Don't mistake the Moto Guzzi Griso 8v for a gentlemanly cruiser or a weekend toy for podiatrists and pretenders with more dough than go.
Moto Guzzi, the stereotypes suggest, is a lifestyle brand long past its sporting prime, coveted by riders more interested in heritage and logoed t-shirts than riding fast and cornering hard. And at the local watering hole, the Griso looks stylishly butch reclining on its sidestand, inviting second glances and cell-phone paparazzi wherever it goes. So while you probably wouldn't be alone in your curbside assessment - you'd be wrong.
Get on the bike and you'll quickly learn that it was not made solely for café crawls and bike nights. The alloy footpegs aren't sheathed in rubber or positioned to be recliner comfortable but instead fall right beneath the rider to promote an active, connected stance. Likewise, the tubular handlebars aren't kicked back to meet a slouching pilot; they encourage an ever so slight forward lean of the rider's torso - at least they do for this tester with 40-Regular arms. Finally, the motor doesn't like to dawdle, preferring a firm hand and stretched throttle cable.
Stop and Go
That throttle cable is connected to Weber multipoint electronic fuel injectors sitting in 50mm throttle bodies and feeding what may be Moto Guzzi's most modern motor, an 1151cc V-twin topped with a new 4-valve head. "Quattrovalvole" they call it, and leave it to the Italians to make the mundane sound positively alluring. It's the head that lets the motor breathe eagerly at high revs and gives the motor a frisky top-end to go along with the bottom-end torque. The package produces very competitive power for its class: 110hp @ 7,500 rpm and 79.7 lb-ft of torque at a slightly lower 6,400 rpm. Not all heritage is lost, however. The motor still sits transversely with the deeply-finned cylinder heads poking out at 45-degree angles. And the fins remain functional, carrying heat away from the motor and occasionally into the hands of riders stopping at lights on cool autumn days. A single-plate clutch, six-speed gearbox and driveshaft translates the motor's combustion into propulsion while spent gases snake through bicep-sized exhaust headers to a distinctive double-barrel, asymmetrical left-side exhaust.
The whole drivetrain feels strikingly modern, with a light clutch facilitating clean, crisp shifts as the motor pulls down low and fairly screams up top. The one noticeable flaw in the test model was less than perfect fueling. The motor, in factory-tuned state, doesn't like to cruise. At steady throttle, the rpm wax and wane, the fuel injection second-guessing itself as the revs rise and fall a couple of hundred rpm; and it's annoying to have one's finely tuned throttle hand upended by digital gremlins. While a pipe and aftermarket tune may help, a more immediate solution is at hand - bend those elbows just a bit, lean forward like a sprinter, and give the throttle a good twist. With a firm hand, the motor responds strongly and without hesitation. On the undulating secondary and tertiary roads where this bike is most suited, you are never wanting for power, torquing out of turns that will have modern 600s gasping for revs. Open up the road a little and a 600 will scream away, but point-to-point projectile riding is not this naked bike's mission.
Stopping is similarly strong. Up front, radial Brembo calipers caress twin floating 320mm stainless steel wave disks. In back, a 282mm fixed stainless steel disk provides stopping power. Together, they produce strong, progressive braking, never wanting, and assisted by the engine braking of the big V-twin.
The chassis is up to the dynamic challenge posed by the muscular motor and sharp brakes. The bike is solid, with the front and rear Marchesini wheels connected by 43mm fully adjustable upside down forks, a twin cradle steel tubular frame, and a massive single-sided swingarm. On bumps and in turns, and even on bumps in turns, the bike behaves as a single unit, tracking true and responding singularly. The only time the bike felt out of sorts was during a fast left-right transition, where the response from the rear felt a hair behind. This may be attributed to the lengthy, cruiserish 61.2-inch wheelbase, rider ham-fistedness, or a little of both.
The wheelbase makes the bike look low and stretched, but that's a bit of an illusion. The seat is 31.5 inches from terra firma and the suspension provides an ample 4.7 inches of front and 4.3 inches of rear travel. The rear will kick up over bumps that the front absorbs. Fiddling the adjustable suspension may help soften the blow, which is good because the footpeg position makes standing (or squatting off the seat) a difficult option.
Style, Quality and Accessories
What isn't an illusion is the bike's style. Beefy high-tensile steel frame tubes arc purposefully over the transversely mounted motor and set the tone for the overall style: simple, tough, sophisticated. Small details like red anodized fork caps, sculpted bar risers, and flush taillights hold your attention. It's Italian motorcycle design at its inimitable best, classic yet challenging, familiar yet new.
It's a shame then, when a detail like condensation buildup in the corner of the gauge cluster reminds you that despite the great strides Moto Guzzi has made in quality, it still has some work to do. An owner might also have some work to do when removing the DOT-required but visually offensive warning labels that mar the tank and flanks of the bike. Thankfully, they sit above the clearcoat. As with any bike, a quick perusal of online owners groups will help to assess in-field reliability and common issues. Potential buyers are advised to post and ask questions, as posts tend to skew toward discussing problems and may give first-time visitors a slanted view of the owner experience.
The lack of fairing may be a turn-off for some, but nothing immerses you in the here and now quite like a naked, the way it fills a rider's vision with little more than a pair of handlebars, simple instruments, and the surroundings. Moto Guzzi offers a small nose fairing for those seeking a modicum of protection, as well as semi-rigid panniers, a tank bag, and a rear carrier for those interested in sporty touring.
At a standstill, the Griso 8v exhibits the characteristics that make it a Moto Guzzi, its cylinder heads poking out ahead of your knees as they beat out a low-rpm V-twin rhythm. A gentle twist of the throttle initiates a quaint side-to-side oscillation caused by the driveshaft. At low speeds the bike is disgruntled, the motor hunting for a suitable cruising rpm, and the overall experience is mildly low-tech.
But once on the move, for a long-weekend romp in the mountains or a Sunday morning sanity check, the Griso 8v is fantastic. It's a backroads barnstormer with a mountain of torque to pull you from corner to corner, with fine, stable handling, and the charisma to stand out at the local watering hole. This is not a motorcycle to cross continents on, although I don't doubt that some will try. This is not a pretend motorcycle either, making you feel (or at least look) like a racer, an extreme adventurer or an inked bad boy. And despite some of the traditional Moto Guzzi elements, it's not a retro rehash vainly seeking to reclaim lost glory.
Rather, it's elemental, little more than two wheels and a motor, each piece thoughtfully considered and artistically rendered, vividly communicating the dynamic joy of two-wheeled travel without fairings, farkles, or other filters that otherwise dampen the experience. And in that sense, it is nothing less than a modern interpretation of a quintessential Moto Guzzi.
+ V-twin torque with 4-valve top-end rush
- fuel injection at partially-open throttle
Distributor Moto Guzzi www.motoguzzi-us.com
MSRP $ 14,290
Engine 4-stroke, 8-valve, 90º V-twin
Bore and Stroke 95mmx81.2mm
Fuel System Weber multipoint sequential EFI, 50mm throttle bodies
Power 110hp @7,500rpm
Ignition Magneti Marelli IAW
Frame high-tensile steel tubular twin cradle
Front Suspension 43mm upside down, fully adjustable, 4.72in (120mm) travel
Rear Suspension progressive single-side swingarm, fully adjustable monoshock 4.3in (110mm) travel
Brakes Front/Rear twin 320mm wave discs, 4-piston calipers, single 282mm disk, 2-piston calipers
Tires Front/Rear 120/70 ZR17, 180/55 ZR17
Dry Weight 489lbs (222kg)
Wheelbase 61.2in (1554mm)
Seat Height 31.5in (800mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.4gal (16.7l), 3.3l reserve
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors Guzzi Black, Moon White