Bikes we love

What I want: Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 SE

There’s something rather lewd about its look: all that engine spilling out of the frame and those Dali-esque pipes stretching its length. It’s alluring. It feels indecent. It’s like seeing a giant poster of Dita Von Teese in a public place, peering down at you while you and your wife walk through a shopping centre in search of mundane things like spatulas and a card for your Uncle Leroy’s birthday. Deep down in your conscience, some part of you rumbles and tries to make you look away. 
“Don’t just stand there and gawp, man,” your brain shouts. “Show a little decorum. Stop being such a perv.”
But you can’t stop looking, can’t pull your eyes away. Each curve and line captivates you, hypnotizes you, and draws your eyes to the next. You stare and stare and stare as if trying to memorise it all. In the case of the Von Teese poster you might try to play it off, might try to tell your wife you were looking at something else (a), but in the case of the Moto Guzzi Griso it’s OK to keep staring.
This is a bike that I want if not simply to be able to sit and look at it.
Although, the Dita Von Teese comparison is not quite right. The Griso’s beauty is thuggish. And to just look at it is to miss all the fun. Its engine is equally thuggish, and the infamous transverse air-cooled V-twin kicks out a whopping 110 hp at 7,5000 rpm. It also produces a hefty 80 lb.-ft of torque. Those are damned good numbers for a 1200cc engine, y’all (compare them to the 61 hp and 67 lb.-ft of torque delivered by the equally 1200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster).
I’ve been consumed with thoughts of this bike for a few months now and have found myself reading every review I can find, watching every YouTube video. You know you’ve got it bad when you’re willing to sit through a video of Germans in ill-fitting fedoras trying to be hip just for the sake of seeing and hearing the bike on the move.
When it fires up, the Griso’s unique engine set-up causes it to shake from side to side. Moto Guzzi fans refer to that as “character” and I think I’d be perfectly fine with it because: a) it goes away once you’re on the move; b) that shaking-at-idle sensation is something I thought was cool about riding a Harley-Davidson. I kind of like the idea of sitting on a machine that is so eager to hurtle me forward it cannot sit still.

And, as I say, once you give in to the bike’s desire to move it apparently does so quite well, delivering –– according to reviews –– sporty performance in higher gears. Though, admittedly, in the low gears there can be a certain amount of lash from the Griso’s shaft drive. I can’t decide whether that would annoy me. I guess it depends on just how much lash there is and whether it would prevent me from feeling comfortable filtering through traffic.
But if it’s just a matter of “quirkiness” and “character” and other diplomatic words to describe an engine that’s behaving the way it looks then I suspect I might fall in love with it. I still often pine for the rodeo-bull nature of the 1969 Ford F250 pickup truck I used to drive in high school. A friend of mine commented at the time that the truck’s suspension seemed to consist solely of the springy bench seat that bounced you up and down at speed.
However, as much as I love character, I have a pretty hard-line stance on anti-lock brakes. The Griso comes with a number of desirable features like shaft drive, LED lighting and dual front brake discs, but those brakes are not anti-lock. Because of this, I had somewhat dismissed the Griso as a machine that I’d ever spend my own money on.

But then Moto Guzzi announced that another bike I love the look of, the V7 Stone, will soon be equipped with ABS and traction control. Why a 48 hp bike needs traction control, I don’t know; but it struck me as a big announcement because I think most people assumed that manufacturers of “modern classics” like the V7 Stone, the Triumph Bonneville and the Kawasaki W800 would hold off on adhering to upcoming EU regulations for as long as they could, milking their standard braking systems for one more year.

“Hey, wow,” I thought upon learning of the changes coming to the V7 Stone. “Perhaps this could be my next bike. It’s definitely got the look and style; now it’s got the brakes I want.”

And, indeed, the V7 very well could be something I’d get. Though I’m still a little put off by two issues: a) the whole 48 hp thing; b) it requires bias/cross-ply tires. It’s always been my understanding that bias are dangerously inferior to radial tires (b).

Meanwhile, it occurs to me that if Moto Guzzi is planning to update its most classic bike for 2015 it should almost certainly do the same with other models, including the Griso. I would expect full details to come out this week at the INTERMOT show

So, the Griso is back on my list. The question now is how to pay for it. Like other Italian motorcycles, Moto Guzzis do not come cheap.


(a) I’m very lucky that in this particular case I would not have to manufacture a lie. My wife used to be a burlesque dancer. So I could just outright point at the poster and say: “Babe, we need to get you a bustier like that!”

(b) If anyone would like to shed light on whether I am wrong in this, please do so in the comment section. I really don’t know that much about tires.