Moto Guzzi V7 Classic – 20,010 Miles and Time for some Mods

Where has time gone?  I haven’t written anything about my V7 Classic in more than a year.  I guess life and the enjoyment of life kinda get in the way, plus just actually getting down to business and writing something out can involve a little mental effort.  Funny thing, life may have gotten in the way of writing more articles about this wonderful Moto Guzzi small block, but it definitely wove itself around it!

A long weekly commute for 18 months.

I took a position as an Enterprise Architect Consultant in Detroit mid 2010, and started an 18 month long period of living in an apartment in Grosse Pointe Park, MI, for 4 nights a week.  Weekends were spent at home after making the 300 mile journey back to my home in Oak Park, IL.

I started work around May 1 2010, and, until the riding season ended in Mid October, I never drove a car in Detroit.  Most of the commutes were made on the V7 Classic, so I was making two 300 mile trips a week on the bike, and then 30 miles a day commuting, along with some very fun trips, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Outside of Jackson, MI

Outside of Jackson, MI

The Little Guzzi was awesome.  I only had to take the train back to Chicago on a few occasional weekends when the weather was too rough to ride, and even then I had a couple of episodes when I got caught in a downpour anyway.  Except for a single incident, there’s nothing much to report reliability-wise, except that it just ran and ran.  I serviced it regularly at Rose Farm Classics, where I purchased the bike in September of 2009.  In 20K miles I’m on my third set of tires and I’ve changed the oil with the AGIP good stuff 3 times.  I got on the bike last night and it had 20K miles on the odometer.  With repairs, tires and maintenance,  I think I’ve spent about $2K to go that distance, or about 10 cents a mile before insurance and gas.

Today it’s snowing outside, exhibiting the fickle weather that Detroit has to offer, so I sit here and offer up my thoughts on what has transpired, and plans for next steps with the bike.

The Good News.

Bagged up with my 2 40 liter Hepco & Becker bags, with my then-250lb body, I was able to comfortably cruise at 80mph for hours on end up and down I-94.  No serious wind-blast around trucks, no real issues with handling or ride after swapping the OEM Metzlers for Pirellis, and no oil consumption or quirks.

I don’t have a windscreen, so I did get some wind blast, especially on blustery days, but I ride in leather and with a full-face Shark RSR helmet.  Both make it more than tolerable, and on hot days, the extra wind through perforated leather is quite welcome.  Side winds weren’t too bad, even bagged up.  I did notice that there is a slight tendency to a kind of extremely slow-frequency fishtail with the larger bags on the bike at speed — not noticable in the first 10K miles, but as I settled into the bike this became apparent after a time.  Without the big 40L bags, this completely disappears.  I think it had to do with a combination of extra rear weight with me and the bags on long trips, and the wind buffeting around the rear of the bags due to their width and prominence in the slipstream.

If I were to do it over again, I’d get the 30 Liter bags, but then you don’t get to shove a full face in them!

All in all, I don’t see a need for a flyscreen unless you don’t ride with a full face helmet. Then, definitely, especially in the Midwest.  I’m sure that I’ve managed to kill all the relatives of the mosquitoes and other bugs that sucked the blood out of me at neighborhood block parties!

A note about the Shark RSR.  It has a 3mm thick screen — F1 rated.  Stops a 22.  Very nice feature on trips when the unexpected rock comes shooting at you.  It’s also extremely light and well ventilated.

Around town, the bike was a dream on the street and local expressways.  My commute wasn’t that long, but it involved potholes, weird driver techniques and lots of stop and go.  The Guzzi is so well balanced that I found myself barely putting a foot down unless the bike had come completely to a stop.  You can ride your V7 Classic with very little body movement if you like, or you can engage it fully.  I have both the “banana” and “cafe” seats for different riding moods, and they both help you to ride the bike in the appropriate manner.  The banana is a better choice for long trips, but the cafe seat is great for around town and in the twisties.  $160 well spent!

Sometimes it rains in the Midwest.  Sometimes, meaning, well, more than my Arizona-bred bones are used to.  If you’re going to ride in this area, you need to expect to get wet once in awhile, and learn how to ride and cope with wet roads.  The V7 has very good manners when it’s not so nice out.

I often had the choice to go over I-80 via Toledo back to Chicago (long, straight, boring, but with good rest stops) or down I-94. A quick check of the weather would force me down to the I-80 tollway because weather moved through it faster.  I found that if it’s there’s any inclement weather anywhere within 500 miles of Chicago, the strip of dirt along I-94 50 miles north or south of the Indiana border is going to be the worst of it, every time.  It gets bad in other places, but…

Stuck under an overpass outside of Toledo

Stuck under an overpass.

It’s definitely worse in some places.

The “relatively” Bad News.

Pirelli Diablos do not like to be new and wet at the same time.  As the season started up in 2010, I was riding back from Rose Farm via a local lunch spot on a typical day.  It had just rained and I decided that a little Chicago Hot Dog Goodness was just the ticket. With about 60 miles on my new tires, a slightly wet road and a think paint strip about a block from my house, I ended up on my butt about 10 feet from my bike after pulling away from a light into a left turn. 5mph high-side.  I almost caught it, but I had taken my eye off the ball and just didn’t come back to reality fast enough.

New turn signal, new right footpeg and bend the brake lever back into place.  Only other damage was a mild scrape under the muffler where I can’t see it, and a scrape on the mirrors and a bar end weight.  Not even a bruise for me, other than the ego.

Another lesson learned.  Don’t go anywhere without a charged cell phone.  The only problem I’ve ever had with the Guzzi was a burnt out voltage regulator/rectifier that ended up roasting the charging system. This happened on a return trip from Detroit, right on the ramp that connects the 94/294 in Chicago.  At rush hour.  On the ramp. With a loaded bike. And a dead cell phone.

A passing Tow Truck finally covered my rear while I pushed the bike over the ramp, down the west-bound 294 shoulder (had to cross a very busy ramp to get there!) and up the first exit.  I then called Billy and the Boy motorcycle pick up.  5 hours later I was home, the bike was at Rose Farm and, a week later, I was out $800.

Moral of the story?  Not much, really.  Stuff happens.  Vibration had loosened the battery terminals over time, and I hadn’t checked them.  $800 was my “stupid tax” for not ensuring that they were tight, and thinking that it might have been picked up by my mechanic, who I hold blameless since there’s always lots to do, lots of distractions and he hadn’t seen it for 4 months.  Check your terminals, because I have seen others with the same failure.  Not cheap when you factor in towing and parts.  It “would” have been nice for Guzzi to cover this under warranty…

Let’s see.  Any other badness?  Loaded (250lb rider and 50lbs of “stuff”) with bags and backpacks, mileage drops into the high 30s when cruising in the upper 70s-lower 80s.  The fast-idle lever is just crappy and needs to be addressed.  That blue vapor canister hose going down the right side of the bike is ugly as hell.  I could use a little more light at night, at speed.

Those godawful mirrors have got to go!  What the hell!  I’ve had reports of people using 1200 Sport mirrors (really good!) and also extensions (more vibration?) — I’ve finally gone to bar-end mirrors, and they totally work.  Just take out the old mirrors, flip the mounting clamps upside down so the mirror receptacles are pointing down, and you’re good to go.  I got mine for $19 from Amazon.  They don’t fold, but, hey, they were $19.

Some nice long trips.

I took several 1500+mile trips in the Spring/Summer of 2010, the best of these being the Wisconsin Moto Guzzi Rally held in the Southwestern hills of that state.  I was sitting in my apartment, ready to go back home, and I called my wife and told her that I was going to go to the rally through the U.P. of Michigan.  At 5pm I set off, north on I-75 towards the Mackinac Bridge.  I arrived there at 10pm and decided to shut down for the night and see how pretty it could get in the morning.

I wasn’t disappointed.  I went all the way from Mackinac to the Rally (just 30 miles northeast of Dubuque, Iowa on the Mississippi) in about 7 hours.  The upper Peninsula is beautiful, and every small town you go through has the smell of fresh Cornish Pasties wafting under your helmet.

As Spectacular as the Upper Peninsula is, the ride through Northeast Wisconsin was, in a word, blah.  Madison is a beautiful city, and once you’re south of there, headed to the “Alphabet Roads”, things just get better and better.  Thank God there is at least some place in the middle of the US that isn’t flat!

Had a great weekend, seeing old friends and making new ones.  Fitz is a great riding buddy and Architect — he took me to Taliesin via some great curves, and stopping at the Frank Lloyd Wright family plot, we were inundated by the most vicious, bloodthirsty mosquitoes I have ever seen in my life.  They were attacking me through my gloves, and Fitz and I looked like fools as we sat there and talked, slapping the damned things off each other’s face and neck.  Finally one of suggested a better spot for conversation, and we were off to lunch.

By the time I got back to Detroit Monday night, I had covered 1500 miles in three days.  The bike had used zero oil, no burps or belches, and nothing but smiles and a little Calamine-lotion covered skin.

I’ve made two other trips of the same length in the last year, both of them on a southerly trek through Ohio and Indiana.  Great rides both, but until you get to the southern reaches of those states, there is NOTHING but flatness…

The new year, new season, new modifications.

Winter in Detroit this year brought me a new house and the not-so-lamented loss of my commute back to Chicago.  I left many good riding buddies in Chicago, and three great shops/dealers — Rose Farm Classics, Ace Motorcycle and Scooter (great vintage/cafe bike shop), and Motoworks Chicago (Triumph/Piaggio/Vespa/etc).  I gained massive time with my family, a seriously cool man cave, many new friends and an Aermacchi.

I’ve also changed the bars and mirrors on my bike in preparation for the new season.  I purchased the Norman Hyde “M” bars off eBay for about 45 bucks, and a set of bar end mirrors for the aforesaid $19.

I’ve only been able to put about 10 miles on it, but it really changes the “feel” of the bike and I can finally see out the back without making weird movements with my shoulders and elbows, and trying to discern through the vibration if there’s anything seriously dangerous behind me.  The bars move my weight forward, and since I’ve lost 40 lbs, I don’t look too much like a clown.  Look forward to a post about rearsets and a new paint job very soon.

It’s been a great 20,000 miles.  I’m looking forward to more time on my bike in better terrain and not always on the slab going from apartment-to-home-and back.  Look back soon as I complete my “cafe” build of the V7 Classic, building upon what others are doing in this space but going to a very different, original place with my own ideas.

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