First ride: 2014 Moto Guzzi V7 review

Visordown rides the updated V7 Stone, Special and Racer

“DON'T fix what isn’t broken.” I imagine that was the Moto Guzzi team's mantra as they pondered over how to better the V7 range for 2014.

You see, since its launch in 2008, the V7 range has been of huge importance to Moto Guzzi. As of now, it’s the best-selling motorcycle in their line-up and sold in over 50 countries worldwide. Despite a declining 591-750cc naked bike market, Guzzi has increased sales of its V7s from 1,500 units a year in 2008, to over 4,500 in 2014.

No surprise that it doesn’t get many changes for 2014 then, and I almost don’t blame them. It’s always scary trying to shake up a good thing, especially for a small firm like Guzzi.

The V7 range is three models strong and consists of the Stone, the Special and the Racer. At the heart of each bike is the same 744cc v-twin that puts out 48hp at 6,200rpm and of torque at a staggeringly low 2,800rpm.

The Stone gets two new colour options for 2014, Rosso Corposa red, and Verde Agata matt green. It’s also been revised with a smattering of matt black treatment, meaning last year’s silver mirrors, handlebars, front and rear fenders, shock absorbers and side covers are now painted in black. The Moto Guzzi logo on the tank has a new gold finish too.

The Special gets new black spoked wheels and a two-tone paintjob over the tank and side covers. At £6,999, it’s £300 more than the Stone. With only two Special models available to ride on the launch, journalists were fighting to get their hands on the new orange and black edition, which harks back to the old Moto Guzzi 750S from the 1970s. It may just be a new lick of paint but it gives the bike presence, and die-hard fans will no doubt appreciate the nod to Guzzi history.

Add another £1,000 to the bill and you can secure yourself the Racer, a chromed-up single-seat café racer with milled aluminium rearsets, lower clip-on handlebars and adjustable rear shocks. The side covers and exhaust bracket are now anodized black too and the seat has a new brown suede finish, it’s all in the details.

Sat astride the Racer, I rode out of the Moto Guzzi museum in Mandello Del Lario, Italy; the high walls reflecting the cheerful gurgle of the exhaust. The clip-ons have you hunched forward, placing more weight on your wrists and reducing the steering lock angle at the same time. It’s not bad, just less capable at tight turns than the Stone, which has a more upright riding position and taller bars.

Our test route saw us through everything from narrow cobbled streets, to hairpin corners on alpine passes to steep climbs through the Italian countryside. It really was thorough, but what impressed me the most was the engine. It has bags of torque, more than the numbers suggest. Despite the long gearing, the V7 will tug along in almost any gear, at any speed, without sounding like a piston is attempting to make a desperate escape out of one of the large aluminium cylinder heads.

I started playing the V7 limbo, “How low can you go?” Very low, it turns out. Heading up a steep incline, I hooked third gear at 5mph and let the clutch out. The V7 pulled strongly with neither hesitation nor fight from the engine, just silky smooth power delivery. The fuelling is spot on too, whilst the light throttle action and clutch-pull make life easy during stop-start traffic.

Less impressive were the brakes. Each model uses the same Brembo setup with similarly disappointing results. I don’t expect it to stop like a sportsbike, mainly because it isn’t one, but a spongy lever, lack of bite and overall lack of power just doesn’t seem good enough.

I’m currently riding a Kawasaki J300 maxi scooter long-termer, it weighs 12kg more than the V7, costs £2,500 less, runs on 14” wheels and has both a smaller brake caliper and disc, yet I’m still convinced it would out-brake the Guzzi. And that’s a shame, it seems obvious that if you can accelerate, you need to be able to stop too, and right now the V7 only ticks one of those boxes.

I have to admit I was relatively happy to get off the Racer and aboard the Stone. It’s an attractive motorcycle but I couldn’t help feel like I was riding it for someone else’s viewing pleasure, as opposed to for my riding pleasure. The chrome tank might look like the real thing, but it’s actually just plastic with a chrome-effect finish. The same goes for the suspension, it looks smart but the front-end wanders wide on corner exit whilst the rear bounces around, giving little confidence to explore what the bike is really capable of.

I understand that some may appreciate it as a styling exercise, but for £7,999 I’d like a bit more than that. Right now, there’s nothing much “racer” about it.

Ironically, the Stone handles better than the Racer too. The wide bars give you the leverage to drop the bike into corners with ease, whilst the non-adjustable rear shock is firmer too, supplying a better ride with more feedback of what's going on up front.

You can really get stuck-in with the Stone and at £6,699, the cheapest of the three, it’s more forgivable for its flaws too.

It may not be the fastest bike at the lights, but it doesn’t feel underpowered either. And at 48hp it’s A2 licence friendly, meaning you can legally ride one as soon as you’ve passed your test.  I have no doubt it would make a great first bike too, the low 805mm seat height means even shorter riders should be able to flat-foot during slow-speed manoeuvres.

To fully appreciate the V7, you need to accept that it’s not trying to break any records. It is what it is, a motorcycle that places looks and character ahead of outright performance. It carries its heritage proudly and offers owners a piece of Guzzi history without the heartache of low reliability and expensive maintenance.

Model tested: 2014 Moto Guzzi V7 range

Price: Stone: £6,699, Special: £6,999, Racer: £7,999

Power: 48hp

Torque: 44.3lbft

Kerb weight: 179kg

Seat height: 805mm

Availability: now

Read our long-term test Moto Guzzi V7 Stone review