Personally, I think the numberplates may be a step too far in the quest for retro-racer chic, a little too “Ducas of Hazzard,” but it’s hard to find issue with much else on the Guzzi V7 Racer: red frame and hubs, drilled and brushed aluminum trim, suede seat and leather tank strap, shiny spokes, adjustable Bitubo shocks, super flyscreen, dual Arrow (Guzzi accessory) pipes…it all hangs together to take you back to the original Guzzi V7 and 1969, even if you’ve never been there before.
And in this corner, the Triumph Thruxton, named for a racy Triumph from the ’60s, which was named for a British race circuit. Just the name sounds fast. Parked next to the Guzzi, the Thruxton is less flashy, a little more seriously purposeful and less caricaturish of itself. Editor-in-Chief Hoyer calls its style “stodgy elegance,” a thing he should know, since his garage motif is overstuffed British.
What they both are, are modern “café racers.” We’re down with the café. As for the “racer” part, that’s stretching it. The Guzzi makes 38.7 horsepower at the rear tire and the Triumph makes 60.7. These are toys, aren’t they? After our nine-bike superbike shootout a couple months ago, how can we take two bikes seriously whose combined horsepower is less than 100?
Turns out it’s pretty easy. For one thing, the Guzzi, in fact, is a descendant not of the old V7 but of the small-block V35/V50 Heron-head engine Lino Tonti designed in the late ’70s. This means the whole bike only weighs 411 pounds without fuel—62 fewer than the Thruxton (with both bikes wearing accessory Arrow exhausts). Compare that to the 38-hp Honda Shadow RS we tested in August, 2010, which weighed 489, and the 550-lb. H-D Iron 883. The V7 Racer is really a tiny thing compared to them and to the old V7, and that light weight and the 80 x 74mm pushrod V-Twin’s torquey/revvy nature make 39 horses feel like a larger herd.
Once warmed up in the morning, which takes a couple of minutes and use of a nostalgic enrichener lever while you smell the roses, it’s easy to keep the 90-degree Twin spinning in its happy zone, anywhere from about 2500 to 6 or 7000 rpm. It’s never neck-snapping, but it’s never a problem to outrun traffic, either. Mainly, instead of metering out a small amount of available power, you’re grabbing a big handful. A non-objectionable amount of twin-cylinder tingle in the grips and footpegs reaches maximum at 4000 rpm and about 65 mph in fifth gear. After that, it cruises serenely along at 80-ish, and from there, the V7 has no difficulty at all pulling itself up to its full 38.7 horses at about 6000 rpm and 100 mph. Even a little beyond.