BMW R1200GS vs Guzzi Stelvio

Discussion in 'GS Boxers' started by leafman60, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. leafman60

    leafman60 Long timer

    Aug 14, 2005
    Ok, I just spent about a week riding the Stelvio (fully broken-in) in a variey of riding environments. Ive reamed the thing out pretty hard and put it through the paces.

    First of all, remember, I am as close to a BMW GS man as you can get. Im on my fourth GS, an 07 1200. Ive posted many times about the GS , particularly regarding the reliability problems since the 2000 models: final drives, fuel pumps , on and on.... Im also one of the minority of GS riders who take it off-road into situations harsher than what it was probably designed for.

    Ok, the Stelvio:

    1. On the road.

    The Stelvio is no where near as smooth as the BMW. You get noticeable vibration through the handlebars. The throb. This doesnt really bother me that much (Ive also been riding a HD Shovelhead for 31 years) but its an issue that other riders, especially non-guzzi riders, will notice. The handlebar throb is somewhat like the V11 sport that I have. Perhaps filling it with lead shot would help.

    The Stelvio suspension is more sporting than my GS (with Ohlins). The Guzzi feels much more taut. It also tracks very well and handles curvey roads well. Id say as good, maybe better than the GS. Saturday, while leaned hard in a tight right-hander, I encountered a severe bump in the pavement. The Guzzi handled the bump well and never lost its line. The Guzzi is very sporty and hard to ride slow. It loves curves and feels much more like a sportbike than any GS Ive had.

    On the other hand, the GS is much more plush; much, much more. For long distance running, cross country etc., the GS would provide a much smoother ride both in engine feedback and in suspension feel. The BMW offers many other creature comforts from years of refinement: ABS, heated grips, much easier computer readouts, gear indicator etc.

    I have to make special mention of the Guzzi computer operation. Its very awkward and difficult to program. One has to fiddle with it in order to access the menu page and do requisite programming. Also, the mode/select key seems intermittent and hard to predict.

    I was able to program and use the computer but I never figured out the exact method of getting key response. Holding the key over 2 secs results in different computer responses and selections but, again, its hard to predict.

    Once programmed, toggling between info readouts is not too difficult but I think the switch layout is a poor design since the mode switch is directly over and close to the turn signal switch which has essentially the same operational range of motion. Underway, one can easily confuse the computer switch with the turn signal, especially with winter gloves. The BMW is much better arranged in this regard, having an easily-operated computer toggle and programmer switch totally separated from any other switch.

    Power delivery of the Guzzi is very different than the GS. The Guzzi feels much more torquey. Its fast. My seat-of-the-pants judgement is that it will out-run the 1200 GS, which is no small compliment since the GS aint no slouch. The rush of the Guzzi above 6000 rpm is fun.

    Yes, contrary to my original post on this thread, I am now able to feel a "milder" power pull at the lower rpms, 3000 to 4000 rpms. On the road, however, I wasnt down in that rev range very often. By the way, in fouth gear this thing redlines at over 115 mph. For most sport riding, you never need more than 3rd or 4th gear. On a long straight stretch, I was able to top the Stelvio out at an indicated 140-141 mph and thats with the large Givi windshield. 6th gear is definitely a sit-back-and-let-the big-dog-eat overdrive highway cruising gear that lets the V-twin merely lope along as it casually devours tarmac.

    The Guzzi transmission worked fine most of the time but, occasionally, upshifts seemed sorta sticky if not done crisply and the Guzzi didnt like multiple downshifts. I would often have to "bump" the clutch for the tranny to take a downshift. Thinking an adjustment was needed, I tighten up the clutch lever stroke a bit but maybe something else needs tweaking or maybe some more miles are in order on this new bike.

    The thing will run. It sounds good too. With about 2500 miles on the bike, the stock exhaust is offering a much greater bark than I expected and, other than weight savings, I dont know that Id be keen on fitting an aftermarket muffler.

    All in all, Id compare the Guzzi-GS match up to that of a Dodge Viper (guzzi) against a Corvette (bmw). The Guzzi is much more visceral, comparatively more quirky, less refined and more sporting.

    2. Off-road.

    The Guzzi wins, hands down. No comparison. If you do much off-road, the Stelvio is far, far superior to the GS. The magazine reviewers are remiss in not noticing this. The determining factor here is first gear running.

    With these large and heavy dual sport bikes, when off-road, there are times when going slow is essential. The GS has been plaqued since its inception with a notoriously tall first gear. If you're around GS riders on serious mud or technical washouts, you're going to smell the distinct aroma of a burning clutch since one is compelled to slip the clutch in those circumstances.

    Yes, the conventional instruction for GS riding is "When in doubt, gas it." Thats a cute California-magazine-type quip, and momentum will carry you through many situations but, the fact is, there are times when that wont work and the GS is a hard bike to ride there. First gear is way too tall and the engine easily stalls.

    The Stelvio, on the other hand, will walk itself in first gear in bad situations even with no throttle. I bogged down a couple of times in 10-inch Alabama mud that folded over the rims. The Stelvio would sometimes stop forward motion while the rear wheel gently spinned in the mud with my hand off the throttle! Id paddle forward with my feet and, when traction was finally obtained, the bike would resume forward progress. Chugga chugga chugga, all at idle speed !

    On very technical cliff climbing, in first gear, the Guzzi would calmly just walk up the dried, hard rock at a manageable speed with a little throttle. I never had to worry about slipping the clutch or "giving it the gas" to barrel through something that I didnt wanna barrel through.

    On speedier dirt, the Guzzi likes to rooster tail. Grab a hand full of throttle in 2nd or 3rd and that rear wheel will break loose easily. For off-road riding this thing needs more aggressive tires but that will require a narrower rear rim.

    Specification-wise, the GS has a wee-bit more suspension travel than the Guzzi and a wee-bit more fuel capacity but those points are largely academic considering the more significant advantages of the Stelvio off-road.

    Again, the GS has a softer, more plush ride. So, if you are riding only nice dirt roads where technical stuff isnt encountered, the GS wont bounce you around as much. But, if you want to really play in the dirt (as much as a 500 pound+ machine will allow), the Guzzi trumps the GS.


    The Stelvio is a different animal than the BMW. It does some things better and some things not quite as well. Its a work-in-progress that is sure to be polished over time. Its a hot rod. Its immense fun and I encourage you to test ride one. You need more than a casual 20-mile run to really appreciate what it has to offer, however.

    Ill be glad to see ABS and some of the other things we expect. For me, Id prefer the narrower rear rim to accept GS-sized tires that offer much more selection for true dual sport riding. If youre not planning too many off-road excursions, the fat rear tire is fine, however.

    Anyway, time will tell. Piaggio did well with this bike and I expect it to become perhaps their best-selling Guzzi if more people could try it.
    <!-- / message --><!-- edit note -->
  2. JustKip

    JustKip Long timer

    Apr 28, 2007
    Fresno, CA
    "The Guzzi transmission worked fine most of the time but, occasionally, upshifts seemed sorta sticky if not done crisply and the Guzzi didnt like multiple downshifts. I would often have to "bump" the clutch for the tranny to take a downshift. Thinking an adjustment was needed, I tighten up the clutch lever stroke a bit but maybe something else needs tweaking or maybe some more miles are in order on this new bike."

    I guess if you're comming from a Shovel Head you could tolerate that. But personally...I find the GS transmission somewhat barbaric.
  3. ShaftEd

    ShaftEd Long timer

    Nov 6, 2001
    San Diego, CA USA
    Great review, thanks. You're right about the rear tire size. It's a 180/55-17. Where the hell you gonna get a knobby for that? Kind of a cool bike though.
  4. go-GS

    go-GS Adventurer

    Feb 3, 2003
    Oslo, Norway
    Well, the Stelvio also comes as Stelvio TT with a rear rim with the same size as the GS. That should solve the probelm:-)

  5. Motorcyclist

    Motorcyclist Drag a Bag! Supporter

    Sep 9, 2004
    Madison, CT
    Thanks for the analysis, very well done! I'll have to take a test ride on a Stelvio sometime.
  6. rsimpson

    rsimpson Long Way OK?

    Oct 30, 2007
    Southern California, USA
    How about weight (actual and perceived) of both machines? Notice any differences on and offroad?
  7. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Nov 9, 2003
    Bellingham, WA
    The GSA has lower gearing, right? Would that put the bikes on equal terms in the slow-going?

    - Mark
  8. Throttlerocker!

    Throttlerocker! Giddy up go

    Apr 6, 2007
    Western New York
    How's the lighting?
  9. xjon

    xjon Pedantic Bastard

    Nov 8, 2006
    So Cal
    Where are the pictures! Im not seeing any. Not even small boxes with red x's.

    Thanks for the report...but where are the pictures?
  10. BerndM

    BerndM Shiftless One

    Aug 9, 2007
    Near Disneyland, in SoCal.
    Good review & comparison...thanks, but I'll stick with my '06 GS. :evil
    I have a riding buddy with Italian bikes (Aprillia & Ducati). According to him, getting practically ANY sort of parts for these bikes is VERY hard. How about over 2 MONTHS for a set of brake levers for the Aprillia!!! :eek1
    I wonder if Moto Guzzi is the same. THAT would be a deal breaker for sure on a good looking bike. :cry
  11. dialdn

    dialdn Been here awhile

    Jan 29, 2008
    Carp, Ontario, Canada
    Except I think the Stelvio has only a 4ish gal tank and something like 3 ticks on fuel gauge (full,half,get thee to gas station). Now I can't verify this.....just from rumblings on the net.

    Also, leafman60, how does braking compare (GS vs. Stelvio) ?

  12. ikonoklass

    ikonoklass Kountersteering Krew

    May 5, 2002
    Denver, CO
    Good review. Thanks.
  13. leafman60

    leafman60 Long timer

    Aug 14, 2005
    Thanks guys ! To respond to some of your questions :

    1. Pictures.

    Yes, nude models always say "Men are so visual !"

    I didnt make any pictures on the rides I described because everything was rather spontaneous and unplanned. On any of the Guzzi sites, you can see pictures of the bike but Ill be sure to get some really muddy pictures of the Stelvio in the future.

    2. Weight.

    The Stelvio is only slightly heavier than a 1200GS. All in all, however, the Stelvio feels like a much, much smaller and more compact bike than the GS. Its very narrow and the seat height is a bit less than the GS. Again, its an overall more-sporty bike than the GS. On the road, the tight suspension of the Stevio feels much more like a sportbike than the GS and the GS is no slouch !

    3. Braking.

    The Guzzi brembo system is first rate, as is the GS system. One or maybe two fingers were all I ever needed once I set the adjustable brake lever to fit my hand.

    4. Fuel capacity and gauge.

    The Guzzi has only 1/2 gallon less fuel capacity than a GS, 4.8 vs 5.3.

    Yes, the Guzzi LCD fuel gauge is in 3 gradients and mine doesnt seem to be accurate. This problem, I might add, was typical with the GS as well. I'm hoping I can maybe adjust the Guzzi fuel sensor to work better. Im sure its a much simpler design than the one I had had replaced and reprogrammed 3 times on my 1200GS.

    In addition to the fuel level gauge, the Guzzi has a low fuel light that apparently functions off a different sensor and it seems reliably consistent. As a long-time rider, Im still in the habit of toggling a trip odometer and watching my mileage between fill-ups.

    5. Lighting.

    Lighting on the twin H-4 Stelvio is awesome. I dont feel the need for auxiliary lamps as I have routinely fitted to my GS models. One quirk, due to european regulations, only one of the H-4 lamps is wired for high beam. They both burn on low beam but only one jumps to high beam. Most owners, as in my case, easily fit a jumper connector between the high beam terminals of both lamps and then you have dual high beam lamps. I originally thought of fitting HID but Ive decided to postpone that little operation.

    6. GSA gearing.

    I had an 1150 GSA and Im very familiar with the 1200 GSA. The GSA low speed running aint the same as low gear on this Guzzi ! This issue extends beyond gearing too. I think its the torque characteristics of the motors.

    The Guzzi easily just walks like an old John Deere twin at crazily low rpms. Its an amazing way to get through tough stuff. If you like off-road riding, you should try this thing. I dont know why official reviews have missed this important characteristic.

    7. Seat.

    No question about it, gimme a Russell.

    The stock seat isnt bad but it isnt really good either. A couple of hours is fine on the stock seat but more time in the saddle makes one aware of needed improvements here. I prefer more of a slight bucket contour that allows me to move around but provides wider support and relieves pressure on the middle of my butt. The Stelvio seating position is lower to the ground than the GS. Part of this is lower seat height but some of it must be due to the narrowness of the bike.

    8. Parts and dealer support.

    Yes, I understand this issue. Although I have never had problems getting parts for any Guzzi, I've heard of problems in the past. Maybe Ive been lucky with the people I deal with.

    Actually, Ive never needed too many parts since these things have proved bone-dead reliable in my experience. Service has also never been a problem. I prefer doing my own routine service like valve adjustments and oil changes on all my bikes, including my BMW's. The Guzzi is as easy to service as an old airhead beemer. Oh, and the Guzzi does NOT have the "canbus" computer wiring system.

    Guzzi is slowly expanding its dealer network via the popularization of it's parent company's scooters. As more Vespa stores spring up around the country, they seem to be including the sibling product lines of Aprilia, Piaggio, and Moto Guzzi.

    Listen , I love BMW's. I have several. The GS is a zenith of development in its genre despite the reliability problems associated with it in recent years. The Guzzi is a different machine and it offers a lot of appeal to the types of riders on this site.

    One doesnt have to run-down one bike to tout the advantages of another. There's enough room in this world for peaceful diversity and the acceptance of what each of us chooses to ride, even if its a 31-year-old shovelhead ! lol
    srelegante likes this.
  14. Rossco

    Rossco Cpt. Blue Coat

    Feb 23, 2006
    The GS has been plaqued since its inception with a notoriously tall first gear. If you're around GS riders on serious mud or technical washouts, you're going to smell the distinct aroma of a burning clutch since one is compelled to slip the clutch in those circumstances.

    I agree with this, on the weekend I was on a 4x4 track with a friend on my 1150gs. There were hairpin bends with steep ascents and loose fist size rocks and washouts. On two occasions I nearly stalled the gs and had to accelerate very sharply to get up the steep sections, which was quicker than I would have preferred on such a big bike. Still a gs is an awesome unit, but the Stelvio is also a wicked looking bike. Owned a Moto Guzzi Quota for a number of years, still going stong and used as adv bike.
    the track that i wish I had a lower geared GS

    and the Quota on an outback trip last year (owned by my brother nowdays)
  15. leafman60

    leafman60 Long timer

    Aug 14, 2005
    Rossco, wow, that looks just like the kinda roads I run !! Lol, I admire you, taking that big, shiny, waxed GSA up that grade. Ive done it a million times but Im glad Im 6-2 and it always gave me a work-out. The Stelvio will just easily walk up that sort of going with little if no(!) throttle.
  16. blackSP

    blackSP 46 59 59 46 46 21

    Feb 4, 2008
    I wonder if the Stelvio is really that much faster than the GS:

    GS 2009

    GS Adventure 2009

    Stelvio 2009

    Stelvio 1200 4V ABS TT 2009

    Need to compare power graphs to know...

    First gear should be improved on the GS, for sure...
  17. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Nov 9, 2003
    Bellingham, WA
    Cycle World had a direct one-on-one comparison earlier in the year. It was a strange report it that mostly it involved track (!) testing, but they said the GS was much faster around the track (better suspension, much more stable), but the Stelvio was faster at the drag strip. (The difference was quite minor though - I think you'd have trouble making the case that either bike is significantly faster than the other.)

    I think the GS is a fantastic bike, but I also think it people ride it off-pavement mostly through the bull-headed perseverance and skill of its riders rather than any particular aptitude for going off-pavement. Everywhere you look on the bike, you see things that work against it off-pavement: too-high gearing, heavy shaft, telelever, dry clutch, cylinders obstructing obstacle clearance, lack of adequate engine protection, etc. etc. etc.

    Having said this and bad as the GS is off tarmac, it does mount a rear tire size where you can fit a decent road-going knobby like a TCK80. And while the excellent report in this thread says glowing things about the ability for the Stelvio to tractor-down in the slipperly stuff, I'd still rather take a GS with TCK's into the boondocks vs. a Stelvio with Pirelli Syncs which are little more than sportbike rubber with a slightly more aggressive tread pattern.

    - Mark
  18. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

    Jul 5, 2005
    Golden CO
    Great write up. For me the visceral feel of a somewhat unfinished 90 deg twin is a winner every time! I'd never have guessed that it would be as good off road as you describe. Did you get a chance to test it two-up by chance? Any idea what a realistic fuel range is?
  19. kluts

    kluts The Lost Tourguide

    Aug 2, 2006
    Gateway to Everywhere Else
    An RR a buddy of mine and I did:

    and on BARF:

    You'll see that our comments and leafman's are very similar. I didn' get a chance to ride the Stelvio on dirt, and I'm just a logging road rider anyway. If I were to ride a Stelvio into the wild though, I'd soften the suspension and tires just like yer sposed to on a GS. To answer BikePilot's query on efficency, let's just say you might get 42 cruising but when you are having fun on this thing, it gets a little more thirsty than a GS-- say in the mid 30's. And it is easy to 'have fun' with this bike.

    There is another Stelvio feedfest on ADVrider for more info.

    BTW almost 4 months since that test ride day out in Marin County and I still have grins over it. What's that tell you???? :clap
  20. leafman60

    leafman60 Long timer

    Aug 14, 2005
    I havent paid too much attention to gas mileage on the Stelvio. Ive been flogging it pretty hard and I expect Ive been in the mid 30 mpg range. My stock 07 1200GS doesnt do much, if any, better when I push it hard. Im talking lots of redlining here, boys.

    No, I didnt do any two-ups. Women always wanna take the Harley.

    The faster ? I dont know about that magazine article. Im very skeptical of those cats out there on the west coast. They seem to miss so much of what I normally pick up about bikes and riding. Theyre trying too hard to be glib and cute and entertaining with their stories.

    I actually think the Stelvio is more stable in a track-type environment than the GS and thats comparing it to a well-set-up Ohlins GS. The Stelvio seems much, much more sporty.

    And, wait a minute there, BlackSP, those weights you posted arent apples to apples. Your GSA weight is for the basic GSA, DRY, and without the saddlebags. The TT Guzzi's weight (and Im not sure the stated number is correct) is for the bike WITH aluminum bags and mounting hdw.

    I agree with the tire comments and I mentioned earlier that Im awaiting the narrower rim thats on its way that to allow GS-sized tires.

    Im not pushing the Guzzi over a BMW. Im just giving you my view of the pros and cons. The pros may delight some of you. The Guzzi is better off-road, even with the stock tires.