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  • September 9, 2011
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Ed Milich
  • 46 Comments

Goosing the Goose: Making a Cafe Racer out of the Guzzi V7 Cafe

Here’s the good news about Moto Guzzi’s V7 Cafe Classic: it’s equipped with the same charming small-block, pushrod V-Twin and simple chassis you may remember from the 1980′s. And here’s the bad news: it’s equipped with the same charming small-block, pushrod V-Twin and simple chassis you may remember from the 1980′s.

It’s good because the cute little bike has loads of character, is newbie-friendly, looks good and is priced right at just $9990. But then again, some buyers might feel 10 Large is a lot to pay for 30-year-old pushrod technology (and there are those who would rightly point out the fact that V-Twin pushrod motors are America’s best-selling motorcycle powerplants), never mind the old-fashioned suspension, bias-ply tires and simple braking system. Oh, and the 37 horsepower the bike makes stock would probably only impress owners of riding mowers.


Luckily, there are enthusiasts out there who like to make weird old stuff go fast. Meet Ed Milich. Racer, writer, mechanic, machinist, poet and raconteur, Ed specializes in Moto Guzzis and early post-bevel-drive Ducati Twins , and he knows how to make them go fast; over the last five years, he’s racked up an impressive 13 race wins on his annual pilgrimage to the AHRMA vintage races in Daytona Beach. One of those bikes is a venerable V65—so who better to help Moto Guzzi get some real power out of the V7?

Ed tells me this project is still in progress, so he didn’t want to reveal too many details. “You can say I did top end work to it—heads and pistons—and gained 25 percent more power and torque across the board.” In addition to the engine mods, he’s fitted a full Arrow exhaust system and worked some fuel-injection voodoo. Ed didn’t have a dyno chart to show me, but he’s confident it’s around 50 hp at the wheel, and since he claims his V65 racer makes 54 horses, another five or 10 seems attainable.

Ed bought my MD Project: Ducati Supersport Streetfighter Ducati Supersport streetfighter project bike, and when I dropped the bike off at his headquarters at Die Werkstat  in San Francisco, I asked if I could take the V7 Cafe home for some evaluation. I had ridden the V7 previously, and was not impressed by that bike’s handling, motor or…anything, really. But I do love how the Cafe Special looks, and was eager to see how much “lettin’ ‘er breathe” would improve the bike.

Even our riding-mower enthusiast friends would have to agree—boosting anything’s power 25 percent is going to make it a lot more interesting. And they are right. The V7′s short gearing and new-found 50-ish horsepower (pushing somewhere around 450 pounds) get it to flow-of-traffic speeds quickly and easily, and rocketing to 90 mph is easy enough, too. Over that and the motor starts feeling strained and buzzy, although it’s willing enough to rev and I’m guessing 110 mph or more is achievable.

The aged chassis and running gear are a liability, but also charming. The single four-piston Brembo front caliper and 320mm disc deliver just enough stopping power to keep things safe, the non-adjustable 40mm fork is squishy but does the job, and the seating position is a lot more humane than a real ’70s cafe racer. Plus, the seat is low and the tank is narrow, making the bike very appealing to smaller, less-experienced riders. After a while you won’t even mind the clunky gearbox.

The sound from those open Arrow cans is as sweet as you’d imagine, and combined with the “Legnano” Green paint, that may be all you need—a cool old bike with all the right visual and aural cues. And thanks to Ed’s evil genius, it’s fast enough to hold its own in modern, fast-flowing traffic situations. You don’t need 150 hp to have a good time, and this little Cafe Classic is proof.

46 Comments

  1. Gord Seifert says:

    Way too cute for me. The subject of the article looks about perfect to me. Understated. Looks like something to ride regularly rather than to park in front of a pub to impress folks.

  2. Tim says:

    There is much more to a good feeling bike than HP. If the bike is geared correctly the lack of hp can go unnoticed. If there is plenty of torque again the lack of hp can go unnoticed. Same is true for handling. If this bike has balance then one can easily find a road that makes this bike come alive.
    To me riding a sport bike on the Interstate system is as a boring a ride as one can get. So it’s not always about hp.

    • Scott in the UK says:

      I agree Tim – and I have ridden some bikes and done a few miles here and there. I hate to borrow an awfully overused cliche but why not –

      Moto Guzzi – if you have to ask you wouldn’t understand.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Well then, it must not be geared correctly or torquey enough because the lack of hp is definitely noticed. As for balance, I found that it did a great job of looking great parked and going slow in a straight line. It feels good at a very slow pace but easily becomes unsettled if you try to queue up some adrenaline.

      Riding anything on the interstate system is boring. I just happened to find the little goose to be boring in every other aspect of riding as well accept for putting around. Not saying I don’t like. I atually do and would prefer it over any cruiser or 250cc machine so long as I could get over the fact that I was paying so much for it.

  3. Bob says:

    I suppose it works for someone. I’m sixty years old and it doesn’t ring my chimes. My retro bike is a KTM Duke 690. 65 horsepower, 230 lbs. after you remove the passenger foot pegs. Oh yeah, the engine can be opened up also. There are two wires that you disconnect to reverse the lobotomy in first and second gears. And the price is the same as that for the antique, charming Guzi. Moto bella.

  4. bad Chad says:

    Wow, the ignorance on show here by some of you is stunning. This bike is not designed to be ultra fast, it’s a retro styled machine for god sakes. The bike handles very nicely and is great fun to bob around in the hills and mountains. The 40 hp at the rear tire pushes the bike to 105 mph, how fast do you want to go on a retro anyway? The thing some don’t understand is that the power it has, is available immediately and all through the rpm range. The torque line is super flat and solid.

    And to the price, you aren’t going to buy a newan Italian motorcycle for $5000, get real! This bike is no more for everybody than a Hyabussa. Oh, and to the guy who said ride it like a Harley, because it’s like the Italian Harley, I hope you don’t buy one. The small block Guzzi loves to be rung out, in a way no Harley ever would.

  5. W Bond says:

    I love Guzzis! I don’t care if the tech is old, it has character. People need to remember the reason for high prices on all motorcycles is due to the exchange rate and weakening dollar. So it pays to buy preowned! The V7s are great. I’m into riding for fun, not speed and again love the Guzzis for their old world Italian charm.

  6. Jeremy in TX says:

    I love the looks of the V7 Classic and Cafe. Very appealing. After riding one, I couldn’t believe how slow it was. The suspension, chassis and brakes were also quite unrefined, but since it takes light years to get up to 80mph, I guess that isn’t such a big deal.

    That said, I think it would make a great $5,000 bike. $10K is a league this one should not be playing in. I mean, really? How can it cost that much? There can’t possibly be any R&D or tooling on that bike that isn’t fully amortized.

    Cool that this guy is hotrodding it, but even at 50 – 60hp, it still wouldn’t be a value even at the base price, much less the cost of hopping it up.

    • Phil K says:

      I had a HONDA CX500 in the late 70′s and the horsepower was really sad. It made 50 horses, which is more than the Guzzi and not quite enough to have fun with. More is better and there is no reason why Moto G couldn’t offer at least 70 hp from the factory to make things a little more exciting. This is, after all, 2011 and the technology is available to make it happen. Oh well, I guess the company is happy duping people into the retro thing without investing any money whatsoever into making it a better performing bike. How much extra do you have to spend to get ED to warm over the engine? You can add that amount to the list price and then what is it costing you???

  7. Tom Shields says:

    Funny how 30 years or so changes your perception. I recall seeing a Guzzi or two on campus during my college days in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and they had the cachet of a Ferrari. They oozed Italian exclusivity and sexiness.

    I still think they’re cool, unique looking bikes, but the brand seems to be held hostage by its history, like an Italian H-D. What was (reasonably) high-tech in the day has become low-tech but still desirable in a funky, gotta-love-em kind of way.

  8. Fastship says:

    Corsa Italia make this bike look even better, of no faster:

    http://www.corsaitaliana.com/index.php?f=data_corsa_speedshop&a=0

    Even cuter:)

  9. tla says:

    10 grand? really? really???

  10. fast2win says:

    It would have been so easy to put in a 1200cc engine with the same styling. Looks cool though

    • Gabe says:

      They did…it’s called the V11 and Guzzi built them from about 2000 to a few years ago.

    • Neil says:

      Bigger means a lot more air and fuel into the motor which translates into terrible mileage. Not only that, but people keep talking about horsepower when there are plenty of high horsepower bikes out there. I rode a friend’s CBR1000RR recently. It’ll blow any pushrod motor into the weeds. With the 750 pushrod, power is not the point. If you go to Youtube and see the promotional videos made in Italy, the point is a charming ride around the city and the countryside. Sometimes it is nice NOT to have all that power and weight. The 1200 is cool but is also gives you more weight and the feeling that you’re riding a frightened elephant through the pasture, bad suspension and all!

  11. vato loco says:

    I’ve seen this bike up close at Werkstatt and it’s a beauty. But I’d wager that even with 36 rear-wheel horsepower an enthusiastic rider could have a blast in the twisties with the V7. BTW, the photo was taken on Twin Peaks, which offers a great 360-degree view of San Francisco, at least when it’s not foggy!

  12. Mike says:

    I owned the origianl Moto Guzzi V7 Sport way back in the 70s ……..the new replica of this has not changed much in 35 years. A few will like this, most will not, including me. Link to picture

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22686439@N08/2178217391/

    One of the neatest Moto Guzzi ever back then was the V50……500cc. Light, great handling and with some modest motor mods reasonably fast. Certainly equal to the SR500s, 400Fs and the like back then.

  13. vince says:

    Nice write up Gabe, sweet bike. Where is that lead photo with the nice city view taken?

  14. Phil K says:

    Lance Armstrong could beat the Guzzi in a race through the Alps.

    • bikerrandy says:

      This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a LONG time.

    • MGNorge says:

      I’ve been riding a long, long time. Some of my most memorable bikes had no more power than this does. I don’t think having high horsepower is the only ticket to having fun on a bike. Many times just having a trusty steed under you, making sweet music as it does so, on a beatiful day is all you need to enjoy life.

    • riley says:

      yep Lance makes the same horsepower as V7 and only weighs 180 including bicycle.

      • todd says:

        It has been reported that Lance can gneerate around 500 watts, a smidge over 1 horsepower. He can also crank out in excees of 150 lb-ft of torque so he should at least have no problem out accelerating Harleys, if not the V7…

  15. Phil K says:

    Just think of it as a really slow Harley with the engine twisted 90 degrees in the chassis. Then, drive it like a really slow Harley and you’ll begin to appreciate what the Guzzi is supposed to be; a bike designed for that relaxing ride in the country with plenty of twisty road to have fun on (cause’ you sure ain’t going to be passing anybody on the Guzzi and that includes the rusty old VW Bus plodding along in the slow lane).

  16. guylr says:

    The specs on the bike are 48,8 PS (DIN HP) and 198 Kg.Wet weight. Those translate in “American” to around 40-41 Rear wheel BHP and 437 pounds ready to ride with a full tank of fuel. About all I’d really want to do to it is trade the steel rims for alloys,install some aggressive brake pads and add a fly screen.

  17. Face of itch says:

    For those folks contemplating the relative value of the V7 Cafe vis-a-vis its most obvious rival, the Triumph Thruxton, please do consider what should be a very important factor when considering the purchase of a European bike; the V7 is all Italian and the Thruxton is a Thai product subterfugially draped in Union Jacks.

    Ironic, since it’s the unions that Triumph is attempting to stiff by producing bikes in Thailand.

    Anyway, a big, fat plus on the pro-con ledger to the genuine article, the pulchritudinously blessed M-G V7 Cafe, says I.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      If Guzzi produced the V7 in Thailand, perhaps they could sell it at a pricepoint that more closely matches its specs. Triumph isn’t stiffing anyone. They know where they need to set prices to sell their bikes, and they know how much profit they need to make on each one to justify being in business.

    • MalteseFalcon says:

      Triumph is *assembling* bikes in Thailand, they just send the parts and kits out there from UK. If you know of any major mechanical issues coming from Triumph’s Thai assembly plant you should let the company know. And let us Triumph riders know too, since these bikes are steady & reliable as heck.

      By comparison, my Italian-built Guzzi and ‘merican Harley both enjoy vomiting up oil onto the ground.

  18. LongRanger says:

    Really fun bike with terrific character. I found the stock HP to be more than ample in urban conditions, but more grunt above 70-75 mph would have been appreciated. I weigh 220 lbs. — for someone my size, the power was only sufficient, not reassuring, especially when passing a semi in a headwind or riding up a hill. There wasn’t a lot of roll-on power at highway speeds or higher. I found myself enjoying the scenery a bit more than I’m accustomed to. The handling was fine considering the characteristics of the engine but the suspension was not as compliant as it could have been. The bike has since been sold.

    • todd says:

      You should have down-shifted to get past that semi. My GB500 has a tad less power but can pass stuff on the highway, no problem.

  19. Dannytheman says:

    I’d have to ride this one for about 6 hours to see if it is all they say it is!
    I am never happy to be bent over in that cafe position though! But it might make a pretty commuter!

  20. MGNorge says:

    Weight incl. oil, gas, etc: 198.0 kg (436.5 pounds)

  21. Mike says:

    A ten hp bump on that bike would be fantastic. In stock form it will barely outrun an early-nineties GS500. They really are beautiful, but with no way to gear it lower, more power is the only real option. Great work.

  22. Denny says:

    Small block V7… that means Heron’s combustion space. Is it true? I do not believe this should be power limiter though since Morini did with same quite well in power department. I think Guzzi V-twin has been traditionally built a relaxed bike since inception.

  23. Scott in the UK says:

    Yeah a not a lot of horsepower, but it does distribute them pretty well. Like Randy I too have a Breva750, and have never found it wanting in any stuation one-up touring these last 7 years. Is it a rocket ship? No. Do I go with the flow on the motorway (average speeds over here seem to be about 80 on the motorway) – yeah I do. And when the roads turn hilly and twisty its mostly cars I leave behind.

    I have one of Eds sump extenders and its a work of art. Hope to be fitting it in the next few weeks to give my small-block some oil capacity in reserve.

  24. Carl Allison says:

    Stock, it’s 37-39 horsepower at the rear wheel. It has Heron heads and they’re really restrictive to performance. If anyone can extract more horsepower from that engine, it’s Ed. Even stock though, it’s a blast to ride, limited suspension and all. Maybe we just enjoy being throwbacks to a simpler time every so once in a while.

  25. Mickey says:

    Man that is beautiful, especially with the arrow exhaust, but seriously 37 horsepower? That can’t be right. The anemic Bonneville has 50 horsepower.

    I’m afraid 37 horses wouldn’t be enough for me, but man it is a thing of beauty.

    Really? 37 horsepower?

    • bikerrandy says:

      We’re talk’in dyno HP, not SAE HP. The stock motor is rated @ 48 HP. And 450# weight sounds awfull big to me. My stock `04 750 Breva(same motor) is listed at 401# dry by Guzzi and will do 105 mph indicated.