2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V – Road Test Review

2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V (Photos by Kevin Wing)
2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V (Photos by Kevin Wing)

Spec charts are wondrous things. Given accurate data, a spec chart forecasts amazing insights into a motorcycle’s performance before you ever fire it up. By digesting wheelbase, steering geometry, curb weight, engine configuration, power figures and a few other key numbers, an experienced hand can extrapolate how a motorcycle will likely run.

Generous cornering clearance allows aggressive lean angles with the Norge.
Generous cornering clearance allows aggressive lean angles with the Norge.

I should know. I’ve spent decades in the motorcycle industry, preparing and proofing thousands of spec charts as a magazine road test editor and also as a PR/advertising hack. But good as it may be, a spec chart certainly cannot reveal everything about a motorcycle’s real-world performance; sometimes a motorcycle doesn’t work as well as you would have thought, and sometimes it runs better than you had hoped. On very rare occasions, however, a motorcycle will blow away preconceived guesstimates and flat-out dazzle you with some two-wheeled magic once you’re out on the road. Luckily for us, the Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V sport tourer is one such machine.

The last time I rode a Guzzi was in the first half of the 1980s, during my years as Road Test Editor for Cycle magazine. Back in those younger years, I wanted desperately to fall in love with an exotic Italian. But the Guzzis of that era were just too quirky to embrace. They forced multiple demands upon the rider, far too many for my tastes and comfort.

Fast forward to the present. Recently laid off after 14 years of laboring at an ad agency on major motorcycle-industry accounts, I returned to my road-testing roots. Though intimately familiar with scores of the newest motorcycles, I still carried my old Guzzi biases. As I cast a jaundiced eye over the Norge specs, they did little to dispel my notions. Start with the engine and its designation as a 1200. Displacing an actual 1,151cc (via bore and stroke of 95.0 x 81.2mm), it’s only a 1200 if you’re a math geek who really, really believes in rounding up. Sure, it features four valves per cylinder for good engine breathing, but its 90-degree air/oil-cooled V-twin configuration with a single overhead cam doesn’t really promise big-time power—especially given its factory-claimed horsepower peak happening at a low 7,000 rpm. On the Jett Tuning dyno, it churned out 87.2 horsepower and 69.3 lb-ft of torque; that’s respectable, but far from class-leading figures.

So I slung a leg over the saddle with low expectations. As the Norge fires up, its longitudinal V-twin cadence relays big thumps with a lumpy idle, plus a little characteristic torque pull toward the right as you blip the throttle. Fun at idle, those strong power pulses would surely grow unmanageable at higher engine speeds. Smug in my preconceived notions, I rolled out. And immediately found I needed to recalibrate my thinking.

If your riding style emphasizes the sport side of the sport-touring equation, the Moto Guzzi Norge delivers impressive engine and chassis performance on even the tightest of rollercoaster roads.
If your riding style emphasizes the sport side of the sport-touring equation, the Moto Guzzi Norge delivers impressive engine and chassis performance on even the tightest of rollercoaster roads.

As revs build, the V-twin pulses fade into a delightful, velvety smoothness. At highway speeds, the mechanical feel seeping through the handlebars talks gently to the rider without becoming bothersome. More importantly, abundant torque awaits down low in the rev range, putting impressive pull immediately at hand. The engine spins up willingly and will sprint to its 8,000-rpm redline, but there’s no reason to work that hard; the meat of the powerband rests from about 4,000 rpm to 7 grand. Within that range, the power is delightfully responsive, giving a choice between a couple of gears, depending on how hard you want to push things.

For me, pushing things extra hard figured high on the agenda. I love nothing better than hammering along twisty mountain roads all day long, the tighter the better. To give the “Goose” a thorough workout, I headed for my old road-test routes and was thrilled with the way it responded. Even on the tightest of rollercoaster roads, the engine was always a fun-loving accomplice. Plenty of real-world power, spot-on throttle response, perfect fueling manners from the EFI system with twin 50mm throttle bodies, excellent gear spacing and shifting throughout the 6-speed box, good clutch feel and engagement with only a moderate pull. An excellent compact reactive cardan shaft drive (similar to BMW’s Paralever setup) eliminates all negative driveshaft reactions, and there’s nary a hint of driveline slop to upset the bike during throttle transitions. In a world of 1,600cc to 1,800cc touring bikes, this 1,151cc mill is definitely an overachiever and certainly no handicap whatsoever. After all, it was born in the land of the go-for-it autostrada, so high-speed work is in its DNA.

Jet-assisted take off? Dual 5.56mm miniguns? No, just very cool Italian styling on the taillights.
Jet-assisted take off? Dual 5.56mm miniguns? No, just very cool Italian styling on the taillights.

In like manner, the specs on the rolling chassis are not particularly outstanding. Built around a tubular-steel backbone frame with the engine as a stressed member, a longish wheelbase of 58.8 inches, moderate rake and trail of 25 degrees/4.7 inches, plus a not-so-svelte curb weight of 641 pounds, the spec chart is ho-hum. Yet it delivers like crazy with brilliant handling. On my favorite canyon roads, the nimble Norge had me cackling like a loon—so responsive and fun! At very low speeds there’s a faint reluctance for the front end to turn in. That might be a function of tire profile with the Pirelli Angel ST tires, which otherwise provide commendable manners and grip. That very minor glitch disappears once you get going and the bike dives into corners with gusto. You sit down in the Norge rather than perch high, and the Vee engine configuration and chassis design result in a low CG for a direct, connected handling feel. Transitioning left-right-left requires only moderate input through the bars, and it’s easy to pick the bike up mid-turn to change lines. Plenty of feedback through the front end builds rider confidence, and there’s very generous ground clearance. Work at it hard enough and you’ll eat away at the peg feelers and get into the centerstand on either side. That will be a moot point for 90-plus percent of riders, and by the time you’re over that far in a street environment you really shouldn’t be leaning much more anyhow.

LED trip computer info can be difficult to read due to small size and daytime glare.
LED trip computer info can be difficult to read due to small size and daytime glare.

In fast sweepers, the bike feels solid and impressively reassuring, tracking true even in bumpy corners. Credit the 45mm
Marzocchi fork, adjustable for spring preload, and the single-shock rear suspension, adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping. Tuning adjustments over the years have brought this setup prime-time sport-oriented capabilities, yet its medium-firm action still offers a velvety, well-damped feel over all but the biggest bumps and potholes during freeway cruising.

The dual 320mm Brembo opposed four-piston front brakes deliver exemplary stopping power, with linear action and lots of feel. In back, there’s a 282mm disc brake with a twin-piston caliper. The Norge comes with an ABS setup, which can be turned off if desired. But the system works so seamlessly we never felt compelled to dodge its assistance.

Heated handgrips with three settings come standard; the highest setting is the most useful.
Heated handgrips with three settings come standard; the highest setting is the most useful.

Despite its strong go-fast abilities, the Norge offers plenty for more relaxed touring. The bodywork does an excellent job of deflecting windblast, even though that abbreviated, electrically adjustable pear-shaped windscreen looks too small to do the job. The short reach to the handlebars inclines the rider’s torso at a slight forward pitch; very natural and comfortable. The well-padded and comfortably shaped seat rests a very manageable 31.9 inches off the ground, but the seat-to-peg relationship is a bit too tight for my 31-inch inseam. Moto Guzzi offers an accessory gel seat 1.2 inches lower, but nothing taller, so you may need to pursue a saddle build-up after purchase if you feel too scrunched. The spacious saddlebags can each swallow a full-face helmet and more, but the fairing lacks pockets for convenient stowing of gloves, hat or other small items. Fuel capacity of 6.1 gallons gives a cruising range well over 200 miles; we averaged nearly 40 mpg despite a lot wide-open throttle work. The Norge has standard heated handgrips, and a trip computer is integrated into the instrument cluster, but some of the readouts are small in size and difficult to read, especially when bathed in the red glow of nighttime illumination.

Given its base MSRP of $16,290, the Norge is quite the deal in today’s market. It may lack the cachet of a huge engine and some techno amenities built into other long-ranger bikes, but how important are such things to you? The Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V offers sound fundamental design refined over decades of evolution, resulting in an exemplary blend of sport-touring capabilities. This is a bike that works hard to be your friend and ally, and it accomplishes that with great success regardless of what the route ahead holds in store. And if winding backroads take priority over superslabs when you travel, its many attributes may make the Norge a best bet, regardless of what spec charts for other bikes may say.

2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V

Base Price: $16,290
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: motoguzzi-us.com

2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V on the Dyno
2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V on the Dyno

Engine
Type: Air/oil-cooled, longitudinal 90-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,151cc
Bore x Stroke: 95.0 x 81.2mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 6,213 miles (10,000 km)
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 50mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.6-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 1.367:1

Electrical
Ignition: Single-spark electric
Charging Output: 550 watts max.
Battery: 12V 18AH

Chassis
Frame: Tubular-steel backbone w/ engine as stressed member & single-sided cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 58.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.7 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 45mm stanchions, adj. for spring preload w/ 4.7-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload (remotely) & rebound damping w/ 5.5-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm floating discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 282mm fixed disc w/ floating 2-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 180/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 641 lbs.
Load Capacity: 413 lbs.
GVWR: 1,054 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gals., last 1.1 gals. warning light on
MPG: 90 PON min. (low/avg/high) 35.3/38.8/44.5
Estimated Range: 237 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,250

The Norge delivers comfy seating, great wind protection, spacious, detachable saddlebags, lots of usable power and excellent handling. It’s a willing accomplice that eats up mile after mile on winding backroads, and begs for more.
The Norge delivers comfy seating, great wind protection, spacious, detachable saddlebags, lots of usable power and excellent handling. It’s a willing accomplice that eats up mile after mile on winding backroads, and begs for more.
2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V
2014 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V

13 COMMENTS

  1. Great review and spot on. The Norge rides like velvet hiding a hammer. You glide around unaware of what lurks underneath the plastics, the only clue being those twin cylinder heads that tell everyone you are riding a motorcycle, not a frame propelled by mysterious square boxes that have who knows what inside.

    You feel the Norge as it takes you from where you are to where you are going. There is none of the whine and makes you think you’re on a motorcycle made by Toyota for sure. This is heavy metal and the best kind there is.

    Thanks for a great review. While everyone else is trying to figure out how the 1% got more than the 99%, I am lucky, I am the 1/1,000,000th percent that has a Moto Guzzi and among them, the smaller percentage that Pilots a Norge.

    • I’m fortunate enough to say my main bike is an 11 Norge so I also fall into that small percentile of riders you have mentioned. Great review to be sure. I’ve had mine for a few years now and put several thousand miles on it so far. I’ve been riding for decades and have never had a bike that made me enjoy riding quite so much. Had many fun bikes over the years but the Norge just feels right in every way for me. I did install the lower gel seat and other than routine maintenance, I just ride it. Brings a smile every time I throw a leg over it. For me it truly is a bike that does everything well. There are faster and lighter and probably every other measurable thing you can identify but the Norge does all of those things well enough so you won’t be embarrassed in any way by it. It truly is a fun bike but I hope not everyone finds that out. Hate to see them get too popular, then everybody would have one. Not a bike for everybody in my opinion. But for some it is the bike.

    • It doesn’t have cruise control although some pilots have added it. The Norge begs to be ridden instead of sitting on a freeway droning along for endless hours. If you like, it can run along at very high average speeds making short work of long stretches.

      When you’re on a Norge you find yourself really riding and going the roads not frequented by big rigs and mini vans. 🙂

  2. Thank you for the excelent review. This is style of a review is what I have been missing from this publication. I am a closet “Guzzi” fan and this article once more makes me think I need to get one.

    Cheers

  3. I bought a Norge in 2012, and after adding a better exaust, hand guards, bigger windscreen and a real horn, it has become the perfect sport / tourer for me.
    6-7 hrs in the saddle and you are ready to do it all over again the next day.
    My bike did have one fault. The cooling fan seized, resulting in blowing the fuse that fired the starter. It took awhile to figure it out ,but once that got replaced all has been well. The review tells the story.
    Thanks

  4. I’ve been looking to get to one bike for awhile now, and thinking a sport touring bike would be the way to go. I’d not considered Guzzi till I read your review, now it’s at the top of my list. My wife is an occasional rider, how is it for two up?

    • It is very capable for two up riding. That being said, it is not comparable to the typical Electra-Ultra-Wing type of bike. It doesn’t have the stereo cup holder air suspension things that many are used to. I think the Norge is a great bike for a rider. If you intend to do some serious miles, you might want to see about a better seat for the passenger. If your passenger is a bit height challenged, it can be tough to get in place due to the height of the seat. For an occasional passenger, you would be fine. Long trips with hard miles, maybe not so much. The Norge is a rider’s bike. No cruise or stereo and I’m good with it. It needs my attention and involvement which makes me happy as a rider. If I want to insulate myself from those things, I might as well take the car.

  5. Just got mine back after 4 weeks having intermittent electrical fault sorted. Dealer in UK very good – Itlalian based customer services left a lot to be desired. But I can’t find a 1200 that fits me so well and rides like a dream and sounds soooo sexy! It’s slim profile helps me nearly get my feet down. They should advertise it as an ideal bike for women who like touring and riding hard when they feel like it. I’ve come to biking late (58) but live my Norge – she’s called Helga and attracts attention wherever I park up. Just considering extending warranty for 2 years as I can’t see me replacing her

  6. Just read the comments above, and cant disagree with any. Particularly nice to hear from a serious female motorcyclist, and I too can’t (after eight years with my 2007 two valve Norge) think of another machine I’d prefer in its stead, yet there are, as Ken has said above, some that are faster or lighter, or better in some spec on paper…….but when you ride one, it brings that smile, and “walk away look back”, when you do park it up………

  7. I’ve been riding Moto Guzzi since 1975 when I bought an 850-T to replace my [stolen] Honda CB-750. Forty years on down the road I still have and ride that 850-T. I’ve owned other Guzzis and I recently picked up a project 1970 Ambassador that’ll be getting a sidecar. I’ve owned and ridden other brands, too, (BMW, Yamaha, Victory, Harley-Davidson, et al.) and have taken demo rides on the Norge, both 2-valve and 4-valve. The Guzzis are, hands down, the best all around rides. Not the fastest, most nimble, most reliable, most economical, most practical, most other stuff but without question they leave me feeling really good because being consistently good in all ways outranks being absolute best in one or two. And only the H-D gets more admiration from nonriders. I’m a satisfied Guzzista and the 4-valve Norge will be my next … unless Mandello del Lario introduces something else to turn my head.

  8. Great article, I just purchased a Moto Guzzi after considering an American cruiser/tourer. Albeit, i did not buy the Norge what I ended up with is the California 1400 Touring…

    Hopefully, it will serve me well and have satisfy all the basic needs and desires. I purchased it on the west coast and I’ll be heading across the US back to New England in late April after the weather breaks.

    Really looking forward to a long languorous journey!

  9. I have owned them all. Ducks 3 of them, Laveda Joda, BMW R1100RS, Royal Enfield, Triumph, BSA 441 and Gold Star, Norton Combat, Moto Guzzi T3.

    Nothing comes close to my 2015 Norge. Simply the best all round bike I have ever owned. Nothing else compares. Comfort, feel, handling, torque styling comfort.

    Just a bit on the heavy side but not a deal breaker.

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