Stelvio vs GSA

This weekend I had an opportunity to swap bikes with a mate for a decent run, 2 up, on his 2013 model (last of the air-cooled versions) with all the toys, including ESA. The GSA and the Stelvio share so many similarities on paper. Both are air cooled twins with similar layouts, tank sizes (33/32L), weight and of course, target market!

I felt at home straight away on the GSA. It’s a huge bike but disguises its weight very well and as this was not my first ride on such a beast, there were no surprises.

Engine-wise, the GSA feels like it has more torque at lower revs but the Stelvio feels livelier higher up the rev range. There is so little in it that you wouldn’t make your choice on the power characteristics alone. There are two areas, however, where I find the Stelvio significantly better; gearbox and that wonderful V-twin character!

Handling shows up differences too. Even on the sportiest setting, the GSA felt a bit too wallowy for my liking and I think this is a limitation of the fixed ESA menu. When riding through fast roundabouts, with the off/on throttle coinciding with changes in lean angle, there is too much pitching. The Telelever front end is designed to reduce dive on the brakes but perhaps the geometry doesn’t best suit load transference so well, when scratching. By comparison, the Stelvio’s shorter suspension travel provides more direct feedback and, when adjusted properly, handles better.

For touring, the GSA probably has the edge. Pillion space is slightly better on the GSA but the handholds are not so nice, apparently. If you like wide panniers and regularly take the kitchen sink with you, the aluminium luggage is nothing short of superb and definitely better than the Trax boxes that Guzzi supply (I opted for the plastic boxes on mine).

Overall, I think the GSA is a great bike but despite having tried to like it on several occasions, that engine just leaves me cold. It’s all personal but I prefer the way the Stelvio goes, sounds handles and looks (!).

My mate and I both agreed that the GSA feels like more like a tourer and the Stelvio more like a sports bike.

Message to any potential Stelvio owners out there: Please try both!


Hi Jon,

I considered the GSA before buying the Stelvio but did not ride the GSA. (I sat on a few though, they are both big bikes but the GSA with its telelever set up feels huge). However, real world apart, if you read the multitude of reviews online a theme emerges and it is this; the Stelvio is the better bike. The other factor is that I am an MG man(and that does not stand for Morris Group) and, ultimately, would buy the Stelvio even if the GSA were slightly better.


Richard, as an MG man would you still buy the Stelvio if the GSA was more than just slightly better- where is the tipping point for you ?
Im a long term Ducati and Guzzi rider and have often wondered if one day Ill ride a Japanese, German or British bike and get off with my perceptions totally shattered and wanting something non Italian.

It’s a very common theme in one-make clubs. We can become blind to the world of bikes out there to the point that the bike we ride is like the Emporer’s New Clothes & must be better than anything else.

I was just thinking it’s better to try out the so-called class leader GSA (according to the general press ) to avoid any doubt that you made the right choice.

I’ve put a few miles on GSAs over time, including some off-road. The owners and dealers go on and on about how you have to ride it for longer before you ‘get it’ but that sounds like the EU ‘NO’ referendum where they keep asking the same thing until they get a ‘YES’ vote.

I must have been swayed a little by the biking press bias towards the GSA to have tried so hard to love it on several occasions but I’ll never get there, with that engine. I even tried out the water-cooled model but it was only marginally more exciting. Plenty of folks out there disagree, though!


I tend to only ride a range of other bikes when I am ready to buy a bike and have the money ready as I hate borrowing to buy. I will usually try a variety but genuinely so far have not ridden any make other than Ducati or Guzzi that are right for me. Im not saying better or worse, just what suits me best. Im convinced if Moto Guzzi had a higher profile and more people tested them that the sales could easily increase massively as away from track days and the younger riders (under 40 maybe ) bikes like those in the MG range really are very capable and enjoyable.

I also dislike borrowing. I was starting to save for when the Breva will need replacing down the line, and wondering about a Harley or a Triumph, but when a low mileage 1999 Cali EV came up I realised that nothing else would quite hit the spot. So now I have the Breva and the Cali, which together cost less than a Harley or a Triumph would have done, and I hope I can make last longer. Personally, I couldn’t use more performance than the Breva has, and I’ve never found more biking pleasure than the Cali gives. There’s just something about a Guzzi.

It is a tricky question. I don’t have anywhere near the skill required to ride a modern motorcycle anywhere near its limit so many of the perceived advantages and disadvantages are academic from my point of view. The club is a big factor although I do realise other marques have thriving owners clubs. Maybe one day my head will be turned by another brand but not yet!

For me the interesting point is that a relatively small factory has managed (eventually, now the cam problems are hopefully over) to produce a bike that is the equal of the best selling on the market, developed with all the resources BMW has.

For me the looks are also important and the GS is not as nice as the Stelvio.

Guzzi have not had a truly on paper/in reality competitive bike in any sector for years (since Spada 11/Le Mans 3 time probably), but now they have. The V7 range is also truly competitive in its (albeit narrow) sector and arguably better than the Bonneville.

Which leaves us with a problem. Do we all become Guzzi’s unofficial (and unpaid) marketing department and promote the Stelvio to the hilt so that it gets the recognition and sales it deserves or dowe keep the secret all to ourselves?

A friend of mine is after a new bike and has been considering the BMW but put off that by number of owner complaints in an online survey he found. Hes tried a couple of Japanese alternatives that have left him unimpressed and today he is testing the new Triumph tiger 1050, Ive suggested he try a Stelvio but he is not at all keen despite the fact that his first proper bike was a Guzzi 750 targa, a bike he liked very much. I`m waiting to hear from him later today to find out if he has ordered the Triumph or not. Anyone here ridden the Triumph ?dukesox2014-07-03 07:36:30

Hi Dukesox.
As it happens, I had one of the first Targas in the country and it was my main bike for ten years! If your friend liked the Targa, I would hope he’d get on with the Stelvio too but after a break from Guzzis it took me a while to learn how to ride it properly to get the best out of it.

The reports from GS owners are worrying but then, have you heard that every single Guzzi has eaten it’s own camshaft then fallen apart in the winter? I try to put the disasterous forum reports into perspective by the fact that there are so many GS owners out there and you only get to hear about the bad experiences. It’s is, however, quite obvious that there is a pattern of failures that emerge for the BMW that can’t be ignored; Final drive, fuel pump, antenna and general drop in quality coinciding with the massive increase in production. Of these, I think the last one is the most common I hear about.

I have tried out nearly all the recent big Adventure bikes and test rode another small selection before I decided on the Stelvio. I was offered a go on the Tiger 1050 Sport too (well, it’s rude not to, innit?). I’ve always liked Triumph triples and the 1050 motor is lovely but for me, the ergos were all wrong. I found the seat too thinly padded and the footpegs too close (since Triumph changed it form the old 1050 Tiger). It was great for a blast but I would expect it to become uncomfortable for me over a long ride, especially two-up. Your friend may have a different opinion, of course.

I also tried the 1050 Sprint GT (twice, including 2-up) and the Tiger Explorer. The GT was a great bike and very capable for fast distance work but it didn’t quite excite me on the twisties and felt a bit ponderous when attacking B roads, probably due to the extended wheelbase. The luggage is superb and it’s the best value bike in it’s class at the moment.

If your mate goes into the Triumph dealer and is offered a go on the Explorer, I’ll put money on him coming back with a big grin on his face! From the test ride alone, I was sold on this bike. It’s a lot of fun and handles both slow and fast roads without effort, considering it’s weight. I was very close to signing a deal on one of these but I decided not to choose my next bike based on a 30 minute test ride. Instead, I had a good hard think about living with it long term. Things like tank range, finish, enjoyment at slower speeds and ease of owner maintenance (which hardly mattered on the test ride) climbed up the want list for me

What I’ve found with the Stelvio is a bike that didn’t blow me away on the test ride, at least partly because I’d tested it before twice. It’s the best looking adventure bike with the most characterful engine and gorgeous exhaust note…but I still think I chose this one with my head.


Much to my surprise my friend found the 1050 tiger uncomfortable after just a short ride but he then tested the 800 tiger xc and loved it so has ordered one. I look forward to having a go once he has got it. Less power, 95 against 120 i think but less weight too so I`m sure 95 is plenty. Bit ugly though. Never mind, its a good thing we dont all like the same stuff.

We’ve been doing that since '76.Still got nothing from the bl##dy factory.

I tried the Tiger sport and found the seating position odd, with potential for discomfort on a long ride.
I own an 800xc; Possibly the best bike I’ve ever owned.
It’s quite quick!
Pretty comfortable, but not pretty!
Still, once I’m sat on it the bike’s looks improve somewhat .

I resolved my doubts about the Explorer by having a second test ride…and bought one.
5000+ miles later I have no regrets buying my first non-Italian bike in over 25 years. I’d also tested a Ducati Multistrada, Aprilia Caponord & Stelvio but the Triumph won my heart largely because it’s engine is just so staggeringly good and my pillion found it so comfortable.
But I admit my choice might have been different if I didn’t have the luxury of a couple of Guzzis and a Duke to share the garage with the Explorer.

Still, once I’m sat on it the bike’s looks improve somewhat .[/quote]

I bought a Tiger 1050 new in 2007. It was a very comfortable, fast and reliable bike. the triple engine was excellent. For the first two years of ownership I ran it alongside my BMW GS1150, and picking the best of the two was difficult, they were both excellent machines in their own right.
After a trip to the Moto Guzzi factory in 2008 and seeing a group of Stelvios being ridden into the factory I there and then decided to buy one. I had always fancied a Guzzi and very nearly bought a Norge but decided to stick with the GS. However the Stelvio just seemed so right and I was getting bored with the GS and it seemed everyone was buying them so I wanted something different. So in May 2009 I bought my first Guzzi a Stelvio. From that moment on the Tiger was on the backburner, the Guzzi was definitely my ‘go to’ bike.
In 2011 I decided I wanted the latest NTX Stelvio, so I sold the Tiger and p/ex’d my original Stelvio. I have no regrets at all.
The Tiger was an excellent motorcycle but it lacked the character of the Guzzi. I think the build quality of the later triumph is not as good as the Stelvio (perhaps because it’s made in Thailand) The various shakes, clunks and clanks from the Guzzi make it feel like I’m riding a machine, in some ways the comparative smoothness of the Triumph made it feel more of an appliance rather than a machine.
I currently own a 2000 Trophy 900 triple that was built in England. The quality of finish seems far superior to that of the later 1050 Tiger. This Trophy stood uncovered on the street for about eight years enduring Scottish winters and had just a few lightly rusted bolts, My four year old garaged and much pampered Tiger was showing a lot more corrosion when I sold it.

Will, I totally understand why you went for the Explorer and I agree with your comments about the engine and pillion comfort.

How have you got on with the 20L tank? This was one of the primary reasons I decided against the Explorer in preference for the Stelvio. Things like range matter over the long term but I was very close to ignoring this (arguably) unfortunate limitation of the Explorer due too it’s gobsmackingly impressive other features.

After having owned my Stelvio for the last 3 months and nearly 3,000 miles, I’d buy it again which feels good to me.

Enjoy the Explorer. I will never forget my test ride on it!


Fatal, I have heard of similar complaints about build quality (finish) on late model Triumphs and BMWs, particularly GS’s.

I had a 2006 Tiger 955i from new and kept it for 6 years., I used it in all conditions and maintained it to the letter, including regular ACF50 applications and annual brake calliper rebuilds. At six years old & 30K miles, I sold it in a condition that could only be described as immaculate, yet I hear of so many later model Triumphs falling to pieces (rust) in no time at all.

Jury is out on my 'Guzzi because it is too new but so far it appears to be finished at least as well as my Triumph.

I think I’ll take some time out at the end of the summer to give it the ACF50 treatment, copper-ease as many bolts as I can access and fill the 'leccy connectors with anti-corrosion grease. Too busy riding to do that stuff at the moment!


Test rode GS and Stelvio . Couldn’t see what all the fuss is about regarding the GS ,a few years ago BMW might have made top quality bikes but they are just trading on their history now regarding boxer twins . Guzzi seem to be going down the BMW road with the Stelvio , but the Stelvio does have a lot of character . Although I bought a Tiger Explorer I still think the Stelvio is a much better bike than the GS .I bought my Tiger Explorer in August 2013 as a 60th birthday present to myself and after 8000+ miles I still feel I made the right choice and it sits well with my two Guzzis a Nuovo Falcone Civile and a 750/850S , when I’m to old to ride these bikes I could get an HD or just stick with my 1946 Velosolex