Guzzi care about how the Griso looks, sounds and feels. I like that thought process.
Alastair Walker took a ride on the 2009 Moto Guzzi Griso, now featuring an 8-valve, 1151cc, V-twin engine. The latest model also has sharper styling and is arguably one of the most handsome looking big cruisers on the market.
Sometimes genius is flawed and Moto Guzzi have built some oddball bikes over the years. Anyone remember the Quota, their attempt at rivalling the big BMW R100 GS of the 90s? Some might argue that Guzzi’s failure to get the transmission to work in mechanical harmony until recently, is their greatest failing, and has arguably held the marque back for decades.
But the Griso 1200 is a bike which works, in the real world of 21st century leisure riding. It pulls with locomotive-like traction, providing the rider with a gutful of torque. The handling requires some serious input, but once you re-configure your head from flicking some lightweight Japanese sportbike around the Palmersport test circuit, you get to enjoy shovelling the Griso through corners faster than the average cruiser. It also sounds beautiful, with a deep, basso profundo note at low revs and it looks genuinely different from the crowd.
Just for a moment consider how hard it is to design a motorcycle which looks good these days, without simply recycling the best elements of the past. There’s nothing wrong with a Ducati Sport Classic, or a Triumph Thruxton, Honda CB1300 etc but retro models like these aren’t unique, fresh, new. The Griso has an edginess, a quirky charm which is modern and yet not as gaudy as say a Kawasaki Z1000, nor as functional and bland as a Honda CB1000R.
Style matters. If it didn’t, we’d all be riding a Bandit 600 at the weekends, because logically that’s all we need. But many bikers want something that stands out, that starts a conversation and makes you feel good because you chose a Bimota rather than a BMW. Not everyone wants to be part of the same gang.
Real Riders Required
Going back to the Honda CB1000R, that four cylinder masterpiece of fluid power destroys the Griso in terms of acceleration, handling and braking. It is the better machine in terms of performance, and value for money. On paper.
Yet given the money, I would buy the Griso 1200. It isn’t as fast, handles like a shire horse by comparison and isn’t as comfortable as the Honda. But, I loved the Griso’s brutal charm. It requires the rider to be completely involved, to concentrate totally on squeezing the last rev of power from the engine, and hustle the bike through corners with a wrestler’s weight-shifting balance and skill.
I soon discovered the cornering technique which allows the Griso to blunderbuss its way through a hairpin. Step one, brake early and allow the humongous 245kgs-ish wet weight to stabilise like a rapidly setting jelly. Step two, heave on the tiller, sorry, handlebars with all your strength and push your body sideways until you’re in danger of deforming your spine. Step three, wait for Guzzi to lean over like that tower in Pisa. Step four, accelerate hard out of the corner and feel the bike lunge forwards like a runaway freight train that’s suddenly had eight wagons decoupled at the back.
It is the most addictive and hilarious type of riding you can do and although the Griso isn’t sold as any kind of sportbike, it can be made to travel reasonably quickly.
Personally, I love that kind of old school biking challenge. Having ridden missile-accurate sportbikes like R1s, Blades, Ducati 1098s etc I know that modern sportbikes are simply too damn fast for the public road. Moreover, the modern sportbike masks your mistakes, but the Guzzi demands your respect – if you get it wrong, you and the shire horse will be in the nearest field.
So because I ride on UK rural roads, where the surface often resembles a cart track in Provence, and the traffic on popular biking routes is peppered with every kind of imbecile and snooper camera van, I choose another type of motorcycling. The Griso fits this type of leisure riding very well, with enough power – and power of the useful sort.
It requires skill to handle a big, heavy motorcycle, with 100bhp of instant grunt, no fairing and excellent brakes that could easily have you off on a wet road, but after 35 years on bikes, I relish a machine that demands my full attention and every ounce of ability.
But don’t think you have to ride the Griso hard to enjoy it. The bike can cruise like a big Harley, or Rocket III, offering a pleasant, laid-back kind of motorcycling that makes that rare sunny Sunday morning all the sweeter. Indeed, if you take the Griso beyond 90mph for more than a few seconds, it feels like battling a hurricane.
So it does make more sense as a cruiser, even though the handlebars are set curiously far forward, so you lean towards the clocks, rather than relaxing backwards as you would on most custom style bikes. You can take it easy all day long on the Griso, letting the torque do the work, dabbing at those massive twin front discs occasionally to scrub off a few mph.
It’s just a barrel of fun to crack the throttle open now and again…
The Quality Option
So many motorcycles these days are badly made. I can’t name them for legal reasons, but let’s just say I’m sick of seeing new bikes with rust spots on them, wafer-thin paint, £12.50 plastic parts that cost hundreds to replace when you drop the bike etc. It baffles me why expensive touring bikes don’t have proper front mudguards, batteries that can survive more than two winters, or seem incapable of returning more than 40mpg on average.
But cast an eye across the Griso and you see paint which looks durable, beautiful chrome and polished alloy parts. Components like the Brembo brakes, and the huge shaft drive assembly, are a kind of engineering soft porn, they go way beyond their simple function.
Guzzi obviously care about how the Griso looks, sounds and feels. I like that thought process, this isn’t a bike designed by marketing managers on some feeble bonding weekend. Engineers drew the lines, real riders dreamed up the concept of the Griso, then Guzzi went shopping for top notch parts suppliers to make it a reality. It makes a difference.
Up at the front, 43mm upside down forks, multi-adjustable adorn the Griso. At the back, a very classy monoshock damps the bumps and pot-holes, again multi-adjustable. Even details like the mirrors work well, and look decently finished on the Griso.
You get a serious amount of kit for the money, which is essential, because the Griso 1200 costs a hefty £8430 and I would be the first to admit that there are better value all-rounders and retro cruisers to be had for less money.
In the end, you need to be sure that the Griso is your cup of Espresso Vibrato. This is a motorcycle you need to feel addicted to and want to own for years, maybe for the rest of your biking life. For me, the Griso has a better finish than the average Harley, matches something like the Victory for sheer presence, style and V-twin grunt, yet it handles that bit better than a large capacity cruiser. This is a motorbike that makes any Sunday ride a bit special, different from the mainstream and I say `Bravo’ to the Italians for offering that choice in motorcycling.
Get Moto Guzzi motorcycle insurance for the Griso 1200 2009.
|ENGINE||Air/Oil cooled, 1151cc, liquid-cooled, 8 valve, OHC V-twin|
|PEAK POWER||97bhp @ 7300rpm|
|PEAK TORQUE||74 ft/lbs @ 6300rpm|
|ESTIMATED TOP SPEED||125mph|
|CHASSIS||Steel tubular type frame, engine as stressed member.|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||43mm telescopic forks, multi-adjustable|
|REAR SUSPENSION||monoshock, multi-adjustable|
|BRAKES||Twin 320mm front discs, 4 piston calipers, single 282mm rear disc, single piston caliper.|
|WHEELS/TYRES||120/70 front, 180/55 rear, 17 in wheels|
|FUEL CAPACITY||16.7 litres|
|RRP||£8,428 (June 2009)|
|TEST BIKE SUPPLIED BY||Moto Guzzi UK|