Written on: 12/10/2009
OF NORGES, SPADAS, & FJ1200's
The website forums are now often throwing up questions & opinions on the new range of bikes from Guzzi, in particular, on the Breva, 1200, & Norges. Indeed, some were from me, pending the acquisition of a Norge .
So as a new owner, & a returnee to the Guzzisti & Gambalungan fold, I thought I'd offer a contribution on how I've found my Norge, against expectation/hope, & compared to my old Spada, & FJ1200 Yamaha.
I have to admit here to blind prejudice as I've always loved the Guzzi V twin, even before I had my Royale, ( my brother taught me to ride on his first bike in 1969, when I was 13, on a red 125 Stornello) which I bought in the early 80s when I was looking for a BMW R100RS. I saw the Spada in Bol D'or Motorcycles in Worthing, with 3500 miles, part ex'd for a Hesketh .Hmmmm. It was utterly beautiful to look at, & after an extended ride with my partner on the back (it was to be our only transport), it was duly bought with my Suzuki GT500 going in part exchange.
It proved to be an excellent bike, extremely reliable, and simple for me to do the basic servicing; it therefore was VERY simple. I had none of the electrical problems myth seems to deem de rigueur. The throttle & clutch were very heavy, & the gearbox was very slow & clunky .but in a way suited the bike, & I never found it a problem; once above 30mph, it was left in top anyway!! The handling was faultless, just as they said at the time, "like on rails", the engine was the smoothest at 90 mph of just about anything, & would pull from absolutely nowhere, irrespective of load. The bike would maintain 50mpg until you exceeded 90mph, & then drop to 40mpg. There was never any variation to this. Top speed, I reckoned would be about 115mph, perhaps a little more if one would be so inclined? As well as being all day comfortable, the fairing was the most effective I've ever used, & for 3 years, winter & summer, I never used waterproofs. Later Spadas had a bigger screen before the fairing was completely changed for the Spada 3. Needless to say, I loved the bike, BMW, eat your heart out, but she reluctantly had to be sold, for a variety of boring reasons, & for some years, I was without a regular steed I could call my own.
Fast forward ..the news was out of a new, "son/daughter of Spada", the Norge, and the reviews were good, as far as the Telegraphs report went, very good.
At the time I was in the early stages of hunting for another Guzzi, in particular I thought a second hand V11 Le Mans would appeal. In fact I found instead, a lovely low mileage, Yamaha FJ1200, a bike of immense reputation, & bought it for relative peanuts. The handling impressed, although the ground clearance was a problem, the fairing would not keep you dry at all, & after about 1-2 hours both me & my partner would get very uncomfortable & start fidgeting about. The instruments were excellent, ALMOST as good as the Spadas, the headlight, rubbish. The engine tingled a lot, numbing fingers around town, but oh! the top gear roll on was staggering, absolutely wonderful: which was just as well, as the gearbox, particularly from cold, was heavy & very clunky, though not as slow as the Spada box.
It was during this time that my partner, bless her, bought me a 5 day holiday to the Italian Lakes for my 50th birthday (no bike), with a promise of a factory visit; something we had promised ourselves we would do when we had the Spada, but never did. What she didn't realise at the time, was that it would be the 85th anniversary w/e celebrations at the factory!! So before we went, I organised a test ride with her on a Norge at a local dealer, to see what all the fuss was about.
To say that it impressed would be a massive understatement, insomuch, that as we all now know, Guzzi have got rid of the old foibles that may put off some prospective buyers, such as clunky gears, heavy clutch/throttle, the rise & fall of the rear of the bike on acceleration/deceleration - I always quite liked that! Yet they have kept the essence of Guzzi, that thudding V twin, now with a slick box, & quite superb light handling & steering. The whole package just looked well finished, especially compared to BMWs, some of which I had also been testing in comparison. Add that to a few days in the Italian Lakes immersed in rumbling Guzzis, & I was sold. I was like an addict seeking a fix sad, really!!
Anyway, I ended up being fortunate enough to buy a red Norge (the Yamaha was sold at a hefty profit, & was to be the deposit) from Haywards in Cambridge, who have proved to be excellent. Very helpful & friendly.
We now have 2000 miles on the clock, at the time of writing, & a trans England (700 mile) bash under our belt, so how has the Norge performed?
In my mind, a bike ( or anything!) has to satiate a visual aesthetic, as that is the first sense used on anything, & the Norge does this for me. It looks sleek & fairly compact, especially compared to the likes of the Pan European or FJR1300, or the BMW RT1200. The Norge looks svelte. It is comprehensively equipped, with what promised to be decent headlights - why is it that headlights are so seldom referred to in tests?- decent instrumentation, & all the usual options, luggage, heated grips, sliding glass doors, cuddly toy, et al. The riding position at first seemed a little too upright, but is in fact a natural & comfy position, & the controls we now all know to be light & as easy as anything else on the market. Again I have felt sore after a couple of hours in the saddle (dependant on the pace!?) but I know many have reported the saddle as being very comfortable; but despite very long legs, I have done a 12 hr day in the saddle! So it can't be that bad?
The instruments, although wonderfully comprehensive, with adjustable backlighting, are marred by the positioning of the digital instrument in the bottom right corner: firstly the bezel from the speedo intrudes, & is exacerbated on the electric screen model which places the instruments in a more vertical plane. Also the computer does not allow for any contrast adjustment in its display, making it difficult to read in the dark.
Save for the electric screen, the switchgear is good, with one of the best headlight/dip/ flash switches I've ever used. On the Yam., one can easily switch the lights off going from dip to main. I did. Several times. Guzzi go & spoil things with the electric screen switches, where instead of having a simple rocker for up & down, have instead opted for an up on one handlebar & down on the other, both requiring a thumb about 6" long!!!
The fairing seems to work well, at 6'5" I have the screen up on dual carriageways & motorways, & down the rest of the time; but I don't think it will do so well in keeping the rain off, I think you will get wet hands & upper arms. The Spada wins hands down in protection from the rain. Handlebars 1" narrower, 1" lower, fairing, 1" wider, all would be solved. Oh & whilst on about the fairing, lovely looking though it is, what idiot ok'd the design that doesn't allow access to the engine oil filler/dipstick, & came up with that fitment of the lower fairing extensions & belly pan!!!!!!!! Unforgivable. Maybe.
The handling & steering belies the weight of the bike, & I am constantly amazed at how flickable & quick steering the big Guzzi is, & how light it feels. This has been commented on by others too. Low speed balance is excellent; being simple to balance both feet up to a standstill.
The transmission is smoother than the Spada, & feels every bit as good as a chain (without the worry & mess), & with the slick, quick changing box, feels very un Guzzi like. It's a massive improvement on Guzzi of old. I can't help wondering about the ratio choice though if you're going to fit a 6 speed box, in a tourer, why not spread the first 5 ratios out so that 5th is the same as the current 6th, & make 6th more of an overdrive, & fit a digital indicator, as Suzuki did on their triples in the 70s & 80s? Very useful it was too.
As such, the new Guzzi has quite astonishing get up & go, especially between 3 & 6ooo rpm; the new engine, whilst they still have that lovely smooth stomp of the old engines, is more rev happy (an initially, very surprising achievement with the larger engines, a lot of it I guess, must be as a result of the lighter pistons used & better engine build tolerances under Aprilia/Piaggio?) & will rev past 7000 revs should you require, ultimately pushing the bike to close on 130 mph again I'm guessing. The Norge is certainly very comfortable & smooth at 90mph, the blurred mirrors that occur at 80 then smooth out.
Much has been discussed about the merits or otherwise of the ABS brakes: I was one who was quite happy not to bother, but now I leave it on & forget it. I have tried several intentional crash stops, & have not noticed it, save my new seating position around the fuel tank!!
Fuel consumption, initially was around the high 30s but now on mixed riding (and I normally change up around 3000 rpm, obviously dependant on circumstances), I have been averaging well over 50 mpg. The tank is slightly smaller than the Spadas, although looks bigger, so range to reserve is about 200 miles. The Yamaha FJ1200 would be lucky to ever exceed 40mpg ..
The bike has some nice design touches too, such as the luggage attachment.
It's a beautifully finished & well thought out machine, with the qualification about the lower fairing, but with bikers prejudices, & Guzzis inconsistent marketing abilities, will probably, along with Moto Guzzi generally, remain one of motorcyclings lesser known gems.
That's fine by me .
My ambition now is to take the bike back to the Italian Lakes & Mandello; to park up in the lakeside piazza at Menagio, & take it all in .
OF NORGES, SPADAS, & FJ1200's (tales of a Norge kind, part 2)
At the start of the first piece, in the last edition of Gambalunga, or at least the last edition that ran part one of this epistle, I referred to several comments on the website forum: it's therefore apposite that this should start in a similar vein, insomuch that someone posted a comment that whilst considering a Norge, there was, unsurprisingly perhaps, a lack of a longer term report on the bike. Whilst this, obviously cannot be considered such a report, it may give an insight (hopefully) into the early days of living with one ..
Anyway, the mileage as I write is now 4500, (over 6000 now, since I wrote this!!) Larry though has done over 6000 (probably now nearing 8000miles?) on his to date, including his scooter escort duties to Rome!
The engine just gets better, with a real strong smooth acceleration between 80 & 100mph, making cruising in this range very comfortable, & easy.
The extra urge at these speeds over the Spada won't or shouldn't surprise anyone, the thing produces approximately 30% more wallop, but what does amaze me is that traffic is travelling faster on the motorways than 20 years ago, insomuch that if I cruised at 80 on the Spada, I used to gently waft past most traffic, occasionally using 90 to pass; now you have to add a good 10 mph to that.
The limit is 70, & yes, that should be that, but to do that invites you to be swallowed up in a maelstrom of cars, without mirrors or anyone able to use them .
Anyway, enough of such things, the Guzzi is very capable of cruising at continental speeds if required, & returning over 50mpg into the bargain, as I found out of late, after a fast trip to Cornwall (again) & back, a journey of about 700 miles mostly done on dual carriageways, motorways, & fast A roads. At those speeds, the Norge was returning better consumption figures than the beloved Spada Royale, which was a pleasant surprise, whilst the FJ12 wouldn't be doing much more than 35mpg Bearing in mind the slightly short gearing on the Norge, I think that this is pretty amazing.
Oil consumption on the Norge to date, has been nil. Zilch. Zip.
Fairing practicalities & protection:
Norge, original screen, 7/10, mebbe 8..?
Norge, Skidmarx screen, 81/2, possibly, 9/10 (as per photos)
FJ1200, original screen, 4/10
FJ1200, touring screen, 5/10 (as per photos)
So what has gone wrong to date? Well not a lot really, the electric screen malfunctioned on the day of collection, & fixed on site, the heated grip on the left wasn't working due to a poor connection, fixed on 1st service .. & that really is about it .
I did lose a front indicator lens on the way to Cornwall, the fitment of which is a cr**py piece of design by anyone's judgement. It's held on by one screw at the back, & a plastic tang at the front. The lens itself secures the reflector & bulb; if the lens goes, it all goes!
What of modifications & changes? Well, a rear mudguard extension was fitted, & does what the mudguard should have done in the first place, if moulded to a complete form!
I cut and formed a front mudguard extension too, out of a black plastic 5 litre oil container. The Guzzi is better than most modern machines in that it does at least have a token attempt at a front guard, but not good enough. The extension keeps all the crud off the belly pan & front of the engine. What is it with manufacturers these days, & the apparent antipathy to make ANY concessions to the practicalities of care?? Look at a Ducati, & all you get is a small piece of plastic between the forks!!
If anyone else is thinking of doing this, keep the extension as long as possible, otherwise on compression of the forks under braking, it can get stuck in the front of the bellypan; hey presto! no steering. If you haven't got a belly pan, then obviously it doesn't matter .
I have also fitted two components from Skidmarx (www.skidmarx.co.uk), one being their screen for the Norge, which evolved from conversations & a trial with Larry & his Norge. It's the same width at the bottom, but like the earlier screens used in Guzzis publicity shots, is a couple of inches wider at the top, & about 2 " taller. Makes a significant difference, especially to the less vertically challenged. (see scores, above). Mind you even the smaller standard screen worked better than the modified (taller) screen I had on the FJ12.
For anyone interested in the Skidmarx screen, they have identical fittings whether electric screen or manual. The Guzzi part numbers are the same.
The other item was the hugger from Skidmarx (fits 1200Sport & Breva, as well), available in GRP & Carbon fibre. This was also developed after Larry's initial contact with Skidmarx. I had previously fitted a rubber strip from the battery box, down, to protect the suspension unit, but the hugger does an excellent job, & Guzzi should have had one as a standard fitting. I think it looks good too?
The seat, I still find uncomfortable for much over an hour, which is disappointing as the rest of the dynamics/ergonomics I think are excellent. I notice again that although many are finding the saddles on the Breva/Sport & Norge very comfortable, there are appearing on the forum, one or two messages from those also finding it a bit of an ache. Yet it seems perfectly plush?
I tried a gel seat from M&P but it made no difference whatsoever, & now don't bother with it.
However, with great expense, since I wrote the above, I have splashed out on a "Airhawk" seat as recommended, by several people on the website forum. These things are expensive, & I live in great hope, as after a recent bimble to Snape Maltings,(on the Suffolk coast) a round trip of only about 120 miles, with Sarah on the pillion, my backside & left leg were in great pain.
(Have now been using the Airhawk & it is to be thoroughly recommended. Absolutely.)
I have never been able to get the centre stand to ground out as some exuberant testers have; that is until I put my brother on the back, then it did so with alarming ease. The rear suspension was at that time set as from the factory, which is considerably softer than the recommended "standard" setting in the handbook. I have cranked up the preload on the rear, accordingly, leaving at the moment, the rest alone. All sorted & no grounding, two up, loaded up or whatever.
And what of the pillion capabilities? I have to admit that since the Spada days, the ensuing years have left Sarah, my partner, a reluctant & nervous pillion. Recently she came on the back for a gentle 120 mile bimble round the lanes of Suffolk to the Snape Maltings on the coast near Aldeburgh. However, she has said that she finds the seat very comfortable and all the more so with the top box, which incorporates a back rest. There is however a significant amount of vibration through the pillion footrests, as these are not rubber mounted. Sarah added that the vibration goes at 90 mph ..
Hoping not to put the fickle finger of fate on anything, to date the bike has been perfectly reliable, & lets face it, that's just how it should be in this day & age, & performs in the Guzzi tradition, very well, standing comparison to any of its contemporaries.
As Larry recently said on the websites forum, "the sheer dynamic quality, rideability, & useability of the Norge, outshines anything I've ever ridden."
(Even including the 650 Ural, he also has.)
If a Guzzi can prompt a remark such as that, from someone previously ignorant of the marque, then they must be getting something right!
I test rode just about every new machine that I felt might hold a modicum of interest to me & my riding, before parting with the banks money, &, much as it pains me to say it, I think he's right!
Let's now see how durable these new Guzzis prove in the longer term
Actually that's done it, as since I wrote the above, the motor for the electric screen has broken. The Archimedean screw, the motor turns directly, has sheared at the motor, requiring replacement. It seems it is formed from several intertwined wires dipped into a solder ??? So what is to prevent the replacement going the same way?
(nb, it has since been found not to have been soldered properly, the replacement is far more robust, & I don't foresee a recurrence)
No, actually, the bike to date has been a jewel, & I can't stop riding it. I love it. Which has to be what it's all about?
Of Norges, etc The Norge Saga (part 3/last movement)
What was started in the June/July 2007 edition shall now be finished, as this tale will bring to an end my 1st year of Norge ownership & the 9000 miles covered in that year.
Whereas the first two parts covered my experience of the new Norge, this piece will dwell more on my personal thoughts on what aspects perhaps could be improved upon without incurring massive development costs; bearing in mind, Aprilia, then Piaggio, made great play about the extensive development that the Breva 1100, the progenitor of the Norge, went through prior to release. Some publicity shots have also shown some of the early styling "mules" for the Norge, including one fairing that looked like a cross between the Martini Yamaha XS1100 fairing ( styled by John Mockett, I believe?), & that used on the BMW RT1150.
As an aside, I should also point out that contrary to Robin Church's complimentary letter (thank you) in the Feb/March 2008 magazine, I did in fact comment, albeit briefly, on the Norges brakes in part 1 (June/July 2007) .but I couldn't agree more about his remarks with reference to the headlights; but more of that later.
So before I go on with the little criticisms of the Norge, be under no illusion that I really rate this bike. I am completely biased.
Let's start from the front then: the fairing. I've already said that I believe the Norge is a really good looking bike, in the context of its type, & the fairing is not only surprisingly effective, but also surprisingly sleek looking, especially with the 6 lights on the front (2 dip, 2 main, 2 side). However, the riders hands are unnecessarily exposed, & it wouldn't have taken much to widen the fairing by an inch or so, or narrow the handlebars .or both?
The mounting bolts for the lower fairing extensions are unnecessarily complex, & provision really should have been made for easier access to the dipstick. The dipstick itself could be easier to read, such as not being ribbed, & being white.
Still with the fairing, why not fit a small "cuddy" (it's the sailor in me .) in the dash, for oddments, & an dash mounted power socket for those that like to fit odd electronics in their ears or hotty bottles around their midriffs?
Really, it wouldn't be much to have some adjustment on the handlebars, lower or rotational? Personally (but then I'm a big bugger) I would have liked them a little lower, but not much .& just a wincey bit further forward. An adjustable set might just facilitate that?
Still at the front, as Robin Church has said, those fantastic headlights really should have a dash mounted adjuster knob; & why not have all 4 on when on main beam?
I have had reliability problems with the electric motor for the windscreen adjuster (GTL model), 2 having shorn their archimedian screw at the motor. Both have been replaced without quibble under warranty; but are they all problematic, or have I had a duff one or two?
The standard horn is rubbish.
Moving to the seat, which many have found to be very comfortable, others not. I have found that the seat may be ok, but the proximity of the footrests is a little high & forward for me, but I do have very long legs . The numb bum bit, that I suffered from, (1hr max. in the saddle was enough ) was finally resolved by using an Airhawk seat. It was recommended to me by Linda or Gwen, or both?, & has proved to be brilliant. They may be a little pricey, but no more numb bum at all for me. All day excellent.
The pillion seat though, I feel should have been extended by an inch or so, it is a shade cramped, & there is plenty of room to extend it: the Spada NT that I once pillioned (not my Royale) was quite frankly the roomiest & most comfortable back seat on which I have parked myself. There was room to play patience with a pack of cards, whilst rumbling down the road .
Extending the pillion seat may also allow a bit more room between pillion pegs & the front pegs?
Going down a bit, the panniers, if you have the standard Norge ones fitted; well, they are not really good enough, a little flimsy, not entirely waterproof in a storm, and due to the handle design that intrudes into the case, when used with the excellent inner bags, are a pain, wasting large amounts of space & difficult to pack. Otherwise voluminous ..
Going into the bike a bit, protection for the suspension is needed, be it a moulding or a hugger or something.
And that's really it; all of the above are not only subjective, but really small things that I believe could have made a significant improvement to the whole. Of course there may be other more significant changes some would prefer but the premise of this last piece was the acceptance that Guzzi have a very good thing with the Norge, but for a ha'pence of tar, or whatever ..?
What about the finish of the bike over the year, how has that stood up? The BigRedOne is garaged in a dilapidated asbestos shed, which is being replaced this spring for a luxurious wooden garage. As such, it gets damp in the condensation. Although I have ridden through the winter, I try to avoid the salt laden days & wait till there has been some rain to wash it away.
I try to keep the bike clean & polish it regularly, and spray all its little important places with WD or Silicon Spray dependant on which important little place I'm spraying!
The sand cast finish, especially on the driveshaft is difficult to keep clean as the finish picks up all the dirt, however, the only corrosion I've found is on the banjo unions for the brake lines at the callipers, & the brake line under the driveshaft. These fur up if you just THINK salt!! The rest of the bike is standing up very well with no corrosion evident at all, & the paintwork looks as new. As indeed it should.
The exhaust pipes!! Now, there's thing I do keep forgetting to mention!
Before I bought my Norge, I had noticed on another, significant staining or marking that looked like rust, on the down pipes. I have since seen it on others & indeed on various BMWs. As far as I'm able to determine, this has something to do with the grade of stainless now being used in manufacture, & the heat they have to endure with these more modern, leaner burning engines. If you get them wet, when hot, & leave it, it stains, & it is very hard to subsequently remove the marks left. The only answer I've been able to find, until someone tells me otherwise, is to be fastidious in cleaning them when you put the bike away ..?
Or ignore it.
And for £13 in Halfords, I replaced the horn .
And thus endeth my first year with a new, new generation Guzzi.
Do I regret it - no, not at all: it still has that "walk away" factor, ie., when I park it up & walk away, I always inadvertently turn back & look at it, & it still gives me a thrill.
Riding it, fast or slow, bimble or blast, (pipe & caravan permitting, Graeme!!) long journey or short, is pure pleasure.
I just want to travel on it .(I still reckon it could do with a slightly taller 6th gear & a digital gear indicator, though ..)
Haywards of Cambridge (Guzzi & Enfield dealership) very much of the old school in customer service, treat you as an individual, or at least the abuse I receive is aimed at me as an individual!!
Skidmarx: for the modified screen & hugger. Quick, efficient, & at a good price.
Airhawk seat, the makers are RoHo in USA, banish numb bum syndrome! It works. Supplied by Bykebitz.
Dipstick tool for removing dipstick from fully faired Norge, without mods. This is basically a coach bolt with a welded clamp on the end. "Premade" ones are available from Noel Cassidy, firstname.lastname@example.org & work well, & he's a nice guy with whom to deal.
There are extensive tests of the Norge & Breva available on www.motorcycle.com
Now, where are those bike keys???
(first appeared in "Gambalunga")