Alright, admitting up front I have long been admiring the Griso since the first teaser 4-valve prototype photos surfaced at the dealer show in Las Vegas in late 2003, no doubt it was very intriguing. While the great due-valver Guzzi continues to prod on, speculation has everyone wondering when modern emission requirements might get the best of it. In Porsche-esque fashion, Guzzi has reinvented the wheel one more time. M-G S.p.A. delivers cleaner emissions via reshaped combustion chambers and new-old school dual-plug heads, along with partial closed-loop fueling first introduced on the Breva 750 here in the U.S.; Euro-3 compliant emissions, check.
Arguably, there is much ongoing banter about 2-valve versus 4-valve Guzzi big blocks for street use. For the same reasons the 2-valve Bologna-produced sport motorcycles are far more street friendly over the 4-valve power plant, one ride aboard the Griso and it is again perfectly clear as to which power plant gets the nod for street use. Triple digits are effortless, with tons of giddy-grinning torque and power.
With the increasing use of speed cameras in Europe, Moto Guzzi feels as though the future of street-focused motorcycles lies in models aimed at usable power, style and function. Are they currently, again, working on a more modern higher output power plant? Count on it they say. There's even some teasing as to a historic move that perhaps could bring non-normally aspirated induction back into play. Now you're talking.
For now the revised power plant gets 10% lighter and shorter connecting rods compared to the V11 Sport engine. These are coupled to lighter-weight short-skirted increased diameter pistons. These are the key components to the "reduced mass and inertia", all of which the total package is eerily lack of right-tip torque reaction when the throttle is blipped. It's not completely gone, just surprisingly less then even the V11S.
While identical power plants are shared between the Breva 1.1 and the Griso, the Griso steps it up with larger air box volume and exhaust. The area just below the tipped-up passenger pillion serves not only as a grab handle void, but is the sole air intake that feeds the air box. The final drive gearing is also 8% lower, to offer increased acceleration over the Breva.
One thing the California/Tonti frame has always delivered; long and low flat works on the street, giving super-sure-footed stability even while dragging every hard part possible, almost regardless of surface conditions. The Griso's 61.18 in. (155.4 cm) wheelbase vs. the Breva 1100's 58.86 in. (149.5 cm) comes via all-new frame, which shares nothing with the Breva 1.1. The Griso frame has @26 degrees of rake and 4.25 in. (108mm) of trail compared to the Breva's @25 degree rake/4.72 in. (120mm) of trail. More relaxed numbers that feel much closer to a Tonti then any spine frame could wish. In addition, you "sit" much lower in the frame then you do on a Breva. This provides near perfect 50/50 weight distribution to each tire; a target of Moto Guzzi's engineers.
Nearly two years later, I sit only hours away from a short trek from Monza to Mandello del Lario for my first ride aboard the Griso. The scenery alone for the first time is quite overwhelming, and the man-made/constructed tunnels that snake along the Lake are quite inspirational, this being my first time ever in Italy. After taking the alternating corner fast sweeping tunnel exit to Mandello, you are then slowed by the tight narrow roads that snake through town. Turning right under a railroad bridge, immediately on the right was the Factory building lining the road. This also happened to be the Friday of the 'GMG' weekend and Guzzisti were everywhere. Once inside the gate, I was introduced to Stephania (Media Relations and GMG maestro) and Fulvio (Director of Marketing Strategy). In Italian fashion, we moseyed around at first, then finally into one of the small garages known as the "shop" below the Cantina and there it sat, the Griso I was to ride. Paperwork completed, I was then introduced to my guide; factory test rider and racer Caesar 'Cesar', whom was to be my personal cable-stretching commandant for the next few hours. Fulvio acting as my interpreter asked "how fast?" and with a smirk I replied, "As fast as he wants."
Swinging a leg over for the first time, one will be pretty impressed as to how low and narrow it feels for a rear mono-shocked Guzzi. Reaching out to the wide bars only prompts a big grin from everyone, regardless of language barriers. Key on, and the primarily LCD gauge cluster erupts into a light show and tach-needle sweep. The single, simple pod relays a plethora of information including average and maximum speed, and real-time fuel consumption data.
With no fast idle lever evident, a small input of throttle was required to fire it off in what has become typical Guzzi fashion, as it came to life via high-idle then back down in ten or so seconds. A quick stab of the throttle spins the motor up and quickly back down, the lightened internals immediately evident. From the saddle, intake and exhaust sounds are very much muted from the take-it-or-leave-it mega-megaphone muffler. Only when directly behind the bike can you hear the exploding pulses. Clutch pull is light, and there's virtually no clunk or crunch as you push it into first gear.
Idling through the crowd of people to exit the infamous red gate, the Griso is fantastically balanced at crawling speed, and the wide bars definitely help the feel as well as the chest-thumping attitude/positioning. As we pass cars through town, without abandon, we then pick up the speed through the tunnels towards Varenna. There is a small amount of on/off throttle-induced driveline snatch at low speeds (most likely fixable by modifying the injection mapping via a F.I. module). The shorter-stroke quick-spinning engine finds the rev-limiter very quickly, if you aren't focused on the tachometer. The Griso also required very light bar input yet always felt firmly planted, even through the damp sandy tunnels I was warned about.
Stopping for a quick photo session in Varenna, Cesar then pointed us directly up the hill and the real fun began. For the next 70 or so miles, we sampled every aspect of the bike under extreme demand. Staying no less then a few feet of his rear tire, Cesar allowed me to sample the bikes gamut; From hard on the brakes into peg-dragging first gear corners, up through triple digit ultra-fast sweepers, the Griso was unflappable. Exhibiting traits that only most modern bikes wished they could, the bike pulsed off of corners with authority, and could pick the front wheel off the ground at lower speeds with minimal rider input. At no time did the bike whimper or shake its head in resistance. It was almost hard to comprehend that this was a 'Power-Cruiser-Guzzi.' Probably the most impressive to note, was the lack of effort required at the gearbox. The "all new design" 4.41 pound (2-kilo) lighter transmission was an absolute delight compared to all its predecessors. Not one missed shift, nor did it present any false neutrals under hard load and demand throughout the speed trial. Also worthy of comment, or lack thereof, was the 'as delivered' suspension seemed very much in the ballpark, providing a very good ride over the myriad of surfaces we explored at extreme load. My only complaint was that Cesar's bike was faster. In my best attempt to tell him, expressing it only with my hands of course, he came over with two fingers an inch apart pointing to the upper inch of the tachometer to redline... his attempt to tell me to keep the revs up towards redline. I could only smile shaking my head up and down and responding "Si, I was." I think it was one of the rare few times that I had spent the better part of an hour and a half, on any two-valve Guzzi, in that range against the rev-limiter... a positive testament to the "improved" power plant.
Remember the sweeping tunnel exit to Mandello? Heading back to the factory, we blitzed very near 200kph down the expressway, through the exit tunnels and around any traffic they we came upon... reckless perhaps, but very fitting to the bike's ego. Back into town towards the factory on the small town streets, my adrenaline was still spiked for more. I still have the same grin permanently embedded in my face that I had when I pulled back through the gate. It was a ride never to forget. From the prototype to reality, I personally sure am glad they brought this one to life. I need to send many, many thanks to Robert P. (U.S.), Stephania, Fulvio, and Cesar for the experience of a lifetime.
Asking yourself where is M-G headed now? The latest photos of the California RST (proof retro isn't yet dead) and Norge 1200 (yes, engine displacement!) is a direction that Moto Guzzi is now venturing, to hopefully capture more of the 'real world, street focused' riders. Little could be prodded out of them about the new increased displacement, but "all new crank cases" was a case in point, pun intended, was confirmed. Good news for all of us big displacement 2-valve hunters.
Yes, the Griso delivered with everything I hoped it could. I'll be anxious to get my hands on one to hopefully un-harness some easily found power, and to make it the ultimate street ride I've been waiting over two years for. For more color photos, http://visit www.mg-griso.com
I anxiously await the delivery of my Griso... which won't be soon enough after the first delectable taste. - Todd E.