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Bike Profile - Posted 28th September 2009

Moto Guzzi Griso
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How does a modern Moto Guzzi compare to its classic counterpart? We asked Paul Morgan-Knight, well versed in the ways of the traditional V-Twin, to try not to destroy a modern model...

The Griso was originally revealed as a concept bike in 2002. The public loved it and wanted it. Unusually for a big manufacturer Moto Guzzi said 'OK: you want it so here it is!' and the Griso came into being in 2005.The bike was named for a character in a book written by an author who lived near the Mandello factory. The name means 'courageous leader of men', apparently. Initially it was an 1100cc bike but new Euro emission regulations have done for that engine. So we find this latest version with its four valves per cylinder and complex engine management system.

Note giant binoculars on horizon... Moto Guzzi Griso

The engine is a huge 1151cc monster, based on Guzzi's traditional air cooled V-twin; this gives the classic Guzzi looks with cylinders poking out in the breeze by your knees. The rest though is all a bit Flash Gordon, from the swoopy styling to huge figure-eight shaped silencer. The factory bills it as a 'Techno Cruiser', whatever that may be. If you think of Triumph's Speed Triple you are in the right ball park. From the wide bars to the rear set pegs and big tyres it's very easy to see the market that Guzzi were trying to capture.

I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks with this beastie; I think the idea was that if I can't break it then no-one can! I picked it up after a complete nightmare of a journey round the top quarter of the M25 on a Saturday morning. We were only 2 hours late! It was then straight into the traffic. Now I'd like to point out that it's been at least nine years since I last rode a really modern, up to date bike, and I had quite forgotten how good the cycle parts are. I was also really surprised as to how easily I slipped into modern bike riding mode too.

Note giant handlebars on horizon... Moto Guzzi Griso, from the other end

The initial impression is of a tall bike with big bars, but the riding position is a gentle forward lean and with my feet tucked up underneath me and it felt like it had a lot of ground clearance. Those bars need a bit of explanation they are literally shoulder-width and waist-height. Apparently Moto Guzzi had so many complaints about the width of the bars on the original Griso they have actually made them narrower on this model. I don't know by how much but they must have been big. The upside of this is that the mirrors actually give a fairly clear view of what's behind you, as opposed to your shoulders.

Once underway it felt surprisingly light and neutral. The weight I felt initially simply vanished. The engine responded nicely up to about 3000rpm and 50mph along the A3. It did feel a little held back though. Old school Guzzi engines always felt less strained at this speed. The view from the bars is clean and uncluttered with a combined analogue rev counter and a digital speedo out front. The speedo also contains loads of extra info too. Permanently displayed is the time, current ambient temperature, speed (obviously) and miles covered. The next little treat is a trip computer which has a trip meter (again, my specialist subject must be The Bleepin' Obvious) then by using a button at the front of the left hand switchgear you get average MPG, average speed, time elapsed and maximum speed attained. It does lots of other stuff too but as a man confused by light switches it made my head hurt. I set it to MPG and got on with familiarising myself with beast.

As we got off the M25 onto A1 I had a bit of a chance to open it up. It was fairly familiar Guzzi reactions until it hit 5000 rpm then it was a case of Ohmygodisthattheredline, change gear, big surge and repeat. It was at this point I dissolved into a fit of the giggles. The noise added to this experience by turning from a nice growly noise into a full-on bellow. My initial impression was that it was like trying to hold on to a charging Rhino, or in other words a whole heap of fun.

Note giant blurry thing on horizon. Oh; it's the bike... Moto Guzzi Griso: Secret spy-shots from MCN

Once I got back to Chez Destroyer I had a good chance to look over the bike and it bristles with nice little touches. Ordinary things like the brake and gear lever have been considered, these have an eccentric end and are adjustable, so you can fit the lever position and length to your foot. The front brake and clutch lever are adjustable for reach, and while we are on the subject of brakes all the hoses are nice steel braided items, rather than rubber. It oozes a feeling of quality and no expense spared. Again it's little things, like the Marchenisi wheels, the small smoked indicators, the wavy front brake discs and the oil cooler fitted to the side of the engine. The fit and finish of the panels is as good as the early Hondas I used to own: praise indeed.

Over the next few weeks I applied the Griso to my 70 mile daily commute. It's always a good test because it mixes motorways, fast A-roads and small B-roads with a tiny bit of urban stuff thrown in. I found the motorway miles quite tiring due to the riding position; because the bars are wide you get the full brunt of any headwinds in the chest.

However the A-road miles are great, with that big engine pulling you round and past any cars that happen be in your sights. As you open the throttle you are rewarded with that big meaty bellow and the surge of power pulling at your arms. The handling is really good although there are limits, as the chamfers on my boots show. But one of the things that the Griso excels at is exit speed from corners. You can lay it over through a roundabout and when you see the exit is clear, just nail it and feel the rear tyre dig in and shoot you out the other side.

The CARC thingie on the rear swinging arm must work because I could feel no effect of shaft reaction. For those unfamiliar with this, the easiest way to explain it is the motion of the spinning driveshaft stiffens the rear suspension causing the whole bike lift itself out of the corner, more commonly known as diving for the hedge.

Figure-Eight exhaust, sticky-out engine, wide bars; yep. it's a Griso...
Triumph Speed Triples on :

Over the next few weeks it averaged around 45 to 50mpg and according to the trip computer I was averaging 45mph. The EFI takes care of all the running. It even dispenses with a choke so it really is literally turn the key and push the button.

It did take a while to get to grips with the bike in general. A good test of how well I can control a bike is to be able to trickle along at near walking pace with my feet on the pegs using the clutch and back brake. It was nearly a whole week before I felt I could accomplish this happily.

Without sounding ungrateful for the loan, there were a few downsides. The fuel tank is tiny at around 16 litres (3.5 gallons) and even coupled with a fairly restrained 45 to 50 mpg it's still only got a range of 140 miles or thereabouts. The vibes once over the national speed limit are also a bit intrusive rendering the mirrors useless, but that may have been the surface of the private road I was on (ahem). The gearbox was also a bit clunky too. But you do need to bear in mind that most Moto Guzzis need at least 5000 miles before they even begin to settle down, and as this had less 700 on it at the beginning of the loan period it still has a long way to go and, hopefully, can only get better. Most Guzzis are like a lot of relationships; they need working at to truly appreciate them.

Note Norton sign on horizon... Moto Guzzi Griso

So; to the comparison. Is this new generation of Guzzi anything like the old ones? On one hand the answer is a big 'No'. The new engine has lost a lot of that agricultural feel that a lot of owners like, although you are still aware that there is a big powerplant at work because it's not as smooth anything from Japan. However this same reason makes the answer a 'Yes' because this is A Good Thing. It supplies that all-important character that Moto Guzzi owners (Guzzista) like.

The bike's looks and its strange engine configuration mean you do attract a lot of onlookers. All the non-motorcyclists at my work loved it and it even made me quite cool for a short while. The performance is nothing like any of the old Guzzis I've ridden. It makes so much power and so high up the rev range, this really is a rapid motorcycle, plus it's also quite addictive playing with it too. You can bask in the fact that a Moto Guzzi sets you apart from the herd, and that fact is the same as it's always been. To my mind it needs a few Tricolore stickers to A) denote its Italianess and B) they're worth a few horsepower, much like checker tape. If they put this engine into a California chassis then they will have one seriously good looking mile-muncher on their hands. If it goes into the Norge touring model then look out BMW -- the Italians are coming and coming hard!

Would I have one? I'm really not sure. For me, the tank is a bit on the small side and I'm not sure I could put up with the vibes at my natural cruising speed. But the rest of it more than makes up for it -- plus the way it put a stupid grin on my face most mornings was worth it.

Note power cables not on horizon; they've been airbrushed out... Moto Guzzi Griso

I'd like to thank Paul M for trusting me with his toys and I like to think that they went back in the box the same way they came out.

See: Moto Guzzis really are indestructible.

--------------------

The Owner Speaks

Yes, the bars are still too wide to allow for decent commuting in town and feel a little like a tiller on the motorway, but they are a whole two inches narrower than the original design. The styling, I think, is great and might be spoiled by a larger tank. Guzzi would argue that if you want to go touring then they have several other offerings that may be more suitable, most equipped with the two-valve heads, which offer greater fuel economy and low down response when compared to the two-valvers.

There are, however, too many tacky chrome 'farkles', the instrument pod, bar end weights and pointless shiny discs near the swinging arm pivot should all be finished 'nero', which would be much classier. I quite like the clunky box, slow but positive, and the steering, too, it's all typically Guzzi and you can feel the DNA running through it, there's never any doubt that you're riding a Guzzi, none. If it were 15Kg lighter then it would really tramp on, but it offers a solution to the 'non-Japanese bike that is sporty yet capable of comfortable two-up duties' without buying yet another BMW.

I love it as an alternative type of modern machine and it offers a taste of the idiosyncratic Guzzi philosophy but with an all round performance that simply shatters the older models. A 21st Century weirdo!

PaulM


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