Let's cut to the chase - I took the 2011 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V into the wilds of Pennsylvania and felt really connected to this bike. Despite the cold and the rain and the occasional muddy patch, the Norge didn't miss a beat and, more importantly, made me smile inside my helmet with each apex, each corner exit, and each passing opportunity.
This is a visceral machine capable of carving heavily crowned two-lanes and crossing continents. Are there faster sport-touring bikes? Yes. More comfortable ones? Yes. More featured ones? For sure. But every once in a while you come across a bike that grabs you by the scruff of your touring jacket and says, “Let’s ride.” For me, this is that bike.
It all starts with the motor. I’m a V-twin type of guy. I started with one (a Honda Hawk GT) and continue to ride them (Aprilia RSV-R). This Guzzi, with its quattrovalvole 1151cc, 90-degree V-twin, makes 102 horsepower and, more importantly, has the torque (77 lb-ft) and feel that I like. Some people call it “soul,” and I’m not about to argue. The motor is air/oil-cooled, with a new fan to help the oil radiator. Heat from the motor wasn’t a problem in cold weather. As a matter of fact, I wish it radiated more under those conditions – I was very tempted to remove some of the heat shielding. Power from idle is good, with just a hint of side-to-side pulsing that the transverse Moto Guzzi engines are known for. Delivery smooths out around 4,000 rpm, and thrust is clean and enthusiastic all the way to the redline. Revs climb quickly, and hitting the rev limiter is a distinct possibility if you don’t watch the tach but instead wait for the motor to run out of breath. That’s the benefit of the free-breathing, modern four-valve head. Rolling off produces prodigious engine-braking, often accompanied by an intoxicating rumble from the exhaust that makes you want to find the nearest tunnel just to hear it roar. From quiet, twisty two-lane to Interstate 80, the Norge GT 8V delivered power whenever asked, lifting the front wheel on occasion while easily returning more than 40 mpg.
A six-speed transmission connects the V-twin to the shaft-driven rear wheel – another Moto Guzzi trademark, and particularly suited to touring. Getting into first requires a firm boot, but otherwise the drivetrain is notable for its lack of drama and lack of rusting chains. It’s not buttery smooth like some Japanese transmissions, but it doesn’t require additional attention as it’s carving up the countryside.
Rumor is that Aprilia helped Moto Guzzi (both are owned by Piaggio) sort out the suspension on the Norge GT 8V. Whether or not they actually did, the bike features revised suspension settings front and rear. The bike is a confident corner carver, turning in with confidence and an enthusiasm that belies its 567-pound curb weight. Even when loaded with camping gear, the bike feels composed and frisky at the same time, ready to chase the next apex or the next state border and everything in between. In more than 800 miles of riding, nothing upset the bike’s composure. Braking is pure Brembo, with dual 320mm rotors up front and a single 282mm out back providing firm, confident stopping. ABS is standard but wasn’t activated during the test period.
The pilot’s seat is all-day comfy, the 31.9-inch perch an easy reach to terra firma. Footpegs are positioned directly beneath the rider and surprisingly high – somewhere between standard and sportbike. Taller riders should definitely sit on the bike and ask their knees if they’re OK. Bars reach back to meet the rider with heated grips and curiously placed buttons for the electrically adjustable windshield. Other switchgear is functional but Moto Guzzi quirky (e.g., high beams on the front of the left control pod that you pull to flash and push to turn on). The windshield provides decent but not total coverage like the barn doors of other tourers and, as a pleasant side effect, doesn’t suffer any thrumming and buffeting or backdrafts common in the larger screens. In all positions it cleaves cleanly through the air. The dashboard conveys the bike’s vital signs clearly with classic round gauges, but the accompanying LCD is tough to see.
Twin panniers are standard on the Norge GT 8V and have regular-shaped internal volumes without too many cutouts for exhaust pipes and other mechanical ephemera. The latching system is a bit finicky, though, and would probably try the patience of Buddha. An accessory port lies beneath the seat and makes adding a GPS or heated gear a snap. The dash computer displays two trip odometers as well as mpg, battery voltage, a timer and thermometer.
The entire package is wrapped in handsome bodywork that skews closer to sport than touring, with piercing twin projector-beam headlights, integrated turn signals and clear, round LED taillights that wouldn’t look out of place on a Fast and Furious wannabe. The big twin’s cylinder heads poke out of the bodywork purposefully, as do the matching exhaust headers that slice their way across the fairing to remind you there’s a real fire-breathing motor beneath all that smooth plastic.
Ultimately, that’s what appeals about the Norge GT 8V. It feels like a MOTORcycle, not a SPECSHEETcycle or FARKLEcycle. Forget the pounds. Forget the accessories. Twist the throttle and it barks. Flick it into a turn and it responds without hesitation. Aim it towards the horizon and it surges forward on a wave of torque. Other bikes may be bigger, faster, stronger. Some are better at devouring the interstate, time zone after time zone. But few sport-tourers feel as alive. If you like V-twins and taking the scenic route across state lines, the Norge GT 8V deserves consideration.
2011 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V
+ V-twin has plenty of power and character
+ handling is sharp
- first gear is notchy
- pannier latches are finicky when loaded
- lifting off short side stand requires a clean jerk
- thin dealer network
MSRP: $ 15,990
Engine: 90° V-twin, 4-stroke
Bore and Stroke: 95x81.2mm
Fuel Delivery: Digital fuel injection
Power: 102hp @7,000rpm, torque 77lb-ft @5,500rpm
Ignition: Digital electronic
Frame: tubular cradle, high-tensile steel
Front Suspension: 45mm telescopic, preload adjustable
Rear Suspension: single arm w/ progressive linkage, monoshock w/ adjustable rebound and preload
Rake/Trail: 25.3°/120mm (0.472in)
Brakes Front/Rear: dual 320mm stainless steel floating disc, 4-piston calipers/single 282mm stainless steel disc, 2-piston caliper
Tires Front/Rear: 120/70ZR17 and 180/55ZR17 on three-spoke alloy wheels
Dry Weight: 567lbs
Wheelbase: 58.9in (1,495mm)
Seat Height: 31.9in (810mm)
Fuel Capacity: 6.1gal, 1.1gal reserve
Fuel Consumption: 40+mpg as tested
Colors: Black Competition, Diamond White