New 1151cc Norge GT is intended to rival the BMW R1200RT.

South Africa’s touring motorcycle market was recently given a shot of Italian flavour with the introduction of the Moto Guzzi Norge GT.

The 1151cc twin-cylinder Guzzi sells for R152 000, making it competitively priced against a rival like BMW’s R1200RT which retails for around 20 grand more.

Norge is what Norwegians call their country and the bike is named in honour of Moto Guzzi’s 6 400km journey from Italy to northern Norway back in 1928 with their first shaft-drive swingarm design. It’s aptly named, as the Norge GT is a long-distance cruiser and like its predecessor it comes with shaft drive which means you don’t have to worry about oiling a chain.

HEAVY BEAST

This is a big and heavy beast tipping the scales at 257kg, made for open roads rather than inner-city commuting. However, making the Guzzi more manoeuvrable around town is a relatively low 810mm saddle which even shorter riders can straddle with fair ease.

With reasonably modest outputs of 75kW and 104Nm the transversely-mounted air-cooled v-twin offers a flat torque curve that’s suited to serene cruising, but the low-revving engine offers little in the way of sizzling acceleration or excitement.

When you rev it at a standstill the bike makes a characteristic side-to-side judder from the torque of those transversely-opposed pistons.

ABS brakes comes standard and the big Guzzi arrests speed very effectively.

The six-speed transmission shifts fairly smoothly but the clutch is quite heavy. On most modern bikes you can rest your left hand and make smooth clutchless shifts but this isn’t something the Guzzi enjoys, lurching quite heavily if you attempt it.

DESIGN FLAWS

There are signs of some scatter-brainedness in the Norge’s design. The windscreen’s electrically height adjustable and does a good job of minimising the hurricane effect, but to adjust it you have to take your hands off the grips to reach the two buttons, instead of a simple thumb-stretch.

Also, the chrome rings around the instrument gauges are pretty to look at but create a glare when the sun glints off them.

After an extended test ride on the Norge GT I had mixed feelings about its ride quality. On smooth roads and undulations the bike felt comfy and well suited to its long-distance touring role. The longish wheelbase doesn’t make for a choppy ride and the couch-like seat is the type a rider and pillion passenger can spend extended time in.

However, on poor road surfaces the ride was surprisingly jittery and firm for a touring bike. Perhaps fiddling with the adjustable suspension, which I didn’t attempt, might sort this out.

Giving the Norge GT long cruising legs is a large 23-litre fuel tank, and with the 4.8l/10km average the test bike was achieving, it makes for an impressively long range of nearly 480km between pit stops.

The bike comes standard with luggage panniers, and heated grips can be ordered as an option. -Drive Times