Category Archives: Greg’s Blog

Test Ride: Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX

Moto Guzzi Stelvio
My ride for a few days!

Recently I was offered a loaner bike while having some warranty service done at Santa Rosa BMW Motorcycles, (aka EuroCycle Sonoma in Windsor, CA).  Loving the idea to ride through this fabulous wine country of northern California’s rolling hills on something new, Kerry Sturgis, my AWESOME service manager, set me up to take out the Moto Guzzi version of my GS: the Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX.

My Moto Guzzi Fantasy Ride

When I moved to Santa Barbara in the early ’90’s I frequented a motorcycle shop next to a Guzzi repair shop. They would have a number of repair and for sale Moto Guzzi’s out front for me to dream and drool over. It had been my fantasy to take one of the antique beauties, put disc brakes on her, and ride Highway 126 east to the I-5 and then South to Mulholland and East to the beach laden PCH which we would follow North homeward bound to Santa Barbara. I romanticized this idea over and over again… till I eventually left SB a couple years later. Never having fulfilled this particular fantasy – I was jazzed at Kerry’s offer!

An awaking to the Moto Guzzi reality

After turning my keys over to Kerry, and receiving a briefing of the differences of controls and settings I was off to finally get my own feel for riding a Moto Guzzi. Almost immediately I realized I may have been very spoiled in the motorcycles I’ve ridden. I expected the Guzzi to be like fine Italian art, or gelato. You know, that romanticized version of PCH I had. She was going to show me something different.

Day 1 – Feel the Power

The first days ride was about feeling her out while I took care of some business. I knew right away that what I was dealing with was more of an Italian version of a Harley-Davidson: lots of grunt, torque, and vibration. She roared when I twisted the throttle and felt like she would definitely win in an arm wrestling match. The ride back to camp that night was comfortable and steady. I kept my knees tight to her in order to minimize hand numbness from vibrations, something I could never do with my Harley air-cleaners in the way. She let me hold her tight in this way, and my hands were fine after the 90 mile route we had chosen.  She was fun on the road and good on the highway. Would definitely need to get a taller windscreen if I owned her, but that is to be expected.

The Return Trip – Twisty Hillsides

I was excited when the work was completed on my bike. It meant 70 miles of twisty hills between me and the dealership. Just the kind of morning I love! I had heard her described before as a pregnant ballerina: top heavy at start, but agile once she got going. I was excited to find out how agile she could be. This is precisely when things got interesting. I found out how all that brawn and beef works in the turns.  While she is absolutely nimble to ride, her brawn seemed to hold her in one of two modes, drag or lurch. I was unable to master the subtleties of her throttle. I was used to needling with gentle grace of slight pressures of throttle easing in and out of turns. By comparison, she was a brute.

… But what about the ballerina?

With that said, she also had grace. At one point myself and another car took a side road. With the other car in front it seemed I had my “rabbit” to keep up with. I thought my riding must be suffering from my concern over throttle control. My “rabbit” kept losing me in turn after turn only to glimpse it as it entered the next turn. I kept thinking to myself that I must have lost my nerve. Then I looked at the speedometer. We were almost triple what we should have been doing. My “rabbit” knew this road well and the Stelvio had danced, darted, twirled, and curved like a champ.

Moto Guzzi Off-Road?

I promised I would not take the loaner on any back roads, but the fact was – she wasn’t set up for me to do so. We all take efforts to dial in our bikes to fit our bodies, riding styles and preferences. Her stock setup was absolutely not ideal for my off-road specs. But would I take her there? Dirt road and easy trails would be fine. However, I am not sure I would take her in challenging off-road terrain. I prefer more subtle throttle control with torque and power when I need it, not as a first and only resort. That’s my point of view. I would love to hear those who prefer the Stelvio off-road.

Other items

Hand levers… This was an interesting mix. The clutch felt like standard Harley brakes: Grab a handful and squeeze!
Meanwhile, the brakes were as refined as that Italian art I originally mentioned: gentle, finesse, grace. Like a Beemer – one finger to slow, two to stop.

Overall Impression

It wasn’t what I expected, and yet, it was a lot of fun. I was regularly reminded of the interview I did with Carla King where she mentioned the problem with her testing the Moto Guzzi’s in Italy was that they DIDN’T break-down. I had no impression that the bike would let me down or leave me stranded at all. She definitely felt like she had the brawn and guts to hold it all together. Would I buy one? Not for the style of riding I am heading towards now. If I was to live in the Italian countryside for a while – I would definitely consider it.

Notes:

Kerry Sturgis, Service Manager at Santa Rosa BMW: I was told beforehand that Kerry is only one who should handle my service needs in this part of California. A SUPER high recommendation!
Harley Brakes: I have heard that this latest HD revamp includes MUCH more sensitive brakes. That is good to hear. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity yet to find out for myself.

Bicyclist. Where? Everywhere!

Exuberance of the Day

Yu Yang starting his America journey in Ushuaia, Argentina
Yu Yang starting his America journey in Ushuaia, Argentina

Traveling North on the Dalton highway at a good clip. Enjoying my day and feeling top of the world thinking I am doing something so out of the ordinary, (extreme in some people’s book – which just adds to the momentary enjoyment), that most people will never have an experience as unique as this! It’s an exhilarating feeling…
… and then I pass a bicyclist.

Huh!?!

We’re on the North Slope of Alaska riding across arctic tundra where no tree grows and there is over 200 miles between camp stops. How? Why? What motivated you? Peddling the whole way?Nothing so impresses me as to see people taking THIS kind of challenge. It’s one thing to ride a motorcycle that is built for almost any terrain and capable of carrying large loads to the middle of nowhere. To ride a bicycle with clothing, food, camp, etc. is a truly impressive feat in my book.

And bicyclists are everywhere!!!

This is the course he has taken northward in the Americas!
This is the course he has taken northward in the Americas!

I do not mean to highlight this particular rider, because there was not only one on that long lonely beautiful road. I see them everywhere! Yesterday I met a young man from Beijing, China, named Yu Yang, who has spent the past two and a half years traveling on bicycle from Ushuaia, Argentina to Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, Canada where I met him. He is on his way to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and hopes to get there before the weather gets too poor to cycle. He’s heading into the place that we’re heading away from because the weather was getting to cold to ride! 

BTW: He’s also spent years riding across India and Afghanistan, and from Ethiopia to South Africa. He wrote a book about his ride across Africa which is helping to fund this trip.

Still finding magic!

All-in-all I have met some truly amazing and incredible people while on the road; far beyond what I could have imagined before we left. I guess I’m still discovering much of the magic of traveling.

People riding bicycles from Ushuaia to Prudhoe Bay… I may have to add bicyclists to the interview lineup. After all, they really are Travelers On Two Wheels!

I really do look forward to future discoveries. What next?

Granite Mountain Motorcycle Madness – HUMM

Yes, This Happens
Gotta smile when your bike is down on a sloped rocky path.

There we were – a team of four committed crazy fools racing along rocky mountain trails on heavy motorcycles looking for a red zip-tie around the base of some twig in the middle of the Arizona mountains.  Continue reading Granite Mountain Motorcycle Madness – HUMM

Our RV Maiden Voyage – Truck Fire and Cholla Garden

Oh what are we going to do now? Do we watch it burn or go make lunch?
Truck burning in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park

“Man this thing is huge! I mean really big.” We both said as we watched the truck in front of us burn – one boom after another, flame spouts and black smoke blowing across the road. There was no way we could turn this thing around on this two lane road in the middle of the desert.Jean had asked me to ride in the RV for the first trip, so I couldn’t even go for help on the motorcycle. How long would we be stuck here in our new “home on wheels”?

Continue reading Our RV Maiden Voyage – Truck Fire and Cholla Garden

2018 Will Be a Year of Travel

Next year is going to be a year of travel. 
Starting some point between the middle of February and the end of March/beginning of April we are getting on the road to see the other 49 states. Yes living in Hawaii is idyllic, but not the best for a person with motorcycle wanderlust. So, we decided to spend a year on the road (more or less).

The Plan
We’ll pack up the house, rent it out and get on the roads in the US for a year or until we change our mind:
– it’s grows old or uncomfortable (crotchitiness sets in),
– it gets too cold (this is my actual fear),
–  or we decide to switch to international travel (this is my hope!)

The Goals
– To see the National Parks
– To see many National Monuments
– To do something in memorable in each of the states (If could be simply a memorable meal)
– To see family lots
– To see LOTS of caves and caverns (Jean)
– To enjoy several motorcycle events both on and off-road (Greg) Continue reading 2018 Will Be a Year of Travel

Just back from a trip!

I just returned from a 45 day trip where I met with several people who will be featured in upcoming episodes.

Motorcycle events included on this trip:

How you GYST with Jason Baguio

Just recorded an episode of How you GYST with Jason Baguio and in this episode we discussed where Traveler On Two Wheels came from, where it is at this time, and the vision for the future.

It was awesome to spend some time with him and an honor to be the first interview after he got out of the hospital dealing with some health issues. Yes, he’ll be fine, but sending him some healing energy to help him heal would be GREAT!

The release date for our episode may be a ways off as he is ahead of schedule on his interviews. I will keep you posted.

Check him out at:
Website: http://www.hygyst.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hygyst/
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/how-you-gyst/id1136055328?mt=2