Moto Guzzi Griso 1100 – Soaring Wine Country’s Roads

img_5200It’s on the descent from Apex Ski Resort that I find my pace with the Moto Guzzi Griso 1100; the corners are taken elegantly in an exuberant dance through the hairpins as seductive and powerful as any tarantella.  Until now the Griso has been an enigma to me, a strange blend of cruiser, sportbike, and standard, merged with sensual design, graceful sophistication and classic simplicity.  Now that inscrutable mix fails to matter, I am simply enamored with the heady romance found in the hints of history, elegance, and mystery.  Plummeting down this swirling ribbon of asphalt towards the heart of BC’s wine country, I can (save Italy) think of no better place to sample this boutique concoction.

Earlier, the Griso sits breathing and warming to the clatter of its dry clutch in front of the Revoluzione trailer in Oliver, B.C, red light cast across it as air ripe with forest-fire smoke steals part of the spectrum.  At a standstill this Moto Guzzi is a work of art; no part of the Griso has missed a stylist’s attention.  Thick, flowing, rigid frame tubes outline the 1064cc transverse V-twin’s cylinder heads, crowned by mesh-grill inset vented side panels bearing the mark’s eagle crest.  The single-sided swing-arm perpetuates the Griso’s substance on the right, and on the left it is balanced by substantial exhaust pipes sweeping back of the engine out of sight only to emerge again and flow into the exhaust.  That silencer on its own, a conical affair seemingly lifted from a jet’s afterburner complete with turbine-venting termination, is an outlandish piece – but on the sleek and robust Griso it fits.

From end to end, this could well be a piece of Italian design history, muscular sensuality smoothed out and covered over with classic, impeccable taste.  Even at a standstill the eagle-emblemed Griso requires no screaming to draw attention and “straight pipes save lives” would be a fallacious affront.

The ergonomics on the Griso are a strange blend.  There is a long reach to the wide bars, stretching you out, but not uncomfortably so, and only putting minimal weight on your wrists.  If you’re tall likely you’ll find your legs are cramped in genuine sportbike fashion, with your knees bent tightly to meet the high pegs.  The outset panels atop the cylinder heads, complete with stylish metal mesh inset, eat into the space needed by tall types at a standstill, but once on the move you hardly notice.  The seat is flat, comfortable and well padded, a design that complements the upright seating position.  Even the kickstand is unique, oddly positioned and far-flung forward.  The Griso is unlike any bike I’ve sat on; muscular and thickset it feels like wrapping yourself around the world’s most chic oil barrel.

Out on the quiet back roads the Griso stirs the passion with the massive megaphone exhaust allowing a hearty fruity exhaust note to escape; when the throttle is rolled open, smooth precise fuelling decants the premium octane goods.  The Griso pulls easily from low revs, delivering dessert wine torque so thick you’d think Willy Wonka had a hand in it – all the way to a peak 65.7lb-ft (claimed) delivered at 6,400 RPM to be precise.  For cruising the engine is at its smooth best from 4,500-5,500 RPM, but throughout I’m reminded more of a velvety Japanese twin than any thudding American plant or horizontally opposed Teutonic twin.

Smooth and robust, the simple elegance of Guzzi’s air-cooled 90 degree V-twin engine seems bereft of the figurative tannins, until wound out – rocking and vibing to 88bhp at 7,600rpm.  When the riding become spirited the engine doesn’t provide a wide range to play in though.  Coursing uphill to Apex and surging along the Green Lake Road, the shift indicator is constantly blinking to life at mere 6500RPM and the red-line shudders the fun to a halt at 8,500 RPM.  If this were a Chardonnay it would be a rich buttery varietal, that once uncorked must be drunk quickly before good intentions of cruising come to a twisting rollicking end.

Soaring out of the corners lofted by the engine’s graceful power, it strikes you how easy the Griso is to ride.  The wide bars give exceptional leverage, almost too much – Griso has a slightly vague front-end feel.  Despite the bike’s squat, compact chunky look, the light tip in and handing completely dismisses the perception.  The Griso seems to prefer a front-end bias, performing better on downhill runs; regardless of terrain corners are taken elegantly, once the line is set the Griso’s execution is impeccable.

Suspension is provided by upside-down fully adjustable Showa forks, complete with stylish orange-caps up front, and a Borge rear shock.  The feeling on clean roads is composed, but compression bumps can invoke bucking and wallowing.  Part of this might be due to the shaft drive’s vertical bucking.  The parallelogram design of the swing-arm struggles to counter this tendency, for the most part the swing-arm wins that battle, except when the Griso is powered hard out of corners.

Green Lake Road is spirited like a peppery Syrah, and the Griso is lapping it up – bikes are lost here during Sportbike West almost every year, and the road requires discretion – or it should.  I’m now intoxicated with the Moto-Guzzi, hard on the progressive predictable Brembos into the corners, savour their refined and clean feel and revel at the suspension’s minimal dive – speed is scrubbed off easily.  Tip in to the rear tire’s edge, Metzler Rensports providing ample grip.  You can’t help but grin, there’s almost no worry of scraping hard bits, everything is drawn up and out of the way, even that immense pipe, then muscle out of the corner with a jammy burst of torque.

North of Oliver, the Griso thrums through the night, the road bracketed by some of BC’s most prized wineries.  The air flows clean and summer evening warm over the white faced clocks set in the Griso’s “mexi-crome” instrument cluster – the bike’s one disappointment in build quality.  Out of curiosity I take my hands off the bars and lean back, arms outstretched like the Moto Guzzi logo’s wings, there is only a minor pull to the right; the Griso is well balanced, the massive pipe offsetting the single-sided swing-arm’s mass.  Flying straight and true is not one of the Griso’s problems.

The headlight may be for those with aspirations beyond the coffeeshop runs.  It is stylish, featuring a red ring around the bulb serving no purpose beyond looks, but then I’m not sure the headlight itself does either.  Night riding left me wanting more illumination, though there are worse offerings on the market for this issue.  Then there is the switchgear.

Can a turn signal say something about the Italian the national psyche?  Switch arrangement ensures that the horn button is near impossible to miss while the turn signals are easily missed.  The horn is robust and deep, unlike so many other brands and I like its authoritative sound, which is good because I’m sounding off every time I go to initiate or cancel a signal. It’s not that a bike designed to such levels of “look at me” style, like the Griso, needs to draw more attention to itself.

Cruising through the vineyards of the Okanogan astride the Moto Guzzi Griso I’m living out a dream of elegant affluence and savouring Moto Guzzi’s house flavour of enigma and elegance.  This is a hard bike to classify: cruiser, sport, standard?  There are elements of all the classic forms here, but drawn together in a fusion that sets the Griso tastefully apart and lets it escape conventional principles of classification. Despite this bike’s sticker price it feels like something uncommon and rare, there is quality and distinction here, more so than any similarly priced cruiser or sportbike.  As a matter of personal style, when confronted with panache and design in this quantity and quality it’s hard not to consider the Moto Guzzi Griso.

Thanks to Revoluzione for the loan of our tester.

MSRP: CDN MSRP: $17,995
Colors: Red or Gloss Black 



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