Moto Guzzi Claims the Vintage Crown
Running a vintage motorcycle takes a lot of heart, commitment, and sacrifice. They can be temperamental, sluggish by today’s standards, and difficult to maintain. Dealing with near-persistent oil leaks or spending weekend afternoons tracking down the right parts are chores that are not for everyone. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of owning a classic bike, you’d better make sure that the one you choose is worth it. The list of potential vintage steads is long and storied—Indian, Vincent, Norton, Ducati. But if you want the real crème de la crop, you’ve got to go with a Moto Guzzi.
Vintage Guzzis meet all the requirements to be truly lust-worthy rides. Rare? Check. Exotic? Check. Racing pedigree? Check. An emblem just begging to be painted on a garage wall? Double check. As with all things of quality, the pleasure is in the details. Italian machinery is not so much engineered as it is crafted, and a Moto Guzzi is no different. These bikes look like they were hewn out of a single block steel, aluminum, and leather the same way a sculpture is chipped out of granite. Every line on a Guzzi is a delicious curve, every part built for aesthetics as much as function. The proportions mark these steads as a vehicle more dreamt of than a Honda, the confident style shows no fear of Ducati, and the restrained aggression shows Harleys how it is done. Even if most people have never seen one and couldn’t tell you what a Moto Guzzi looks like, the bikes occupy the rare space of having general respect and name recognition. When the wide world puts your bikes on a pedestal of respect and admiration while having never actually seen one in person—that’s when you know you’ve created something special.
This recognition isn’t too shabby for a firm that has seen more than its share of ups and downs. The Moto Guzzi brand has changed hands more often than a library book (including a stint under De Tomaso), but through it all has remained the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer in continuous production. Worldwide distribution of these two-wheeled terrors has been spotty at best, but is currently growing again thanks to its latest owner, Piaggio.
So what do you get when you join club Guzzi and become a “Guzzista”? You get an Italian thoroughbred that has pioneered a whole slew of technical advancements (including the rear swingarm suspension and the first V8 motorcycle engine), as well as capturing multiple Isle of Man TT and world championships. You also get a inclusion into a community that is hell-bent on keeping these bikes on the road. You’ll rarely find a more friendly group of forum posters.
More than all of that, you get a motorcycle of aching beauty. Guzzis have always had a unique approach to the manufacture of their bikes, and that pays off in spades in their styling. From the delicate and rounded surfaces of the ‘69 V7 to the brutal angularity of the Le Mans, Guzzi has blazed a trail all its own.
Today the latest incarnation of the V7 carries on that tradition. With its pared down and neo-cafe racer looks, to its modern 750cc engine, it is a formidable machine. But if you want the real, unfiltered Guzzi experience you’ve truly got to go vintage. Yesterday’s bikes had a beautifully tactile conversation with their riders that has been engineered away on modern models. If you want to pick up a Moto Guzzi for yourself, you can always peruse eBay or Cycletrader, but for the best-loved rides, I recommend forums like Guzzitech or the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club. While it takes commitment to run a vintage motorcyle, a Moto Guzzi will make it all worth it and more.