The adventure motorcycle consumer has become shockingly monotheistic, missing many of the tasty delights from outside of the Teutonic territories, principally the recent offerings from Leicestershire, UK and Lombardy, Italy. For this short-term test, our team is looking at the adventure motorcycle from Moto Guzzi, the 1200 Stelvio. While the Moto Guzzi brand may be lesser known, they are owned by the Piaggio Group, Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacture. Moto Guzzi has a fascinating history, being Europe’s oldest (continuous) motorcycle manufacturer, and having spawned from aviation, the two founders starting their careers as World War I fighter pilots.
The Moto Guzzi is a handsome machine, with an appearance both classic and unique from the throngs of “look-a-likes”
The Stelvio was first introduced in 2008, and named after one of the greatest riding roads in the world, Stelvio Pass in Northern Italy. For 2012, it received a major freshening, most notable being the increase in fuel capacity to 8.5 gallons, the largest factory tank in the ADV segment. The air/oil cooled 1151 v-twin has eight valves and develops 105-horsepower @ 7,250 RPM. However, it is the 83 lb-ft of torque @ 5,800 RPM that is most present and useful in the dirt and when managing an expedition load in the streets of Antigua. The engine is simple and has proven to be perfectly reliable in our few months with it. It starts easily, settling into a heavy rumble, alerting the rider to the displacement, and once underway, the Quattrovalvole has a lustful note on acceleration. Observed fuel economy has been 40 MPG on the highway and closer to 32 on the trail- queue the massive fuel tank. The Stelvio is also a fantastic value, retailing at less than $16,000 with all of the goodies. That is almost $9,000 less than a similarly equipped GS Adventure (with premium package). You can buy the Stelvio and ride to Ushuaia for the same cash- think about that for a minute.
In more technical terrain, the balance of the motorcycle saved the day, as did the well-tuned suspension.
In the Dirt
Off-road, the Stelvio was a pleasant surprise, this particular unit fitted with new TKC80s and the NTX package. This travel package includes an aluminum skid plate (not designed as a ‘bash’ plate), engine guards, Hella lighting, hand guards and high-quality panniers. These panniers are well-designed with solid mounting and a quick detach system. They look good on the bike and would be thoroughly suitable to dirt travel. The Stelvio comes with thick rubber inserts to the off-road pegs, these insert easily removed with a 8mm bolt, revealing a reasonably wide and high traction metal surface. This also lowers the rider position slightly, making standing easier. On my first off-highway foray, I rotated the bars up about 15-degrees, which made for semi-comfortable riding on the pegs. A 30mm bar riser would make it perfect.
Initial impressions on the dirt are quite good, particularly for a 600-pound motorcycle. The suspension travel is just under seven inches in the front and around six inches in the rear. The upside-down forks are built by Marzocchi, and are exceptionally well tuned. I rode this bike hard on the first dirt trip and would never have pegged the travel at 6.7-inches. The entire structure is ridged and progressive, allowing for subtle damping on gravel roads but a reassuring ramping of both rate and compression valving with big hits. If the rider keeps the Stelvio rolling along, the weight is hardly noticeable and on par with other big bikes. It is well balanced and the bars are wide for leverage. This is not to say the Stelvio is a dirt bike, but despite its weight and modest suspension travel, it will go anywhere a big adventure tourer is intended to travel. Controls are easy to modulate, although I was gentle (perhaps unnecessarily) on the dry clutch. The ABS is fine on most dirt scenarios and fortunately (thank you Moto Guzzi!) easy to turn off with a single, large button on the right switchgear panel. In traction control (TC) position one, the TC is actually useful, controlling unnecessary wheel spin and saving the rear tire for more critical moments. The TC can also be set to position two, which is the most invasive for conditions like rain. Thankfully, TC can also be easily turned off, even while moving.
I now have two months on the Stelvio and hundreds of dirt miles, including some serious testing at our local proving grounds. I pushed the bike beyond what 99% of the owners would ever consider and it never disappointed, never failed, never crashed. I rode it off of massive granite boulders, jumped it and plowed through hip deep water; with each new obstacle I gained further confidence in the Moto Guzzi. This bike gives little up to the best of the big bikes on the dirt and thoroughly trounces some of the other heavyweight competitors.
Deep water fording is as good as anything out there, and in many cases better. The air intake is high, and at the back of the motorcycle, positioned under the pillion seat.
This sums up our first impressions of the Stelvio after 1,800 miles in the saddle. I have ridden this bike nearly daily and we are getting along fantastico! Our plans over the next few months are to push the bike further afield and take it on some serious road trips and overland routes. So far, the Stelvio has been perfectly reliable, but we need more miles to weigh in on ultimate durability. Look for more updates in the coming weeks for on road performance and a few modifications, then a complete evaluation in Overland Journal. We will also provide a final review, including pros and cons, along with how the Moto Guzzi stacks up against the competition. In the meantime, I am going to fire up that magical Quattrovalvole- Ciao!
Specifications: M.S.R.P.- $15,990
• New headlight fairing
• New 8.5 gallon / 32 litre fuel tank
• New windshield
• New saddle lining
• 1200 90° V-shaped Twin-cylinder “Four Valve”
• Single overhead camshaft timing system with decreased valve control noise level
• Two lambda probes
• New profile camshafts
• Single plate clutch
• New exhaust system
• Transmission with compact reactive cardan shaft drive
• 6-gear gearbox
• Euro 3
• High tensile steel upper dual beam frame.
• 45mm USD Fork, adjustable spring preloading and hydraulics fitted with a new set of progressive action springs
• Shock absorber with adjustable preload and rebound fitted with a new, stiffer spring
• Rear suspension with progressive articulation single arm
• 4 horizontally opposed piston front brake system with new 320 mm discs, deactivatable ABS
• Rear 282-mm disc brake, floating calliper with two parallel pistons. Deactivatable ABS
• Rear tire: 150/70-17
• Front tire: 110/90-19
NTX STANDARD EQUIPMENT
• ATC traction control
• Black satin-finish aluminum sidebags
• Cylinder guard
• Long-range lights
• Aluminum sump guard
• Hand guards
• Tubeless Spoked wheels (Alpina STS System)
• Extra large windshield with side wind deflectors