While the steely grey Moto Guzzi V7 Stone may not be the fastest motorcycle on the block, there’s a kind of magic in the Stone.
They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, which is true enough. But a rolling Moto Guzzi V7 Stone garners plenty of attention. I realize this as I walk outside and step down to the gravel parking area in front of the Deja Vu cafe in Jordan River, northwest of Victoria on Vancouver Island. This is the cafe of choice for riders in these parts, and a small crowd has gathered around the Guzzi with many questions and nods of approval. I’m not interested in being the centre of attention but the Stone makes this a bit difficult. After a few minutes of crowd adoration, I politely fire up the 90-degree ‘small block’ 750cc V-Twin and let it settle into a smooth pancake-batter idle, and I’m off. It’s the driest July on record, and I’m using this chance to ride the Pacific Marine Circle Route, one of the island’s twistiest, most scenic, and just plain fun rides.
The Stone is like a lot of other bikes, yet somehow quite unlike almost any of them. If you dropped a Ducati Monster, Triumph Bonneville, street standard, and Harley Sportster into an industrial blender and poured the results onto a layer cake of Italian design and classic Moto Guzzi heritage, you’d be pretty close.
Whatever the formula, it works well. Not only is the Moto Guzzi V7 Stone one of the most attractive, and comfortable bikes I’ve thrown a leg over, it also feels like one of the best handling. I say “feels like” because I’m not a pro tester, just a regular guy who enjoys a spirited ride from time to time and a bike that can pull it off. To me, it feels flickable, responsive and sharp. It’s right there with you no matter how hard you push, or how easy you take it.
On the tighter turns along the West Coast Highway, I soon learn the Brembo calipers clamping those single discs front and back are more than adequate, slowing the bike quickly from any speed. And the 22-litre fuel tank means 500 kms between fill-ups should be possible. I’ll need that range for the 260-km Circle Route that runs west from Victoria to Port Renfrew, then northeast through the scenic Cowichan Valley to Duncan, and south back to Victoria. It’s a challenging ride, with extremely sharp turns, occasional patches of corner gravel, limited visibility, sudden weather changes, unpredictable wildlife, few amenities for much of the way, plenty of traffic on the Trans-Canada section piping into Victoria, and enough land yachts yawning along the straights and lumbering through the curves to keep it interesting.
Over a two-hour period, I’ll see several black bears on the side of the highway, multiple bald eagles circling low overhead, and salmon leaping out of the ocean at the mouth of the San Juan River. Even in summer the air is cool and invigorating, the foliage deep green, and the ocean never far from sight or smell.
On a ride like this, the smooth torque of the Stone lets me squeeze more out of whichever gear I happen to be in. And on the quiet back roads, when it’s just me and the trees, the thump of the 750 twin prompts me to gear up and down a little more than I should just to enjoy the throaty burble. But it never loses its Italian smoothness, at least not until it’s revved past about 6,500 rpm, where it descends into a rather un-operatic vibrato.
For a bike that could be classified as “retro,” modern bits like Brembo brakes and an F1-inspired analogue dash are front and centre. The comfortable upright riding position, torquey motor, crisp handling and workmanlike performance really come together in the Stone where the roads are hilly and twisty. With five forward gears and a mere 50 factory-spec crank hp delivered to the rear wheel through shaft drive, the Stone prefers to be ridden below 120 kmh. But high-speed runs are not really what owning a Moto Guzzi is all about.
Neither is riding one off-highway, but that’s what I end up doing after following the advice of Paul, a 65-year-old motorcyclist who I later meet on a ferry leaving Victoria bound for nearby Salt Spring Island when I decide to make the short journey there to sample the island’s famous locally roasted coffee beans and laid-back lifestyle, and of course ride its twisty, scenic, pastoral roads.
On the ferry, Paul approaches before I have my helmet off. “I used to have a T3 Guzzi, back in Britain. How you like this one then?” he asks. Paul, who’s riding a blacked out KTM 650 LC Supermoto insists I ride up Mount Maxwell, the tallest peak on the island.
“A wonderful view of the water and the islands. The Guzzi will make it up no problem,” he assures me. “Good wide bars, torquey motor, lots of ground clearance. Just go slow. It’s mostly packed dirt and a bit of gravel.”
Turns out to be a little more than that. There are a good three kilometres of bumpy, rocky, gravel and dirt road that have me in first gear all the way, dodging street-tire shredding rocks and mag-swallowing ruts, standing on the pegs through the deeper gravel and sand, and reliving my inglorious motocross racing days.
But Paul’s right on both counts. The view from the top is magnificent, and the Guzzi makes it up like a ‘60s-era scrambler though it’s not without a few drawbacks. The stock suspension is adequate with some adjustability, but it can be quickly pushed to the limit, and is a little harsh over bumpy surfaces on factory settings.
The seat is fine for half-day rides, but by late afternoon the need for thicker foam becomes apparent. Finding neutral is at times a lot like Finding Nemo but I expect this will improve as the cogs get more miles on them. And while fit, finish, and assembly certainly seemed top-notch only time will tell how the whole package will hold up.
But perfection in a motorcycle is not what I’m interested in. I’ll happily trade a little comfort or performance in exchange for knowing that at any speed and in any gear there’s a hand-made mechanical machine—pushrods and all—propelling me forward, pretty much the way it has other Guzzi riders for close to 50 years.
The Moto Guzzi V7 Stone is a bike for all seasons, all roads, and every rider who wants a motorcycle that balances authentic heritage with modern design and performance. The true test of any bike comes when you return home from a 1,000-km ride, only to find yourself itching to get back on. If a motorcycle can even make me look forward to going to work, it’s magic.
By D.G. Hilton