Retrograde: 2012 Triumph Thruxton vs '12 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

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Retrograde: 2012 Triumph Thruxton vs '12 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

#1 Unread post by totalmotorcycle »

I thought I'd share this little review by By John Burns of CycleWorld from September 20, 2012 as it was a really good read.

Retrograde: Triumph Thruxton vs. Moto Guzzi V7 Racer When it comes to motorcycles, 2012 is a fine vintage.

Personally, I think the numberplates may be a step too far in the quest for retro-racer chic, a little too “Dukes 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.

Another surprising thing is how comfortable the Guzzi is. The suede seat is thick and a good width, including where it ties into the tank; the gooseneck clip-ons seem to be in an excellent spot for any speed; and the billet rearset footpegs are also ideally located—according to 5-foot-8 me, 6-foot-2 Hoyer and everybody else who rode the bike. Throw in 5.1 inches of travel up front and 4.6 inches out back, and you’re looking at a bike that makes it easy to decide what to pull out of the garage today. The V7 is as up for a quick run to the donut shop as it is for a longish commute (where its skinniness makes it excellent for squeezing through traffic).

In fact, the only thing we’re going 
to complain about is the five-speed gearbox. Long throws and a less-than-positive shift mechanism had some of us often needing to toe in upshifts more than once. And the front brake’s truly vintage master cylinder and non-adjustable lever don’t much help braking feel.

Hop from the V7 onto the Triumph, and suddenly you’re on a superbike! The crazy-fast eight-valve parallel-Twin (360-degree crank version) bumps past 60 horsepower at just over 7000 rpm as the classic, white-faced VDO speedo and tach spin out of control! The Thruxton’s probably good for a little more power when you remove the baffle from the $1099.99 Arrow 2-into-1 accessory exhaust our test bike is wearing (for Guzzi parity), but then it’s loud.

The beauty of both the Thruxton and the V7 is that you use their engines every time you ride them instead of just the lowest numbers on the tach. Using the Triumph engine around town is just as much fun as the V7’s, thanks to its spot-on fuel mapping and a precise, easy-shifting five-speed transmission.

What’s not quite so hot in town are the Thruxton’s slightly farther forward grips and inch-or-two too rearward rearsets, which grow a little proctological when you’re forced to ride at lower speeds for long. But the more airspeed you gain, the better the Thruxton ergonomics work, and bombing along at 80 in the carpool lane atop the plush seat is a nice, smooth place to be. By 90, quite a bit of authentic Triumph Twin vibration is coming through the handlebar, just the thing to remind you not to get a ticket. And in aggressive backroad use, vibration is what we had before the invention of the shift light. You’ll feel quite a bit of it before the Thruxton reaches its 7200-rpm power peak.

Most of the time, though, all is swell. Instead of being an exercise in restraint, getting to where the curves begin is relaxing on this pair of bikes: Instead of thinking that everybody’s driving slow on purpose just to stymie the jerks on the motorcycles, you think, “Gee, traffic is actually moving along nicely today. Aren’t people great.” Then you look at your speedometer and see 65 mph. On a modern superbike, that’s stall speed. On these two, it’s brisk motoring. And both bikes have no problem crawling smoothly along at 35 or 40 in top gear when traffic demands it.

Café racers? All we wanted was to be left in peace to have a chili tamale at one of our favorite “cafés” out on one of our favorite test routes, to have a nice, peaceful ride and regroup a little following a couple months of superbike shootouts and high anxiety.

And then a funny thing happened. Chortle if you must from the toasty saddle of your new Panigale, but Mike the Bike and other people went fast on machines like these back in the black-and-white days, and the Thruxton in particular is capable of creating an alarming facsimile of modern speed when all you had in mind was a vintage spin. With a dialed-in fork up front and a pair of progressively sprung KYB shocks bringing up the rear, the Triumph’s not afraid to lean all the way over on its skinny bias-ply Metzelers and maintain more confident, stable corner speed than you might imagine (some percentage of it due to the fact you know you can’t just twist the grip to regain lost velocity). Before the radial-tire era, it was more about the wide arc and conserving momentum bending into corners, a style that still works as well as it ever did on flowing public roads.

On those roads, the V7 feels less trustworthy, mostly due to a Marzocchi fork that’s softer and plungier at speed, and that feeds back less information from the front Pirelli. The twin adjustable Bitubos out back work better, and we sense stiffer springs up front would probably have the Guzzi right there in the barking-mad graybeard ballpark. It might be tougher to compete with bikes that make four times the horsepower and have twice the stopping power on tight, technical roads. But we know people who are willing to try.

Wait? How did this wind up being a performance test, anyway? It sort of just happened. Some of us are vintage-bike guys and some of us are normal, but these “modern vintage” bikes are lately exerting a powerful force on those of us who thought we’d never be masochists or able to get along with less than 100 horsepower. As it turns out, combining accessible performance with vintage looks and simplicity in a motorcycle with modern reliability makes for a fantastic package.

If you thought you were looking at a pair of parade motorcycles, you would be wrong. There’s a surprising amount of performance to be wrung out of the Thruxton and the V7, along with a level of friendly day-to-day usability and mechanical interaction a lot of “modern” motorcycles have a hard time equaling. It’s not that we can’t pick a winner. It’s that we can’t pick a loser. For more sporting use, the Triumph takes the cake. For everyday urban assault, it’s impossible not to grow attached to the Guzzi. We predict bell-bottoms will be back soon.

Moto Guzzi V7 Racer

• Shockingly comfortable
• Abnormally lightweight
• Shaft-driven and easy to keep
• 39 horsepower isn’t much
• The 2013 model’s supposed to have 12 percent more!
• 2013 also supposedly shifts better

Triumph Thruxton

• No wonder people race these
• Somewhat continuously refined since 1938
• The aftermarket is standing by
• You may be mistaken for a hipster
• You will buy parts, accessories and clothing
• Everybody has a long Triumph story. Everybody.


Moto Guzzi V7 Racer / Triumph Thruxton


$9990 / $8799

Dry weight

411 lb. / 473 lb.


56.7 in. / 59.2 in.

Seat height

31.4 in. / 31.8 in.

Fuel mileage

43 mpg / 42 mpg

0-60 mph

5.5 sec. / 4.2 sec.


14.35 sec. @ 90.29 mph / 12.94 sec. @ 102.23 mph


38.7 hp @ 5975 rpm / 60.7 hp @ 7320 rpm


37.1 ft.-lb. @ 5140 rpm / 49.6 ft.-lb. @ 5750 rpm

Top speed

104 mph / 119 mph
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