The memories of Mandello del Lario faded faster than they should have. Three years ago to the day, I visited the lifelong home of Italian motorcycle manufacturer Moto Guzzi and rode the last-generation Moto Guzzi V7 around Lago di Como, one of the most idyllic places on Earth.
The few fragmented scenes I can recall make clear why company founder Carlo Guzzi nested his factory on the east side of the Elysian lake: long tunnels cut through the bases of mountains as narrow roads climbed into the Alps and twisted through adorable villages, where white smoke billowed from stone chimneys, shaggy donkeys roamed front yards, and mountain goats skipped across the pavement.
Why then did the details of such a remarkable adventure seep so quickly from the soft tissue in my skull? Probably because I was riding an unremarkable, somewhat forgettable motorcycle.
While I appreciated the Moto Guzzi V7’s appeal as a characterful, docile, and handsome entry-level motorcycle from an eclectic Italian brand, the last-generation model neither charmed nor excited me, namely because its 750cc, transversely mounted, 90-degree V-twin lacked the power and pick-up necessary to entice and intoxicate. Now, if I had explored Mandello on the new, more powerful 2021 Moto Guzzi V7, I’m sure those memories would be fuller and fonder.
Moto Guzzi overhauled its V7 lineup for 2021, and the most significant update to the middleweight motorcycle is a new powertrain: a detuned version of the 853cc V-twin from the brand’s off-road adventure bike, the V85 TT.
The air-cooled, overhead-valve engine features shorter cylinders with lightweight pistons, a semi-dry oil sump, and a single mechanical throttle body, and it not only more powerful than the outgoing model’s engine but also runs cleaner and is more fuel efficient. In comparison to the outgoing V7’s “seven fifty,” the new V7’s “eight fifty” has 25 percent more horsepower (65 HP @ 6800 rpm) and 23 percent more torque (54 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm), and Guzzi claims that 80 percent of that torque is available at 3,000 rpm.
The elegant, mansion-lined shoreline of Lake Como feels like a faraway dream as I ride through the gritty, overcrowded loading docks of Long Beach, California on the V7 Stone Centenario, a special-edition version of the bike that commemorates Moto Guzzi’s 100 years of continuous production in Mandello.
The V7 Stone Centenario costs $200 more than the base bike and is distinguished by its soft brown leather seat, satin-finished silver 5.5-gallon fuel tank with a golden eagle emblem, and matte green side panels and front fairing. The appealing color scheme is an homage to the Moto Guzzi “Otto Cilindri,” the wild and beautiful, full-fairing, V8-powered race bike built in 1955 [below], with intentions of dominating 500cc grand prix racing, though overly ambitious and complex engineering kept the Otto from ever winning a race.
While the only thing racy about the 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone Centenario is its livery, the revamped motorcycle is dramatically changed by its running gear and no longer feels like a gutless, diffident bike that someone buys only for its fashion.
The new Moto Guzzi V7 is much more engaging to ride, and its shift in character is best enjoyed from a stop; the outgoing V7 felt hilariously slow off of the line, but the new model’s larger engine offers compelling low-end power that subtly coaxes you to push harder to amusing effect. If you want to make things even more interesting, you can entirely disable the Moto Guzzi Traction Control (MGTC) system, which also offers two levels of traction sensitivity, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I ride up and over the iridescent green Vincent Thomas Bridge into San Pedro, where I pick up photographer Heidi Zumbrun, who immediately compliments the V7’s appearance. For 2021, Moto Guzzi redesigned the bike’s side panels and shortened its rear mudguard. The dual exhaust pipes are beefier and form-fit to follow the natural lines of the bike’s double-cradle tubular steel frame.
Heidi and I agree that while the Stone’s six-spoke cast aluminum wheels aren’t our taste, we absolutely love the bike’s LED headlight, which has a running light traces the outline of the iconic Moto Guzzi eagle.
We ride two-up along the Pacific Ocean coastline, comfortable and content. The thicker, split-level seat is perfect for my passenger, and I appreciate the vibration-damping aluminum pegs beneath my feet. The new V7 has larger long-stroke dual shocks that are quite soft and are mounted with more forward lean to provide a cushier ride, even when there’s someone sat on the rear pillion.
Moto Guzzi also reworked the bike’s six-speed transmission to be “more fluid and precise,” with reduced gear noise and less play. Our ride along the coast is relaxed, easy, and smooth, until we come upon a twisty stretch of road and I politely ask Heidi to kick rocks.
Leaning into the first corner, I flash back to Mandello and remember how the last V7 struggled to exit from those mountain switchbacks, but this machine doesn’t struggle at all. It pulls hard between turns, feels stable in transition, and braking from the single front disc is substantial enough for this 480-pound [217 kg] bike. Moto Guzzi made reinforcements to the frame and headstock, and fit the bike with a larger swingarm that accommodates a wider rear tire and a larger shaft final drive and bevel gear that can better handle the bike’s increased torque.
The resulting V7 feels far more confident, much better planted, and obviously quicker than its predecessor, and when I pick up Heidi, we run full tilt through the curves once more before heading back home.
As I pull into my alleyway I feel somewhat smitten by the 2021 Moto Guzzi V7, but then I pull into my garage and park next to my Ducati Scrambler, and reality comes crashing down. Compared to the base Scrambler, the torquier V7 has a lower standard seat height and a much larger fuel tank, and is $700 less expensive than the Ducati, but it’s also 63 pounds heavier and is down on horsepower. For about 20 minutes I sit in my garage, comparing the pros and cons of each bike, until I realize: if this were the old V7, there’d be nothing to compare.
The 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 is easily likable, lovely to look at, and is far more fun to ride than its predecessor was. The thoughtfully executed, much-needed redesign adds the power that the outgoing bike wanted for without making it inaccessible to entry-level riders, and further accentuates the charisma and style that the V7 has exuded since its birth in 1967.
While the motorcycle I rode in Mandello neither charmed nor excited me, this bike does both, and one day I hope to ride the new Moto Guzzi V7 on the perfect roads that wind through the quaint towns of its century-old home.
Moto Guzzi | Words (and Otto image) by Chris Nelson for Iron & Air Magazine | Road test photography by Heidi Zumbrun