2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V: Italian Flair

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Moto Guzzi

Moto Guzzi’s Norge (which means “Norway” in several European languages) was named after a Moto Guzzi’s 4,000-mile journey to Norway and the Arctic Circle in 1928. Styling of the Norge GT looks the part of a proper sport-touring mount with roomy saddlebags, an adjustable windscreen, and large wind-cheating fairings.

Powertrain and Performance

Power comes from Moto Guzzi’s traditional air-cooled 90-degree V-twin design with a longitudinal crankshaft layout. This one has 1,151cc, and the “8V” logo on the bike means the engine has eight valves, four per cylinder. Switching to eight valves was a huge improvement made some years ago. It adds about 20 percent more power, waking up Guzzi’s torquey big twins and allowing them to breathe and rev stronger and higher. Besides airflow over the engine, an oil cooler with a thermostatically controlled electric fan helps to keep temps in the ideal range.

Engine startup is immediate, cold or hot. Idle speed is high initially but cold drivability is good. The Norge’s 8V engine is rated at 102 horsepower at 7,000 revs and 77 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm with an 8,000 rpm redline. While this isn’t all that impressive for a 1,200-class sport-touring machine, there’s plenty of torque in the low- and mid-range. And thanks to those eight valves, the engine can keep going with a strong top end. At highway speeds in sixth gear, the bike feels unstoppable with no need to downshift for passing and a constant feel of torque on tap. Twisting the right grip rewards the rider with a guttural intake growl, along with a staccato exhaust note from the big twin as the machine accelerates away. There is ample power for merging, passing, and hill climbing, even two up and with luggage.

The six-cog transmission is traditional Guzzi with a cruiser-like clunk from gear changes. Neutral is easy to access, but third and fourth gears had a lot of gear whine; under light loads sometimes it was louder than the engine. Actuation of the single-disc clutch is hydraulic, which is easy to pull and modulate, and there’s an adjustable lever. Guzzi’s shaft drive does away with frequent and messy chain maintenance, but there seems to be quite a bit of slack in the drivetrain. Tall gearing in sixth allows the bike to run all day at interstate speeds (or higher) if called for.

Chassis and Handling

A steel double-cradle frame provides rigidity to the chassis. The fork has 45mm tubes with adjustable spring preload and progressively wound springs. Rear suspension is via a progressive linkage single swingarm, and the single shock absorber has adjustable preload and rebound damping. The ride is sporty yet not overly stiff. When carrying a passenger, one can use the preload knob (located in the side panel) to crank up the rear spring if necessary.

A pair of Brembo four-piston calipers (not radially mounted) grab the front 320mm discs with exceptional stopping power via the adjustable lever, which offers low effort and good feel. ABS is standard and it seems to work well, without activating when not needed.

Our test bike was fitted with Pirelli Angel tires, which provided excellent grip in the rain. On dry roads they’re also confidence inspiring, track nicely through corners, and display top-notch high-speed stability. Most bikes of this type tell the rider when it’s time to slow down in the corners by scraping footpeg feelers. However, the Norge with its high footpegs touches down first with the centerstand, in both left and right turns.

Features and Ergonomics

A power-adjustable windscreen allows changes on the go, although the range of movement is quite limited, and separate up and down buttons require you to remove your hands from the grips to reach them. At highway velocities there’s little buffeting, but the narrow screen fails to block crosswinds or wake turbulence from trucks. A larger screen with more vertical movement would be welcomed. Heated grips with multiple settings are a nice feature that is truly appreciated when the temperature drops. The 6.1-gallon gas tank makes it easy to go 200 miles on a fill-up.

Riding posture is upright with a well-positioned tall handlebar and a large 31.9-inch high seat with just the right amount of firmness for long days in the saddle. I found the footpegs to be mounted uncomfortably high, and since the centerstand touches down first, lower footpegs shouldn’t cause a problem.

The dash cluster holds an analog 10,000-rpm tach and 150-mph speedometer with twin trip meters, along with a fuel gauge, clock, temperature indicator, and rider-selectable readouts. These include average and peak speeds, elapsed trip time, fuel economy, and more. At night the instruments light up in red and the dual projector-beam headlamps throw out a broad swatch of light. The mirrors are well positioned, but the odd shape limits vision.

Standard color-matching saddlebags use the 

same key as the ignition. They’ll stow a full-face helmet with room to spare, and elastic straps hold items in the lids and main compartments. A tail trunk is available as an accessory.

Final Thoughts

The Norge—with a ,290 MSRP—is a solid touring machine, which exudes personality and features a robust power plant that’s used by many police departments in Europe. It offers sport-touring enthusiasts an alternative to the more mainstream models out there and carries the cachet of one of the oldest motorcycle companies dating back to 1921. It lacks cruise control, traction control, power modes, electronic suspension, and semi-auto shifting found on some competing models. But for some folks, what it lacks in gadgets it arguably makes up for in charm and character.