Is a used Moto Guzzi Stelvio a smart buy right now?
Long known for long-legged big-bore road hardware, the smartians at Moto Guzzi were acutely aware that a significant opportunity for one of motorcycling’s relatively newfound and growing revenue streams had been missing from the Italian stalwart manufacturer’s range. ‘Prendere uno sport doppio rapidamente!’ came the call from Mandello del Lario. Yep, ‘get a decent dual-sport and do it quickly!’
Welcome to the enthusiastic birth of the Stelvio 1200, in April of 2008. Lambrusca anyone?
Let’s get one thing outta the way from the outset. It is impossible to avoid the elephant in the room of the inevitable market similarities the Stelvio shared with BMW’s incredible GS range. The simple fact was the Stelvio went just about head-to-head with the GS, so Guzzi had to get used to it.
Good news there though for our latin friends was that the bike acquitted itself very well indeed. And that was a major achievement.
So, just what do we have here? The bike is powered by a fuel-injected, 1151cc, air/oil-cooled, eight-valve, OHC, four-stroke, transverse 90-degree V-twin (try saying that with a mouthful of rigatoni). In short, it’s the same powerplant to that fitted to the brand’s naked roadster Griso of the time.
The bike can claim pretty strong credentials, with the V85 TT of today gaining strong market footholds on a global basis. In fact, the brand will soon launch an upgraded V85 TT and V85 TT Travel with a warmer engine and enhanced electronics.
The Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 was an extremely willing revver, given its 90 degree V-twin layout – and peak power is made high in the range – 78kW at 7500rpm. This is delightful on long haul, open going, but seems a curious foible when pulling out of tight switchbacks, where torque off the bottom – which had been a Guzzi trademark whether in two-valve or four-valve configuration for many a year – was the order of the day.
As the bike stands today, peak torque of 10.6kg-m is at a stratospheric 6400rpm.
In short, there’s plenty there but most of it in the wrong spot.
All this is housed in a pretty conventional tubular steel twin cradle frame, there’s 50mm, fully adjustable inverted forks from the house of Marzocchi up front and a rebound and preload adjustable monoshock at the rear.
Brakes are twin 320mm discs with four-piston, radial-mounted Brembo calipers at the bow, a single 282mm disc with twin-piston Brembo caliper down back (there was an ABS version available in Europe) and the whole deal is shaft driven (a Guzzi hallmark).
All this works extremely well, with lovely predictable front-end damping and strong brakes (although feel at the lever is a little underwhelming). The hardware around the bike is of top quality and resilience is likely to be very good indeed.
The six-speed box features lovely ratios, spaced at just the right intervals. Not so delightful is the action. It’s notchy and a little uncertain.
Now, I have to explain something to the Guzzi-newbie. For the uninitiated, any Moto Guzzi will feel decidedly different to just about everything previously ridden. For starters there is the inherent torque reaction (it wobbles about at standstill when blipped, due to tossing those big slugs towards the sky at a 90-degree angle across the frame).
It’s kinda lumpy and has this, umm, non-compliant feel. I need to add quickly here that after you become acquainted with a Guzzi, these are the exact characteristics that make you love the bike.
I have often wondered at the frustration of a poor Guzzi salesman, sending the potential buyer on his first test ride. My guess is the sell from a short test blast is a hard one. You simply can’t know a Guzzi in that short a space of time. Take it for a weekend however and the Italian ‘la dolce vita’ kicks in.
The whole deal starts to make sense, the long-legged acceleration, the quality componentry, the rock-solid handling, the way people look long and hard at the bike when it is parked up. This is euphoric stuff Japanese manufacturers would kill for, but struggle to create. The Guzzi thing is wonderful, but it takes time.
As is the dual-sport norm, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio is tall, but there is a good degree of versatility, with 820 or 840mm seat height positions, windscreen height adjustment, handlebar inclination adjustment, and lever stretch adjustment.
So, while it might be a big bike, it can be made to fit the rider and I applaud that.
People should not have to fit bikes, bikes should fit people. Well done Moto Guzzi.
As mentioned, this thing is aimed smack-bang at the adventure touring market. It clearly operates best at the tarmac end of that category, but the simple truth is that none of the big bore offerings in that segment were or indeed are for that matter, great off road.
Yep, they’ll deal with dirt surfaces, carry a fair whack of gear and offer decent tank range, but get any of the current big duallies into the serious gnarlies, and you’ll be pushing the boundaries, big-style.
It’s fair to say though that the Moto Guzzi Stelvio is happy enough to take you into those areas that will find a deadset road bike out, as are most of the bigger duallies.
It’s comfortable, is suspended well for its category and there was a very good range of luggage on offer for the bike.
There was more than enough factory add-on stuff for the serious traveller to set off on the big trip.
It can’t be called a light bike at 214kg dry and smaller folk are going to struggle with it at lower speeds or on uneven ground. I’d love to see it lose 20kg, but that’s not going to happen in a hurry.
And those GS comparisons? Well, It had no pretensions about selling in the volumes that the big Beemer did and does, so the question is ‘Did it pinch a bit from the King?’ I reckon the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
The bike will go just about anywhere the GS will, the rider gets a great deal of brand cred and it is individual enough to draw the curious looking for something just that little bit different.
Condition and kays will play a big part in pricing here. I reckon you are looking at $9000-$11,000.
Used bike rating: ***
INFO MOTO’S TRIED-AND-TRUE USED BIKE RATING SYSTEM EXPLAINED
* Dud. Give it a big miss.
** Are you sure? We certainly aren’t.
*** Do your homework, but this one is in the game.
**** A bike that will serve you well indeed.
***** Quick. Stop reading this and make the offer!
What’s in a name…
The Stelvio Pass (Passo dello Stelvio), is a legendary 24km piece of Italian road that lays claim to the title of being the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps. It was laid down in 1820-25 by road builders from the Austrian Empire to connect the former Austrian province of Lombardia with the remainder of Austria and, the route remains almost identical today.
Its 84 switchback turns, are a challenge to revheads, of both car and motorcycle varieties.
In short, it’s not the place to get it wrong, but that doesn’t stop riders from testing their mettle each and every weekend on its challenging layout. Moto Guzzi has used the area as a ‘test bench’ for many years. This from its Stelvio Press Kit; “it seems quite natural to summarise the design talent and technical intuitions instilled in the new maxi-enduro by Moto Guzzi, with the images and sensations of a place, where the riding pleasure is enriched by the feeling of adventure, sport challenge, extreme tourism: the Stelvio Pass”.
I don’t know about all that, but I do know this. The Stelvio Pass is simply magnificent. If you get the chance, ride it, you’ll never be the same…
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.