As sure as the sun will rise from the east tomorrow, Italian manufacturers will introduce motorcycles that are as tasteful as they are capable — a fact Moto Guzzi confirmed in 2008 with the launch of the then-new Griso 8V. Introduced as an updated Griso, the Griso 8V was instantly made popular for its classic design and more capable engine with four valves per cylinder. For 2011, the Italian manufacturer has maintained a hands-off approach as far as development is concerned, but the introduction of a new special-edition model, dubbed the Griso 8V SE, has Moto Guzzi aficionados abuzz.
The Griso 8V SE is a difficult bike to walk past without turning your head. If it’s not the new 17-inch spoke wheels and leather upholstered saddle that have you going back for a second look, then it’s likely the bike’s new “Tenni” livery that does. The matte green finish and tan stripes that run the length of the 8V SE’s tank and tail section give the bike a more classic look, plus pay tribute to Omobono Tenni, one of Moto Guzzi’s most decorated racers. Matched to the painted body panels is a freshly painted black frame, handlebar, headlight casing and mirrors — all of which were a raw aluminum or chrome finish on last year’s standard model.
Of course, the differences between the 2011 Griso 8V SE and last year’s standard model end with the cosmetic alterations. An elongated tank has the rider reaching out for the bike’s wide, aluminum taper handlebar, but the low 31.5-inch seat height makes certain that even the vertically challenged won’t have much of a problem mounting the bike. As you settle into the saddle, you will find that the beautifully stitched leather seat is on the firm side yet comfortable enough for extended rides. The footrests are still mounted in a sport-oriented position and wide, rider-friendly mirrors up front provide an unimpeded view of what’s behind you. The bike’s horn and turn-signal buttons are what will really throw you off. With their positioning opposite where you’d expect, it’s likely you’ll be honking at people more than indicating your intention to change lanes.
The Moto Guzzi’s large analog...
The Moto Guzzi’s large analog tachometer and digital readout are easy to read, and as an added benefit, the Griso 8V SE features wide, rider-friendly mirrors that are easy to see out of.
You need only to tap the Moto Guzzi’s starter button to fire up the untouched 90-degree V-twin Quattrovalvole engine, which shakes to life with haste thanks to the bike’s large starter motor. The air- and oil-cooled Guzzi, which spun our SuperFlow dyno to the tune of 94 horsepower at 7400 rpm, features single overhead camshafts that operate four valves per cylinder. And the 1151cc engine has a moderate 11.1:1 compression ratio, plus is outfitted with large, 50mm throttle bodies. Even as it warms up the bike shakes profusely, the handlebar and mirrors vibrating like a paint shaker. What’s a Moto Guzzi without a little vibration though? Then blip the throttle and try not to laugh at the bike’s ability to nearly throw itself on its side — the crankshaft’s rotational inertia being so strong that it’s almost a requirement you have your feet firmly planted on the ground.
With its notable 73 foot-pounds of torque, the Griso leaps off the line with authority, although the stiff clutch requires some strength in your left hand. The bike cruises a cool 45 mph at just 3000 rpm, with enough power to rumble past traffic with ease. Lug the bike around at a mere 2000 rpm and it won’t complain, with still enough torque to accelerate when need be. The Griso pulls well up top too, with more than enough power between 5000 and 7500 rpm; a harsh rev limiter kicks in at 8000 rpm. What’s nice is that the relatively wide range of power allows you to get a bit lazy with the shift lever — even in the canyons.
That’s fortunate, because aggressive use of the shift lever and clutchless upshifts will have the Griso 8V in an uproar, as it does its best impersonation of a pissed-off bull. Precise, meticulous shifts are required then, so pay close attention to closing the throttle completely and fully engaging the clutch before grabbing the next gear. Same thing for downshifts, where rapid knocks to the shift pedal are about as welcomed as a bull horn to the face. So what gives? Why so finicky? It’s likely the bike’s generously sized flywheel that’s to blame. Shift through the gearbox with patience and slowly engage the clutch though, and there isn’t much to be concerned about.
In the canyons, fluid inputs to the extremely wide, tapered handlebar turn the brawny Griso 8V SE into a decent handling machine. In sweeping corners especially, the bike handles exceptionally well. The bike becomes a handful when you are abrupt with the throttle or stab the brakes though, and the steel, double beam frame seems to flex beneath you as the corners tighten up. Avoid being too aggressive, and the Moto Guzzi will consent to spirited passes on your favorite section of road. Dual Brembo four-piston calipers biting on 320mm rotors up front and a Brembo two-piston caliper out back do reasonably well getting things slowed back down. The overly firm feel from the front brake lever was our only concern.
The sportbike-inspired suspension front and rear provides enough adjustment to set the bike up for different weight riders and different riding situations, although travel at the front is limited to 4.7 inches and 4.3 inches in the rear. Both the inverted 43mm fork and shock are adjustable for spring preload, plus rebound and compression damping, and are up to the challenge of controlling the Griso, which tips the scales at 488 pounds…dry.
The Griso 8V SE runs the same single-sided swingarm and Compact Reactive Shaft Drive, or CARC, as similar Moto Guzzi models. The design works well to limit the abruptness typical of some drive shafts and is said to require little maintenance. What you won’t find on similar Griso models is the SE’s 17-inch spoke wheels, which are wrapped in tubeless Pirelli Scorpion rubber — an enduro-type tire that is actually designed for dual purpose motorcycles.
While we can’t see the Griso ever touching dirt, our test riders do agree that the 8V SE is a great bike in a number of scenarios. Cruising down your favorite scenic road on the Moto Guzzi, for instance, is quite enjoyable. Weekend rides are especially nice with the Italian machine, and even around town commuting can be made enjoyable with the thundering V-twin beneath you.
Just don’t be surprised at how many people stop to talk to you about the bike — there’s something about the bike that really catches people’s attention. And so a pat on the back goes to the Italian designers then, who took an already tasteful and capable motorcycle and turned it into an even more unique machine. SR
2011 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V SE
Type: Air- and oil-cooled 90-degree SOHC V-twin four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 95 x 81.2mm
Compression ratio: 11.1:1
Induction: Magneti Marelli EFI, 50mm throttle bodies
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Scorpion Tubeless
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Scorpion Tubeless
Rake/trail: 26.3 degrees/4.25 in. (108mm)
Wheelbase: 61.2 in. (1554mm)
Seat height: 31.5 in. (800mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.4 gal. (16.7L)
Claimed dry weight: 488 lb (222 kg)