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  • September 13, 2011
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino
  • 66 Comments

2011 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V: MD Ride Review (with MD Video Review)

The historic Moto Guzzi brand has many loyal followers, but has never sold in large volumes here in the United States. When it was acquired, and revived, by the conglomerate Piaggio several years ago, money began to be infused to refine and improve both the chassis and the traditional v-twin engine.

The Norge tourer is largely unknown to Americans. Although you could purchase the prior version of the Norge, it is quite rare to see one on the highway here in the U.S. I therefore will not bore you with all of the detail changes between the prior model and the subject of this test, which is the 2011 Norge GT 8V.

Having said that, I have to point out that the Norge has now received the much more powerful eight-valve engine that has previously been found on models such as the Griso. With the latest tuning and fuel injection offered up by Moto Guzzi, the eight-valve engine has both a substantially higher peak horsepower and torque, together with broader and smoother power when compared with the older two-valve motor.

When I first sampled the eight-valve engine in the Griso, I was very impressed. With the cross-frame mounting of the 90° v-twin, the Moto Guzzi has always had plenty of character. A rocking motion while blipping the throttle at a standstill mimics, in many respects, the same motion felt aboard a BMW boxer twin. This same basic engine configuration and layout embodies history and tradition, particularly if you have ridden Moto Guzzis in years past.

Together with that history and tradition, you now receive refinement and a modern level of power and torque. Quite a combination! Simply put, the eight-valve motor, in its latest and most refined state, combines all the good things about a modern 90° v-twin, i.e., those pleasant big pulses, and low-end power, together with smooth and predictable throttle response that will get you down the road (with or without a passenger and luggage) quickly and efficiently. Oh, and with a smile on your face.

The Norge comes standard with large capacity saddlebags, as well as a broad, comfortable seat that offers good support for hours of riding. Add to this the new, electrically adjustable windscreen, redesigned faring with improved wind protection and newly developed vibration damping in the footrests, and you have a package that can be both fun and comfortable to ride over long distances. Practical, as well.

Owners of the previous Norge model frequently complained about the suspension settings. The forks and shock are new this year, as well, and damping is excellent. In our experience, they offer a great compromise between comfort and sport, and held up well with a 210 pound rider and 135 pound passenger aboard.

The Norge has very complete instrumentation, which is, for the most part, quite legible. Traditional looking, analog tachometer and speedometer are combined with an LED panel with fuel information (including MPG), trip information and more. The LED is not as legible as we would like, however, given its relatively small screen and poor contrast in bright light. Part of this could be down to the pair of 54-year-old eyes that were staring at it, however.

The Norge is a big, heavy motorcycle with a claimed dry weight of roughly 570 pounds (before adding 6.1 gallons of fuel). The big twin pulls along smartly, however, and the handling belies its mass. Stable in a straight line, we were surprised by the almost nimble feel the bike provided at speed while cornering. Good geometry, relatively good mass centralization, and wide handlebars for leverage all play a factor here. The Norge transitions well from side-to-side, and confidently holds its line mid-corner. The suspension settings, as we noted earlier, hold up well in these conditions. You won’t be chasing sport bikes through the canyons, but a good rider can hold a surprisingly quick pace on the Norge through the twisties.

We found relatively good gas mileage, with the Norge returning close to 50 mpg while cruising on the Interstate and roughly 40 mpg combined with a reasonable amount of surface street riding. Not bad given the size, weight and power of this motorcycle.

Having ridden many Moto Guzzi machines over the years, I never expect the transmission to cooperate with me quite as seamlessly as most Japanese motorcycles do. Moto Guzzi has made huge strides, however, and after a clunky entrance into first gear, the bike shifted well once underway. I don’t recall ever missing a shift or finding a false neutral.

The brakes are very strong with their Brembo calipers providing quick and substantial initial bite that can at first surprise you, but, with practice, can be well modulated. Given the mass those brakes have to cope with, I was a bit surprised by their effectiveness and urgency, but came to enjoy using them. If you hustle the bike and use the brakes aggressively, you will experience some brake fade, but this is normal for a touring bike when it is mimicking a much lighter sport machine.

The ergonomics of the bike were comfortable with one exception. You will see from the photos that my 5’11″ frame could use more legroom. Some riders will not be bothered by this so much.  The rest of the ergonomic package is hard to argue with, including the seat and ample wind protection, coupled with high bars that place your hands in a comfortable, natural position. Other riders (older riders, in particular) might have a significant problem with the high pegs. It was something I had to get used to, but eventually I stopped thinking about the peg location, and was able to ride the bike longer distances without any discomfort. Vibration levels were never an issue from a comfort perspective.

The clutch and other controls are reasonably comfortable and easy to use. Again, this was not always the case with Moto Guzzis in the past. Clearly, in designing the Norge, Moto Guzzi took the extra effort to make the rider interface as pleasant as possible.

The windscreen is wonderful. It has a reasonably broad range of adjustment and a complex surface that effectively pushed wind away from my chest and shoulders. Although I was too tall in the saddle for the screen to completely direct wind from the helmet level, I could always find a position that minimized buffeting and noise. The reach for the screen adjustments is a bit awkward; however, as you must remove your hand from the grip to reach the button that raises or lowers the screen.

Take a look at the video we have attached below for a better idea of what it was like for us to ride the bike. The Norge GT 8V is a comfortable, fast motorcycle full of Italian character and soul. Engine reliability should be a strong point given the careful refinement of the powerplant for more than a decade.  The shaft drive minimizes maintenance, as well. If you can deal with the relatively high foot pegs, you might just fall in love with it. The Norge GT 8V is available in both white and black (as pictured).  U.S. MSRP for the 2011 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V is $15,990.  Here is our video review of the Norge.

66 Comments

  1. PRINCPN says:

    Great video, kudos to the shooter! Also great write up Dirk!

  2. Mike says:

    Great video, great report.

    We live south of Harrisburg, PA about 10 miles and within minutes we are in out in the country and away for traffic….so this is the only thing I would wish improved for you in your report.

    Ofcourse we have 5 months of gloom/doom gray outside during our cold/winter-near winter which I would be happy to trade you and I am sure you can be on good roads from your house in short order vs days……as where during winter we are testing out couches. The riding season for budz in Canada is even shorter, while winter is far worse!!!

    We share loving bikes and again thanks for your report.

  3. todd says:

    I think a touring shoot-out between this and the Motus is in order.

    • sliphorn says:

      The Motus has a lot more power. But you’re right. A shoot-out between the two is definitely in order.

  4. Mondo Endo says:

    Great video,nice tour of Temecula… Lots of great places to ride around here.

  5. Joey Wilson says:

    This would be a nice bike to consider, IF M-G wasn’t hamstrung by the smae problem that affects most of the Euro-Bikes on this side of the pond: If you DON’T live in one of the five or six US cities who have a dealer, they’re just pipe dreams.

    (OK, I know they have more than 5 or 6 dealers; but if Piaggio is not willing to commit to lots of US dealers for Aprilia and M-G, they will have to settle for modest sales, and that’s assuming they’ve done their homework for a positive ownership experience. I’ve more than a few friends that bought their first and LAST Ducati after the expensive arrogance they were awarded in the service lane killed their initial thrill of ownership.
    Nothing like being treated like a ‘dumb American’ who doesn’t appreciate the exquisite agony of maintaining big-buck Italian iron for nosebleed sums of Greenbacks!)

  6. JVB says:

    I have a 2003 LeMans with the old 2V engine. It also has a short footpeg to seat length. One easy fix is to go to the buell parts list and get the buell footpegs. They have approximately 1inch lower offset. (BTW – Buell mirrors had longer stems so you could actually see the road)

    Every time one of my sportbike buddys ride my V11 Lemans, they are impressed with what a good handling/cumfy/real-bike “street-bike” it is. Too bad Guzzi’s dealer network is so small, and their retail prices are too high. No one buys a Guzzi at retail price. You wait for end of season deals.

    • bad Chad says:

      Times are changing at Guzzi. Piaggio has changed the way and number of bikes they bring in to the US. The “good old days” of waiting a year and buying a new Guzzi way under sticker are over. Now if you wait, the likely hood of finding the bike you want is drastically lowered. Might not be the best thing for cheap skates, but a good thing for Guzzi’s bottom line, and the dealers. The old method of supply made it almost impossible for a Guzzi dealer to make any money off new bike sales.

  7. dan frus says:

    Thumbs up for the video review. I hope we’ll get more video reviews of the bikes :-)
    Keep up the good work ;-)

  8. bad Chad says:

    Very cool video and review of the Norge. After watching that I’d love to get one in my garage. In the future it would be nice to see who the dash looks in the dark and how well the lights work. Keep it up Dirk.

    • MGNorge says:

      Instruments have a red backlighting, analog gauges are easy to monitor day or night, the LCD display less so, especially during the day while riding. Headlights and how the light up the road are the best I’ve had on a bike.

  9. WFOWade says:

    The video is a really nice addition to your reporting and review handiwork. I disagree with the comment about the not in motion video and I appreciate the chance to “see” the bike on it’s own. I think a video “tour” of the bike while you walk around and point out functional and less than stellar aspects to a particular bike are worthwhile. But the in motion commentary is a very nice add on too. Nice work.

    The other sites offering video but with the AC/DC type (and over powering) music are distracting from the content. Great content does not need a soundtrack: Let the motorcycle sing it’s own song!

    And finally, I am very interested in this bike after your article and accompanying video. I hope you find the appropriate support for your efforts from the industry as well as your advertisers.

  10. Greg Sack says:

    Yes, you’re right, Dirk. I forgot about the Centauro and Daytona.
    In my defense however, I will say that the current crop of 4 valves/cylinder is a
    different motor. The version from the late ’90′s has been out of production for
    quite a while. But I stand corrected.

  11. billy says:

    Great video!

    What did you use to create it?

  12. Mr. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting the detailed video. It really adds a lot to the story. Here’s some unsolicited feedback on the video:

    1) I liked the camera angle. It really gave a good feeling for being on the bike.
    2) The music was superfluous. I’d rather hear more of the engine sound or nothing at all mixed in.
    3) Please skip the stationary intro and skip straight to the action. Video reviews on other sites are guilty of the same thing. It’s like having a still photo with the frustration of only being able to read the accompanying text slowly.
    4) If its not too much trouble, it would be great if you edited out the parts where you are sitting still at traffic lights. It’s like #1 with the added aggravation of being reminded of the traffic lights on my daily commute.

    These are really just minor nits – great reporting!

  13. Jerrylee says:

    very nice review and I like the video. I test rode one of the earlier versions and really liked it with the exception of a soft motor. For the last few years I said I’d probably be a buyer if they put the stronger motor in. They did and I was able to see both the white and black versions on a trip to Wichita. I didn’t ride the new version as my interest for some reason seems to be leaning toward the new Stelvio. I have a “weak spot” for Guzzis having owned an old 70 750 Ambassador. It was a great bike. Glad to see them make a comeback.

  14. MikeD says:

    So many great choices(bikes)…so little time and $$$. (-_- )”

    I can see myself riding this…just not paying that much…(^_^)

  15. Trpldog says:

    I bought a new Moto Guzzi Le Mans in ’76, and really enjoyed it while I owned it. I have always had a real soft spot for the brand. It had great personality and relibility to boot. I haven’t yet moved into the sport-touring mode of motorcycling, but I sure would like to have a Guzzi back in the garage.

    • Trpldog says:

      Dirck,
      I just came back after posting above and watched your video. I have to say – EXCELLENT! MD has been my home page for a long long time and the video really brought me to understand that there are real people behind MD, and not robotic key-hitters knocking out the articles that show up on my screen. Truly, if MD ever ceased to exist, the motorcycling world would suffer a great loss. Without exaggeration, from one mature motorcyclist to another, MD is a real highlight of my day. I’m sure I am not alone when I say to you and to all the MD team, THANK YOU for all your hard work and dedication to the sport we all love and enjoy. If you ever happen to find yourself in the LA area on two wheels and have a hankerin for some coffee, I would be blessed to sit and talk bike over a cup. My treat. Cheers!

      • Dirck Edge says:

        Thanks. We have big plans for video. This is just our first. I will take you up on that coffee when the opportunity to spend some time in L.A. arises.

  16. Gabe says:

    They did! It’s called the Stelvio.

    • Kjazz says:

      …if this was a response to my “wish” below, my response is that I dont expect the Stelvio’s chassis to meet or exceed the BMW’s. Haven’t ridden it, but have read the reviews. I think the BMW Telelever is weird at first, but quickly becomes the most amazingly compliant and trusted front-end I’ve ever tried. I think it’s widely accepted the BMW’s overall chassis is superior, but maybe not for long.

      …if this wasn’t directed at my comment….nevermind!!! :-)

  17. MadMax2 says:

    Thanks Dirck,

    Could you please comment on the heat output? Most of the bikes in this class can throw off so much heat that its a buzz kill.

    • MGNorge says:

      From what 8V owners are saying the new motor is an improvement in heat management over the old motor. Even so, I don’t find the heat generated by my 2v to be much of a problem most of the time. I have long legs and the inside of my knees will kiss the valve covers a bit. The only time it’s noticable is on really hot days in stop and go traffic. I don’t call that riding but it is a reality out on the streets.
      I encourage any interested in an Guzzi to look into a test ride. The dealer in my area almost insisted I do so. But like a fish unable to escape its fate at the hands of a fisherman, the hook was set! They are very addictive. Just be prepared to answer a lot of, “Moto what?” when tanking up!

      • Marky Mark says:

        My brother has moved from a Brevia to a 2009 Norge carryover purchased late last summer. I got some seat time this summer and really enjoyed the bike… well balanced and the bars are great.

  18. sliphorn says:

    Excellent video review, Dirck. More please! I’ve been wanting this new Norge 8v for a while now. It’s my cup-o-tea. My current ride is a Triumph Sprint ST 1050, so I imagine the leg room on the Norge might actually be a tad more than what I am used to.

  19. Kjazz says:

    Moto Guzzi = Perky Cylinders
    BMW = Saggy Cylinders

  20. Mickey says:

    Nice video review. Good looking sport tourer. Wish there were more Guzzi dealers around so that one could see one in person. My brother had an 850 Eldorado in ’82. Talk about charachter ha ha.

    Somethings I always wonder about, that testers never seem to cover. How comfortable are the passenger accomodations? How easy is it to service? Can you get to the spark plugs? Can you get to the oil filter? Are the valves adjustable with regular hand tools, or do you need special tools and a shim kit? Can you get to the battery easily? How hard is it to pull the wheels? How convenient is the centerstand to use?

    One paragraph written to cover the above questions would be great in any review.

    • Joe says:

      Mickey, the Norge’s outer plugs are quite easy to get to. The inner ones require the tank to come off and a special socket to get at ‘em–the clearance is quite tight. Some folks have taken a regular sparkplug socket and simply ground down one side. Tappets are easy to get to as well–so much easier than almost any other bike! Plus, no shims required. The oil filter is easily accessed too through a well in the front right of the bike. And the batter is also easy to get to: Pull the seat, and there it is.

      Hope this helps.

      • Mickey says:

        Thanks Joe..wish they reported on those features in every article. I’ve even written most of the moto mags requesting they add that info in their test reports…. to no avail. I don’t understand the hesitation. To some of us, that info is as important as weight, horsepower and handling.

  21. Artem says:

    I think you have to do such kind of the video with more motorcycle
    models you have at the disposal. Vary informative.
    Thanks, Dirck

  22. endoman says:

    It kind of looks like it falls between a tourer and a sport tourer. Dry clutch?

  23. Jay says:

    I started up and sat on a 8V Griso last year. There was an incessant, and loud, whine coming from the engine, I guess, the valves. You don’t mention any “whine” in your review. Dosn’t this one whine?

  24. Greg Sack says:

    Great video/review, Dirk!. I’ve always been a fan of MG’s and hope to own one in the near future. Must make one correction, though. The 8V motor has only been out since MY 2009 in the US, and maybe one year earlier in Europe, if I’m not mistaken. Hope you don’t mind.

    Thx.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Greg, thanks for the compliment. MG has had a motor with 4 valve heads for a long time. I rode one more than 10 years ago. It was not called the 8V, however.

      • rapier says:

        It’s my understanding that this 8valve is considerably different from the original mid 90′s version. I am sure the cognoscenti can fill in the details. I read the first design was expensive to make and perhaps not good reliability wise. I don’t doubt that the result is the same, better power and over all performance, it’s just they got there by re engineering the valve train .

    • Dirck Edge says:

      The MG I rode was the Centauro (manufactured until 2001), and it had 4 valve heads.

      • bikerrandy says:

        Back in the `80s MG offered the 650 Lario(LeMans body) that had 4 valves. Most fun bike I’ve ever ridden !

      • Goose says:

        Dirk,

        The old 8 V motor shared nothing with the new motor. To start, the old motor drove the cams from the front and via rubber belts. The new motor drives the cams from the rear via chains.

        Some body asked about easy to work on, barring all that body work you couldn’t design a bike to be much easier to work on. If I was in a hurry I could check/ adjust the valves goose in 30 to 40 minutes. Now that the oil filter is on the outside (used to be inside the oil pan) oil changes are easy. The spark plugs are right there, etc.

        Goose

  25. dan says:

    Why do so many of these sport touring bikes have such high footpegs? I have crunchy knees that don’t like to stay bent for sustained periods, and yet the new VFR1200, my BanditS, this bike, so many bikes in the segment are off the table for me due to this one simple yet major problem.

    • Dave says:

      Necessary to be called a “sport tourer”. Pegs must be high enough for boot/ground clearance when cornering, seat must be low enough as to be ridable for people without long legs. Result=cramped relationship between pegs/seat. It’s tough but it’s probably the right choice for the category.

  26. Gary says:

    Wow … love the video. Some really polished production value and a great way to present a road test. “Show me, don’t tell me.” Well done. Please do more!

    Oh, and the bike’s cool, too.

  27. John Stokes says:

    Does the neutral light really flash, or is that an effect of the video camera? What is your inseam? I have a 31″ inseam, but the most comfortable bike I’ve owned is the ’09 Speed Triple I just sold. Go figure.

    • Superchicken says:

      That’s a typical result with LEDs and digital video cameras. I’ve noticed it my own videos and even on productions like Top Gear.

  28. Vrooom says:

    Nice to find a sport tourer to compete with the BMW boxers that isn’t a BMW. The price is a bit out of my range, but I’m guessing these will go for perhaps 8K after a couple of years on the used market, which is perfect. Nice looking bike too, for what it is.

  29. BarryK says:

    Nice write up and great video review. Thanks.

  30. YellowDuck says:

    Nice review of an interesting bike!

    For future reference, the name Piaggio only has two syllables, not four. Say “pyah’-jo”.
    The first i makes a y sound, and the second i is just there to indicate that the gg is soft (j sound instead of g).

  31. Bullet Bob says:

    I own a 1200 Sport and it is my all time favorite of the 10 different bikes I’ve owned. I loved the video, one of the best on bikes videos I’ve seen. The bike I would like to see reviewed is the 2012 Stelvio. With all of it’s upgrades it should be an excellent tourer too!

  32. Stinky says:

    I’ve always loved these bikes but the prices always scared me off. Maybe it’s just that everyone else has raised their prices to this level that it doesn’t seem so bad. I’d love to have one of these in the garage but I’d rather see the V11 Sport or Daytona make a comeback with these saddlebags as an option.

  33. Morris Bethoven says:

    Great review, Gabe. This is a Guzzi with a lot of capability. I even think the price is commensurate with what they are offering. I’ll probably have to wait a bit and look to the secondary market to put one in my garage, tho. More video reviews are always a welcome thing!

  34. Denny says:

    For such a classy report I wonder how long you can slay without subscription (not that I would be asking for it). I am on this page almost daily; it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

  35. Tom Shields says:

    Great write-up, Dirck. Thanks!

  36. Kjazz says:

    Excellent report and thanks for including the video. These bikes are awesome in my humble opinion.

  37. Kagato says:

    That’s a good lookin’ scoot!

  38. Kjell Moller says:

    Hi all,

    The word Norge means Norway (in the Scandinavian language) and it is the ultimate goal for an Italian motorbike tourer.

    Kjell Moller
    Sweden

  39. LarryC says:

    Excellent review, thanks! Love the video. Us Guzzi riders really appreciate your coverage. Nice to keep these rather anonymous bikes in front of a wide audience. For anyone who hasn’t ridden a Guzzi lately (and I’m guessing that will be most of you) you should give yourself a treat. Warning: they’re addictive!

  40. paso100 says:

    Great video review, Dirk; made me want to get another sport tourer after seeing the on-camera view. Next video can we hear the bike for a minute or two?

  41. MGNorge says:

    Except for the motor this sounded close to my experience with the 2V I have. Nice video production, I hope to see more with the bikes that are reviewed.