Defecting to Italy: My life with a Stelvio

Discussion in 'Moto Bellissima: All Other Dualsports' started by aftCG, Nov 25, 2016.

  1. aftCG

    aftCG Long timer

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    I gave away my motorcycle last night. Not just a motorcycle but my favorite, most dependable road going vehicle I've ever owned. Without peeking at the odometer you would have no idea that it has gone nearly four times around the planet. It needed nothing. In fact I had just changed the oil, and a couple of weeks prior I replaced the water pump and the clutch switch. PR4 tires in excellent shape, a decent chain in mid life. I've kept the bike in excellent condition because that is the way I got it and I intended to keep it forever right up until I found myself handing the key over. $2500 worth of suspension upgrades, virtually the entire section of the Touratech catalog thrown at it by the PO and I've since added a Rich's Custom seat, SW Motech skid plate and crash bars.

    Just standing next to it memories flood through from the amazing places it has taken me. I can still hear the bark of the triple banging through the gears in a twisty canyon in eastern Oregon. I can smell the camp fires in Idaho and Montana and, way more importantly, I carry the memories of some of those trips with my oldest son.

    0713150949~2.jpg
    You'd have to be dying to give away something that means that much, right? Well we're all dying if you get down to it, but I haven't received a diagnosis that would lead me to accelerate getting my affairs in order. Like many who will read these words it seems I'm always on the hunt for my next motorcycle. In domestic terms it's like being married and looking for your next ex missus [insert name here], except no one keys your paint job, cuts your tires or files a lawsuit.

    My search for that ultimate bike honestly began prior to buying my Tiger 1050. I'd been on ADV sponging up as much as I could learn and became aware of the Tiger 955i, and went looking for one. Besides the Steamer/Girlie being uglier than the ass end of a corn fed cow they are hard to find in good condition and for a good price. They're also not that fantastic of a dirt bike (a trait shared by every other big ADV ride available).

    What I could find at the time were Tiger 800 and 1200s that were out of my price range, and a 1050 with almost no miles on it for much less. Then by chance I found the bike I've slogged through rain drenched 80 mile daily commutes and taken many, many road trips on for $4000 green cash. As they say, "shut up and take my money".

    Blah, blah, enough of that. This is a Guzzi thread. And it's going to go on for years.

    A lady on the street but a freak in the bed
    All those miles on the 1050 were spent dreaming of longer trips in less accessible locations. They also taught me that the things I loved about the 1050 (fantastic handling, an intoxicating engine and all day comfort) were not negotiable traits I would be willing to give up.

    The trips I've been going on include the western half of the US, with plans to see Alaska and NWT. My mind gravitates towards Montana every damn day I sit in my cube producing for my employer, and there are a myriad of lesser traveled roads there just waiting to see me rounding the corner.

    Look, what any ADV rider wants is an R1 in the twisty sections, an FJR on the slab and a trials bike once the pavement disappears. The elusive goal that ADV threads pine for is all those things, wrapped up with a 750cc fully tractable monster motor, 300 pounds fully loaded and a 10 gallon tank. Oh, and $6900 out the door. With a five year warranty.

    You can't have it.
    Some day I would love to have a trailer with 2-3 well matched small displacement street legal dirt bikes, which I can tow behind my SUV to where the fun begins. Aircraft crash sites, BDRs, ghost towns and places that will never have wireless signal. Bucket list stuff for me.

    What I don't want to do is ride a 125cc bike to Utah from Tacoma just to begin a ride. Ever. The bike I own, and will make these trips on must be all day comfortable, must have a truly great engine, and the entire distance ridden has to be fun.

    As the Tiger continued to age I used it as an excuse to look at other bikes. I waited eagerly for the Honda Africa Twin to come out. I waited for Yamaha to produce a mid weight ADV bike. I continued to drool over Triumph Tigers. Gradually my short list got shorter.

    Tiger in any size (depending on my whim)
    KTM 1190A
    Yamaha Super Tenere

    Other bikes I considered were the Moto Guzzi Stelvio and the Aprilia Caponord, but most buyers shy away from quirky european bikes with spotty dealer network. The Stelvio also got some "meh" reviews in ADV bike shoot outs.

    A few years ago I tried to swing a deal for a low mile Super Tenere. The place was a Yamaha and Triumph dealership, and when they saw my trade in they were stoked. They said "yeah, wheel that thing in here, lets have a look at it" until they found out it had 69k miles on it. Then he said "don't bother", and that he couldn't take the bike because anything over 50k miles is impossible to sell. The kicker was when he told me he would have to put about $1500 into it just to sell it. That was nearly 30k miles ago I haven't spent $200 on 'other than gas, tires, oil, chains' since then.

    The Super Tenere got some upgrades to make it more desirable, which caused a glut of low mile bikes being traded in for newer ones. There were some good deals and it was tempting. But. The Tenere just didn't do it for me. It would go the distance. It would be comfortable. It would go places my 1050 would suck at. I would generate all those fantastic memories of places I've been and would eventually bond with the bike. But at some point I would fall asleep and hit a bridge abutment out of sheer boredom.

    Pressure of the last bike
    I met the woman of my dreams a few years ago. Super adorable, bluntly honest, mentally stable and lady/freak. She has never been a fan of the bike and occasionally applies pressure out of concern for my safety. She knows riding is right up there with oxygen for me though, so she's not a bitch about it.
    She has asked how long I intend to keep riding. She knows that the one thing more important to me than oxygen is flying airplanes. I plan to own a backcountry capable aircraft in the next 6-7 years, and it will take me on even more epic trips to places that don't even have a goat path for a trials bike.
    So I came up with a non-committal age of 62 to "do less riding". I refuse to put a date on hanging the helmet up, but hopefully I have the grace to recognize that day myself when the time comes.

    What happened though was that it put additional pressure on me to pick that one bike that would carry me for that 10 year span, and that changed the outcome of my decision.

    The KTM
    About a year ago I stood up from my cube were I was pretending to work and stated (to no one in particular), with no reservation that the KTM 1190A would be my last bike. To make it 10 years with only one bike would require 150hp of pants shitting third gear wheelies, no ifs ands or buts.

    Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

    After declaring victory over that agonizing decision I left it to simmer. KTM put out some fantastic deals about this time last year, with 1190A bikes going for as low as $12,999 and included KTM branded Klim gear. Financially it wasn't the right time for me to get one and they eventually sold the back log and the prices went back up.

    I'd still love an 1190A, but it would have to be because money and storage space were no object. A reader of this thread won't have to be clairvoyant to pick up on my final decision to buy the Stelvio, but for my first "would ya just get to the friggin' point??!" of this thread I'll point out why I have zero regrets and I'm 100% comfortable that I made the right decision.

    I'll explain why in my next post.
    #1
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  2. Dracula

    Dracula breathe

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    Subscribed! This is going to be soooo goood!
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  3. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb...

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    Inquiring minds want to know! You have my attention with that eloquent opening post...:beer
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  4. JNRobert

    JNRobert Breaking Wind

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    :lurk
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  5. WitchCityBallabio

    WitchCityBallabio Guzzi weirdo

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    subscribed
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  6. The Virginian

    The Virginian Long timer

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    Well.... don't leave us hanging!
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  7. flemsmith

    flemsmith lurk

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    Slight disagreement; 62 is no age to start riding less. Mebbe 72. Probably at least by 82.

    roy
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  8. aftCG

    aftCG Long timer

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    So why the Stelvio?
    To go from hard over on the KTM 1190A to a fringe short lister is like having your buddy from college show up after a gender change. Did I suffer from a stroke or some other form of traumatic brain injury?

    I'm going to try and set the scene and then get specific. With airplanes there is a similar dilemma to what motorcycle purchasers face. Just like there are guys with a full knobby GSA and Klim gear at Starbucks, there are pilots who buy "backcountry" (pilots get to make up new words) planes which are mostly old rag and tube aicraft with balloon tires the size of kiddie pools. The planes have good wing area, large manually operated flaps and a power to weight ratio bordering on hilarious.

    [​IMG]
    random photo used without permission

    Here's where it will click for some of you. "In the right hands" these planes fly into clearings on some knob of a hill in Idaho that is barely three tennis courts long. Look up STOL competitions in Valdez, AK and you'll see some examples of form following function. But what you'll really see are some pilots who are comfortable with flight at minimum controllable airspeed, sometimes including what is called "hanging on the prop."

    Depending on where you live, you might see these fat tire tail draggers but the truth is many of the pilots are wanna be posers. They can afford the plane, but they only aspire to be a competent bush pilot. An actual knuckle dragging bush pilot uses a plane that has been hammered to crap and repaired ever since family sedans had a straight six and three on the tree, and he learned it all flying a plane he didn't own. Getting in and out of tight spots is done as a matter of necessity and the risks of bending a plane are real. A guy who just threw down $300k from his retirement account on a newly produced evolution of the Piper Super Cub isn't going to risk whacking tree stumps with a prop.

    [​IMG]
    The real deal

    That was a long winded way of getting around to the rule about buying airplanes: Don't buy the plane you dream of using some day. Buy the plane that provides the best utility right now.

    Super boring. That's like your mom trying to get you to date the neighbor, adding "she's big boned but she's very nice".

    Right. But why the Stelvio?
    On paper the Stelvio doesn't suck, but neither does it jump off the page as the obvious choice. The reviews are quick to point out that it it's heavy, it's not the fastest bike, etc. You know, she's big boned. They really never come out and trash the bike either. Comments in the reviews like "we didn't expect that from the Stelvio, but as they say 'that's why they play the game'". Or one where the surprise of the day was the ability of the Stelvio off road. Or one video review where they pitted it against a Ducati Multistrada and saying "you had to push pretty hard to keep up, right?"

    Okay wait. That's like pitting Eva Longoria against the girl at the bowling alley. Unless bowling alley girl can demostrate a trick with a golf ball and a section of hose there is no decision to be made. Did anyone stop to notice that the Ducati has panniers barely capable of housing a ham sandwich and a credit card? These demos are done on a day trip, or with a support vehicle. Get real.
    0713150904a~2.jpg
    I don't travel that way.
    While I've gone through an evolution of what gear to take, I take a significant pile of gear even for 3-4 days. What about the other bikes on my short list? Oh wait, they don't come with panniers. You have to buy those, and they don't come cheap. In fact, to put a set of pretty much any brand of aluminum or molded plastic panniers is $8-900 for the bare "bags" (if you find a good deal) and another $350 for the brackets and mounts. Let's call that $1200 for now. The Stelvio NTX comes with them as delivered. Crash bars, standard (good ones too). Hella Aux lights, standard. 8.5 gallon gas tank and sump guard, standard. Yes I said 8.5 gallons. That's available on, lets see, nothing else.

    Anyone care to guess what it costs to take a bare KTM 1190A and put on panniers, crash bars and aux lights? And that's before the KTM gets the air box, decat, hysterectomy or what ever you have to do to a KTM to get them to run like the factory intended. [cough]

    Or the even the affordable Super Tenere? It adds up, and quickly. Admit it, more than a few of you have to hide receipts from your wife.

    I've read that the listed curb weight of the Stelvio includes the panniers, and if that is a wet weight it would also include about 3.5 gallons (21 lbs) of gas the other bikes aren't burdened with. It would also include the aux lights, the crash bars, etc.

    We haven't achieved parity yet.
    No, we haven't. Do you think anyone pays full retail for a quirky European bike that isn't sold in a place that serves espresso and looks like a set from Miami CSI? No, they do not.

    But there's much more...
    #8
  9. aftCG

    aftCG Long timer

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    I should clarify something. I'm not trying to say the Guzzi isn't heavy. She's a fatty, no lie. The Super Tenere really feels about the same to me (using the super technical 'straddling of the bike in the showroom' method). The KTM feels a bit lighter using the same advanced method and I'm going to say this very clearly: all of them feel very light compared to my Tiger 1050.

    Notice that I haven't mentioned my 10 year bike acquisition and Triumphs other than having been on my short list. The Limeys build a fantastic motor. That would prove very difficult to turn away from, and the latest Tiger offerings from Triumph would assure that I would get to keep the character of the 3 cylinder engine.

    The weight thing.
    It's easy to forgive a few extra pounds if it's in the right places. My 1050 carries the weight of that brick shithouse quite high off the ground. The short list bikes are all at the same or higher weights than my 1050, yet "feel" lighter because that weight is carried much further down. Cast a glance at the Tiger 800 and the Tex. A family of similar engines with the same layout. All built very durably. There's a reason the Tiger Explorer comes in dead last in the off road portion of a magazine article or blog post, and it isn't because it lacks cruise control or four power settings.

    My 1050 sucks as a dirt bike. I can get down gravel roads and I've never dumped it off pavement, but it's flat out creepy on a mushy surface. I'm talking weird uncle Larry down the street creepy. I've noticed that with the very latest XcX the rider is heavily redacted from the experience through use of traction and stability control. So, through black boxes the bike gains the off road ability its predecessors didn't have. I had mixed feelings about that. I'm a fan of old school stuff that ain't broke, and propping up bad physics with a Cray super computer just seems like a band-aid. For sure I wanted a bike that was better on crappy pavement and forest service roads, and through witchcraft it might just save the mighty Tex from getting the axe.

    Street price of a 2016 Tiger Explorer XcX was just breaking $20k before tax and stuff. Oh, and hard bags. That killed it right there.
    #9
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  10. Hoak

    Hoak Long timer

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    Hope So!

    Great thread aftCG, I think we all came to the same place for a lot of the same reasons, but the different roads that got us here are great fun to follow -- and your posts are always a fun read; keep it coming!

    Somewhere on these forums someone documented putting all the big liter plus ADV bikes, wet, as close to identically equipped as possible, and with a matching fuel payload on a precision scale -- the real winners and losers was surprising, and the differences were similarly surprisingly small...
    #10
  11. JNRobert

    JNRobert Breaking Wind

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    :nod I've owned four Triumphs and love that triple (no doubt I'll own another in time). Came close to pulling the trigger on the new Explorer except for that $20k entry fee
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  12. Dr AT

    Dr AT Long timer

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    #12
  13. JNRobert

    JNRobert Breaking Wind

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  14. Hoak

    Hoak Long timer

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    Not the thread I was thinking of; there's one on here that includes BMW, Triumph, Moto Guzzi, Yamaha, and Suzuki -- all the bikes get hung from precision suspension scale with the same amount of fuel, not topped up.

    Yar! But it's equally surprising how many bikes tip the scales over 600 lbs with panniers, bash plate, smash bars, and center stand (where that's sold as an option), and other foo-foo and farkles...
    #14
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  15. Dr AT

    Dr AT Long timer

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    Yeah, but do the maths on what that ktm would weigh with enough fuel to match the guzzis range!
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  16. JNRobert

    JNRobert Breaking Wind

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    Three U.S. Gallons = 18lbs. The Guzzi carries its weight well I'll give it that :D
    #16
  17. Hoak

    Hoak Long timer

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    There's no doubt the KTM 990 was a nice bike, but the margin of error of that truck scale is greater then +/- 10 lbs at under 1000 lbs. and even if we accept the weights there as accurate the KTM is not without liabilities in such a comparison: cost, range, chain final drive, serviceability. In the big weight comparo I'm thinking of (I'll find it eventually) every liter plus bike tipped the scale at just over 600 lbs when they had all the same crap bolted on.

    The way I reconciled all this weight as acceptable (as I have two 600+ bikes) was: that's about the weight of a geared up passenger and all her crap as low on the bike sprung weight, it gives me the benefit of shaft final drive, still very satisfactory power/weight which is also enough to carry said passenger with gear and crap, includes all the junk I want on a bike for safety, fun, comfort and then some...
    #17
  18. WitchCityBallabio

    WitchCityBallabio Guzzi weirdo

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    Lose that pig of an exhaust and you drop about another 18 pounds, which then (at least on the earlier ones like mine) puts it squarely in the ball park with the other adv pigs.
    #18
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  19. Hoak

    Hoak Long timer

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    And there's that! :D And even after a Ghisa diet my NTX is still well under what even a used KTM 990 (that doesn't particularly appeal to me anyway) would have cost me...
    #19
  20. offtheback

    offtheback Chocolate Starfish

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    Eva Longoria meh. Let's go with Elisabetta Canalis, a true Italian beauty aka the Ducati Enduro. That lady will rip your clothes off on the street and then drag you through the mud without a complaint!


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    #20