Norge! Moto Guzzi leans on an illustrious past to bring a modern twist to its expanding stable.
Norge (pronounced nor-gay, not norj or nor-gee) is a compass bearing as in “Go norge to Alaska.” Moto Guzzi named its new sport touring motorcycle to commemorate the original 1928 version which was taken on a test ride from the factory in Italy to Lapland to demonstrate the effectiveness of what is said to be motorcycling’s first ever rear suspension and swingarm unit.
Moto Guzzi further hoped to prove its motorcycles were as reliable as their European counterparts and what better way to show not tell than an arduous ride to Scandinavia?
Proving their continuity in the Canadian market has also been a challenge over the past several years, but the Norge has now come north to Canada as yet another new model in Moto Guzzi’s evolving stable.
After a string of experiences with Moto Guzzis over the years: the semi adventure touring Quota, the Jackal and California Special cruisers and my personal favourite, the V11 Sport, it was enlightening to be back in the Guzzi saddle. The V11 was a solid, quirky sportbike with a giant pie headlight and an unforgettable nuclear green paint scheme. It would stand out in a crowd because nothing else on the market looked like it. The Norge we tested, while startling red in comparison to those earlier bikes, is so “normal” looking. Normal isn’t bad and considering the excellent state of motorcycle design today normal is pretty darn good
The Norge is a beautiful bike but, when viewed from the front ,gone is the unique flare that made Guzzis stand out in the crowd. It is a contemporary styling but one that a lot of other motorcycle manufacturers are also using. More creativity has been employed in the tail section with the dual rings of LED brake lights and the side view with the sculpted body work, serpentine headers and exposed cylinders.
The heart of the Norge is its 90-degree, air-cooled V-Twin—a design that has served generations of Guzzis. It displaces 1151cc, features a moderate 9.8:1 compression ratio and produces 95 hp at 7,500 rpm and a peak 74 ft/lbs. torque at 5,800. There are still only two valves per cylinder but combustion is enhanced by twin spark ignition. It requires a little searching though to discover the sweet spot within the Norge’s powerband.
Initially I was okay with this as the tach showed no redline. Wow, a bike that will rev indefinitely, I’ll try this! However, you will quickly discover a blinking light on the tach informing you that it’s time to shift gears.
At 4,000 rpm the Guzzi is game-ready. The bike has to be ridden aggressively within the powerband to appreciate the strength of the motor as at low revs it lacks punch. At 245 kg. dry, the Norge could easily exceed 340 kg. with a single rider and his gear. With a passenger and additional luggage the performance and acceleration takes a direct hit. While the bike is equipped with a passenger seat and the option of a top bag behind, in spirit, I think it is a solo traveler.
Suspension components include 45mm front forks with pre-load adjustability, and Moto Guzzi’s “compact reactive drive” swingarm—much like BMW’s paralever system, that works in unison with a progressive linkage, rear shock absorber.
The six-speed transmission is very light and smooth shifting and, not to throw out all quirky aspects of the bike, the clutch is dry and clatters away when engaged. Final drive is shaft and it transmits the power to the road flawlessly. Braking is through twin Brembo 320mm discs on the front and a 283mm disc in the rear. As has come to be expected of a bike in this price category and riding niche, the Norge is equipped with an ABS braking system which can be switched on and off by a big button on the fairing ,although I cannot think of too many instances where the need to turn the system off would arise as dirt roads certainly wouldn’t be the bike’s forte.
On the road the Norge shares characteristics of other Guzzis we have ridden. It is very solid and planted. All that engine mass hanging deep in the frame gives it a low centre of gravity, promoting a balanced character that allows for good cornering angles and exits. The short wheelbase is a benefit to the bike’s agility and low speed maneuvers. Often big sport tourers can feel unwieldy until they reach speed, but the Guzzi was just as manageable at low speeds as at a highway clip.
It is the type of bike that a new owner can get on and immediately feel comfortable.
The riding position is neutral and comfortable. Seating is upright and even though the heads and the bodywork leave little wiggle room it did not feel cramped. The 23-litre tank (with four litres on reserve) will keep you on the road for a long haul so comfort is not to be sniggered at. The sculpted bodywork offers protection from the elements and wind, while flares and the cylinder heads protect your feet and legs. The electrically adjustable windshield at its highest setting does not provide a quiet pocket but will deflect most of the airflow.
At $19,395 the Norge comes equipped with a tasty list of amenities including the ABS and adjustable windscreen, heated grips and a set of commodious detachable hardbags. Note to designers: the opening and closing of the bags is about as convoluted as possible but taking them off is a breeze once you figure out how. It took me a couple of days to figure it out, so if you need a hint give me a call at the office. Overall though, there are enough design and ergonomic amenities on board to make the bike feel as though it could be money well spent. The sturdy steel side and centre stands alone are worth the few extra dollars.
The Norge is competing in a field of very refined and competent players: Yamaha FJR, Honda ST1300, BMW R1200RT, Concours, Ducati ST3s, Triumph Sprint and the revised Kawasaki are all seeking to reach those riders who want to cover a lot of miles with excitement and more than a nod toward comfort. The Japanese and British bikes exceed the Norge in terms of the horsepower and torque while the BMW is, well, a BMW with all that touring DNA inside it. That leaves the Ducati ST3s which, oddly enough, may be the closest in terms of target audience—and not just because they are both Italian. Rather, it’s that they are both unique, character-driven mounts that will reward the owner in ways that are not always tangible.
Ultimately the competent Norge is like that too. It’s unlikely there’ll be another parked beside you at the next viewpoint and that is precisely what its owners will appreciate.
Amenities: Moto Guzzi’ sport-touring Norge takes to the road with a full suite of dedicated traveling equipment, including ABS, an adjustable windscreen, heated grips and a set of detachable hardbags. However, the latching and mounting system require some orientation, their convoluted design creates some initial fumbling, before you get a bead on the hardware.
Competition: The Moto Guzzi Norge is targeted to compete with some very touch customers including the Yamaha FJR, Honda ST1300, BMW R1200RT, Concours, Ducati ST3s, Triumph Sprint and Kawasaki’s revised Concours. The Ducati may be the closest in terms of target audience though—they are both character-driven Italian-made mounts.