One of the best handling street bikes out there? Sitting on the heavy, low 2013 Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 8V SE for the first time and feeling the huge torque reaction from its agricultural motor might scare you off, but it shouldn’t. This is one of the most charismatic, unique and yes, capable motorcycles available today.
Dubbed “Black Devil” in Europe and not called that here for obvious reasons, all that’s new for 2013 is this black/silver paint scheme. That paint is accentuated with blacked-out mechanical components including the frame, motor, suspension and wheel hubs and rims.
The Griso was introduced at EICMA way back in 2003, eventually entering production in 2005 with the lumbering old 1100 motor. That bike had promise, but was held back by limited power and a difficult nature. Upon acquiring Guzzi in 2004, revamping the Griso became a top priority and, in 2007, it debuted the mostly new “8V” motor with 110 bhp, 80 lb.-ft. of torque and a revier, more compliant nature.
Reviewing that new bike, England’s MCN wrote, “The striking-looking Griso has been transformed from a lumbering yet evocative old-school roadster into a charging rhino of a motorcycle with true 140 mph potential.”
Looking at the Griso’s specs, you don’t see anything hugely remarkable for a high-end roadster. Like all Guzzi’s up to the new California 1400, the engine is used as a stressed member in the steel tube frame. That’s fitted with decent, if unremarkable fully-adjustable suspension and good brakes in the form of 320mm front discs with radial Brembo calipers. Oddly, the wheels are tubeless spoked wheels, at 17 inches they accept modern performance rubber, but that arrangement increases unsprung weight over the more common alloy design.
Perhaps it’s good, then, that the Griso is a heavy motorcycle — 489 lbs (dry) is 40 more than most superbikes add up to wet and full of fuel. That high weight repairs the sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio.
Rounding out the unpromising spec sheet is the 61-inch wheelbase, a full 5.4 inches longer than superbikes like Piaggio’s own Aprilia RSV4.
Didn’t I say this thing was one of the nicest handling bikes out there? Oh yeah, that’s thanks to one other facet of Guzzi’s awkward design archetype — a longitudinal crank. Because it doesn’t spin forwards, causing the engine reciprocal inertia to interfere with steering speed and feel, the Griso benefits from some of the purest steering feedback out there. Combined with its fat power curve and unflappable stability, that heightened feel transforms the Griso into a real weapon on real-world roads.
Hop on the Griso in town and you couldn’t be less impressed with it. The high weight, low seat, wide bars and strong torque reaction — it jerks violently to the right when you twist the throttle – lead to significant awkwardness paddling out of your driveway, turning 90 degree corners or trying to fit between cars.
Things get a little better on the highway, but the drastically long reach to the very wide bars splays out your torso and arms in an awkward uncomfortable manner that makes shoulder checks difficult and limits outright distance ability.
It’s not like the Griso is going to win any drag races. 80 lb.-ft. isn’t bad from an air-colled 1,151 cc V-twin, but it’s 13 lb.-ft. behind the latest air/water-cooled BMW parallel-twin and has to motivate a lot of weight for such a basic bike.
Nor does the powertrain lend itself to being thrashed. The two huge pistons feel very heavy and are reluctant to alter their inertia — up or down in speed — the gearbox is clunky, missing gears and jerking heavily if you attempt a clutchless shift and the shaft drive just accentuates those problems with its own heavy inertia and reluctant nature.
No, it’s not until you find yourself on a road with 3rd and 4th gear sweepers that the Griso can reveal its true character. Learn to short shift, riding the engine’s vast torque curve rather than chasing high revs, and everything smooths out. You can leave braking much later than you can on most other performance bikes, trailing them heavily to the apex in confidence, thanks to that abundant feel. The wide bars make cranking the thing over into corners effortless, then the long wheelbase holds your chosen line with utter poise and stability. Right here, in these conditions, there’s no better bike.
Italian style draws stares and compliments from everyone — non-riding fashionistas, be-chapped road pirates, squids and even café snobs.
Longitudinal crank + good suspension + 17 inch wheels and sport tires = amazing feel.
All the classic Guzzi character in a quality modern package that won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road.
Outstanding finish and build quality, the Griso feels much pricier than its $12,690 price suggests.
Heavy, large and awkward in traffic.
Strung-out riding position is uncomfortable.
Pegs a little too low for really fast riding.
Torque reaction is severe and can make splitting through tight gaps a hair raising experience.
Ultimately not that fast, but also not applicable anywhere but a good back road.