First Ride: Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 4V

A new adventure for Guzzi. Plus, a BMW GS comparo!

Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 4V - First Ride

Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 4V - First Ride

Moto Guzzi named its newest entry to the maxi-enduro market—the kingdom of BMW's R1200GS—"Stelvio" after the famous 9000-foot-high, 48-turn pass over the Italian Alps. Unveiled last November at the 2007 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, the Stelvio is an imposing bike that sports an advanced design and is dimensioned to offer comfortable accommodation for two, plus luggage. Originally, the bike was based on the powertrain and rolling gear of the eight-valve Griso 1200. A rational concept: The Griso frame proved to be by far the best in Moto Guzzi inventory. A glance at the Stelvio confirms this, but a closer look shows the diameter of the frame tubing has been sacrificed in favor of a larger (4.7 gallon) fuel tank and a more streamlined seating position.

Steering geometry, suspension and tire choices are designed to enhance stability and road holding. The chassis spans a wheelbase of 60.4 inches and offers an ample seat, adjustable in height between 32.3 and 33.1 inches. At the front is a very solid and functional multi-adjustable Marzocchi inverted fork with massive 50mm chromed tubes—no expensive TinAl plating here. The steering axis is set at a 27-degree angle and, in combination with the tall, 110/80-19 front tire, returns a substantial 5 inches of trail. The rear suspension is entrusted to the well-honed Moto Guzzi CARC single-sided-swingarm monoshock suspension. The rear tire is a 180/55-17, a versatile Pirelli Scorpion Sync radial. A generous 6.7 inches of front-wheel travel and 6.1 inches in back are intended for a high level of comfort on bumpy pavement, but a glance at the scale indicates that off-road jaunts might not be in the program: Claimed curb weight is 563 pounds. Stopping is via twin 320mm Brembo discs and the latest radial-mount four-piston calipers.

Powering the Stelvio is the same 1200cc, four-valve-per-cylinder unit from the Griso. In this form, it's rated at 105 hp at 7500 rpm—5 hp down from the Griso due to a "somewhat less liberal exhaust system"—while peak torque remains unchanged at 80 ft.-lb. at 6400 rpm. A new six-speed transmission helps extract the best from the motor.

The Stelvio is an imposing bike that offers a very comfortable riding position. The big 4.8-gallon gas tank (with internal glove box) puts the seat a little aft of the swingarm pivot, but the handlebar is placed within an easy reach by massive mounts that sprout back from the equally massive triple-clamps. For high-speed cruising comfort, a generously sized adjustable windscreen shields the rider. The Stelvio feels heavy (because it is heavy) maneuvering at low speeds, but at speed on the open road, the bike proves very surefooted, thanks to the massive rear tire and suspension that digests road imperfections in great style.

Despite a high center of gravity, the Stelvio can be easily locked into a good lean angle around low-speed hairpins. But as the road swings faster from side to side, the front end tends to run wide around medium-speed turns, requiring the rider to make mid-corner line adjustments. At high speeds down the highway, the Stelvio remains stable past the 120 mph mark, but as you approach the 136-mph top speed, a leaned-forward posture is recommended to prevent your chest and shoulders from making aerodynamic drag that can make the front wheel light.

Moto Guzzi confirmed that the Stelvio will be imported into the U.S., with an MSRP of $14,990.