Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Motto_guzi_Stelvo_4V_TT_31

By Kevin Ash


Pictures: Milagro





Of all the manufacturers attempting to cash in on the success of BMW’s 1200 GS by producing rival machines, Moto Guzzi ought to have the best potential of the lot. After all, the basic specification of the GS – shaft drive, single-sided swingarm, 1200cc air-cooled twin, dry single-plate clutch, 105bhp – could just as easily come out of a Guzzi catalogue as a BMW one. And let’s not forget, in the past Guzzi was BMW’s main rival as a touring bike manufacturer.

 Motto_guzi_Stelvo_4V_TT_31Click on image for galleryFinally, last year Guzzi brought out the Stelvio, a bike designed to do exactly that: rival the ubiquitous GS. Even a small slice of GS sales would have counted as cashing in very nicely as the old Italian marque is reduced to cottage industry capacity these days, with sales now hovering around 8,000 a year, whereas the GS is one of the world’s best selling big capacity motorcycles. A mere tenth of the GS sales figures would represent an increase in Guzzi production numbers so great it would struggle to cope.

It might even have done it, if only the dealer network and marketing was up to it. But the dealers are too thinly spread and don’t really compare with BMW ones, while the bike inevitably suffered from one insurmountable problem: it’s not a BMW GS like Ewan and Charlie rode around the world. There was one more issue too: the Stelvio was powered by the same eight-valve engine as fitted to the Griso 8V – ignore the Stelvio’s 4V designation, it definitely had eight – and it was simply the wrong motor for this kind of bike, with too much peak power and not enough torque.

Enter the Stelvio NTX, which looks to be pitching more at the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure, with its stronger off-road bias. The NTX name comes from a 1986 Guzzi off-roader designed for the Paris-Dakar and Pharoahs rallies - the bike originally was to be called the Stelvio TT, but that's now changed. It’s based on the stock Stelvio with some additions, including an aluminium sump guard, hand protectors, a pair of aluminium side cases, engine protector bars and halogen spotlights. The rear wheel rim is narrower to increase the range of off-road and trail tyres that can be fitted – indeed, you can specify enduro tyres when buying new, though in practice the vast majority of these bikes will be used for touring.

More important than any of this, the NTX has a revised engine, with new cam profiles and airbox designed to boost mid-range torque. In fact although the claim for peak horsepower remains the same, Guzzi says it’s a little lower, maybe 3bhp, but they’ve left the claim alone as otherwise it would mean rehomologating the motor, which is expensive! More important, peak torque is up from 80lb.ft (11.0kgm, 108Nm) at 6,400rpm to 83lb.ft (11.5kgm, 113Nm) at 5,800rpm, a significant attempt to fill out that missing mid-range. Better still, the stock Stelvio will also get the new engine from this year too.

After all that they took us into the Dolomites to test the bike, which was great for the fabulous scenery, less good for assessing the engine as we were riding at an altitude of up to (7,500ft) (2,300m) which cut power by around 20 per cent! For that reason I’ll have to leave a definitive judgement until I get hold of a bike in the UK, but at least the signs were good. The engine still revs eagerly enough and despite the altitude I needed to change gear less than before even climbing some very steep and twisty roads. It’s smooth too, a lot less vibey than a BMW when revved hard but with at least as much character. Nor does it protest at being lugged along at lower revs. Gear selection is light, smooth and dependable, as on the stock Stelvio (and nothing’s changed here so it should be), and the fuelling is fine, the small amount of snatchiness the 08 Stelvio exhibited is gone, and the throttle response is easy and reliable.

The rest of the transmission is unobtrusive too. The clutch is revised for a lighter lever action and reduced mass to improve throttle response, while the carefully designed shaft drive-swingarm geometry working well to cancel out the vertical pitching which used to be a feature of Guzzis. It doesn’t dirty the bike’s rear end either and needs little maintenance. It’s often the case that shaft drive bikes have poorer ride quality than their chain driven equivalents, but the Stelvio soaks up bumps well, front and rear. It’s soft at the expense of some feedback which is as you’d expect on a bike of this nature, but you still get more information about what the tyres are up to than on a GS, making the NTX more pleasurable and satisfying to chuck around fast, and despite the conventional forks it doesn’t dive too much under heavy braking.

This is not a bike you’ll be flicking rapidly through corners, it’s tall, heavy and has a long wheelbase, but stability is good in turns and at speed, while the light, neutral steering disguises the bike’s weight very effectively.

Other features that are especially important on a bike of this nature – forget the dirt bike pretensions, it’s a long distance tourer – include comfort and fuel range. The seat is very roomy and all-day comfortable, and the same applies to the passenger accommodation, although the panniers prevent the pillion from resting the balls of his or her feet on the footrests, so they’re pushed forward and can interfere with the rider’s. Inevitably the rider does need to be tall as even in the lowest of its two height positions the seat is a 820mm from the ground. It can be raised to 840mm if required, but it’s still not as high as the BMW GS’s lofty 850/870mm seat, which could be an important advantage to some riders looking at the two. Having said that, BMW has special low versions of many of its bikes, including the GS.

The bars are wide and the footrests positioned to allow plenty of legroom, while there’s some scope for adjusting both the gear lever and rear brake lever to match small or large feet, while the screen’s height can be adjusted manually without leaving the seat or using tools. In the high position most riders will find the airflow quiet and smooth, although taller ones still get some wind noise. The fuel capacity is two litres less than the GS’s at 4 gallons (18 litres), and although we didn’t get an opportunity to measure fuel consumption, you’d hope for a larger tank than this on a bike made for the long haul – as it is, 200 miles (300km) should pass before the tank runs dry, which is not too bad. A big tank option like the GS Adventure’s 7.3 gallons (33 litres) would be popular though, I’m sure.

ABS is standard on the NTX and this works well, smooth without increasing braking distances noticeably, but the panniers are irritating as you always need the key to open them, which means switching off the bike’s ignition every time you want to get something out unless you keep the key separate. And then it would be easy to lose.

The on-board computer is comprehensive too, including fuel consumption, average speed, trip time and other info in addition to the most essential.

Which leaves the looks. Certainly the bike has a strong presence and its size is well disguised by attractive lines – the NTX extras add purposefulness too. It’s only around the headlights that things stop working so well visually as these are rather gawky, but generally it’s a good looking bike. It’s only available in a military matt green though, so if you don’t like that, go for a GS, stock Stelvio or KTM.

The big question is, does it match the BMW? Now that the engine’s torque has been sorted (probably...) I’ll stick my neck out and say yes. The handling is better in that it has superior feedback, reliability will be as good or better than the BMW (these are still having quite a few problems while modern Guzzis are proving dependable generally), and comfort over long distances is good. I’d have the Guzzi in preference now, although that’s also swayed by the fact that there are so many GSs around and I like to have something a little different. But I’d be happy knowing I wasn’t now paying a significant price for my individuality.

Talking of which, the Guzzi’s £11,300 showroom tag, plus around £150 on-the-road charges, does make it look costly compared to the GS’s £9,425. But when you add the ABS, panniers and on board computer, options on the BMW, you’re up to 1200 GS SE spec, and that’s £11,400. In other words, not a lot in it in this respect, making the Guzzi at the very least a considered alternative.

* See the 2009 Milan Show Moto Guzzi Concept Bikes here!

Price: £11,450

Available: now

Contact: Promark, 01293 823890
www.motoguzzi.com

Related Technical feature:
* Moto Guzzi CARC shaft drive


granitehead
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Joined: 05/02/2009

The designer of this bike is clearly a big Muppets fan and his favourite character is Beaker. The resemblance is uncanny (do a Google search and tell me I'm wrong), especially when the rider is wearing red-topped leathers!
I reckon the Stelvio could be aimed at a niche market previously unrecognised by bike manufacturers. Those riders who own small, furry pets such as hamsters now have the ideal motorcycle with which to take them for a ride. And the cage is cunningly disguised as a sump guard. Excellent!
Anyway, apart from that it looks like a much-improved second attempt.

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

You know what, I am a fan of this bike but I really can't disagree with you about the the Beaker reference - and I can remember him without the need to search!
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Thanks for giving me a wee laugh and from now on Beaker it is. I would still have one of them though.

kevash
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Joined: 05/10/2008

Okay, you decide:

loubike
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Joined: 08/01/2009

Fantastic review. I think the Stelvio and especially this new color is actually gorgeous. I'm so happy to see MG getting a good bit of positive press these days because I think they are producing some dependable and great machines. Here in the States the V7 is doing wonderfully well. It wouldn't surprise me if Guzzi sticks the Bellagio engine in a V7 styled setup soon.

As for me, if all goes well I'll be selling my '01 Moto Guzzi Special and getting an amazingly priced Breva 1200 Sport as my first new bike. I need a great looking all arounder and that one is really it, I think. I'll put some luggage and a higher handlebar on it and tour I go. It's not an R1200R but it's damn close and for about 5,000 dollars less, oh yeah, I'll take one.

lickpiddlers
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Joined: 29/06/2009

I've had the misfortune to ride one of these over some distance. I won't be rushing to px my GS. 18 litre tank with sub-40mpg, now what's that all about? You'll be glad the fuel light comes on at 120 miles because the seat's so bloody hard. Pannier locks fell to bits after a while and then there's a strange placcy rattle that did my head. Ok so dealer can sort that, but he won't be able to sort the horrid, horrid large scale vibes below 5000rpm. A friend had the bike next, gave it straight back after big 100mph weave. Whoopsadaisy! Thanks but no thanks.

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

This is for sure the first feedback I have seen from someone who has ridden it for a distance. How far was it by the way?
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I would still seriously consider a Stelvio and try it for myself but would want a good long test weekend before commiting after reading this. I have tried a GS and it is just not for me but valuable input none the less.

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

Helloooo - is anyone coming to visit the site these days, or are you all on holiday?

granitehead
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Yep, still here. I am wondering how the website upgrade went last week - it doesn't look any different to me.

kevash
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Joined: 05/10/2008

Still no upgrade yet, turns out there's a couple of things still to be sorted, on top of which I've been pretty busy and my father's not been well either - it's a one man show this! Well, with Robert's help: he's the guy who's doing the technical side of the upgrade, but he offered to help purely because he was signed up to the site and wanted to - top guy! I designed the site originally but that stretched my web code ability to the limit, and now it turns out more complex stuff is needed to get on top of the dreaded Internet Explorer, which he's now doing. It's not mega urgent as the site does work pretty well as it is, so we're doing the upgrade only when we're sure the new version is well sorted. And Robert does have a life too...

I think the hot weather means people are out on their bikes more too! But anyway, hopefully the upgrade will happen soon and I'll get more stories coming online after that and we can get things moving faster again. Fingers crossed too it's getting a mention in my MCN column next week, which should bring some extra traffic along.

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

Kev, I am getting the web site for my bike accessory business upgraded just now and when it is done I'll have the developer type bloke add a link to ashonbikes as well. Sorry that it is only a Czech based site I have but there are quite a few people here who speak English too and I am sure they will be interested in what goes on.

kevash
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Joined: 05/10/2008

Thanks, that's great, it all helps! Hope you're getting weather as good as ours...

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

It is definitely getting a lot better than it has been - too hot now at times. The leathers get a bit whiffy on occasion.
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Hope youe Dad is doing well. Mine just left this morning after a ten day visit. It is great to see the folks but also tough to see them getting older and slowing down.

Gary
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Joined: 06/08/2009

lickpiddlers,
glad you can feel a bike out that quickly, was it realy a whole day ?
The seats are hard for some riders at first but break in after 2k or so. I' did 13,000 miles in 7 1/2 months on mine. did 2 trips to Sweden covering 700 miles in one day, problem with the seat, dont think so.
100mph weave on a bike you've never ridden before, now that's very clever.
Ride free peeps

kevash
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I had no problem with seat comfort after a full day's riding, though I do accept there's a wide range of arses out there and others might not get on with the seat so well. There was no sign of any weaving on the one I rode.
I think technically the BMW is still the better bike, but as I said in the test, I'd go for the Guzzi because these days there seems to be as many BMW GS's as Ford Mondeos and I do like to be a little different. The Guzzi isn't significantly worse, so it's not as if I'd be making a major sacrifice.