guzzi clunk and making changes more precise.
Design changes include the old plastic chrome effect fuel tank being replaced by a larger capacity 22 litre all-metal one which, thanks to clever moulding tech, is the same size but lighter than the old item, giving a claimed 480km range!
The wheels have also been lightened with the addition of new alloy rims as opposed to the older steel ones, and the overall weight saving is approximately three kilos – the new Racer weighs in at 179kg without fuel, which is considerably lighter than one of its main competitors, the Triumph Bonneville at 205kg dry.
Swinging a leg over the plush suede-topped seat, the V7R starts with a typically throaty rumble and idles nicely. Out on the winding narrow roads that follow the lake’s contours, the Racer is perfectly at home cruising at licence-saving speeds, with the revised V-twin feeling crisper and a little more eager than the older motor, yet still friendly and full of character. Low down torque is improved, and there’s more than enough grunt for everyday riding.
The V7R isn’t about diving from apex to apex; it feels like a vintage racer and so it should. That’s not to say it doesn’t handle: for the sort of bike that it is, it corners pleasingly well – the frontend feels planted and there’s plenty of feedback, while the 320mm single disc front brake combined with the four-piston Brembo caliper may need a firm squeeze to slow things down, but performs adequately. Gear changes are smoother too.
Competitor-wise, you’re looking at bikes like the Triumph Bonneville T100 and Thruxton, Norton Commando 961 SE and the Ducati Sport Classic. All offer more performance, but none provide as much panache and style, nor do modern retro as well as the V7 Racer does.