The famed Italian marque has spent a century making beautiful bikes for devoted enthusiasts.
I’m brapping around Manhattan on a Centenary Edition Moto Guzzi V7 bedecked in charcoal and olive-green livery. An 850cc V-twin which makes me want to hit the Swiss countryside and find some barbed-wire fence to jump, à la Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
Sadly, the proxy has to be Park Avenue; a venue with its own inherent risks, challenges, and dangers. Madcap taxi drivers, lawless Uber drivers, mafiosi-pot-hole-riddled road surfaces, and entitled a—holes in overpowered German cars fit for the autobahn devoid of respect for other road users around them. I’m not convinced jumping the barbed wire fences is more dangerous.
But the V7 with its upgraded 850cc motor more than rises to the task. Once reacquainted with the mental gymnastics of accounting for the torquey pull of the shaft-driven rear wheel, the V7 gleefully played with the traffic.
Plenty of low-end grunt made for fun short-shifting just to hear the bassoon of the brap kick in while threading the needle of traffic. The stoppers worked, and one bro in a vest even gave a nod of congrats that I was mounted on such a stylish steed. The suit may have helped, but I’m happy to credit the stylish lines and limited-edition color combo of the V7.
Guzzis inhabit a special place in the world of motorcycles. One full of character, and characters who are drawn to these bikes like moths to a flame. The combination of thumping twin and shaft drive imparting a uniquely soulful interface with the tarmac. It should come as no surprise that the spread-winged eagle logo on each handbuilt bike is a nod to a friend of the founders who passed away just before Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi set up Società Anonima Moto Guzzi in 1921.
But Guzzi is more than just soul, and has often sat at the cutting edge of technology, as when in the 1950s it debuted the first motorcycle wind tunnel—still open for visits today at their Mandello factory—the brainchild of a close-knit team of extraordinary engineers who won 15 world speed titles and 11 Tourist Trophy titles between 1935 and 1957.
Then in the 1960s Moto Guzzi created their 700 cc 90° V-twin engine with the now ubiquitous shaft drive, destined to become the calling card of the Mandello manufacturer on such legendary models as the V7 Special, the V7 Sport, the California and the Le Mans. The engine has consistently evolved and today, flanked by cutting-edge electronic control features, it powers the most popular Moto Guzzi two-wheelers, including the anniversary V7 I am riding.
To memorialize 100 years of this fantastic marque, Rizzoli has come out with a book, Moto Guzzi 100 Years, celebrating the legendary brand in its centenary year. The result is a testimonial to the unique standing of Moto Guzzi, a brand that, a century after its debut, continues to embody the values of its far-sighted founders. Since 1921, every single Moto Guzzi that has gone out on the world’s roads has been assembled by hand, with loving craftsmanship, in the factory in Mandello del Lario.
This deep authenticity is the distinguishing characteristic of every Moto Guzzi, and a value recognized and shared by the ten contributors to the book from around the world: a famous actor, a writer, three journalists, an astronaut, a world-famous architect, a Harvard professor, a DJ, and a designer. Coming together to describe their love of motorbikes are writer Melissa Holbrook Pierson, actor Ewan McGregor, architect Greg Lynn, journalists Marco Masetti, Mat Oxley and Akira Nishimura, DJ Ringo, designer Tom Dixon, astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Harvard professor Jeffrey Schnapp, who also edited the book.
From London to Hollywood, Tokyo to Sardinia, Vermont to Mandello del Lario. A thread binding characters who love Moto Guzzi and what its motorbikes stand for, a passion that has created a common language among people from such distant places and with such different stories.