RideApart Review: Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX

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Parent company Piaggio didn’t make a bit deal out of it, but it totally re-designed the Stelvio in 2009 with a new motor and new frame. Is the Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX now a worthy alternative to the class-defining GS?

What’s New:

Take the old Stelvio and change the torque curve from 80lb/ft peaking at 6,400rpm to 83lb/ft at 5,800rpm, add a narrower 4.25×17″ rear rim (capable of accepting enduro rubber), an aluminum sump guard, brush guards, aluminum luggage, engine bars and auxiliary lights and you have the NTX. Add all that to the 1,151cc air-cooled 90° twin making 105bhp, the 8.5-gallon tank capacity and a 598lbs kerb weight.

The 150-section rear, spec’d to enable the fitment of knobbies, but here wearing road-biased Pirelli Scorpions, rolls over on its side in a manner alien to most modern bikes and their too-wide rubber. 1st gear is short enough and the torque strong enough low down — 85lb/ft at just 5,800rpm — that you’re off the clutch and on the power as soon as you’re past that 20mph apex. That new motor really takes off between 6 and 8,000rpm though. Cross that 6,000rpm barrier and the 1,151cc air/oil-cooled twin adopts a much more menacing, deeper exhaust note, delivering 105bhp.

The NTX decreases rear wheel width to 4.25-inches to make selection of dirt rubber easier and receives a host of additional accessories as standard. Switchable antilock brakes, traction control, panniers, crash bars, spotlights, wire wheels, an extra-large windshield and additional wind deflectors on the side, plus bark busters. All that boosts the distance capability and comfort of the bike while making it seriously rugged. You get the feeling you could throw it down in one of the hairpins, pick it up, and ride it a couple hundred miles back to Mandello with only an apology to show for your trouble. In matte black — the only color available on the NTX — the whole thing feels ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. It just needs “Medusa” decals on the panniers.

What’s Good:
This Moto Guzzi is invariably compared to that BMW. You know the one. And not without reason, not only are the specs extremely similar — air-cooled longitudinal twins (the BMW is now partially water cooled), single-sided shaft drive swingarms, single-plate clutches — but the Italian bike was created specifically to benefit and conquest sales from the German. Some things about the GS are better — it’s nearly 100lbs lighter than the NTX to start, although it admittedly comes with fewer options — but there’s two big differences that right here, heading down a wet alpine pass, really make the Guzzi shine:

Conventional forks and traction control. On the Stevio, applying the front brakes compresses the front suspension, steepening its angle and making steering both faster and more confidence inspiring as weight transitions to the front wheel and the contact patch grows. Say what you will about the benefits of BMW’s dive-free Telelever, but when you want front end feel, there’s nothing better than a traditional set of telescopic forks.

What’s Bad:
Extremely high weight and limited ground clearance mean you really don’t want to take it off-road.

The Verdict:
A characterful, fun, practical Italian alternative to the reigning BMW R1200GS. If you want an ADV bikes a a versatile tourer, look no further. If you actually plan to head more off-road than a fire road, you’re going to want something lighter, like the KTM or one of the mid-capacity ADV bikes like a Suzuki V-Strom 650.

RideApart Rating: 6/10

  • Spencer Dorsey

    “If you want an ADV bikes a a versatile tourer” typo I think

  • motoguru.

    I want one of these. Bad.

  • charlie

    that triumph tiger looks mighty sweet!

    • Mickey

      I wanted a Tiger until I started seriously reading up on its offroad capabilities. Reviewers who are mostly street riders love them, but aren’t competent to really talk about their offroading ability. Serious adventure bike riders consider the Tiger to be a poseur, at best. If you want the look, and don’t to any more than occasional riding on well-maintained dirt roads, then the Tiger is a great choice. They’re brilliant on the pavement. But if you have dreams of riding across Siberia, look elsewhere. The BMW, Yamaha Super Tenere, or even the Moto Guzzi are better choices. (This bike seems to split the difference between top highway performance and top offroad performance, with excellent long-distance comfort being its best selling point.)

      If your offroad adventure dreams involve hundreds of miles instead of thousands, and you DO plan to actually leave the pavement fairly regularly, none of these big bikes are good choices. Smaller ones, like the BMW F800GS Adventure, are far more capable offroad. And, of course, nothing beats the KTM bikes off the pavement. If you’re REALLY serious about getting lost in the wilderness it’s possible to deck out a big enduro bike with baggage, etc.

      Know your mission, then choose the tool.

      • charlie

        That’s an interesting take, considering many (including magazines) have reviewed the 800 XC and found it to be more than worthy off-road. Just because a bike is good on the road, that doesn’t mean it’s horrible off of it. I could care less what snobbish “serious adventure bike riders” think about. If a bike is proven to do it’s job for what I’m buying it for, that’s all that matters. It’s not trying to be a BMW 1200 and buyers know that. Also, what you think is “the best” might not be for somebody else. Can you share pictures from your trip across Siberia? Since it sounds like you trek the globe on a regular basis.

        • Eric Anderson

          Where do you get “800 XC” from my comment? This is a review of a 1200.
          Clearly I was talking about the BIG Tiger. Which I love, by the way,
          but it wouldn’t be any fun to try to wrestle one off road unless it’s a
          fairly sedate trail. It lacks the suspension travel of the big BMW, and
          the handling is more street oriented. It’ll go off road, but so will
          any other motorcycle. The reviews I’ve read comparing the three say the BMW is best off road, the big Tiger is pretty much a poseur and isn’t much good on anything rougher than a well graded dirt road, and the Stelvio splits the difference and is also the most comfortable highway tourer.

          I’ve ridden rougher stuff than you see in most of
          these online reviews on a scooter, and on a Triumph Thunderbird 1600
          cruiser. I don’t recommend it. But they went “off road”, technically,
          and didn’t break. Therefore, they have “off road capability.”

          I SAID to choose the right tool for the mission. You echoed my comment. So who are you arguing with?

          “missions” are too diverse for one bike, I’ve come to realize. NO
          adventure bike is quite up to the kind of off roading I like to do.
          They’ll do it…..and survive…..but I wouldn’t have much fun. And NO
          adventure bike is quite up to the kind of highway travel I like to do
          while allowing for the ability to just hop on and zip around town
          easily, while getting fantastic fuel economy. Therefore, my decision is
          to trade in my K1200LT (great on the highway, but terrifying in parking
          lots, too big and heavy to just “hop on and zip around”, and cannot
          handle anything that isn’t smooth pavement) and purchase a mid-size
          F800GT sport-tourer and a good used enduro bike of some kind. And still
          have thousands in my pocket, as compared to any full-size ADV bike.

          you surmised, I do NOT ride across Siberia. Nor did I claim to.
          Therefore, as cool as they are, I have no use for a big 1200 class
          adventure bike. I’ve tried to talk myself into one, I love the BMW,
          Triumph AND Moto Guzzi, but I simply can’t use one.

          • charlie

            Some of the same things can be said for the 1200 as well. I referred to the 800 XC because you were talking about the F800GS. The problem with what you’re saying is that you’re comparing Triumph’s relatively recent entry into the category to BMW who’s been playing this game a lot longer. You keep calling the Tiger a poseur but I know plenty of experienced riders that use it strictly off-road and I’m not talking about fire roads. I’ve lived overseas where fire roads would be a luxury. Stop being obnoxious. We know what off-road means. If you spent less time stroking your own ego and more time realizing that different bikes work for different people and some are actually more capable than you think, then you wouldn’t be on here like a little puppy trying to bark like a bigger dog.

  • roma258

    What does this do that a Norge doesn’t do better? I understand the appeal of the ADV class, but if even the most remote suggestion of offroad capability is missing, why not get a proper sport-tourer?

    • stever

      It’s the same reason people get Chevy Tahoes instead of Caprice Classic wagons.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      It’s tall. A lot of people prefer that, including me. The big wide bars add an extra element of control too. But yeah, if you prefer the Norge, that’s actually a brilliant bike too.

    • Doug Ritchie

      cuz you can’t do this with a Norge..


      I’ve had mine off road a bunch and never had any issue.

      • roma258

        That’s seriously awesome! If people are actually riding them offroad, more power to them.

  • Tuscan Foodie

    If I hadn’t been severely burnt with the ONLY Italian bike I ever had in my 25 years of riding, I would seriously consider this. I love it. But the Italians will never have my money again. Note that I am 100% Italian, so this is not a racist rant…

    • Mr.Paynter

      What was it? What happened?

      • http://twitter.com/tuscanfoodie Tuscan Foodie

        I bought an Aprilia Mana and had it for 10 months, the last two of which were spent at the dealer. It stopped working one morning, and never went on again. Aprilia/Piaggio was less than responsive to my and the dealer’s request (the dealer was very good, but he couldn’t do much without the pieces…)so I sold it, lost 50% of my money after 10 months and never looked back. And I promised to myself that I would never buy a Piaggio motorcycle again. If you are lucky and nothing happens, they may be great. The moment you have a problem you are severly shafted.

        • Mickey

          I have no experience with either brand, but I do know that, despite ownership by the same parent company, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi are completely different bikes, made in different factories. There isn’t the incestuous relationship that you see with different GM cars, for example. So it’s entirely possible that, in terms of build quality and reliability, the Aprilia and the M.G. are two very different animals.

  • Phil Ammendolia

    I owned a 2008 Norge and recently bought a 2013 Stelvio. The Stelvio’s fit and finish is much improved compared with my 2008. As for versatility, there’s no comparison. In regard to roma258, after owning both, I’d say you question is backwards . The Stelvio will do everything the Norge does, plus.

    Tuscan Foodie, I understand your concern. For what it’s worth, the Guzzi has a 2 year, unlimited mileage warranty and is very easy to work on.

  • Derek Mansfield

    I am short, inside leg 30”. I am also 2 years past retirement.

    In January 2012 I bought a 2009 Stelvio 4v.

    In May 2012 I rode from London, England to Mongolia – a 13,000 mile trip.

    I didn’t seek off road; the off road, about 3,000 miles of it, came to me. Parts of the Tran Siberian Highway are testing; there are no roads in Mongolia, just gravel and the steppe. Roads in Western Kazakhstan are under repair and atrocious.

    In Poland I lost a couple of spokes in each wheel. In Ukraine, after a wet slide under a bus the front wheel had to be straightened and the engine guards pulled out. I also collected two broken ribs.

    I had 4 more offs in Russia and Siberia, and cracked an ankle in Kazakhstan on the way back.

    Given all the above I feel I am reasonably qualified to comment on the machine and it’s abilities.

    The bike is undoubtedly heavy, but other than early learner training as I’ve never ridden anything but cruisers (and a nitro enhanced VMax) I don’t what a small bike is like.

    When I could, in Western Europe, I cruised between 90 and 105 mph. I don’t know if the bike is capable of 140mph – I only took it to 130mph in Germany.

    There was a slight wobble in the mid 90’s which straightened over 98mph. (This year, 2013, I have done similar speeds with Continental TKC 80 knobbly tyres – 180 on the rear. Same wobble in 90’s straightens out over 100mph.)

    When road conditions were very bad I slowed down.

    In most of Siberia and Mongolia the bike ran, without complaint, on 92 RON petrol and sometimes, again without complaint, on 88 RON.

    I changed the oil myself around the 6,000 service interval; back street mechanics in Russia and Kazakhstan checked the valve clearance.

    Throughout 13,000 miles of truly testing conditions the bike did not falter once. Nothing – other than small accident damage – went wrong either mechanically or electrically.

    Is the Stelvio better than it’s competitors? I have no idea; I have never had any interest in following the herd nor am I interested in the minutea of forum discussions.

    Will it carry you around the world under the toughest conditions? Sure.


    Derek “Jake” Mansfield


    • Mickey

      THAT, sir, is a review. Thanks!

      Indeed, the big ADV bikes are capable of offroading. Obviously they’re not as capable as a 500cc thumper, but who would want to ride one of those around the world? Not me, I can tell you.

      Keep them within their capabilities and they’ll get the job done. Push them beyond their capabilities and you end up bodily dragging a half ton of machine and baggage up the mountain. They are “Suburbans”, not “Jeeps.”

      I’m in the market, and can’t decide between a big one and a mid-size one. The BMW F800 appeals to me, but I like to do long distance touring with my daughter on the back. I’ll certainly check out a Stelvio…..not least because I like things that are just slightly “weird.” Moto Guzzis are as rare as hen’s teeth in the U.S. That’s a selling point, to me.