Thanks to the fine folks at Speed's Cycle in Elkridge, MD I did a nice long demo on a new red Norge today.
A little background: I'm returning to riding after a 10 year absence, and currently have a Ducati Multistrada 620, which I love. Bought it in October, put 6k miles on it during the winter. When I brought it in for it's initial 600 mile service, the dealer gave me a choice of bikes to ride while they worked on mine. My eye was immediately drawn to this little red number:
(forgive the camera-phone picture quality)
I'd never ridden a Guzzi before, and figured I'd try this California Stone out. The first 5 miles were not impressive. The riding position was too laid back, the shifter was from the stone age (Stone - I get it - ha!), I didn't know where the best power band was (no tach), etc. But that engine! I don't know if the pipe was stock MG or not, but this thing sounded like an off-shore power boat, or a big-block muscle car on cruise night. Loved it! I had it out for almost an hour, and was mostly in love when I returned it. No way could I live with that shifting, or that riding position, but that motor, oh my god, that motor, that sound.... Drool
So I filed Guzzi in the back of my mind.
So, on to the Norge.
I had just finished a demo on a BMW R1200GS, and was kinda underwhelmed. I headed over to the Ducati/Moto Guzzi dealer to see what they had to ride, and saw this baby sitting out front:
I asked about taking a demo ride, and the salesman said "sure!". Copied the driver's license, and I was sent on my way. "Go for a nice ride, be back later". Excellent! "Tank's almost empty - here's $5 for gas, do you mind putting some in?" No problem.
I was surprised to see that the Norge looked much better in person than in pictures. The fairing didn't do it for me in the magazines, but in the flesh it looked just fine. I like the overall look of the bike, and the red color was great - I've only seen the silver, which I didn't really love. I'd love to see the black one in person, that might be the perfect color for this model. Definitely dig the heads sticking out of the fairing Smile. I have to see at least some of the engine on my bikes.
Very comfortable seat, so far as I could tell in my short ride. Seat height seemed about ideal, the reach to the bars and overall seating position was just what I was looking for. Mostly straight up/down. I wish the pegs were a wee bit lower, but it wasn't too bad. The electrically ajdustable windscreen was a nice touch, though by the end of the ride it had stopped working. I can't say I care for the clocks on the whole. The 3-dial setup is fine, the dials are large and very readable, but that square LCD slicing in just doesn't work for me. I tried to cycle through some of the available computer options, but couldn't quite figure out what it was doing. Didn't try the heated grips as it was about 85 degrees.
I was a little disappointed when I fired it up that it was so quiet. What I could hear (with earplugs, always) was nice, but you couldn't hear enough of it. Completely unlike the California Stone, which I had really hoped it would sound like. I did like the 'popping' on deceleration - that could be addictive. If I owned one I would have to get a different pipe fitted to unleash that thunder.
Very easy clutch, grabs at the very end of travel much like the Ducati. Shifting was 10x better than the Stone - really nothing bad to report on that end. It just....shifted. Neutral was easy to find, a couple of times it nudged past into 2nd, but a slight downward tap got it back again.
Power was certainly "adequate". I didn't feel like I was going to wheelie the thing at full throttle, but it did move ahead with authority, in pretty much any gear. I kept it mostly under 6k, maybe once or twice revved it up to 7, and it did not complain. What little vibrations there were were not bothersome at all, certainly less than the Ducati (which I don't mind either).
Most of the route I chose was 30-60mph twisties, and the bike just flowed perfectly through the turns. I'm a rather conservative rider, I'm not exploring maximum lean angles, I just like to have a nice ride (ambiguous enough?). I was impressed by how easily the Norge flicked into the turns, and more importantly how confidently it took and held the line. The Multi corners very well, but perhaps it's light weight doesn't give it the solid feeling I got from the Norge. Very, very smooth is how I would describe the handling. I was suprised how confidence-inspiring it was. I only had a few miles of riding it and I felt perfectly comfortable with it on unknown roads.
I didn't notice any 'jacking' effect from the shaft drive. At all.
Nothing much to report about the brakes. The bike stopped when I asked it to. Standard ABS is very nice, it's something I think I would like my next bike to have.
In short, I was very pleasantly surprised. The Norge completely won me over with it's confident handling, v-twin power and roomy ergos. I didn't like that the screen stopped working, not a good omen perhaps about quality control.
The Norge is on my short list for next bikes.