2010 Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 4V ABS

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Alfonse Palaima

At 9,045 feet, Stelvio is the second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps and the highest in the eastern Alps. I can say firsthand that with 60 tight switchbacks, Stelvio truly is a challenge! Moto Guzzi named its 1200cc Stelvio model after the legendary Stelvio Pass for good reason: the potent powerplant, capable suspension, and comfortable ergonomics make this adventure-touring namesake well suited for rugged, long-distance mountain riding.

In 2005, I toured the Guzzi factory in northern Italy (before riding the nearby Pass) and noticed four-valve cylinder heads in the research and development lab. MG's Stelvio now carries the fruit of this labor, with its powerful, higher-revving quattro-valvole (four-valve) motore. The signature longitudinal-crankshaft SOHC 90° V-twin is rated 105 (crankshaft) horsepower at 7,500 rpm -- making it Moto Guzzi's most powerful production engine ever. For 2010, Moto Guzzi retuned the engine with new camshafts, revised injection mapping, and added a larger-volume airbox for a broader power band. Maximum torque of 80 lb-ft peaks at 5,800 rpm (down from last year's 6,400), for strong mid-range acceleration.

Starting is quick and drivability excellent with the Weber-Marelli injection. By 4,000 rpm, the engine really begins to come alive and pulls strongly to its 8,000-rpm redline with a guttural roar. The torque-rich responsiveness of the engine is very pleasing, with power to spare, and vibration is moderate throughout the rev range.

To absorb heat generated by the 11:0 compression, the underside of the forged pistons are cooled by oil jets, and oil is also routed near the exhaust valves, with heat dissipated by a front-mounted oil cooler. Since I tested the Stelvio in hot weather, I could feel some heat on my knees, but not anything excessive.

The six-speed gearbox is quick shifting, precise, and neutral is easy to access, with a nice selection of ratios. Gear-ratio spacing seems just right and sixth gear is tall for relaxed highway cruising. There's a new more fade resistant single-plate clutch with less flywheel inertia that helps shifting. Its hydraulic actuation is smooth, easy to modulate, and lever effort is light.

Chassis

A stout twin-spar tubular steel frame couples the sturdy 50mm inverted Marzocchi fork to the single-sided swingarm, and it employs six engine mounts for greater rigidity. The fully adjustable inverted fork offers 6.7 inches of travel, while rear suspension is via a progressive rising rate and rebound-adjustable Sachs shock with 6.1 inches of travel, and a remote preload adjuster that makes settings a breeze.

Wire-Spoke wheels are shod with Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires, a 110/80ZR19 front and 180/55ZR17 rear. Grip is very good, and the tread doesn't squirm in rain grooves. The Stelvio carries its weight relatively high, and with 60.4 inches between the axles, and a rake and trail of 27 degrees and 4.9 inches, you'd expect a stable, but slow-steering bike. However, the wide handlebar provides good leverage and the weight seems to melt away when moving.

Handling is surprisingly agile and the bike feels very planted at high speeds. The suspension is an excellent compromise between ride quality and handling, taking bumps nicely without jolting the rider, while delivering a plush ride with excellent control.

Quick stops are ensured by the dual Brembo front brake rotors with radial-mount calipers, plus a single rear disc with two-pot caliper. An ABS braking system, which is standard equipment on the Stelvio, usually adds a grand to a bike's price. The ABS can be turned off for dirt roads and trails and is usually not intrusive on the street, although it did activate a little too much when braking on some steep, bumpy, downhill pavement.

Ergonomics

Riding posture is similar to a dirt bike, with a wide, tapered handlebar on risers, a tall saddle, and footpegs directly below the rider. Front seat height can be adjusted from 32.3 to 33.1 inches, and both clutch and brake levers are adjustable for reach. We found the wide seat quite comfy for long rides, and passenger accommodations are plush and spacious, with good handholds and footpeg positions.

A manually adjustable windscreen blocks the main windblast without buffeting. The mirrors are widely spaced, but effectiveness is limited due to their pointed shape and the blurring from vibration at highway speeds.

Instrumentation includes a large analog tach and digital speedometer, along with the usual indicators. An LCD display provides trip odometer, trip time, average fuel consumption, average speed, maximum speed reached during trip, fuel-level indication, clock, air temperature, battery voltage, service reminders, and diagnostics. An immobilizer is standard, while an alarm, three-level heated handgrips, and driving lights are optional.

Fuel mileage varied from 37.1 to 50.8 mpg, for an average of 41 mpg. We'd like to see about a gallon more fuel capacity, as the low-fuel lamp typically came on at about 135 miles. With the 4.8-gallon capacity tank, 41 mpg should get you 198.6 miles to bone-dry empty. However, the bar-graph fuel gauge has only three bars, which limits its usefulness to approximations and doesn't encourage using every drop.

A centerstand is standard and the bike is fairly easy to pop up on it, which makes cleaning and service much easier. A four-way flasher is also standard equipment.

A glove-box on the right side of the tank can be unlocked with a handlebar button. Locking panniers with 37-liters combined cargo capacity can be ordered. The panniers are sturdy, rain tight and roomy, but won't hold a full-face helmet. If you need more storage space, a 45-liter top box large enough to hold two full-face helmets is available. An under-seat exhaust would have been nice because the big muffler sticks out considerably on the left side, making the bike very wide with luggage, but at least it sounds great!

Final Thoughts

Moto Guzzi's Stelvio 1200 4V ABS is a powerful, robust, and good looking adventure-tourer that is certainly capable of taking on the pass it's named after. At home on the highways, byways, and dirt around the world, this Stelvio 1200 is a comfortable, easy handling machine with strong brakes. I appreciate the quality and workmanship, and really like the style. My only regret is that I wish it didn't have to be returned!