An entire generation of young riders carries a deep and abiding affection for ancient, creaky bikes. They restore Hondas from the 1970s into everything from faithful, neo-NOS rides to rattle-can rat bikes, exquisite café racers to palimpsests of McQueen-era scramblers. They scour weekend swap meets for original gauges, exactly the right taillight, and myriad other elements needed to make their projects unique if not utterly authentic.
Such an aesthetic is hard to pin down—it’s as varied as the participants—but the important element is this: Styling that's simple, elemental, and functional. In general, the mechanicals should be as unencumbered by technology as possible. No one loves the sewing-machine whirr of a single-cam Honda or the pop-pop-pop of a piston-port Suzuki as much as our modern hipsters. A bike that sophisticates consider too crude to be practical is just about right.
For the rest of us who don’t carry an ignition-points file on our keychains, there are these three: Harley-Davidson’s Iron 883, Moto Guzzi’s V7 Stone, and Triumph’s Bonneville. Three brand-new, still-under-warranty throwbacks—a trio of machines that fidget out of easy classification. They’re not totally about retro—though that’s the main idea—and while they’re not quite cruisers, they’re not precisely what you’d call standards, either.
Low and lean, the Iron 883 achieves this stance through microscopic suspension travel spec
All three can play the pedigree card, but of them the Harley slaps it down the hardest. Fifty six years ago, H-D unleashed the Sportster, and while the 2013 edition is in terms of mechanical makeup and build quality dramatically far from the original, it’s an apple that landed not too far from the tree. All Sportsters are small and spare, but the Iron 883 seems smaller and sparer. All of H-D’s ’13 models are unchanged technically, which means the company brought the Iron forward with new colors, including the fantastic Candy Orange of our test bike. Contrasting with the blacked-out, crinkle-finish engine and dark, polish-highlighted wheels, this root beer-esque hue works perfectly on all three, you-bet-they’re-metal pieces that actually sport it. One of only two 883cc Sportsters this year, the $7999 Iron is The Motor Company’s low-price leader.
Moto Guzzi has the most to boast about this year, thanks to updates applied to the whole V7 lineup. According to the company, “…the V7 is a completely new bike. A more powerful, faster, smoother, ecological motorcycle that is more comfortable than previous versions.” Guzzi says the engine is “completely reengineered” this year, with 70 percent new components. It’s heavily based on the old V50 powerplant, introduced in 1977. Air-cooled heads poke out ahead of your knees and shaft final drive, absent any newfangled linkages, follows a five-speed transmission. (Shaft jacking? Man up and deal with it!)
Icon in Iron: Harley’s 883cc V-twin spots horsepower to more modern designs but has charis
Big news for the V7’s engine involves fresh pistons that produce a 10.2:1 compression ratio (up a whole point) and are fitted with new rings. In the V7’s Heron-style head design, changing the pistons also changes the combustion chambers. Instead of a pocket inside the head surrounding the valves, the Heron design uses a depression in the piston head as the combustion chamber. Guzzi says the new pistons help improve power and increase fuel efficiency. Heads with revised cooling fins receive fuel and air from a new single-throttle-body Magneti Marelli injection system whose ECU benefits from two oxygen sensors in the head pipes. Mercifully, they’re hidden from view, near the lower frame rail.
The Stone is a new treatment for the V7 line, featuring black-matte bodywork, dark wheels, and sparing use of chrome finishes. (The white option has a glossy finish.) The lateral tank bulges and grooved side panels are classic Guzzi. It’s a handsome interpretation of famous MG cues done with obvious care yet stylistic restraint. Turns out the Stone is the most expensive of the three here, but still a modest $8390.