Kop Hill Climb 2014

Every year for the last five years I have done my day job and turned up to cover the Kop Hill Climb, which is a fantastic event, and very local to me. Like a small, friendly and less manic Goodwood Revival, it surprises every year with the wonderful mix of bikes, cars and machinery that turns up, either to run up the the hill, or display in the paddock (or both..). Here’s a small selection of some of my shots to give you a flavour. All photography © ITALIAN MOTOR magazine. More on Kop Hill here.




Moto Guzzi V7 Classic — 2500 mi Review

I purchased my V7Classic from Rose Farm Classics on August 8 of this year.  About 8th I passed through my first 2500 miles as the weather in Chicago begins to close out the 2009 Riding Season.  I think I could have cranked another 1000 miles out of the bike this year, but family and work prevented my riding on the Labor Day weekend and all day last week.  We can probably blame precipitation for a few more lost days.  That’s the way it is, balancing good riding days with happily accepted family responsibilities and work.

It's colder than it looks. Motionless at 44°.
It’s colder than it looks. Motionless at 44°.

Continue reading Moto Guzzi V7 Classic — 2500 mi Review

Michigan Moto Guzzi Rally Live with the V7 Classic

3:31– packing up, getting ready to leave soon. Too many delays trying to get out of town. I haven’t chosen a route yet. Guess I’ll just wing it, take 94 to the 31, head north and see if I meet up with some other folks.

4:19. On the road. Goodbye pic

6:30- Sawyer, Michigan, for water at a T/A truckstop

8:30-Holland. Got gas-42mpg. Pretty steady 80 mph cruise. Saw a little faster. Decided to take the “easy” way up through Grand Rapids. Checked the mileage to Interlochen, looks like I was about 100 off of my estimate for distance. Don’t know if I’ll make the rally tonight, the Sun’s down.

9:50-Checked into the Holiday Inn in Big Rapids. Temperature had dropped into the 50’s. Saw a couple of ex-deer on the roadside as well. Time change makes it actually an hour later. Beer and burger. I’ll hit the sack and get an early start for tomorrow morning. Continue reading Michigan Moto Guzzi Rally Live with the V7 Classic

Moto Guzzi V7 Classic — Second Week and 800 Miles on the Clock

This is the second review of my ongoing ownership of a 2009 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic. For the first part of the review, click here.

My second week of ownership of my V7 started with a rain day on a Saturday.  It rained so hard that I decided that I wasn’t going to ride until Sunday, where I would make a nice loop going to the Full Moon Cafe on Highway 41, then riding up to the Sly Fox Inn in Wheaton, Wisconsin before taking a bunch of back roads to my home in Oak Park.

It’s a nice loop to make.   The route involved a ride up the 294 towards Milwaukee and then dropping off at Deerfield road for the rest of the ride North on Highway 41.  After hanging out with the other 50-60 riders that show up there on Sundays, I planned a trip up to the Sly Fox where Vintage riders meet for Brunch and tire kicking.  Then the ride home involves skirting the lakes along the Wisconsin/Illinois border and then dropping down into Arlington for a jaunt down the 355/290 and home.  I think it’s about 200 miles or so.

I’ve ridden the bike just close to 800 miles now.    Continue reading Moto Guzzi V7 Classic — Second Week and 800 Miles on the Clock

Moto Guzzi V7 Classic Owner's Review — The First Week and Before

And so it was, upon the demise of my 1200 Sport and State Farm Insurance completely taking care of me, I took a hard look at what and how I would be riding over the next couple of years.  The 1200 was a great bike and I fully expected to replace it.  I purchased it because I wanted it for the long distance tours I had planned to get to this year and the next few.

I realized that my new job and just-outside-the-city lifestyle really meant that for the next couple of years, 99+ percent of my riding would be within a 150mi radius, with many, many days of riding through the streets of Chicago at 30-ish miles per hour.  This is not the venue, mission or best possible circumstances with which to operate a 1200 Sport.  This mustang needs road.  I need a bike that is a better choice for these distances, light on its feet and able to make me grin while I tackle the third-world roads of Chicago and surrounding cities.

You already figured that I’m getting a Guzzi?  Well I looked hard at the Ducati 1000GT, the Triumph Bonneville and even considered a maxi-scoot.  I hit the forums and asked more and more about the V7C.  The more I heard from the people that actually owned it, the more I started warming up to the idea.  Finally, I read a Wall Street Journal Comparison of the Bonneville, Sportster and V7 Classic.

Me and my new V7 Classic 8.11.09
Me and my new V7 Classic 8.11.09

So I now own one  Continue reading Moto Guzzi V7 Classic Owner's Review — The First Week and Before

My Moto Guzzi 1200 Sport is no More…

July 19, 2009

It was a typical Wednesday as I left work just after 6 at WMS. My Birthday was coming up and I was wondering what Sheila had arranged for it, as we make a big deal out of birthdays in our house.  I was traveling one of my usual routes home.  I have about 6 routes that I take on a random basis.  I think  it’s safer to ride this way because you don’t get complacent at intersections and other traffic hazards.

I was about a mile away from my office in heavy traffic; I had just turned southbound on Kedzie, just above the Belmont intersection.  Traffic in the northbound lane was bumper-to-bumper.  A silver car was peeking its nose out, trying to turn out from School Street and into my lane. I chopped the throttle and covered my brake.  Just like that it darted out in front of me.  I hit the brakes but it was too late.  There was no place to go, so I added more rear brake and went sideways, laying the bike down and separating from it cleanly. Continue reading My Moto Guzzi 1200 Sport is no More…

Scoot vs Guzzi as a First Bike?

I’m a fan of your blog, from north of the border in cheesehead country. We’re about the same age, though I obviously started the family a little earlier, as my daughters are now 17 and 20.

And, given that, I’m now thinking about getting a 2-wheel vehicle for which I’m not the motor. I’ve be riding bicycles thousands of miles a year for 30 years. I’ve had the itch to get a motorcycle since I was, oh, 12 or so, when my brother had a Yamaha 60. Put it on hold while I either didn’t have the money or had young kids to think of. Now that I have money and pretty-much-grown kids, the motorized 2-wheeler itch is like a bad case of poison ivy.

My tastes run very classical – air cooled twins, round headlights. I’m very small – 5’6, 120 pounds. My riding will mostly be my 10-mile commute to downtown Milwaukee from the north shore, along Lake Drive, but I also plan to get out into the Wisconsin countryside to explore a little farther than I can typically get in a morning of cycling. Ever been to Holy Hill? The roads around it are to die for. I also have in mind riding out to Minnesota, where my older daughter is at college, once in a while.

So, I’m thinking the Vespa gts 250 (or new 300) would be great for commuting, the Breva 750 ideal for fun rides and travel, and maybe the Piaggio BV250 is the compromise.

The x-factor here is that my wife is adamantly opposed to the whole notion. She has a pretty deep, emotional, irrational association with motorcycles, and has stated flat-out she’ll never go near one. On our honeymoon we had a very good time ripping around Nice, France, on a scooter, so I’m not quite sure what happened over the last 23 years. Anyway, it’s possible that a scooter will be less traumatic, and on the motorcycle side, a V7 Classic will prompt less of a visceral response from its classic styling.

I’ve ridden the V7 Classic, Breva 750, and GTS250, and like them all. I like the Breva a little better than the V7, but obviously there’s little to distinguish between them. It’s obvious the scooter is the better commuter. But there’s also the image factor of pulling into the garage at work. The motorcycle has a huge advantage there, I won’t lie.

So, I’m looking for your thoughts on whether you think I’m on the right track, or am I missing something crucial?

Well Ted! Let’s look at the factors involved:

  • You live in Wisconsin and will store the bike in winter.
  • You haven’t really ridden a motorcycle before.  Fooled around, but haven’t gotten a license, etc.
  • You like the classic, retro look.
  • You’re not a huge guy
  • You have a 10 mile commute.
  • You want to ride in the country, possibly make a Minnesota trip, etc.
  • Your wife is not really into the whole thing whatsoever.
  • You’ve ridden Guzzis and Vespas
  • Your friends are gonna put a mark on you whether you ride a scoot or a bike.

I actually have some suggestions that will help you discover which one you might want to go with.  I’ve got my favorites here, but I’m going to go “pro-con” and let you decide. Continue reading Scoot vs Guzzi as a First Bike?

Buy Your Moto Guzzi Locally

Dealer sets up bikes right before he sells them so problems are reduced. If there are problems, dealer deals with them promptly. Customer gets bike that runs great and he is happy, so happy that he tells all his friends how great his bike is. People that ride with him see how many trouble free miles he puts on his bike and how well it goes in the real world. Very easy to imagine that over all these years of a dealer doing business that way, there would be a lot of Guzzi’s in the area.

— an excellent quote from the Wild Goose Chase Moto Guzzi forum about Moto International Moto Guzzi

Jim Barron of Rose Farm Classics
Jim Barron of Rose Farm Classics

And that’s why you should buy locally if you have the dealer that is of this quality — and Moto International does have some peers across the country.  If you get a good deal on your Guzzi from someone out of town that’s set up quick and dirty, what do you expect the local dealer to tell you when you bring it in?  Are you telling your friends to buy from him?  Are you buying from him?  If you come in with an emergency and he’s got 3 bikes on his lifts from local customers, what can you rightfully expect?
Don’t go cheap up front.  I know very dedicated dealers in Thousand Oaks, Woodstock IL and Phoenix AZ.  I have talked on the phone to dozens of others, notably Mr Field in helping me diagnose some Eldorado problems.  Spend some time doing your research and talk to your local dealer about his services and policies.  Chances are you live in a city, so you might have a choice of vendors.  Take your time, build some trust.

I probably paid more for my 1200 Sport than I would have if I had purchased one from the internet, but I solidified a friendship with a guy that “deserved” to sell me the bike.  It has already paid dividends in the ongoing service and the absolutely flawless set-up of the bike.  I’d rather give my friends money — I know its staying in the community, educating their kids and making my life incrementally richer.

I liked it so much I Bought my Own!

Limited resources are commonplace in today’s economy, and our new house in Oak Park, IL also has limited space to put bikes.  Since moving there, I’ve decided to add another bike to my stable, but in agreement with my wife who really didn’t want to look out the window at too many two-wheeled critters, I decided that one had to go.  I had “loved” the Ducati ST2 and ridden the heck out of it over the last 11 months, but I never “fell in love” with it.  I didn’t have a lot of remorse about parting with the bike — now it was time to choose what to replace it with.

The 86 LeMans that I’d looked at last year was still for sale, even cheaper.  My checkbook was out.  Too many subject matter experts said that it was in need of too much work.  Between that and the 2500 miles’ distance, I took a pass.  I looked at SPs, G5s, a couple of gorgeous T3s.  There was an incredibly low-mileage Quota in Joplin. There was a beautiful 1000s.  I was going to get a Guzzi.  Just didn’t know which one.

My spanking new 1200 Sport
My spanking new 1200 Sport

Jim Barron at Rose Farm Classics chimed in.  “Why don’t you buy a new one and start a relationship with something that nobody else has ridden first?” he thoughtfully pitched.  I know Jim wanted to sell me a bike, and he knew which one it was that I had spotted over the espresso machine in his showroom. I trust Jim, but, well, he’s there to sell bikes, too.

I started doing the math. A Guzzi has a two-year warranty.  My financial outlay on a new bike will be minimal.  I already have my “vintage” Guzzi, which isn’t a money-pit but does require a lot of maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape.  Guzzi’s don’t depreciate much, so, if I buy it right, I won’t be out much in three years or so if I want to sell it then.  So I’m already sold.  Jim knew it before I did. Continue reading I liked it so much I Bought my Own!

Links to Moto Guzzi V7 Classic Reviews

V7 Classic on Roman Streets
V7 Classic on Roman Streets

I spent some time on the phone with Jim Barron at Rose Farm Classics yesterday.  I’m thinking about buying a bike from him right now (unless the right V7 Sport falls into my lap, which just doesn’t happen), and the subject turned around to the V7 Classic.  I’ve yet to plant my butt on one and ride it, but I know that will be happening in the future.

As we talked about the V7, we also talked about how much we liked Maxi Scooters.  The thing is, in Chicago, there are pot hole that will swallow you up.  I barely missed one last Saturday on Wacker that was more than 2 feet wide and at least as deep.  Had I hit that on the Eldorado I was riding, let alone a scooter, I do believe that would have made a spectacular mess.  Maxi-Scoots also aren’t getting any lighter, either.  Still love the scoots, and I’ve even looked at a couple recently for my jaunts around Oak Park.

So the question came up.  Maxi-Scoot or V7 Classic?  The Maxi-Scoot gives a lot of storage and weather protection, park-ability and style.  They are reliable, get great mileage and allow you to zoom just about anywhere you want, including freeways, with ease. How does it compare with the lightweight Guzzi?

The V7 has style all over it, since Guzzi basically pulled every classic goodie out of their refrigerator and made a perfect Dagwood Sandwich of style with this bike. Even the white color just fits it.  This bike is all style and all bike, without having a sinister bone in it’s body.

Is it reliable?  Reliability is a Guzzi hallmark.  I think there were a few years, pre-Piaggio, that might have been troubling, but I also believe that time is long past.  Even the latest recall on the Stelvio/Grisos was more for caution and getting things absolutely right for the customer, instead of fixing a potential disaster in the field.  A couple of the new V7 owners on the mailing lists that I subscribe to have had some niggling issues, but this bike is built on a well-evolved, solid platform.

I keep hearing that the V7 is “under-powered”.  My Eldorado has about the same amount with at least an extra hundred pounds to haul around.  I’m just buying that argument unless you’re comparing it to a 750cc hot-rod bike.  This bike doesn’t fill that role.  This bike is about enough of everything — a typical Guzzi with nothing to prove to anyone — the right-minded owner will bond with this bike completely.  It’s a great first bike, a great retro-bike, and I predict that it’s a great “Eastern City” bike, where there’s lots of stop-and-go, potholes, and openings that must be quickly exploited.

I have no dog in the hunt.  I haven’t ridden the V7 Classic yet.  I’ve been on a bunch of scooters, thanks to Piaggio, and I believe them to be superior products that are a blast to ride.  I think for me the V7 Classic would edge out the Maxi Scoot on three things:

  • I ride mostly with motorcyclists at the moment since I haven’t had a scoot in Chicago.
  • I take a lot of rides out in the wilderness.
  • I ride at night, and the potholes in this city come out of nowhere in the pitch.
  • Jim thinks the Guzzi is lighter than the biggest Maxis
  • Jim sells only Guzzi, and I’m pretty much of a completely biased homer in that department.
  • I would love a scooter, seriously love one, but I don’t have enough Motorcycles yet for the amount of money that I currently have to spend.  The sad fact is that if I had a scooter, I would probably ride it more than the bikes.  I’m just not ready to be so damned pragmatic in my life.

While I’m waiting for my V7 to test and ride around, I’ve been reading the reviews, and in doing so, I’ve decided to give out the links that I’ve found and share them.  Please feel free to comment with your experiences on the V7, good or bad,  if you have one and if you find more reviews feel free to add them to your comments:

(There’s a lot of UK in here, simply because the bike was available for almost a year in Europe before they were brought into the US).