2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX ABS Review
Stelvio conquers the Dolomites
It seems like everything I’ve seen from the seat of the 2009 Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX has been beautiful beyond description. That’s probably because I’ve been riding through the scenic Dolomites in north eastern Italy.
The NTX is Moto Guzzi’s answer to BMW’s R 1200 GS Adventure and it comes well equipped. The big aluminium panniers enhance the Stelvio’s brute and menacing look seen from the front. The extra steering lights also emphasise the serious touring motives of the new NTX. The Dolomites region I’m riding through is also known for another Italian/German clash. During the Great War thousands of Italians, Austrians and Germans were killed on these mountain sides and Austrians used motorbikes with sidecars in warfare for the first time. Luckily I can ride my Italian motorbike without any Austrian trouble in 2009 but isn’t it interesting that the main Adventure segment protagonists are still German (BMW GS), Austrian (KTM Adventure) and Italian (Moto Guzzi Stelvio)?
The Stelvio is a big butch Adventure tourer and it’s right at home in the Dolomites. With the NTX’s extensive engine and drive shaft protection it’s a lot safer to take it off the beaten track too, but only a professional would be brave enough to take this 553-pound bike (curb weight) off-road.
One major problem with the NTX for the true adventure rider is the limited 4.6-gallon fuel capacity. An experienced Africa adventure rider once told me though that where there are people there will be fuel. Perhaps if you had a seven-gallon fuel tank you’d be more likely to stray a little further away from the crowds.
The wide and comfortable seat can be adjusted from a little more than 32 inches to 33 inches. The tall windscreen can also be adjusted and features small wind deflectors on each lower side. With the seat adjusted to its lower position you naturally get better protection from the windscreen so in rough weather the lowest seat position works well. Should you either need to stretch your legs more or actually ride off-road the higher position makes more sense. The solid hand guards complete the rugged NTX looks and I’m glad Moto Guzzi went with proper guards rather than just something for show.
Up the first mountain passes I was surprised how agile the big Italian machine proved to be. Despite its XL size the Stelvio handles like a smaller more sporty motorcycle. It’s a delight leaning the Stelvio into the hairpin corners and then firing it out to encounter more of the same.
The Metzeler Tourance tires provide excellent grip and have deep enough groves for light gravel work. The fully adjustable magnum 50mm forks allow for 6.7 inches of wheel travel while the adjustable monoshock allows 6.1 inches of travel.
The front brake is a very powerful double radially mounted four-piston Brembo affair biting on 320mm discs. The rear brake is a 282mm two-piston set-up and all linked by ABS. While the ABS was satisfactory on the road and perfect during the brief spot of rain I encountered, you can turn it off. For the gravel stuff you have to turn the ABS off or you won’t be able to steer with the rear brake and will quickly find yourself in big trouble. Speaking of ABS that can be switched off I’m just wondering why no one makes a switch that definitively and instantly tells you that ABS is either on or off. It seems with all available systems today you have to hold some button in for ages and are usually left having to test slide the rear before knowing whether ABS is on or off as the ABS light either goes on or blinks or goes off.
I only rode a tiny piece of gravel road while touring the Dolomites. It was enough to tell you that you need to know what you’re doing for any type of off-road riding. Heavy bikes like this require rider input and expertise. Also, you need to be in good shape for long off-road journeys even if they’re not complicated or technical routes. Just because the Stelvio NTX looks the part doesn’t mean it will do what you want if you don’t know how to do it in the first place. But I am confident that the Stelvio NTX would fare well as long as the terrain is open enough for speed because that’s what you need with a heavy bike off-road. My Stelvio NTX off-road conclusion is that it will go where you want to go if you know how to. Add the knobby tires and Stelvio NTX will climb and brake better and slide less on the grass too.
For relaxed touring two up with luggage the new Stelvio NTX features the second generation Quattro Valvole engine with new cams and improved midrange. A larger air box is also in place this package provides improved torque and a max power figure of 105 horsepower at 7,250 rpm. The extra torque and the improved fuel injection are easy to notice compared to the previous 2006-2008 model. The NTX accelerates in a smooth and firm fashion from 2,000 rpm and all the way past 7,000 rpm. Considering that you lose between 10 and 20 percent power when riding at high altitude the NTX is just perfect up in the Dolomites. There’s always plenty of power on tap and the delivery is the best yet from the relatively “new” Quattro Valvole motor. The shaft drive does its business almost unnoticed and the gear box and lighter clutch is a delight to use. Cruising in sixth gear on straighter roads proved a comfortable experience too.
The instrument panel includes easy to read information from speed to revs, fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, max speed and if you get the heated grips you can read the heating levels on the instrument panel also. Pretty much all you need for touring. If you’re wondering how the Stelvio NTX sounds I can tell you that this air-cooled V90 produces music for the ears limited by a large silencer on the left side of the bike.
The Stelvio 1200 NTX is a well equipped tourer with large solid panniers and ABS mounted as standard. All the extras available on the NTX cost about 1,000 Euro (US$1,400) more compared to a standard Stelvio. Both versions get the 2009 second generation Quattro Valvole engine though, but the extra protection and those sexy aluminium panniers are worth the premium. The air-cooled 1151cc V90 is a gem and makes for a relaxed but still sporty as you like touring experience. The extra torque was very welcome in the high altitude Alpine passes.
I’d love to compare the Stelvio to the BMW GS Adventure and KTM Adventure on a road trip to Morocco or something, but both BMW and KTM have many years head start on their Adventure concepts and for Moto Guzzi’s Stelvio 1200 NTX to win any comparison would probably be a tall order and too much to ask. I hope Moto Guzzi continues to develop the Stelvio though and puts it through some tough challenges on the way. In 2009 the NTX is at least one of the best if not THE best Italian touring bikes available on the market.