“Moto Guzzi character & state-of-the-art performance.”
“Whose art are we talking about here?”
Orthodoxy cuts both ways. Those who follow it find comfort in knowing others have made the same decision and came to the same conclusions. Safety in numbers. You BMW GS owners swell in ranks every year, and the new ones who join figure you know something they don't. Stelvio owners are the exact opposite. Chocolate to your vanilla. Fuzzy red pants and a cocked hat to your jeans and work shirt. Any path they choose is 90 degrees to orthodoxy, and they love every mile of the (mis)adventure.
So it is. If you were totally agnostic it would be possible to see the Stelvio as simply Moto Guzzi's logical entry to the burgeoning adventure-touring market. Using the firm's long-running, overhead-cam, eight-valve engine, the Stelvio offers up some of the highest technology in Guzzi's catalog. Really? Sure, the Stelvio features ABS, traction control, hard-case luggage, and a host of amenities the ADV crowd always seems to clamor for.
And in the broad view, the Stelvio checks all the boxes. Long-travel suspension: 6-plus inches, check. Big gas tank for plenty of range: 8-plus gallons, check. Standard, roomy luggage: a pair of 37-liter hard bags, check. First offered for 2008, the Stelvio received substantial upgrades for 2012, including a revised fairing, different windshield, and that massive, 8.5-gallon fuel tank. For US customers, only the up-level NTX is available, which comes standard with the hard bags plus hand guards, spoke wheels, and a taller windscreen than the base Stelvio. Factory farkled.
And yet the Stelvio is an ADV machine through the looking glass. Many of the familiar visual cues and even the sensation of a long-travel suspension, wide handlebar, and a tallish seat may lull you into thinking Guzzi has suppressed its genetics and built a GS on the shore of Lake Como. Ah, no. And the illusion shatters as soon as you punch the starter button. The 1,151cc transverse V-twin shudders to life and idles contentedly just (and only just) ahead of your kneecaps. Although Moto Guzzi says the engine is quieter than before, it still has enough mechanical presence to sound like a really small diesel at idle. Things click and clack and whir and moan down there—just like you'd expect from a Guzzi.
In general, the Stelvio is well mannered, though we think the off-idle throttle response is a tad aggressive. That, combined with the engine's natural tendency to roll the chassis with power and the clutch's absolute lack of feel at the lever, makes getaways a bit less than elegant, but you soon learn the Goose's quirks and roll on. This air-cooled mill comes up on the torque curve early and stays there, producing more than 60 pound-feet as early as 2,250 rpm and holding that to the rev limiter; peak is 74.4 pound-feet at 5,750 rpm. Mr. Dynojet says there are peaks and valleys in that torque trace, but you sure can't feel them from the saddle. The Stelvio just pulls at any engine speed, not with huge urgency, but with a satisfying amount of thrust nevertheless.
People have called Guzzis "tractors" before in the disparaging sense, but this is a good kind of tractor. If only the engine were as smooth as the 90-degree cylinder spread promises. While the Stelvio exhibits little low-frequency drubbing, a fair amount of residual high-frequency vibration appears at the handgrips, marring an otherwise serene highway ride. At least the suspension is doing its thing: The softly sprung (but adequately damped) legs manage a nicely controlled magic carpet impersonation. By comparison, a BMW GS feels noticeably firmer, and a Multistrada seems like a hard-core racebike.
Up to a point, the Stelvio handles twisty roads very well. Steering is low effort and pretty accurate, though the bike tends to fall into corners. Those radial-mount Brembos are strong and very progressive, plus they're backed up by very good, disable-able Continental ABS. But watch those lefts! The sidestand foot touches down well before your left boot is near the asphalt, severely cutting into available lean angle; no problem on right-handers, though.
Even though the Stelvio can't compete with the R1200GS in terms of performance or polish, it beats it in one category: value. Equipped just as you see our tester, the Stelvio NTX retails for $15,990, including all the accessories. (Heated grips are, alas, an option.) A bare-bones GS starts at $16,100; the new R1200GS Adventure lists for $18,200. Before luggage and add-ons. Who knew there was an Orthodoxy Tax?
Introduced in 2008, the Stelvio received a significant re-work for the 2012 model year, including a new fairing, larger fuel tank, and engine refinements.
BMW R1200GS & R1200GS Adventure, Ducati Multistra-da, KTM 1190 Adventure & Adventure R, Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Triumph Explorer and Explorer XC, Yamaha Super Ténéré
||a/o-c 90° V-twin
|Bore x stroke
||95.0 x 81.2mm
||90.4 hp at 7250 rpm
||74.4 lb-ft at 5750 rpm
||Marzocchi 45mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping
||Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
||Brembo two-piston caliper, 282mm disc with ABS
||110/80R-19 Pirelli Scorpion Trail
||150/70R-17 Pirelli Scorpion Trail
|Weight (tank full/empty)
||Amazon Green, Orange
||24 mo., unlimited mi.
Moto Guzzi’s approach to the ADV market is typically iconoclastic. Solid performance and high value are among the Stelvio’s strengths.