GUZZI v DUCATI Moto Guzzi’s new Stornello oozes old-school charm, but can it outclass its Italian retro rival, the Ducati Scrambler?
Ducati may have started something with its 800cc Scrambler in 2015, but many other firms have since shimmied onto the style-seeking bandwagon. Guzzi have just launched the intriguing Stornello and we thought it would be a good idea to pitch the Italian Scramblers in a head-to-head showdown. Which has the most style and substance?
‘Can I sit?” Nudged forward by her friends, the Japanese tourist giggles shyly, then eventually steps up and poses with the Moto Guzzi Stornello and Ducati Scrambler while her schoolmates giddily Snapchat on their mobiles. But which bike do they prefer? It’s a close call, but the Stornello just about shades the all-important Japanese schoolgirl vote.
And it’s easy to see why. From the forthright mechanical engineering of its air-cooled, 744cc, 90° transverse V-twin, with cylinder heads poking into the breeze and gorgeous high-level Arrow system slithering along the side of the bike, to the Guzzi’s red-painted steel tube cradle frame, wire wheels, fat scrambler-style tyres and brushed aluminium huggers and number boards, this is, indisputably and universally, a good-looking motorbike.
But the Stornello pulls off the retro scrambling theme without even trying, mostly because it shares direct visual cues with classic 750cc Guzzis of the 1970s (even though the Stornello name – a type of short Italian folk poem, a bit like a limerick – harks back to scrambler-style, small-bore, single cylinder Guzzis from the late 60s).
And it turns out the Stornello also shares a few of the practical foibles and riding quirks of a 40-year-old bike. Straddle the flat seat, reach across a steel tank and aero filler cap, place hands on the relatively narrow black bars, flick up the stiff sidestand and... ouch!... scuff inner ankle on the
elongated alloy plates bolted to the serrated, enduro-style pegs.
Once in place, the Stornello’s riding position echoes the scarily familiar ergonomics of a school desk. It’s classic (literally) sit-up-and-beg; straighten your back, put both arms on the desk, legs tucked under the chair, boy. But it works; neither uncomfortable out on the open road, where the large, alloy headlight number-board deflects enough wind to act as a nose fairing, nor in town where the Guzzi will happily chop about for as long as the surprisingly large 21-litre tank will carry it. Touring would be a stretch, but anything else is fair game.
The view from the Stornello’s seat is modest; the clocks are traditional analogue-style speedo and tacho with numbers so small they’re tricky to read without bifocals, with a clutch of idiot lights and a pair of incongruous, orange ABS and traction control warning lights.
Because yes, as retro as it looks, the Stornello comes with the same rudimentary electronic rider aids as the other V7 II bikes. But with a meagre 48bhp on tap, it’s fair to say the likelihood of the single mode (other than off) traction control warning light flickering into life is remote – unless you test the Guzzi’s Goldentyre rubber out off-road (Goldentyre are an Italian tyre manufacturer, specialising in off-road competition rubber. The Stornello’s front’s tread pattern is identical to the same company’s supermoto racing wet tyre!)
Fire up the V-twin and the Guzzi gently tugs to the right as the left-spinning, inline crank tries to rotate the bike’s mass around itself. It’s a quirk of the transverse V (and flat twin) layout; Guzzi could engineer it out – Honda’s CX500 used a contra-rotating clutch to cancel the torque reaction – but by now it’s such an integral Moto Guzzi characteristic, it wouldn’t be an au- thentic Mandello del Lario experience without it.
And the V7 II motor remains a gloriously lumpy, thudding-great thing, juddering and shuddering through its shaft drive as you pull away like a wet dog shaking itself dry. Its electronic fuelling is clean and precise, with enough built-in docility to make pummelling through traffic carefree and fun without the harsh on/off fuelling of many modern bikes (including the Ducati Scrambler). The Stornello’s controls are suitably modern; the single front disc brake is strong, clutch is light, steering nimble but not twitchy and the gearbox is neat and positive. They’re all details that have let Moto Guzzi down in the past, but they’ve got them right on the V7 II.
There’s no sugar-coating the lack of power, so although the Stornello eagerly belts up to 80mph there’s not much left after that and overtaking needs a bit of planning to avoid being stranded mid-pass. But it’ll cruise just over the national speed limit with the motor bundling along at a loping 5000rpm, and with just enough vibration coming through the pegs to make tap dancing problematic after a long ride.
The Stornello’s handing is also quirkily lovable. The unadjustable forks and preload twin shocks are basic, but ride quality is good and they manage the bike’s weight well within the expectations of the engine.
And that’s the key to understanding the Stornello – it doesn’t possess the
‘The V7 II motor remains a gloriously lumpy, great thing, shuddering through its shaft drive’
finessed handling and stellar engine performance of most new bikes because it doesn’t have to. It’s so obviously not about that. And as long as basic control functions work well – and they do – then everything else is for the sheer pleasure of riding.
Meanwhile, in Bologna...
The Ducati Scrambler, on the other hand, is very much about getting from A to B with haste as well as style.
Tell someone you’ve bought a Scrambler and, uniquely, you have to qualify the name because you could be talking about BMW, Triumph or even a Moto Morini, as well as a Ducati. And, once you’ve confirmed the bike originated from Bologna, you have to specify which of the six flavour variants it could be.
This is the Scrambler Classic, identified as such because it shares the wire spoked wheels and brown seat with the Scrambler Urban Enduro but comes with similarly brushed alloy huggers as the Moto Guzzi. Such fine purchasing distinctions are what the coffeecustomising scene has done for us. Not to mention beards and knuckle tattoos.
The Scrambler is more conventionally fun than the Guzzi – it has a more sophisticated ride quality, and steers more accurately and with greater agility than the Stornello. It feels significantly lighter too, and is more easily manageable with a lower seat height. In this respect, it’s much more novice-friendly.
And the Scrambler’s 803cc air-cooled 90° L-twin motor is very much more powerful too, everywhere – bottom, midrange and top end – which gives it a broader palette of riding scenarios. You can do more with the Scrambler; it’s not as one-paced as the Guzzi. Fire it away from the lights with a lively jolt, belt around dual carriageways at 80mph, and have enough juice under the tank to crack the ton. And while
‘The Scrambler’s 803cc air-cooled 90° L-twin motor is very much more powerful too, everywhere’
some criticised the Scrambler’s 75bhp output as underwhelming when the bike was launched it turns out that, like the Guzzi, it’s just the right balance for the Scrambler’s chassis capacity and, more importantly, the kind of rider the bike is built for – few of whom will want wheelies and skids.
But that performance flexibility comes at a price because the Ducati can be over-sensitive on the gas, and a novice rider will find dealing with instant throttle response can easily turn into a jerky, snatchy ride. I found myself using a lot of back brake to keep the bike moving evenly at low speed. It’s also a quiet, civilised, vibe-free engine; don’t expect the traditional Ducati thrashing about.
The Scrambler’s riding position is odd, at first. The seat is low, bars are high and wide, and pegs feel forwardplaced – it’s a bit like an adult riding a kid’s chopper, all knees under your chin and hands in the air. And it’s hard work when there’s a headwind on a motorway. But it makes absolute sense battering about on city streets, where the bars give fantastic turning ability (more lock would be nice) and direct steering and positive suspension feedback let you know exactly what liberties you can take.
And low speed balance is impeccable. The Scrambler should have an ‘Urban Junior Kickstart’ version with a pencil-thin seat, no tank and built-in Peter Purvis running commentary. If riding as slowly as possible over speed bumps, up kerbs and round taxis is your bag, the Scrambler is for you.
But there’s no easy way to say this: the Scrambler isn’t as pretty as the Guzzi. It’s not ugly but, with chunky saddle, invisible subframe, shorty exhaust plumbing and banana swingarm, the Scrambler looks unbalanced, as if it can’t decide whether it’s a flat tracker, a street bike, a scrambler or everything at the same time. Ducati have designed more than their fair share of the world’s most beautiful bikes, but unfortunately this Scrambler isn’t one of them.
It’s well-made though, and much tidier and thorough than the Moto Guzzi Stornello. The switchgear is neater, the competition throttle cable housing is genius, the single clock dial is fresh and simple, and the general level of fit, finish and componentry is outstanding.
Ôthe Ducati should have a Ôjunior Kickstartõ version with a pencil-thin seat and no tankõ
Cylinders poking out at each side, the Guzzi’s got loads of character With more go in the engine department the Scrambler is more of a rider’s bike Guzzi or Ducati, now you can choose the flavour of your Italian scrambler
Banana swingarm and radial Brembos bring a bit of modern muscle to the Scrambler
Move over Scrambler, Moto Guzzi’s Stornello is out to claim your retro crown