First Ride: 2007 Moto Guzzi Norge 1200

Gran Turismo 2

"Man, I wish I had this bike last summer," I thought to myself as I rode through a driving rain, in the dark, on Moto Guzzi's new Norge 1200 sport-tourer. If you recall, I piloted a Breva 1100 in the inaugural Colorado Centopassi last July (Motorcyclist, November 2006), and while that bike worked just fine, this one would have been much better.

Why Norge? It's Norwegian for Norway, which is where Guiseppe "Naco" Guzzi, the founder's brother and production engineer, rode in 1928 to test the then-new GT 500's innovative swingarm rear suspension. It worked so well throughout the four-week, 4000-mile journey that when he returned, he christened the bike the Norge. This new bike was going to be called the Breva GT, but a group of engineers saw the original Norge in the Guzzi museum and decided to resurrect the name.

Like most Guzzis of the past three decades, the Norge is powered by an air-cooled, two-valve, pushrod, transverse 90-degree V-twin with longitudinal crank and shaft drive-think BMW Boxer with its cylinders tipped up. Compared to the 92 x 80mm cylinders of the 1064cc Breva, the Norge has a 3mm larger bore and 1.2mm longer stroke for 1133cc, making it the biggest mass-produced Guzzi yet. Naturally, output is said to have been increased, though it's difficult to say by how much. Guzzi's press materials give maximum power as "over 66 kw (95 hp) at 7500 rpm," but according to our calculations, 66 kilowatts equals 89 horsepower. Considering that the Breva is said to make 84 hp, we're inclined to believe the lower figure. Torque is also said to be up from 64 lb.-ft. on the Breva to 74 on the Norge at 5800 rpm.

Guzzi invited select members of the U.S. press to a brief test ride in conjunction with the Advanstar International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California, last December. Knowing that there are good roads just over the Vincent Thomas Bridge on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, I took them up on their offer.

Given that the Norge is based on the Breva, it's not surprising it feels similar: upright ergos, stable yet flickable, soulful if a little slow, long-legged, etc. The main difference is the added wind protection of the full fairing (the Breva has only an optional windshield), replete with two-position manually adjustable windscreen (an electric version is said to be forthcoming). At first the seat felt comfortably soft, but it wore thin after a while, and my knees rubbed uncomfortably on the cylinder heads. And the centerstand that dragged on the Breva in Colorado dragged on the Norge in California, even with the shock's hydraulic preload adjuster cranked full-hard. I didn't deck the saddlebags this time, though! Speaking of which, the color-matched 36-liter panniers look great and are easy to open/close and detach/reattach.

After a couple of hours riding the dark clouds that had been threatening finally opened up, setting the stage for a sprint back to the convention center. That made me appreciate the fairing's leg shields, the standard three-position heated handgrips, the powerful front light assembly with its four polyelipsoidal headlights and, especially, the ABS. Like Ducati's similar Bosch-Brembo system, the ABS can be deactivated by holding down the button while starting the motor.

Arriving back in Long Beach safe, warm and dry, I had to admit the Norge is a pretty nice motorbike. It's not going to set any speed records, but for casual two-up sport-touring, you could do a whole lot worse.

MSRP $14,990
Type a-c, 90-degree V-twin
Valves OHV, 4v
Displacement 1151cc
Transmission 6-speed

||| |---|---| CHASSIS | Weight| 542 lb., claimed dry (246kg)| | Fuel capacity| 6.0 gal. (23L)| | Wheelbase| 58.8 in. (1494mm)| | Seat height| 31.5 in. (800mm)|