I'm really very excited about this blog.  As I mentioned last time I'll be posting about gear, bikes and the occasional ride.  For the most part we will talk about helmets, gloves, riding suits and things like that, but every once in a while I'll be lucky enough to get a bike to review - what better way to kick this off?

I was fortunate enough to get Moto Guzzi to loan me a motorcycle to evaluate.  Before we get into the bike let's just chat about Guzzi for a sec. Guzzi is actually the second oldest manufacturer of motorcycles on the planet - right after Harley Davidson.   They are known for their quirky, reliable bikes and their quirky, reliable owners.  Of all different manufacturers out there only Harley even comes close in terms of brand loyalty among the faithful, they even have their own nickname - Guzzisti.  I myself own a Guzzi - a 2009 Griso that is the best bike I've ever ridden, and I've owned 16 or so different bikes over the years.  I'm not a Guzzi only guy but with the new bikes they have released over the past few months I just might become one.  I'm talking about bikes like their all new California 1400 Cruiser, which is an evolution of the California Highway Patrol bikes Guzzi launched in the 70's to their redesigned for 2013 V7 line of bikes, which are a line of small, nimble bikes loaded up with character and originality.

It's the V7 that Guzzi was able to provide me; they gave me a choice between their entry level Stone and their top of the line "Racer", replete with sexy red painted frame, chrome tank and a really cool leather strap splitting that tank right down the center.  

I chose the Racer, although if I were buying one I would probably have chosen the V7 Special, which is still gorgeous but not quite as ostentatious as the Racer.  See I'm kind of a shy guy.  No one believes me when I say that but I really am.  And the Racer has the kind of looks that really draw attention to it.  It's not just that it looks good.  It's got #7 decals on the sides and the small windscreen, that gorgeous chrome bodywork, very high quality components and a mildly aggressive stance that puts you in a lot of control.  Speaking of which I was a little nervous about the ergos, especially given that I'm 6' tall and quite a few servings of spaghetti over 250 pounds.  Turns out it was fine.  Despite the aggressive look the bike was extremely comfortable and stable during the nice long ride from Manhattan to South Jersey.

Another thing I was nervous about given my size was the bikes power.  At just 395 pounds it was pretty light, but with 51 horses on tap the bike certainly likely to be no speed demon even with a smaller rider.  In the end though I never wanted for power at all - the bike delivered everywhere I needed it to in the powerband, and felt quick and nimble on the highway for the most part.  I'm not saying it was fast - I would have really enjoyed about 20 more horsepower to help in passing situations but the bike performed well enough for me to be able to truly enjoy the ride.  

I love to make my bikes truly my own.  My favorite thing is to customize a bike so that it's hard to tell exactly what model the bike is by the time I'm done, yet still have something functional and rideable.  This bike is hard though, since it already has so much that is unique right out of the factory.  Hard but not impossible - first off I would change the stock pipes to something a little throatier that might eke out a little more performance; I'd probably look at Arrow or Agostini.  After that I would probably do something with the plastic cover on the back of the seat with the numbers on it.  Honestly it was the only part of the bike that didn't feel quite up to the rest of the bike in terms of quality, and losing the "me too" 7 decals would make me feel a lot better lol.

Overall my impression of the bike was terrific.  I enjoyed the agility of the bike, the ride, the adjust-ability of the suspension and especially the looks.  I could say here I wanted more power, but frankly there is something very rewarding about riding a bike that you can push to its limits, instead of having to be too wary of them and have the bike push yours.

The closest Guzzi dealer to us is in the Philadelphia area, Fast by Ferracci in Willow Grove.  They are primarily a Ducati place but they are a really knowledgeable staff and the owner, Eraldo Ferracci, is one of the great motorcycle guys in our time.  He did some work on my Griso a while back and lent me his own personal bike to ride home for a week. Who does that?

If you prefer a shop that is Guzzi and Guzzi only (as far as bikes go anyway), with an exceptionally high level of customer service and expertise, then you check out the place where I bought my own Moto Guzzi, Europa Macchina, in Lewisberry, PA.  It's just a couple of hours away - just south of Harrisburg.  Not only do they have Guzzi, but they have an incredible collection of classic Porsches and are a Morgan Three-Wheeler dealer, which is about as awesome a vehicle as you can find.  My dealings with Diane in sales were awesome, and the best part is they continued to be top notch well after the sale.

Next week we will talk about helmets; I'll be reviewing Bell's new Mag 9 Sena 3/4 helmet along with the awesome HJC RPHA Max (Yes I already really like it!) Modular helmet.

Good luck and ride safely.