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2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio Review

Monday, February 23, 2009
2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
The 2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio sources the historic marque's transverse V-Twin motor.
You got to hand it to Moto Guzzi, the historic Italian marque sure knows how to pick a name. Stelvio... Most motorcycle riders revere the Stelvio name as an iconic road. Having traversed the 84 hairpin turns up and down the 9048-ft pass through the Italian Alps, I can vouch that the Passo dello Stelvio is indeed a legendary ride.

The Stelvio motorcycle is Moto Guzzi’s take on the popular BMW GS. A self-described “two-wheeled SUV,” the Stelvio is presented to American riders as a do-it-all adventure-touring mount. The type of motorcycle a rider would source to tackle roads like, yes, the famed Stelvio Pass.

We sampled the Guzzi’s adventure-touring quotient on a two-day border run from MCUSA’s SoCal offices to Yuma, Arizona. The backroad highways and state roads may not have the mystique of the Stelvio’s namesake, but they showed how this new Goose flies.

Moto Guzzi lives and dies by its signature transverse-mount V-Twin and the Stelvio is no exception. The latest version of the 90-degree 1151cc mill drips character, exhibiting all the expected quirks - like the pronounced gyroscopic shudder from the centerline crankshaft and the throaty V-Twin exhaust grumble. MG claims 563 new parts adorn the Stelvio motor, but the signature change is the “quattrovalvole” head. Replacing the two-valve head of previous MG Twins, the four-valve design (also found on the MG Griso) yields more peak power, although at higher revs.

2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio 2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
Mickey Cohen Motorsport dyno chart (above). Credit the new MG mill's improved peak power to the quattrovalvole four-valve head (below).
The Mickey Cohen Motorsports dyno registers 90.5 rear-wheel horsepower and 69 lb-ft torque from the Stelvio at a respective 7000 and 6700 rpm. The dyno chart confirms the Twin’s mid-range zing, taking off between 4-5K and falling off after its 7K peak.

“The torquey power from the Twin was fun and easily managed,” says MCUSA Video Editor, Robin Haldane. “The midrange power was welcome and even powered the front wheel in the air when that hooligan urge set in."

On the road the Stelvio’s lively mid-range and top end works well for spirited riding, but the high-revving power seems an odd fit to the adventure-touring application. Fueling from the Weber Marelli injectors and 50mm throttle bodies is smooth, and lugging in lower revs through the corners is not a problem, but we downshifted more than usual when the road tightened up.

The six-speed gearbox is well sorted to A-T versatility. Riders can idle along in first gear without fussing the clutch, ideal for low-speed maneuvering on or off pavement. On the other extreme, sixth-gear is a touring-friendly overdrive.

The dry clutch delivers smooth shifts, but with a stiff clutch lever pull. On a more positive note, the CARC (Compact Reactive Shaft Drive) shaftdrive is refined, exhibiting little hop or lurch.

“Most Moto Guzzi’s I have ridden seemed to have clunky transmissions,” says Robin, “however, the Stelvio made every gear change flawlessly and I didn’t notice the usual drive lash of past Guzzis.”

2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
While it may not be the most nimble, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio enjoys the curves.
Open the door at Moto Guzzi’s Mandello del Lario headquarters and pristine mountain roads are right there. Stellar handling is required on roads like the Stelvio’s namesake, which lies 100 miles to the Northeast, and the latest Guzzi corners well for a bike with a 60.4-inch wheelbase and claimed 553-lb fully-fueled heft. The 27-degree rake, 4.9-inch trail and 19-inch front wheel don’t tip into a corner as quick as sportier rides, but once it does lean it feels very planted and stable in a turn. A high center of gravity makes the Goose feel top heavy, but it doesn’t take long to get accustomed to the Guzzi mount.

“When first pulling off the parking lot after picking the Guzzi up, it felt top heavy and awkward, similar to the feeling I got the first time on BMW’s R1200GS,” admits Robin. “However once I got moving and acquainted with the handling characteristics, the bike felt comfortable and quite fun to ride.”

While it is heavy, the Stelvio’s steel frame chassis feels slim and features a capable suspension package. The fully-adjustable Marzocchi front, with thick 50mm fork tubes, looks stout and is quite compliant. Meanwhile the Boge rear shock is adjustable for preload and rebound. Both provide ample travel, with 6.7 and 6.1 inches in the front and rear. Like other street bikes with high suspension travel, there is minimal front end dive on heavy braking.

2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
The Stelvio's suspension and long wheelbase made for very stable handling around a curve.
“Where the suspension was a surprise for me was cornering on the road,” says Robin. “Most bikes with a lot of travel make the bike feel loose in a corner, but the Stelvio kept its line very well and felt planted all the way through the corner.”

The high level of suspension travel allows for off-road action, but the Stelvio is certainly not a trail bike! That didn’t stop us from veering off the highway as we rode through California’s Imperial Dunes. No, we didn’t scale the massive dunes, but some OHV dilly dallying included dirt road wandering. The 8.2-inches of ground clearance from the protective skid plate is such that dirt road navigation is not a problem although a brief run of more adventurous terrain caused the rear to bottom out. The Pirelli Scorpion tires inspire confidence on the road and were rugged enough for our meager off-road excursions.

The dual radial-mount four-piston Brembo calipers and 320mm discs carry high expectations. The high CG and steering geometry may be more to blame, but the front Brembos didn’t exhibit the firm initial bite expected. On more than one occasion casual two-finger pulls were rapidly changed to full fist hammerings due to lax stops. As a result, we used the 282mm disc and rear two-piston arrangement more than usual.

2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
The  Stelvio's riding position works well for taller riders, with the wide handlebar ample leg room quite comfortable.
Our biggest gripe with the Stelvio is its wimpy range. Calculating our 35.5 MPG efficiency and the 4.75-gallon tank, there should be a 169-mile range. During our 590 test miles, however, it seemed we were always looking for gas. Rolling into one fuel stop 30 miles into the reserve there was an unimpressive total of 140 miles on our trip meter. Any bike that aspires to adventure-touring status should have a stock range much closer to 200. Another foible of the fuel/range is the digital fuel meter has three, and only three, positions: Full, half-full and empty - at which point the fuel light comes on and reserve tripmeter kicks in.

As for the other touring accommodations, the Stelvio fares much better. The comfortable riding position is well-matched for a taller rider. At 6’1” I felt right at home aboard the big Guzzi, with the tall, wide handlebar and ample legroom. The seat is amenable to long-distance treks. It is also adjustable between 33.1 and 32.3 inches (840mm to 820mm). The half-fairing provides decent wind protection for the body and the adjustable windscreen does a fair job too. Adjustment is manual, and I found the bottom position the best, as higher settings caused helmet buffeting.

2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
Okay, so the Stelvio isn't going to be a Baja desert racer, but the adventure-touring mount is capable of some tame off-roading.
A small storage component, on the right side of the fuel tank, is adequate for immediate needs like gloves or sunglasses. Optional 60-liter panniers are available for more serious touring, along with other accoutrements like heated grips and navigation system.

The instrument cluster on the Stelvio includes a white-face tach on the left, with digital speedo and display on the right. The mirrors provide a decent view but vibrations from the Guzzi Twin caused the mirrors to shake on the road to the point of blurring. We have to compliment the Guzzi, however, on its lighting. When it gets dark out the Stelvio is quite visible, with the dual headlamps and side fog lamps so bright that while riding lead on a different mount, I kept looking in my mirror surprised to the see the Guzzi and not a car riding my tail!

In the light of day, the Stelvio is easy on the eyes. While its styling may not be as sexy as other Italian designs, there is a lot to like - the single-side swingarm, spoked wheels and Guzzi eagle emblems our favorite. Then, of course, there is the transverse Twin’s heads, peaking out the side of the frame – completely different than anything else on the road. The Moto Guzzi cachet draws heavily on its uncommon character.

Riding the Stelvio through the desert and twisty mountain roads of Southern California, we had plenty of time to contemplate the Guzzi mounts strengths and weaknesses. As for its future success, the logic behind the Stelvio is sound. Its clear intention is to steal some BMW GS sales, one of the most successful motorcycles in the past two decades. With more than 100,000 units sold, pinching even a small piece of the GS pie would be a boon for Moto Guzzi and we imagine at least a couple graying gentlemen will arrive at this year’s round of BMW rallies to show off their quirky new Guzzi to old GS friends.

The Stelvio is available now in American showrooms in Corsa Red and Guzzi Black. The $14,990 MSRP is comparable to the $14,750 of the standard GS. So it’s official - the Beemer now has its doppelganger, a European AT steed with distinctive engine and plenty of personality. A versatile bike fit for famous roads – the Stelvio.
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2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio Specs
2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
Engine: Transverse 90-degree V-Twin
Displacement: 1151cc
Bore x Stroke: 95 x 81.2mm
Max Horsepower: 90.5 hp @ 7000rpm
Max Torque: 69 lb-ft @ 6700rpm
Fueling: Weber Marelli fuel injection
Transmission: Six-gear
Final Drive: Shaft
Front Suspension: 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork, fully-adjustable, 6.7-inch travel
Rear Suspension: Single Boge shock, adjustable preload and rebound, 6.1-inch travel
Front Brake: Brembo dual 320mm disc with radial-mount 4-piston calipers
Rear Brake: Brembo single 282mm disc with 2-piston calipers
Front Wheel: 2.5 x 19-inch
Rear Wheel: 5.5 x 17-inch
Tires: Pirelli Scorpion
Wheelbase: 60.4 in.
Seat Height: Adjustable 32.3-33.1 in.
Curb Weight: Claimed 553 lbs (472 dry)
Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gallon
MPG: 35.5
Available Colors: Corsa Red, Guzzi Black
MSRP: $14,990
Stelvio Pass Adventure
Climbing up 48 switchbacks to the summit of the 9042 feet was the highlight of our editor s unforgettable Edelweiss Alpine adventure this summer.
We faced the Stelvio Pass during a memorable 2007 Alpine tour with BMW and Edelweiss Bike Travel. Read more about the famed 84 turns in our 2007 Edelweiss Alpine Adventure feature story.

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Richard -stelvio  June 21, 2009 09:45 PM
I had a beemer GS. I now have a stevio,AS I live on pavement not in the north african desert the telvio gets the nod for handling and it seems more comfortable.However the GS much better on muddy roads.In addition the sound of the goose is quite special .
Stu -Stelvio's future  June 4, 2009 07:40 PM
Allow me to predict why a perfectly functional bike like the Stelvio will be a sales floor flop. Fistly, I own an Aprilia Caponord. So the Stelvio is beautiful by comparison. Let's face it, the GS is no beauty queen, either. But both the Capo and the GS manage far better fuel economy and carry a lot more fuel. The mostly useless "glove box" in the Stelvio's tank would serve better as additional fuel capacity. But the Italians don't do a couple of things. 1. They don't seem to listen to their customers. 2. They don't understand the concept of advertising. These bikes are the best bikes you never heard of. Having tested both the Norge and the Stelvio, I much prefer the Stelvio. But I could never tolerate 35 mpg or 150 mile range. But it won't matter. Guzzi is expert at making excellent machines and not promoting them. Parts support is legendary, and not in a good way. The Caponord was introduced in 2002 at $11,995, but fire sales were easy to find. The last version with ABS was blown out at $7,995. And now That Aprilia's masters also own Guzzi, that same marketing team is likely to produce similar results.
Bob B -Stelvio  May 18, 2009 04:25 PM
I have ridden the Stelvio and also used to own a 1100GS and the guzzi is a lot more nimble the the GS. I was really surprised to find it weighed so much.
Steven Salemi -Stelvio is Cool-Looking!  April 11, 2009 10:49 AM
I think the Stelvio looks really, really cool! Let us not forget that opinions vis a vis "looks" are totally subjective!!! Steven Salemi 97 Guzzi Centauro Santa Fe, New Mexico USA
sagerat -Stelvio review  February 27, 2009 01:45 PM
Thanks for the well-written and comprehensive review of the Stelvio. At 6'1" I prefer the taller bikes. Had a 2004 GS and loved it, but its weight offroad put me on a KLR 650. I also have a 2006 Moto Guzzi Breva, my first Goose, and it's been a lot of fun. The riding position is a skoosh cramped for me (kinda like my old '02 Honda VFR) but the bike's superb range, great engine, easy handling, and throaty sound (think small block V-8 with glass pack exhaust) make it worthwhile. I've sat on the Stevlvio and the ergos remind me of my GS. Still, I like range on my touring bikes given I live and ride in the West. Out here you need the ability to hit 200 miles and then some. Thank gawd the KLR has Ship of the Desert like range with 6.1 gallons at 50+ mpg.
David -GOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!  February 25, 2009 06:52 PM
I love this Bike, I think it is the best all rounder at the moment. very good article on it,I love the review.
Kurt -Better than you think  February 25, 2009 02:28 PM
A riding buddy and I spend ~4 hours testing a new Griso and a new Stelvio last month. His standard ride is an R1200GS, and mine is a Hypermotard. We romped those two all over the Marin and Sonoma coast. Both of us liked the Stelvio more than we expected to. In fact, I liked the fact that there was a big step in the powerband, and found that it made the bike more fun. At the end of the day, Jim was not ready to trade his GS in on one, but he was impressed. I'm not trading my Hyper for anything, but if I were adding another bike to the stable, I would quite possibly pick the Stelvio over the GS, specifically for that motor.
jsanford -This Guzzi is BIG!  February 24, 2009 10:17 PM
Sat on it at the show in December. This bike is HUGE--it's bigger than the GS. Tall folks will LOVE it.
Steve -Ugly bike  February 24, 2009 10:11 AM
I have to agree with milwaukee mike, this is not a great looking motorcycle. I used to get a lot of "comments" on the looks of my V-strom, but the suzuki looks like a 1098 next to this beast.
Don W -Stelvio  February 24, 2009 12:22 AM
I think the Stelvio is a stunning touring bike. Once they work the first year "niggles" out of the new engine, I'll test ride one. I had a 2006 Breva 1100 and the final drive bearing went out and took the seal with it at 4000 miles. I think single sided swingarms and shaft drive are prone to this type of failure. guzzi's are cool bikes. I still have a 2003 Stone.
Randy -GS FD  February 23, 2009 08:19 PM
Guzzi does seem to nail the final drive. Oh well, for me the chance of a major mechanical dump on my GS is worth it. There's a R1100 out there with 400,000+ miles and no major failure, many R11XX going on a quarter million miles with nothing major. And many that had input shaft and final drive failures at 20-50K. Most of those get fixed and don't have any more problems. So, if you have the stomach for the risk (whatever that is), and the possibly of a $1,000 repair on a $15,000 bike, then the good attributes of the GS are worthwhile. I have the feeling the Stelvio is a nice enough road bike but simply doesn't measure up to the GS when the going gets tough. BTW, I'm not immune to the "worry beads" aspect of GS ownership. I keep an eye on my final drive - only a unobservant owner will get stranded by a finaldrive failure, there's plenty of warning. And I know pretty soon I have to spend 3 full days tearing the rear end off my bike to inspect and lube the transmission input shaft. But the upside is a versatile bike that in the main will live many normal bike lifetimes.
traveler -At least it won't strand you like a GS!  February 23, 2009 03:52 PM
No worry about rear drive failures on a Guzzi. t
milwaukee mike -what an ugly bike  February 23, 2009 01:58 PM
Looking at the pictures, I'd have to say that the guzzi is one ugly mother. I wonder if the engineers were drunk when they designed that one! Or maybe they wanted to top BMW on the goofy scale.
Ninja Nut -Stelvio  February 23, 2009 10:09 AM
I don't think BMW has anything to worry about. Nice bike, but the Stelvio won't convert any BMW R1200GS fanatics into buying Italian.
MCUSA -Moto Guzzi Weight  February 23, 2009 09:04 AM
Double checking weight figures. Until we can reconfirm our numbers, we'll have to go with the claimed weights of 471.8 dry and 553 wet.
GSrandy -weight  February 23, 2009 07:04 AM
618 curb weight. Finally, an adventure bike heavier than my R1150GS. That's progress.
wambo -empty weight  February 23, 2009 05:51 AM
Good article but I was concerned about the listed dry weight being 589.5lbs-Did you actually mean 489.5lbs?