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Moto Guzzi celebrates its 90th anniversary this year - Kevin Ash finds out whether the new Stelvio 8V and NTX bring many happy returns for the Italian marque.

There’s a lot of goodwill among bike riders towards Moto Guzzi, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. But very little of it translates into sales.

There’s a charm about the overtly mechanical V-twin engine layout of every Guzzi, with its chunky gearbox and shaft final drive, and the styling generally is good too, and occasionally outstanding. Very often though, Guzzis have been almost right, except for some quirk, fault or issue which has put potential buyers right off.

The original Stelvio adventure bike was typical: close to BMW’s class-defining R1200GS, but with an engine better suited to a sports bike, and the fuel range wasn’t good enough either.

The new 2011 Stelvio addresses these and a host of smaller issues too. The engine was altered last year to boost lower rev output, and now it has new electronic engine mapping and fuel injectors to make it smoother, and Guzzi says the fuel economy is improved by up to 10 per cent. That helps the range, but not as much as the new fuel tank, which has a huge 7 gallon (32 litre) capacity, transforming the Stelvio’s long distance touring capability.

There are two versions of the bike, the base model Stelvio 8V, and the Stelvio NTX, which comes with aluminium box-type panniers, spoked instead of cast alloy wheels, a matt black finish and larger screen. Both versions are very well equipped, featuring ABS, a basic traction control system, on board computer with fuel economy display and heated handlebar grips. At £10,549 the Stelvio 8V appears to be a similar price to the R1200GS’s £10,550, but spec the BMW up to the Stelvio’s level (which most buyers do, so this is very realistic) and you’re facing a bill of £12,220 – suddenly the Moto Guzzi is almost £1,700 cheaper.

The riding experience seals or breaks a deal though, and it’s here that the Stelvio’s improvements have brought it right into contention. Where once it felt like the bike had the wrong engine – a sports bike motor in a tourer – now it has plenty of torque at low revs and in the mid-range, as well as a responsive, willing feel that makes the big twin a real pleasure to be in charge of. The exhaust note is a mellow, friendly purr and the chunky pulsing shakes that greet you when you open the throttle are communicative and appealing.

There’s no longer a need to stir the gearbox excessively, and even two-up with a load the bike feels muscular and capable, as a big tourer should. The ride is plush and very well controlled too, even on very bumpy, poorly maintained surfaces. It’s unfazed by potholes and ridges yet when you start to throw it around and get sporty the bike remains obedient and unflustered. It sweeps through corners rather than hurling itself into them, but if it’s not especially agile it does still handle very well, going exactly where you point it and holding its line well.

The screen on the stock model is pretty good at holding off the windblast without making a big noise about it, but the NTX’s larger version is exceptionally good, a lot better than BMW’s (including the bigger Adventure version). Seat comfort is very good too, and thanks to the upright riding position there’s plenty of room for arms and legs. The seat height is the lowest in the class (although BMW does have low seat options which better the Guzzi), and you can adjust it up or down by 20mm, a process that takes less than a minute.

In short, this is now a very serious long distance touring bike, and a better one than the R1200GS in some respects. The only area it really loses in is weight, as it’s around 62lb (28kg) heavier than the German bike. This makes both the handling less agile and the engine performance a little less sharp. But that matters less than how the bike feels – you’re not going to be racing GSs after all – and in this respect, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio is at least as good, and for many its endearing character makes it even better.

Everything then that has kept people on Guzzi’s side, but now with the ability to back that up. Happy 90th, Moto Guzzi!

Get Moto Guzzi motorcycle insurance for the Stelvio 8V and NTX.

Model tested Moto Guzzi Stelvio 8v (Stelvio NTX)
Price £10,549 (£11,649) on the road
Available now
Engine 90-degree V-twin, air cooled, sohc 8v, 1151cc
Power 104bhp @ 7,250rpm
Torque 83lb.ft (11.5kgm, 72.8Nm) @ 9,500rpm
Economy 38mpg (14.1km/l, 7.1l/100km, 34mpg US)
Tank/Range 7.04 gallons (32 litres)/ 290 miles (470km)
Transmission Six gears, dry single-plate clutch, shaft final drive
Chassis steel tube, single-sided aluminium swingarm/shaft
Seat height 32.3-33.1in (820-840mm)
Wheelbase 57.6in (1464mm)
Rake/trail 27°/ 4.92in (125mm)
Weight 567lb (257kg) (kerb) (NTX: 600lb)

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