Marco Cappelli: “25 years with Moto Guzzi: my off-road trips”

From “Tuttoenduro” in Bosnia to “Transcamp” in Central Italy. Looking forward to the new classic enduro Moto Guzzi V85: “A motorbike with a soul”.

“I’ve always been a Guzzi biker, I’ve been riding Moto Guzzi for 25 years, especially off-road. I was thrilled when the V85 concept was announced: at long last the Mandello manufacturer will re-establish a place with bikers even in the over-crowded enduro segment, where there is always room for two-wheelers with a soul and limited frills and electronics.

I’m writing to tell you about some of my off-road trips, with a 1987 Moto Guzzi V65 NTX, a first-series Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX and now with the Eaglecross, a Stelvio 1200 created by former Dakar rider Bruno Birbes. I’m not a professional but thanks to these trips I’ve acquired a certain familiarity with the Moto Guzzi engine and how it behaves under extreme conditions (especially the stress on the shaft drive). I made several videos during my many tours, like the "Tuttoenduro Bosnia tour" with the V65 NTX (of the ride an article was published in the Bicilindrica, an Italian magazine dedicated to the Moto Guzzi world), and the most recent "Transcamp", through the Central Italy on the Moto Guzzi Eaglecross".


“After changing from a V65 SP to a V11, I bought a first-series Stelvio NTX, which took me on some of my most exciting journeys, including Scotland and the North Cape. But after 50,000 kilometres, I started to feel too confined on the road.”


“With my father I bought a 1987 Moto Guzzi V65 NTX, which, after some maintenance work (with some improvements to the aesthetics and mechanical strength by me), took me into the off-road world… The Stelvio was spending more and more time in the garage, potentially it performed better than the V65 “granny”, but its weight meant it was too risky to chance it, above all it was impossible to lift by yourself off-road (in some cases it was a struggle even with three people). I began trying all the motorbike brands on the market… but none of them gave me the riding pleasure I felt with the Stelvio and the Guzzi engine, which even at low revs won’t punish you if you make the wrong gear change. One day on Facebook I saw a post I would never have expected: the Eaglecross special prepared on a Stelvio base by former Dakar rider Bruno Birbes was up for sale! It didn’t take me long to buy it.”


“The Eaglecross is a fantastic bike, at mechanical level the spirit of the original Stelvio has hardly changed at all. What gets your juices flowing when you ride it is its weight: 210 kg for 105 hp, 60 kg less than the original, gives you great agility: I managed to ride one track behind single-cylinder enduro bikes without any trouble. The parts include some Aprilia SXV components, so still in the Piaggio family: front mudguard, tail and saddle. The tank is aluminium and gives you an extra 2 litres compared with the 19 litres of the first-series original, although the external measurements are the same (the trick is the lack of plastic trim and better use of the space between the two cylinders). The shock absorber, which was not very efficient on the original, has been replaced with a gas-charged absorber. All it needs to be a complete genuine dual sport is a 21-inch front wheel, and I’ll be trying out that improvement soon. I made my first real touring adventure in October 2017: Transcamp, 800 km through Tuscany, Umbria, the Marches, Lazio and Abruzzo, strictly off-road, averaging 200 km a day in 4 days, sleeping in a tent and eating round a campfire.”


“There were 4 bikes in the group… The main problem with this type of trip is the luggage, which has to be the right size to keep the bike agile. In October, you can meet any sort of weather, rain, sunshine, even the first snow, so your clothes have to be protective, but soft enough to let you move comfortably. And since you’re camping, you need the indispensable minimum to sleep and cook (I cut everything down to the bone with freeze-dried food and a wood-fired stove) as well as a good set of tools for the bike and a first-aid kit.

“The day before we left, we slept near Arezzo, as the guests of a “biker-camper” rally. From there we left for Umbria: skirting round Città di Castello and Gubbio, we rode for most of the day on simple dirt roads through woods and hills, and stopped near Monte Cucco on the border with the Marches, where we set up our first camp. After a day in a landscape that was very similar to Tuscany, the last 10 km saw us in mountainous terrain on a par with the Dolomites, with high-altitude pastures where cattle and horses roam free. The next day we went straight into the Marches: the tracks we rode were very exact and manageable, although we did have a tricky change due to a road closure, and we lost a lot of time. Even so we managed to reach the camp we’d chosen, in Umbria, near Monteleone di Spoleto, while there was still some light to mount the tents. The third day was probably the best and most tiring. After riding along the border with Lazio, we crossed into Abruzzo and the terrain changed dramatically. The mountains were barer, the villages fewer, the roads more difficult: when they weren’t loose stones, they were ploughed up by water. Those furrows were one of the toughest obstacles I’ve faced… I had my first fall: I was leading the group and I couldn’t decide whether the channel was too deep to get out of, I tried to stay on the high part of the road, but my rear wheel went down and the bike turned over. Luckily I only bent the gear lever return, the fuel tank and handlebar were intact so we carried on.”

“The last camp was by Lake Campotosto, with the Gran Sasso as a backdrop. The last day is always the worst, because you’re going home so you’re already weighing up how long it will take you to repair the bike and put away all the equipment you’ve used. To get our full money’s worth, we followed a track we’d been given by a guy we met by chance on the road. A narrow downhill track of tennis-ball sized stones eventually took us to the bed of the Corno river. From there, riding through the narrow grass strips alongside the riverbed, we crossed the dyke and came out below Monteleone di Spoleto. We travelled on to Orvieto where our journey ended, with a few hours on the motorway. This trip helped me understand how many kilometres you can do each day in these riding conditions and with these bikes, and gave us some experience we hope to use in the future for longer, more challenging rides.”


Marco Cappelli explains: “We have about 15,000 users, many aged between 20 and 40, people who really do use their bikes throughout the year (6% of bikers, according to Britain’s MCN magazine, ed.), from winter rallies to holidays, in a true adventuring spirit, which, I imagine, will be personified by the future Moto Guzzi V85. I joined the staff just over a year ago and I organise some events (tours in Tuscany and courses) from my holiday farmhouse in the Chianti area (#seipercentochianti)”.


(source: Wide Magazine)