The Norge 1200 is the most recent (since 2005) PURPOSE-BUILT “sport-touring” motorcycle offering in our world, brought to us by Italian maker, Moto Guzzi.
Side note: Some might argue that the Kawasaki Concours14 is the “newest,” “purpose-built” sport-tourer in the motorcycle world, since it was introduced in July 2007. But that Concours lineage goes back a full 20 years earlier with the original Concours it replaced. However, the argument would follow that the Concours14 is such a radical upgrade to the original that it represents a completely different bike. Anyway, for the purposes of this article, we’ll accept Kawasaki’s intent that their C14 is, in fact, an evolutionary progression along the long-established Concourse lineage in spite of all its differences.
OK, back to the Guzzi, which has established itself firmly in the history of the motorbike universe as one of the oldest manufacturers in continuous motorcycle production (begun in 1921).
Note: the term “Sport-Tourer” can be somewhat nebulous, due to the liberal categorizing of practically any moderately, performance-oriented bike, set up to go for a weekend getaway. However, by my definition, a purpose-built sport tourer needs the following equipment:
- Large fairing and windshield to protect the rider from the elements
- Saddlebags with generous luggage capacity for rider and passenger
- Large gas tank to go longer distances with less fuel stops
- Shaft drive to eliminate chain-drive maintenance while on the road
Hence, the Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 has adequately defined itself within this category.
Since the very end of 2004, Moto Guzzi has been owned by the Italian manufacturer, Piaggio, as one of its seven two-wheeled brands (Aprilia, Derbi, Gilera, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio, Vespa, and Laverda), making scooters and motorcycles. The aggregate of those seven companies makes Piaggio the fourth largest producer of scooters and motorcycles in the world,
The “Norge” depiction gets its name from the earliest GT Norge made famous for enduring a difficult 4,000 mile test ride — in 1928 no less — from the Moto Guzzi company headquarters in Italy to just inside the Artic Circle of Norway’s Capo Nord. (“Norge” is synonymous with “Norway”). This was a ride meant to call attention to, and prove the prototype of the world’s first rear swingarm suspension. (Since then, rear, swingarm suspensions have certainly established their place as standard equipment the world over).
The Norge hearbeat pulses from a 1200cc, 90° V-Twin. And on the other side of that equation, it can be brought to a stop with its standard ABS (which can also be turned off).
I found the Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 to be a pleasant and enjoyable ride.
Considered by itself, most any owner of a Norge 1200 would enjoy riding this bike any distance over hill and dale. The fairing offers competent protection, the saddlebags can store a reasonable amount of luggage for a rider and passenger (in comparison to other sport-touring bikes), and the shaft drive will make for low-maintenance riding for tens of thousands of miles.
However, as a purpose-built, “sport-touring” motorcycle, it does not exist in a vacuum and of course it would need to be compared to the other sport-touring bikes in our world, of which there only a handful:
- BMW K 1200 GT
- BMW R 1200 RT
- Honda ST1300
- Kawasaki Concours14
- Yamaha FJR1300
- (see sport-tourer.com for comparison)
Compared to this cadre of compatriots, the Norge 1200 does not really offer anything exceptional enough for long-distance, performance-oriented riding to distinguish itself for a practical rider.
The fuel capacity is only 6 gallons, which makes it one of the smallest tanks amongst the cadre of purpose-built sport-tourers, which means more stops for a fill-up, compared to its brethren.
At 71.3 horsepower (per Motorcycle Consumer News) it it also one of the least performance-oriented motorbikes of its class.
All by its lonesome, this is a very enjoyable bike. And if you happen to be love-struck by its design, this is the bike for you.
But within the context of its other European and Japanese brothers, it does not stand out as compelling enough in any specific area for a true, sport-touring enthusiast, to warrant preference over what else your money can buy ($15,590 MSRP for the Norge 1200). And when you also add into the equation that Moto Guzzi has the smallest dealer network of its sport-touring compatriots, it would take a real Italian-lover to mark this machine as a first-choice for long-distance, sport-touring, motorcycle enjoyment.