Exploring Los Angeles…

…from the classic saddle of Moto Guzzi’s new 2013 V7 Racer Record Kit.

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - in-action

Basking in the Santa Monica sunset

One of my favorite things in life is to point a cool motorcycle toward an unknown destination and take pictures when I arrive. Not snapshots. Carefully composed images that are rewarding to make, and view. I’ve been a professional photographer all my adult life, and interest in photography and motorcycles came early. When I was 17 I maneuvered my ’86 Yamaha FZ600 onto a high stone wall at a remote waterfall in Colorado because I thought it would make a compelling image. I nearly didn’t make it back to tell the tale. Adventure, I think it’s called, and I loved it.

When I learned that CW wanted me to explore greater Los Angeles and photograph a new Moto Guzzi in the sweet spots, I jumped at the chance. Sure, I've been to L.A. about 300 times, but there are so many layers to the place, you'd never discover all its secrets even in 1000 visits. That's a big part of the fun, finding spots you didn't even know were there.

Filling the role of the cool motorcycle: the 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer, already a desirable ride, but fitted with the prototype retro Record Kit fairing, seat and tail piece that will soon see the light of day in North America. She’s a beauty, and it’s more than skin deep.

More than 70 percent of the engine components are new this year. Increased power and torque (41.7 hp at 5970 rpm, 40.3 foot-pounds at 2650 rpm) are the result of redesigned cylinder blocks, heads and pistons, plus a new intake system with integrated ECU—it’s the first ever Guzzi with a single throttle body.

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit

Rest stop near Arrowhead

Other notable changes are new aluminum wheels, a larger capacity chromed aluminum tank and a new gearbox pre-selector that dramatically improves shifting quickness and precision. The optional Record Kit (available in the U.S. in early 2013, MSRP $1,999.99), however, is the cherry on top of the long list of improvements. Also adding to the fun factor: This particular V7 Racer is likely the only Moto Guzzi in the world sporting the new café Kit.

After a positive first impression—the quality of the machined components, the artistry of the Italian design—I got to know the new Racer in motion in the hills of San Pedro. The bike is small, light, and nimble, with a predilection for bends in the road. In other words, a perfect partner in urban exploration. An overall feeling of quality and solidity prevails, and the simplicity of the instrument cluster suits the retro theme perfectly.  The Record Kit puts the clip-ons a full two inches lower than on the stock Racer, and at 6-foot-2, I’m probably the tallest guy who could feel completely comfortable on the bike.

The overcast sky was bit of a dud for pictures that evening, so I ducked into a pizza joint for dinner. Emerging 55 minutes later (1 hour max on the meter), golden God rays blazed on the horizon, the kind of light that photographers kill for, or at least fantasize about. I jumped on the Racer and raced to the highest point in Pedro, just in time to snap the Italian machine as the giant orange ball dropped into the Pacific. Had I eaten pizza for 30 more seconds, I would’ve missed the epic shot. It’s good to be lucky in love and in photography, and the Guzzi and I had just hit the jackpot.

A storm was forecast the next day, so I considered sitting it out at home. But knowing that severe weather often creates opportunities for epic light and dramatic skies, I had to venture out into the disturbance. I headed into the high desert in an attempt to stay dry.

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - front-end

The V7 looks back in time

It worked, and I rode by a ranch house with lots of rusty old relics in the yard. “Scrap Iron” Mike was out front wrenching on an old ‘40s gas pump. Mike collects the cool old desert treasures that a lot of us love and sometimes photograph. “Take the bike out back and get some pictures,” he said. “That’s where all the good stuff is.” What a great guy. He offered to pull the Model A out of the shed, but rain was threatening and I pointed the Guzzi toward Los Angeles.

The Record Kit draws attention, that's for sure. I was surprised at how many Guzzisti came out of the woodwork. One guy tracked me down inside a Starbucks. He didn't even buy a coffee. "Is that your Guzzi out there?" he asked, with a kind of reverence typically reserved for rare Italian machinery or possibly even the Pope. He just wanted to talk to me, I guess, or maybe touch the hem of my garment.

Many people realize they're looking at something special, and really, they are. The Racer is bold and brazen, with its chrome tank and bright red frame and swingarm, but pulls it off in that way that only an Italian can. The brown leather strap artfully gracing the mirror-like tank only adds to the charm. This bike would look perfetto parked in a piazza in Florence—"a well-dressed Italian with a rich history," to borrow the factory's words. Can't say the same for a Honda or Suzuki.

As I headed into L.A. on the 10 freeway, the sky ahead turned black. Not dark. Black. Then, deluge. People in cars must have felt badly for me as I jet-skied next to them. About the time my leather gloves and boots reached full saturation, four out of the five northbound lanes were flooded with about 16 inches of water. The photographer in me instantly thought, “great picture!” so I stopped and parked the Racer in the middle of the freeway at the edge of the lake, pulled out my camera and wondered if it was dry enough to function. I would soon wonder the same thing about the Guzzi when a rogue big rig drove by through the deepest part, creating a wave that makes the image a lot more dramatic.

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

The Guzzi V7 gets wet

After a beautiful sunset that was rewarding to capture in downtown L.A., a friend invited me to stay the night in Malibu, rescuing me from the prospect of a long, soggy ride home and giving me a chance to carve some canyons in the bright, warm sun the next morning.

Old Topanga Canyon Road is a happy place on the V7 Racer. The drivetrain sounds produced under acceleration are pleasing, blending harmoniously with the famous Guzzi 'small block' exhaust note from the Arrow slip-ons. It's a rewarding bike to ride, not because it's blindingly fast (it isn't), but because it's a wonderful machine that sends endless pleasant messages to your nervous system. The improved gearbox is a joy, with smooth, precise shifts and great feel. It's easy to trust this bike in corners, too. The information coming to you via the Pirelli Sport Demons and the time-honored double cradle frame is honest and true; no surprises. The front brake is adequate, and you can trust it, too, as long as you don't ask it to... race. Yes, the V7 could use a bit more front brake, but the package is balanced and works very well.

I rode to Santa Monica, visited my friend Derek Hill and convinced him to drop everything and come ride his 1975 Honda CB400 Super Sport with me. He’s had the Honda for almost two years, and we hadn’t managed to get out with it together yet, so this was a great opportunity. The bikes complement each other very well, both small machines with style to spare. One is vintage; the other, vintage-looking but with good brakes and modern reliability. I’ll always remember riding the Racer up the Pacific Coast Highway with one of my best friends as the day came to an end.

Motorcycle riding is a strong metaphor for life, in a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” sort of way. Just think: If I had stayed home on that day when the bad weather was forecast, I’d never have had all those experiences, or these images that prove they all happened. I ride motorcycles for the freedom they provide, because I love to explore, and because I enjoy the mechanical intimacy they provide.

The 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer is much more than a transportation appliance; it’s a fun bike that backs up its solid hardware with a healthy dose of race-inspired Italian style. It’s polished, capable and fun.  And perhaps most poignantly, it made me feel like a 17-year-old high school kid again, going off on another memorable motorcycle adventure.

Grazie mille, Racer.

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer-Corvette Stingray

Guzzi V7 meets Corvette Stingray.

Sometimes something catches your eye, and you can make a solid picture right away. Sometimes you have to work up to it. I was drawn to this ratty primer gray Corvette Stingray, and I knew there was a shot, but spent probably 20 minutes trying various angles and bike positions before I arrived at this image. The red, white and blue from the building behind me reflected in the aluminum tank was an added bonus. What makes this shot work? The similarity in color of the bike's fairing and the Vette's primer, plus the angles in the seat and side covers. Notice how the chromed front bumper mirrors the exhaust pipe, and the Guzzi's side cover is almost the same size and shape as the sleeping headlight. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - in-action

Basking in the Santa Monica sunset.

The sun was setting over the Pacific in Santa Monica, and I chose to shoot these action shots in back-lit fashion. This gives wonderful shape to the motorcycle and lots of texture and color to both foreground and background. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - in-action

Cruising the V7 Racer in Santa Monica.

There also were some large white residential buildings at my back, giving a perfect fill light onto the side of the V7 Racer. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit

Rest stop near Arrowhead.

The sun was setting directly over the City of Angels from this vista point on the Rim of the World Highway near Lake Arrowhead. The light was remarkable and the atmospheric conditions added a lot of, well, atmosphere to this back-lit image. The bike is carefully placed and framed. The taillight is judiciously and subtly cropped out because it would have distracted from all the strong lines pointing to the sun. I placed a remotely fired flash on the rock wall just behind the historic plaque to add just the right amount of fill light to the side of the motorcycle and make the red of the frame really pop. The Guzzi badge on the tank also stands out particularly well thanks to that extra light. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit

Guzzi on the lookout, take 2.

This shot is all about the light quality. Liquid gold. The stone wall to the right of the image was blocking the direct sunlight off of the ground, which helps the Guzzi to stand out from the background ever-so-subtly. The placement of the bike and the camera height were carefully selected, resulting in this strong image. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - front-end

The V7 looks back in time.

Model A, meet Record Kit. The feeling of an intimate moment is created by careful framing and the use of a long lens (200mm). The darkness of the background, thanks to the covered shed, keeps the emphasis on the well-lit Guzzi. The rapidly changing sunlight was just perfect at this moment?directional, yet softened by the increasing storm clouds. (By Barry Hathaway)
V7 Racer Record Kit

Rusty relics frame the V7 Racer.

At Scrap Iron Mike's in the high desert, shiny paint and chrome contrasts with corrosion. The bike seems comfortable and happy there, the way it leans toward the signs. Blue sky and clouds give a sense of placement, and are important. Camera is on the ground. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit near Santa Monica

Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit beating the local traffic.

With this shot, taken right at rush hour, we needed luck to find the road clear of buses and SUVs. It's good to be lucky. Shutter speed was carefully selected to keep the Racer sharp while blurring the background to accentuate the sense of depth. The curve of the wall is a powerful visual element, too. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - dashboard/tank

On the beach with the V7 Racer.

The exposure setting for this shot was more critical than most. The intentionally bright sand effectively frames the motorcycle. The section of roof that's visible, and the rock cliff, provide a sense of depth and perspective. The lifeguard and swimmer were just doing their own thing; they never even knew I was there. I just captured the right moment and moved on. The truth of the reality comes through in the image, I think. I like the clear blue sky reflected in the mirrors. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

The Guzzi V7 gets wet.

Waiting for the jet-ski trailer on U.S. Route 101. Yes, I placed the bike here intentionally. No, I was not 100 percent confident the bike would re-start after being hit by these waves from a passing semi truck hit, but it did. Proof that adventure is sometimes found in your own back yard. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - right-side view

Neon and the Guzzi.

The instant I saw these red neon signs, I knew there was a great shot to be had. I like the silhouette of the bike against the saturated glow. More visible detail in the motorcycle would actually hurt the image. This lighting allows us to concentrate on the overall shape of the Racer, and see that it's very nice! (By Barry Hathaway)
V7 Racer Record Kit tank strap

Strapping good time at Zuma.

One of the most Italian features of the new Moto Guzzi V7 Racer is the elegant brown leather tank strap that contrasts so nicely against the chromed aluminum fuel tank. The similarity in line and color with the western horizon at Zuma Beach caught my eye. The sky reflected in the tank mirrors the blue Pacific nicely, and the brown leather shares tones with the warm sand. Precise framing and camera height selection make for a great image. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit in Long Beach

V7 visits Long Beach.

A streetlight provides illumination in this image taken at the Port of Long Beach. The mix of many light sources and the ominous transformer towers in the background give an eerie, industrial feeling. I waited patiently for an 18-wheeler to drive by on the overpass to complete and balance the composition. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer after the storm.

This shot was taken about 40 minutes after the surf shot up on the freeway?the calm after the storm. The camera is nearly on the ground to accentuate the depth that the double yellow line gives, and to show more of the dramatic clouds. The Guzzi is framed nicely by the white arrow, the double yellow lines and the palm trees. The guardrail leads our eyes to and through the motorcycle. The angle of the bike makes this even more effective. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - sunset shot

Sunset and the V7 Racer.

The colors in this sky might look overly enhanced, but they're not. That really was an epic sunset. The V7 Racer looks handsome from this angle (lying on the ground). A great way to start a photographic adventure. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit - left-side view

Desert living with the V7 Racer.

The Joshua Tree seems to be menacing or embracing the Guzzi in this image, shot in the high desert near Apple Valley in California. I played with several angles from the other side before settling on this one. (By Barry Hathaway)
Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record Kit

Guzzi V7 Racer reflections.

Pools of water occasionally make for great reflections. Ignore the No Parking sign. (By Barry Hathaway)