Prince, "Beautiful Strange," Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic
Perhaps not being well-read only added to my work, but it took more research than I anticipated to learn the meaning behind the name of the sportiest machine Moto Guzzi sends to U.S. shores. Griso is the name of an unsavory character in the Italian novel, "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed). Being the passion-filled people that they are, maybe the dichotomy between the origin of the Griso's name and its beauty makes perfect sense to most Italians.
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Far from being sneaky and treacherous, the Griso is a well-mannered and willing machine.
This Griso is a sensual creature. The eye of the beholder is drawn to the minimalist twin-spar tubular steel frame, and the tell-tale transverse 90-degree Twin suspended from it. Two velvety headpipes bend subtly – no sharp angles here – rearward, joining seamlessly and secretly beneath the engine to meet with the brash brushed-aluminum exhaust.
When viewed with nothing more than a passing glance the Griso's appeal is highly attractive without being overstated, but a closer look reveals that, in keeping with its hard-to-define nature, many of the design elements echo the dichotomy mentioned above. Although the single-sided shaft-drive CA.R.C. (Cardano Reattivo Compatto/Compact Reactive Drive Shaft) system offers a clean view of the hollow three-spoke, cast-aluminum rear wheel from the left side, it appears overbearing when seen from the right. Looked at from a short distance, the shaft drive, universal joint and exposed side-mounted oil cooler make for a dominating trio, almost overshadowing the simple chassis and engine.
In the case of the Griso, pictures aren't necessarily worth a thousand words. It's not until you witness the bike in the flesh that the exhaust truly announces its girthy presence. With a very unique end-cap it seems as though a large blast of flame could exit, making problems for any auto getting within firing distance. Ah... we can dream can't we? Lastly, it isn't until you're seated that you're nearly slapped in the face with what must be the largest gas cap on any bike made today. Instantly, I thought I heard it say, "Look-a me! I make-a nice-a pizza!"
The blending of all the different design features often reminded me of the exaggerated and embellished characters found in so much anime. Regardless of an imbalance in appearance, the Griso makes it all work.
But the contrasts don't end with the visual. Saddling up to the Goose is an easy affair with an accommodating 31.5-inch seat height, but I often felt a little vulnerable when placing both feet flat; the distance between the pegs is deceptively wide. As a man, I just wasn't comfortable having my legs splayed that far apart (And as a woman…? –Ed.). Nevertheless, once you're rolling with both feet resting comfortably on the rubber-covered pegs, the gap between your knees shrinks considerably. The fuel tank tapers to meet with the saddle, creating a narrow waist that lends to the bike's easy handling.
The Griso continues to defy being compartmentalized as rider ergos seem a strange amalgam of cruiser, racer and standard. The rider sits fairly square over the pegs, yet the reach to the wide handlebars that provide tremendous steering leverage creates a forward bias in the rider's position. It's not at all uncomfortable, just an unfamiliar marriage of upright and aggressive. I often found that I could bend the bike through most turns with all the assertiveness that was necessary, only having to change the angle of my head when the corner opened up again. It was a refreshing experience – not to mention comfortable – to keep my body position constant while stringing a circuit of turns together. If I felt the need to shift my weight inside the bike's centerline, there was nothing foreign-feeling in the maneuver.
As one would expect from a Twin, power is quite linear. The fuel-injected air-cooled 1064cc Twin is exceptional in its user friendliness. A flat torque curve makes judicious use of the throttle a practice to be forgotten. There simply aren't any unwelcome surprises from this flying V, just that reliable twisting force. It shows up as early 3000 rpm and sticks around until a little more than 3400 rpm later where it crests at 55 ft-lbs. Horsepower is just as consistent, building quickly above 5000 rpm and peaking at just a tick under 72 hp (71.9) in the neighborhood of 7800 rpm.
After recently being aboard the similarly powered Breva 1100, all I kept asking myself after riding the Griso was, "How can these bikes be from the same manufacturer?" Although their engine specs are almost mirror images of one another, that's where the similarities end. The Griso accelerated with so much more force and authority that I was convinced that it had an entirely different powerplant than the Breva. The Griso’s larger muffler helps uncork a couple of extra ponies, but credit is also due to lower primary gearing that offers greater torque multiplication.
But an engine is more than just torque and horsepower figures. Things like clutch feel and transmission action play big roles in either endearing or repelling riders. In the Griso's case, the dry clutch worked flawlessly; the tranny operated with fluidity and low-effort. Gear ratios were an excellent match to the bike's dummy-proof power. I lost count of how many turns I sewed together, never having moved the shift lever with its eccentric toe peg (the foot brake peg is the same) up or down. After achieving your desired cruising speed the bike almost has an electric feel. All you ever need do is feed in the throttle, or roll off a bit, to maintain that seamless rhythm that riders so often seek.
As I put the Griso through my favorite test routes, I was certain that I was riding this motorcycle substantially faster, and with greater ease, than bikes with gobs more power. The terrain consisted of decreasing-radius downhill turns, long, flowing sweepers, smooth and unblemished road surfaces and rough, broken sections of tarmac. All were embraced with abandon by the Griso. At least in this sense, the bike lives up to its namesake.
The bike's handling is attributable to more than just the tube frame. No doubt the long 61.2-inch wheelbase, lazy 26-degree steering rake and generous 4.25 inches of trail combine for a truly stable environment. That combo also does a good job of hiding the Griso's (claimed) 500-pound dry weight. It never ceased to amaze me how easy it was to quickly lever the bike left and right through turns with a modest tug on the wide bars.
Finally, a fully adjustable and substantial set of suspenders are also to blame for a great ride. As delivered, the 43mm inverted forks, and Sachs shock (attached to the swinger via a rising-rate linkage) were a hair on the firm side. Turning preload out one mark on the forks with half a rotation toward soft on rebound damping reduced front end harshness. Preload adjustment to the shock is accomplished by a set of locking rings. I didn’t mess around with them, but I did turn rebound three clicks toward soft which made for good balance in the adjustments up front. Ultimately, ride quality is quite good albeit with a tendency toward harsh zaps over high-speed bumps. But hey, the stuff is adjustable, so get to it!
In the end of it all, front-end feel was very good, thanks in part to the Metzeler Rennsports. I did have one front end slide that wanted to tuck badly, but as I said, feel was so good that I wasn't left to panic. Rolling (okay, maybe I chopped it a bit) out of the throttle the chassis came back into line and I continued on through the turn.
A perfect compliment to every other component on the Griso, the dual 320mm brake rotors were pinched with near-perfect power and feel from the pair of four-piston Brembo calipers fed by stainless-steel lines. And just like the Breva 1100 that we recently tested in our Air-Cooled Twins test, the rear brake is incredibly powerful and sensitive. What a great combination the front and rear brakes make.
Heretofore I haven't marked up too many negatives on the ol' Griso. Some do exist, and I figure they warrant mentioning.
Though the time-honored and improved-upon Guzzi Twin in this bike has linear power and provides a very tractable ride, some low-resonating dull vibes do peek in around 5000 rpm, remaining all the way to the 8000-rpm redline. Personally, I never saw this as a detriment. And the complex drive shaft system does part of what it sets out to do by nearly eliminating dreaded shaft jack, but as was the case with the Breva 1100, driveline lash was prominent, requiring smooth throttle inputs.
The Griso won't be stealing any superbike (or even supersport) wins because it really isn't that fast. This certainly isn't a blemish, but if or when you do reach the more-than-100-mph-less-than-125-mph top speed perhaps you'll note a little instability from the front. I'm inclined to think this has to do with the incredibly strong frame, slightly less than 50/50 front/rear weight bias (figures floating around have it somewhere around 48/52 front/rear), and the need for further suspension tuning. Maybe the accoutrement of a steering damper might help, but my preliminary web search turned up precious few options for such a money-grubbing accessory.
So why would Moto Guzzi name such a user-friendly bike after a thug in Italian literature? This must have been a choice driven by someone's perception of brilliant marketing; an attempt to endow an inanimate object with human characteristics in order to conjure up that visceral appeal of which many of us fall victim. Everybody wants to be a tough guy, right?
Thinking about it though, maybe they picked the perfect name? After all, this bike does exactly what you tell it to, attacking and laying waste to every bit of pavement in your way.
I've a plan to improve profitability and product flow for Moto Guzzi: Make a windscreen and slightly better passenger accommodations available for the Griso. Then drop the Breva... Entirely.
|The Perfect Bike For…|
|...the rider who wants a unique bike with unconventional styling and every-day usable power, performance and handling to match its head-turning design.|
NOTE: Be sure to go to the photo gallery to see many more photos detailing the Griso. Also, early appearances of the 2008 Griso show it coming in white, with what appears to be a restyled exhaust can and wave-type front brake rotors. Stay tuned to Motorcycle.com for updates on new model info.