Last year's Moto Guzzi V7 Classic followed Triumph's Bonneville and Scrambler, Ducati's Sport Classic models and countless Harley-Davidsons in recreating the sights, sounds and feel of years gone by. And now Guzzi has raided its back catalog again to create the V7 Café Classic, inspired by the firm's jewel of the early '70s.
The V7 Sport was the first true sporting Guzzi V-twin. Thirty-seven years later, the Café Classic recreates the Sport's look and feel, if not its all-conquering performance. It has the jutting air-cooled cylinders, clip-on handlebars, black-faced Veglia clocks and shapely fuel tank done up in signature Legnano green. While the upswept silencers and humped seat aren't strictly accurate (the Sport had horizontal pipes and a normal dual seat), they add to the racy impression. But where the V7 Sport was a superbike, its 21st-century tribute is designed as inexpensive transport with '70s style.
Like the V7 Classic, power comes from a 744cc, air-cooled V-twin first used in the Breva 750. The two-valves-per-cylinder pushrod unit makes a claimed 49 horsepower at 6800 rpm. The V7 Classic's steel spine frame is retained, as are a 40mm non-adjustable Marzocchi fork, twin Sachs shocks and wire-spoked wheels with a single disc brake at each end. The riding position is distinctly sporty. Though not particularly low, the clip-ons give the Café a stretched-out riding position, while fairly high and forward-set pegs make the bike feel cramped if you're tall. The flexible engine, light weight and low seat make the Classic easy to ride, and thus suitable for new riders.
The Mandello works mixed up a fresh batch of Legnano green paint for the Cafe, a '70's ben
The nimble Guzzi copes with notoriously aggressive city traffic pretty well. There's little of the traditional transverse-V-twin torque reaction when you blip the throttle, whose action is as light as that of the single-plate clutch. Straight-line performance is respectable. The Guzzi cruises easily at 75 mph, managing an indicated 106 mph flat-out. Enthusiasm for high speeds is tempered by a certain amount of vibration as revs rise towards the 7800-rpm redline.
Though short of V7 Sport standards, handling on twisty roads is good, assisted by reasonably firm, well-damped suspension. Stability lives up to traditional Guzzi levels, and you can flick through bends easily despite the relatively narrow bars. The shaft drive is unobtrusive, unlike its predecessor. Period brake feel is less welcome; the front disc feels like an old drum. No complaints with the Metzeler Lasertec tyres and generous cornering clearance.
Unlike the V7 Sport--which was hugely expensive in its day--this Guzzi is reasonably priced. Plenty of other bikes offer more performance for less money, but there's something magical about that old V7 Sport, and the Café Classic is an enjoyable way to recapture a taste of the'70s. Never mind last year's Led Zeppelin reunion. I'm looking forward to seeing a cover band at my local pub. And the Café Classic would be the perfect way to get there.