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2009 Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 8V: MD Ride Review

Naked bikes come in different flavors. When I returned to street riding after an absence of several years, I bought a 1981 Honda Gold Wing standard. Yes, it was a naked bike (no fairing or bags) … something that Honda soon stopped producing to focus on the full-dress touring crowd. That bike had a solid feel that impressed me, and the engine pulled with plenty of authority and low-end torque. It wasn’t quick to change direction or suited to wheelies, but I thoroughly enjoyed the seemingly effortless power and freight-train stability.

Underscoring my first impression of the Griso 1200 8V, undoubtedly, was the fact that I rode a Vespa scooter we were testing roughly 100 miles to a warehouse where I exchanged it for the big naked. Immediately jumping on to the bigger bike, I entered the Southern California freeway system I had just exited on the 250cc scooter, and roared back to Temecula.

The big Guzzi felt like a luxury rail car in comparison to the small-wheeled Vespa. It was so stable at high speed, and so reassuring, I almost felt as if I could have ridden the entire way without my hands on the bars. It was also fast.

The ample low-end torque was a welcome luxury after wringing the neck of the small scooter to keep up with freeway traffic. I nevertheless found myself thinking this most modern of Guzzi v-twins, displacing 1151cc and featuring four-valve heads and a compression ratio of 11.1-to-1, was somewhat unimpressive when it came to power output. This thought immediately disappeared when I began to explore the upper half of the tachometer.

While the more-than-adequate, low-end torque is nice, it is nothing to write home about. It is above 5000 RPM where the 8V engine really comes alive. Although feeling as if a heavy flywheel is employed to cope with the power pulses from the huge pistons, the bike revs up fast and hard from 5,000 rpm all the way to its redline near 8,000 rpm. Moto Guzzi claims 110 hp at 7,500 rpm, and roughly 80 foot pounds of torque at 6,400 rpm. Having ridden many 2-valve, air-cooled Guzzis in the past, I was shocked to discover the top-end rush available from the 8V.

This is a large, heavy motorcycle with an exceedingly long wheelbase. Nevertheless, it is well balanced and poised… ready to change directions when you command it to from the wide handlebars. The bike can carry some decent lean angles in the corners, and that long wheelbase means it loves to hold its line despite mid– corner bumps or undulations. You won’t feel the ” flick – flick” sensations you would on a light sport bike or supermoto, but the Griso 1200 8V is a more than willing companion in the canyons, nonetheless.

Unlike some Guzzis of old, the Griso features a relatively slick-shifting six-speed transmission and modern, powerful Brembo brakes with fully adjustable suspension. Until I got used to them, those brakes created more front-end dive than I was comfortable with. They are strong and they have quite a bit of initial bite. I learned to grab them a bit more carefully and progressively.

The relatively upright ergonomics proved comfortable on longer trips, as did the seat. Wind blast was actually quite tolerable for a naked, due apparently to the aerodynamic impact of the headlight and instrument cluster. Of course, long freeway journeys above 80 mph would eventually wear on you, and a fly screen or mini – fairing would certainly be nice under those circumstances.

The pleasure you get from riding a Moto Guzzi has much to do with style, character and tradition. All of those are found in the new Griso. The styling is bold without being over-the-top, and the bike drew its share of admirers at stoplights and gas stations. It is nice to be on a motorcycle that is rare here in Southern California, and “traditional” without many of the technological concessions that normally go with that term. Retro, but fast and capable at the same time.

The Griso is not without its rough edges. Indeed, it wouldn’t be a true Moto Guzzi without a few rough edges. The relatively aggressive cams lead to a pronounced increase in power above 5,000 rpm. Frankly, most modern bikes aim to provide a perfectly linear power delivery, and this can get a bit boring. I enjoyed the “turbo boost” available above 5,000 rpm. It almost gave the Griso a split personality that allowed me to cruise quietly and peacefully below that rpm level, and surprise sport bike riders and sports car owners above it.

Of course, at a U.S. MSRP of $14,290, the Griso 8V is not an inexpensive motorcycle. Nevertheless, its real competition is expensive, as well. Indeed, if you like traditional style in your motorcycle, and are ready to move beyond the performance offered by a traditional cruiser, the Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 8V just might be exactly what you are looking for. The same could be said for sport bike riders looking for a more upright, comfortable riding position along with unique style…all while retaining a strong power rush in the top half of the tachometer.

For me, the Griso appeals for a number of reasons. Its unique character and look, together with its supreme stability and the rich feedback from the transverse mounted 90° V-twin made it a pleasure to ride … and stare at in my garage.