Spend five minutes in the saddle of the Guzzi Griso 8V and you may well wonder why they bother; it's heavy, relatively slow and a marginal handler.
But. Something happens after those first few miles-a creeping sense of character starts to infiltrate, plus the sense of a real difference to the hordes of flawless two-wheeled product out there. Now character is usually a euphemism for quirky (or downright rubbish) and there's no doubting the Griso has quirks, some of them irritating. The simple truth is that it's just imperfect enough to be intriguing, dare I say enticing.
Ulp, did I just say enticing? I did, and it's that huge, hulking 1151cc engine that gets under your skin and draws you in. Quattrovalvole sounds exotic (and is written proudly on the cylinder head covers) and that's the news; new, compact four valve heads are worked by a single, chain driven cam per cylinder. The pistons have been redesigned, the crankshaft beefed and a fresh pair of coaxial gear-driven oil pumps employed to keep the slippery stuff on the move.
There's a pulse that flows through this motor-it lays out power with a superb mellifluous throb. Strong off the bottom it ties up a little in the midrange (presumably through noise and emissions testing) and then surprises with a strong gallop to just shy of the 8,000rpm redline-it's not a slug. It's not stunningly quick either but possesses a real balance to its power delivery, you feel like you can dish out and use every single horsepower it makes. And the way the slightly-too-wide handlebars twitch side to side of their own volition at tickover is strangely endearing.
Speaking of which, vibes anybody? This well-upholstered backside was untroubled by the churning lump beneath it but there's a resonance through the footpegs at highway pave that could get tedious. The riding position is neutral and for me, at 5 foot 10 inches. very comfortable. You can crank out the miles on this Guzzi, if you can cope with acting as a spinnaker at much over 60mph.
In the canyons, a near 500 pounds of dry weight catches up with the Griso. You have to ride with a super smooth throttle hand and around the underdamped and undersprung suspension. Ground clearance is great on right handers, sketchy on lefts as the sidestand (itself a little awkward to get to) drags early, and loud. The twin four-pot calipers are plenty strong but are hauling up a lot of bike while the shaft drive's unobtrusive until you start sawing on and off the gas. The truth is the Griso's no sportbike; ride it like one and you'll come away frustrated and worn out. Relax a little, let it roll and plan ahead, it then makes sense.
Obviously, we had a random electrical fault with our test bike-a simple blown indicator bulb caused minor mayhem on the ever-so slightly tacky dash when it felt like it, but easy to remedy. The build quality overall is good however and there are some nice touches; bungee hooks under the rear pillion perch and a button on the left switchgear for cycling through the various dash functions.
Lamb dressed as mutton was a phrase that rattled around my noggin a few days in to Griso tenure. Is it a little over styled? Maybe, but its chiseled countenance grew on me with every ride and shop-front reflection, but that might have been the creeping cloak of Guzzi soul clouding my otherwise cynical judgment. I'm actually a little sad it's gone back because I quite like a challenge and this Guzzi is the first bike I've ridden in a long while that has presented some.
I reckon the Griso is the kind of bike that responds to a committed and knowledgeable owner-sort the suspension, take the time to get it set up right and settle in for a long happy relationship. Yeah, it's heavy, relatively slow, a marginal handler and at just over 14 big ones, expensive-but set against the joy of owning and operating that wonderful engine, I'll forgive it, just. -Alex Hearn
'09 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V
EngineType: Air/oil-cooled, SOHC, 90 transverse V-twin, 4 valves/cyl
Bore x stroke: 95 x 81.2mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Induction: twin 50mm throttles bodies/Weber IWP 189 injectors
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17 Metzeler Sportec M3
Rear tire: 180/55 ZR17 Metzeler Sportec M3
Wheelbase: 61.2 in. (1554mm)
Seat height: 31.5in (800mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.4 gal.
Claimed dry weight: 489 lbs