Gilera Northwest 600

 

 

 

Make Model

Gilera Northwest 600

Year

1991 -

Engine

Four stroke, single  cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves

Capacity

558 cc / 34.0 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 98 x 74 mm
Cooling System Liquid cooled
Compression Ratio 10.5:1

Induction

2X 30mm Teikei E30PV2A

Ignition 

Nippondenso electronic 
Starting Electric & kick

Max Power

49.5 hp / 36.5 kW @ 7250 rpm

Max Power Rear Tyre

46 hp / 33.5 kW @ 7000 rpm

Max Torque

51 Nm / 37 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm

Transmission 

5 Speed 
Final Drive Chain

Front Suspension

41mmMorzocchi  forks 150mm wheel travel
Front Wheel Travel 150 mm / 5.9 in

Rear Suspension

Boge shocks variable preload
Rear Wheel Travel 150 mm / 5.9 in

Front Brakes

2x 270mm discs 4 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 240mm disc 2 piston caliper

Front Tyre

120/60-17

Rear Tyre

160/60-17

Dry Weight /

141 kg /  310 lbs
Wet Weight 173 kg / 377 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

12 Litres / 3.17 US gal

Consumption Average

17.5 km/lit

Braking 60 - 0 / 100 - 0

13.1 m / 37.32m

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.5 sec / 152.2 km/h

Top Speed

170.9 km/h

WE'VE BOOKED A NORD-WEST for you, how does that sound?" said road test editor West and the expression "Oh", or rather, the closest unprintable verson of it, flashed through my mind. I'd had visions of a huge, fantastically raunchy machine to "test thoroughly" at my leisure and someone else's expense, and the initial thought of 500-odd piddly ccs of single cylinder Gilera Nordwest failed miserably to send a tingle of excitement down my spine. (Editor's note Nol: Jon is so laid back we doubt whether 50,000 volts would send a tingle down his spine.)

Thus my arrival at Benjy Straw's Weevee emporium was one of mixed emotions, excitement at the forthcoming "new experience", fear (what happens if I crash it?), and an inbuilt and totally unfounded mistrust of all Italian bikes.

Visually the Nordwest is strikingly different to most bikes you'll see in the local high street. It looks much leaner in the flesh than in photographs and the super motard styling you'll either love or hate. Personally I loved it, although for a fairly radically styled road bike the colour scheme seemed rather tame, unfortunately it's the only colour scheme that's imported. It has a distinctly purposeful look about it with its stylish bodywork, designer lights front and rear, sporty road suspension, sticky radial tyres and top notch brakes. It looks like a bike built for action, not a bike that should be polished and pampered but one that begs to be used in an almost reckless manner. THIS is the bike John Wayne would have ridden if horses hadn't been invented first.

I immediately felt at home on the Nordwest. (Editor's note No2: Jon lives in Essex.) The upright riding position, wide handlebars and forgiving engine and chassis give an immediate sense of security and inspire confidence very quickly. The easy-going character, light weight and surefooted handling meant I was soon through the midday traffic and heading for open roads. The engine is superb in town. Good bottom and mid-range power combine with instant throttle response to make short work of dawdling motorists. The activity level of the engine is always obvious although not in a wholly unpleasant manner. The exhaust exudes a gloriously rounded note and a quick blip of the throttle keeps pedestrians on their toes. And once free of 30mph limits, zebra crossings and parked cars the Nordwest starts to show the real fun side to its character.

Given a chance to show its true colours the engine really starts to shine. Its free-rewing ability and surprising top-end turns the bike from a comfortable town traffic eater to an open roads flyer. On A and B roads it excels, storming past cars and lorries without hesitation and seeking the next fresh challenge lying in its path. The engine loves to rev and once above 5000rpm flies towards the redline and beyond. Changing up a gear has the bike surging forward in tidal wave fashion. At lower revs the lumpiness of the single cylinder mill is more obvious but this gives the chain a hard time rather than the rider. It pulls cleanly throughout the rev range with just a slight hesitation when opening the throttle at 3500-4000 rpm, but this is at worst a minor niggle. The tempestuous power delivery always provides a satisfying surge for overtaking at motorway speeds even though the test bike was fitted with a 15-teeth gearbox sprocket (standard is 14-teeth) which made fifth gear something of an overdrive. The gearbox provides a fitting link between the rampaging engine and long suffering rear tyre, its slick, positive action always giving accurate selections, irrespective of the late biting, slightly grabby clutch.

The first fuel stop provided two surprises. The first was the relatively short time I had actually been riding the bike. The second the cost of unfashionable four star fuel (although an imminent update from the Gilera factory should confirm the use of unleaded fuel as a viable alternative). The 12 litre plastic tank is far too small and needs refilling every 80-100 miles — tedious on longer trips. And the fuel tap is unconventionally located on the right side of the tank, which is mildly inconvenient when fumbling for reserve on the move especially considering the frequency you seem to find yourself doing it. Still, practice helps.

I also half expected to find a kick start lever down on the right but the Gilera factory obviously has more faith in Italian electrics than most of us. That said the Nordwest always starts easily on the button come rain or shine although the choke knob, positioned behind the left side panel, needs a degree in gymnastics to operate. Engine vibration which is a constant companion never presents any real problem if you ignore the handlebar mounted mirrors which blur to the point of uselessness at most speeds.

That ideal town riding positions turns into back/bum ache after around 100 miles on the open road with the wide bars, 'fairing' and forward pegs putting a lot of weight on the base of the spine. One solution, at motorway speeds, is to turf your passenger ofFand use the pillion footrests as they allow a more attacking lean-to stance. But even so, after a 170-mile trip (which admittedly is hardly what the Nordwest was designed for) I still needed the assistance of two osteopaths, a masseuse and copious amounts of black coffee. Taken intravenously.

On the up side, the upright riding position gives good vision over cars and hedges and is a definite bonus for A road overtaking madness. The seat is actually lower than it looks. At only 5ft 8in I could happily get both feet flat on the ground at standstill, or one at a time when aping Stephane Chambon round corners. The switchgear is prettily coloured with all the controls on the left except starter and kill switch. The rubber-mounted footrests and soft rubber handlebar grips did a good job of isolating the rider from the engine's activity even if the slightly heavy throttle action was in sharp contrast to the lightness of the brakes and clutch.

The Nordwest has a certain poise that is lacking in many modern heavyweight "sports" machines. It is light, manoeuvrable, well balanced and it's quite possible to stop for a few seconds, feet up, and then ride off again, which is a definite bonus when negotiating slow-moving traffic. (Editor's note No3: a skill which was definitely lacking when you rode that trials bike in Biker of the Year Round One.) The downside to the light weight and manoeuvrability is the buffeting from lorries and coaches on open roads. Occasionally a slight high speed weave occurred but extra weight on the bars eliminated it without drama. The brakes and tyres excel under all conditions. Braided steel hoses supply twin front discs and provide good lever feel. And if a sixpence was available the Nordwest could be stopped on it time after time. The Hi-Sport radials provide supreme grip and stability at all lean angles and never near their limit even when the footpegs ground out. The quick steering allows easy line corrections halfway through bends and flicking from side to side through S-bends is accomplished with minimal effort. The excellent suspension soaks up bumps very well and allows even the bumpiest of roads to be taken at almost any chosen speed without feeling out of control.

The small lights front and rear fit in nicely with the styling of the rest of the bodywork with the tiny indicators adding to the "roadsport" image. The non-locking fuel cap is a minor cause for concern whilst the difficult-to-see-into plastic tank often leads to petrol gushing down the outside of the tank. Instrumentation is basic but sufficient although a larger rev counter would be easier to read. I

However the benefits of mirrors that are nicely adjustable for length as well as three-way rotation are nullified by vibes which makes them pretty useless at most speeds. The small mph markings on the speedo were initially confusing as they are overshadowed by the much larger km/h figures. Similarly, the odometer reads in kilometers rather than miles so at first it appears to give startling fuel consumption. While the feeble horn sounds like it's off a moped when one from a 38 tonne truck would be more appropriate. But the cast alloy rack is useful with grab rails and bungee hooks.

This bike is one of the few I've ridden that positively encourages outlandish riding and liberty taking. It's a machine that performs better the harder it's pushed and excels around town and on all real bike riding roads. It might have had a few rough edges to its appearance after only 4000 miles but came up spick and span with very little elbow grease. Petrol station owners and roadside admirers flock to it like a chocolate magnet attracting Penguin biscuits. (Editor's note No4: don't give up the day job, Jon.)

The Nordwest's size seems to fool people into thinking it's a 250 and many were surprised to find it was actually a 600. Although the bodywork is covered in pretty naff stickers extolling some dubious virtues of the bike (Around the World anyone?) none give a hint to the engine capacity. No centre-stand makes chain lubing awkWard as the balance of the bike on the sidestand is a litde precarious especially with heavy luggage strapped on the back. But the engine, suspension and brakes cope remarkably well with a pillion and performance suffered litde. The pillion seat is quite good but vibration gets to the feet pretty quickly and the bash plate under the engine is in fact nothing of the sort, being a plastic cosmetic affair.

But this is a bike that turns heads in the high street as well as outside bike shops and makes a brilliant fun town/back roads stormer. Even I, the world's worst wheelier, was tempted into a few half respectable one wheeled excursions. And that, for me, sums up the Nordwest. It's not the world's most practical bike; it is not the world's fastest bike and it's not the biggest or smallest. But it is a fine mixture of virtues that combine to produce a vehicle dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. □

Source Bike Magazine 1993