Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 Review (Video)

Moto Guzzi Norge 1200The 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:

  1. Large fairing and windshield to protect the rider from the elements
  2. Saddlebags with generous luggage capacity for rider and passenger
  3. Large gas tank to go longer distances with less fuel stops
  4. 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 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.

7 thoughts on “Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 Review (Video)

  • Guess I’m a dinosaur, as I still love my 73/74 Moto Guzzi 850 Eldorado, which is as pleasant a ride as I’ve ever had after almost 37 years of ownership since I bought it new. The snow white Eldorado still attracts admiring comments from passersby and car drivers at traffic lights, and can still pull stumps if needed. A pair of electric/air horns sometimes helps to get the attention of a dozing car driver in traffic, and saved my skin the day after I instelled them in 1974. .

    But, I most enjoy puttering around town at 30 mph and 1,500 rpm in 5th gear, and increase speed without needing to downshift if I wish. I sometimes ride with a group at highway speeds, too, with no worry about keeping up. Lots of grunt there.

    The major expense is oil changes and the occasional tire replacement, though I had to replace a dealer installed aftermarket “other brand” clutch which failed at the 45,000 mile mark; so I replaced it with a superior “bonded” clutch last year. The heads have never been off, though I check the valve adjustments every five years or so, and use regular unleaded gas in it, though it calls for old-style premium fuel.

    With minimal maintenance and reasonable riding habits, a Guzzi should last a half century, at least.

  • I have looked at, and sat on a 2011 Norge recently, while out of town. I like everything I see about it, but wondered about engine heat issues. I live in the sunny south, and wonder if this would be a good bike for someone who lives in a predominantly hot (often very hot) climate. My concerns would be uncomfortable heat on the legs, as well as overheating in stop and go traffic. All of my bikes in recent years have been liquid cooled, so I’m a little leary about changing. But that Norge has stolen my heart. Please help.

  • Kevin – Fear not. I HAD a 2007 Ducati ST3 (last year of production). Mine was the stock, not the ‘S’ model. Comfort-wise I had no complaints with it. It did dive a lot in the front end on hard braking though. The biggest problem is Ducati can’t master the fuel delivery. O2 sensors choke the bike in its stock form, so your only option was to get tge performance exhaust and ECU upgrade. Well, I was not in the mood to spend another $2k on that. Throttle response was VERY jerky. I had to go into corners in a lower gear to have the revs up and the motor working. Taking a street corner turn in second gear was DANGEROUS as the throttle would either not engage, or it would engage too abruptly, causing the bike to stand up during cornering. I got rid of it in less than a year and traded it on a Honda VFR 800 Interceptor and coun’t be happier (it came with GIVI hard cases).

    Too bad you didn’t wait a bit. The 2010 MG Norge GT has now received 4 valves per cylinder as expected a few years ago. They also redesigned the centerstand. No more scrapes and it has more leverage for easier lifting of the bike. They have also fixed that quirky gauge cluster supposedly. I hope that means you can read the LCD better. I have to go check one out.

  • The horsepower on the Norge is 95hp. The 71hp is on the 850cc model available in europe. The Moto Guzzi site has the correct specs for this 1200 model. As a owner of the Norge I can tell you from experience it is not quite the sport model my Monster 900S is but it is quite capable of handling twisty backroads. I owned a Triumph Sprint ST prior to the Norge. While a bike like the Sprint is more sport oriented than the Norge the Guzzi is a more capable touring bike. The seating position is more upright and the saddle is wider for the rider and passenger. The electric windshield is a nice feature and offers adequate protection when in full upright position. The Norge is also has better aero design. On windy days you will not fight sudden lunges from cross winds and can simply lean into the wind. My Sprint would abruptly blow across lanes from such winds. Some reviews have complained about the luggage. I have have no issues with opening or closing the luggage and it is easily removed. The top box latch was redesigned after failures in transit. I own the new design and no issues. The sound of the v-twin is sublime. The only complaint I had about the Norge was the tendency to grind the center stand on hard left turns. The factory suspension setting is rather soft and after adjusting to Guzzi specs for medium loads I have had no center stand issues even with my wife in tow. While there are other choices in this class the Norge catches more attention at the gas station than other bikes. I quite often ride with several Ducati and Aprilla riders and the Norge gets the attention. They are a rather rare sight. Maintenance is easy enough to do yourself and if you do not have a local Guzzi dealer any good v-twin mechanic can tackle the Guzzi v-twin. I suggest test riding one if you can. I had my narrowed by choices to the other bikes when I tripped over a Norge at a local dealer. One test ride sold me as this was as close to the Ducati ST3 as I was going to get (sigh, I still cannot believe that quite making the ST3). RIde safe.

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