You'll be seeing more Moto Guzzis around the suburbs

In the last 20 years, I have ridden three Moto Guzzi motorcycles and I have enjoyed them all. But all the local dealers went away in a very short period of time, so it's been hard for Moto Guzzi to sell their bikes in the Chicago area.

Fortunately, all that has changed. Windy City Triumph on Randle Road in St. Charles sells Moto Guzzis next to its Triumph and Aprilia motorcycles and Vespa and Piaggio scooters. These European brands have their own large showroom within Fox River Harley-Davidson, with a huge stock of models to see and test ride. And with the dealership being part of the Windy City group, you know it will be there for years to come.

Moto Guzzi is revered all across Europe, with its rich Italian heritage dating back 90 years. However, the bikes are relatively scarce in the U.S., except on the coasts, and in small pockets around the country. Moto Guzzis are also seen in many European countries as police bikes. They are known for quality build and reliability.

Moto Guzzi sells eight models, from touring bikes to sport tourers, adventure tourers and cruisers. In addition, its most popular bike for the last 50 years is the V7 III … with the Roman numerals indicating the newest third-generation redesign. There are nine different V7s available, all built on the same chassis. They all look different and each has its own riding characteristics. I chose the V7 III Stone to ride and review.

The single gauge cluster includes an LCD info screen.

The Stone is set up as a "standard" bike with a 5.5-gallon, matte-colored fuel tank in four colors, and the rest of the bike is blacked out, including plastic fenders, exhaust pipes, cast wheels, fork gaiters and all other trim.

The V7 III, like all Guzzi models, is powered by a unique engine and frame set up. The 90-degree, air-cooled V-Twin is longitudinally mounted across the steel double-cradle frame, with the cylinder heads protruding on each side of the bike. This layout gives the Guzzi that famous side-to-side movement when revving the engine in neutral. I find that movement much more subtle than the famous BMW boxer engine, and it's a more pleasant sensation. It gives the Guzzi its unique character.

All V7 III engines displace 744 cubic centimeters. And that is large enough to make this 460-pound (with all fluids) bike scoot around quite easily with enough horsepower and torque to be very entertaining in all riding conditions.

Horsepower is rated at 52 at 6200 rpm, with 44 foot-pounds of torque at 4900 rpm, with a very flat torque curve. The numbers on paper are far less exciting than the way the bike accelerates. Also standard is the Moto Guzzi Traction Control for wet or dry conditions, which prevents wheel spin on hard acceleration. The system can also be turned off.

Power gets to the ground via a smooth-shifting, six-speed transmission and a low-maintenance shaft final drive.

The sounds from the dual cone-shaped exhausts are quite pleasing, and more throaty at idle than, say, a Triumph Bonneville. When you crank up the power, the bark of the V-Twin is loud and strong until you settle into a cruising speed. That and some mechanical sounds from the engine and drive train offers a visceral feeling that one would expect from an Italian motorcycle.

Braking chores are handled with a single 320-millimeter front disc with Brembo four-piston calipers, while the rear features a 260-millimeter disc with floating two-piston calipers. Both worked well in bringing the bike to a halt, and with good feel. Unfortunately, the brake (and clutch) lever are not adjustable for reach.

The Pirelli Sport Demon tires, an 18-inch 100/90 in front, and a 17-inch 130/80 out back, offer good grip and stopping. Anti-lock braking (ABS) is standard.

The suspension uses a traditional 40-millimeter fork with Kayaba pre-load adjustable dual shocks, a combination that gobbles up broken pavement nicely, yet still is firm enough to feel solid in tight corners.

The bike feels light and flickable in turns and - thanks to the newly designed steering geometry - athletic enough to be quite entertaining when ridden aggressively. Lean it into a turn and it will track smoothly without any midcourse adjustments.

It has decent ground clearance before any hard parts touch down, even though the pegs are lower than last year's II model.

The ergonomics of the V7 III Stone are just about perfect, with an easy reach to the bars and the lowered aluminum foot pegs, so it will fit a wide range of riders quite nicely. The redesigned seat is quite comfortable and is just over 30 inches off the pavement. The front of the seat is narrow, so the reach to the ground is easy.

The mirrors are wide enough to see behind you, but they shake like a Harley Sportster at idle, and at certain times rpm as you accelerate. But they are mostly steady and usable while riding. I wish the bike had self-canceling turn signals.

A single, round gauge is all you get on the V7. It has a large speedometer and an LCD info screen that you can use to check out dual tripmeters, gear position, average speed and fuel mileage, the temperature, a clock and the Traction Control setting. What you can't check out is the rpm's of the engine. Shame on Moto Guzzi for offering excellent information on their display screen but leaving out a tachometer. That's the first thing I want to see.

Styling is retro chic, with the blacked-out trim, cast wheels, fork gaiters, single large headlight and some newly redesigned side panels and injector covers. Also, a locking gas cap is now fitted. The paint, fit and finish is also very good, and the wires are well routed to keep things looking tidy.

At a list price of $8,490 including ABS brakes, traction control, slipper clutch, Brembo brakes and Kayaba shocks, you get a lot of motorcycle for your money. It is $600 less than the least expensive Triumph Street Twin (with a 900 c.c. engine) and thousands less than the other Bonnies. This is a good alternative for the budget-minded buyer. You get a historic marque with uniquely Italian attributes in a fun, stylish package.

This can be someone's first motorcycle because it won't intimidate a newbie and will be easy to grow into. It can also serve well as a fun all-arounder for an experienced pilot. And now with a high-quality, stable dealership behind it, I'm predicting you will see more Moto Guzzis on our roads in the coming years. With its wide variety of model offerings, there is a Moto Guzzi for almost every motorcyclist's needs. So stop by Windy City in St. Charles and take one for a test ride.

• Email Glassman at

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