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MOTO GUZZI V85TT TESTED

Moto Guzzi's V85TT avoids the adventure arms race, does its own sweet thing, and is all the better for it
words: Jock Mclauchlan  images: Geoff Osbourne & Moto Guzzi

in association with Kiwi Rider

RUST was all set to leave for the launch of the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85TT Travel in Sardinia when the Corona Virus pandemic forced lockdown. A real pity as we were very much looking forward to sampling the new entry to the adventure market. However, around the same time our buddies at Kiwi Rider in New Zealand had been scuttling around their roads and gravel tracks finding out just how cool, how amenable, the V85TT is. So still with weeks of lockdown ahead of us here in the UK, we thought we should review just why Jock and the boys have been getting so fizzed about this upper-middleweight…

In today’s world, Moto Guzzi is somewhat of a rarity and something of a standout brand. Why? Well, they’re all about tradition, style, character and function – all based around the company’s transversely-mounted 90-degree V-twin. With Moto Guzzi’s machines, Italian flair, passion, soul and the simple joy of riding is often favoured over outright performance. One look at the V85TT will tell you those passionate, wear their hearts on their sleeves, Italians have nailed it. One ride and you’ll know they hit the nail on the head.

This V85TT launch was based in northern Phuket (for the Australasian market). On arrival the Moto Guzzi team gave a briefing on the V85TT outlining their design philosophy and what they had wanted to achieve. Moto Guzzi believes the mid-sized machine is the most relevant and capable for the broadest number of riders and abilities – hence the 853cc engine. They also wanted to build a bike which is a finely balanced package of style and function. A machine just as happy in and around town, out on the open road exploring and some modest adventure work to justify the TT tag. I’m sure you’ve been wondering about the TT bit – no, it’s not Tourist Trophy, but, rather, it stands for Tutto Terreno in Italian or All Terrain for us. So, to paraphrase, they wanted an easy to ride, handsome bike with decent power and wide-ranging ability.

UP CLOSE

There is no doubt Moto Guzzi has got the easy-to-ride and handsome elements absolutely spot on. First up, the V85 looks cool. The finish and build quality look superb, but more than that it just looks right with elements of both old and new whizzed together into a coherent whole. There are nice touches everywhere you look, it even gets a USB port.

The transversely mounted air/oil cooled engine has some benefits other than maintaining tradition and adding that unique Guzzi character. There are no possible coolant leaks for a start… and those splayed cylinders help keep the centre of gravity low by allowing the fuel tank to be placed lower than otherwise. There’s also a simple, less cluttered location for the single 52mm throttle body that supplies both cylinders. In essence it is Guzzi’s V9 engine, but all new. It’s now semi-dry sump lubricated, has titanium inlet valves and 30-percent lighter conrods and lighter pistons. Couple this with the binning of the old 28mm throttle body and power is up dramatically from 55 to 80hp! Maximum torque is 80Nm @ 5000rpm, but most of that is available below 4000rpm.

I love the way this bike makes its power. While it is not overly powerful by today’s standards, the actual delivery is superb. There’s loads of torque at all revs, so it doesn’t really matter what gear you’re in because there’s enough oomph to still fun and make it a relaxed mile eater.

THE THAI TEST RIDE

Our test ride was 214km long, spilt in to five legs. The first 80km stage was from the resort base to the Plai Phu hot springs. The roads were twisty with an excellent tar seal surface, little traffic and proved to be just right for getting to know the Guzzi.

Hopping aboard, the first thing I noticed was how good the ergos felt. It’s slim through the middle, not too tall (830mm seat height), and is generally very comfortable. The next thing was just how effortlessly it turns in. The steering is superb with an accurate and planted feel as it turns into a corner, totally losing its 208kg dry weight. This great steering really left a lasting impression as it was very confidence-inspiring allowing for easy and quick mid-corner line changes, which at times were necessary because of wondering dogs and slow scooters!

The pace was quick, posted speed signs were completely ignored and traffic policing was either non-existent or, maybe, they simply didn’t care.

The Plai Phu hot springs area offered gentle off-road riding, some gravel and some water crossings. I played around a little getting to know the Guzzi, finding the suspension a little too soft to push hard off-road, but perfectly good for gravel and potholes. Some 93km of varied riding later we were let loose on a beach with a wide-open area of gently undulating deep white sand and a beautiful blue sea. I scrolled though the options on the V85’s TFT screen and switched off the MGCT, Moto Guzzi’s tag for traction control, and off I went. It’s fair to say the standard road-orientated tyres were poor in these conditions, but I still had a real hoot drifting around in the sand. Despite the tyres, once up to speed the bike worked well in these tricky conditions. It was not inclined to tuck the front even with that 19-inch front wheel and was still reasonably agile. The fact that it’s not too tall and perhaps because a decent amount of fuel was gone from the 24 litre tank made it quite manageable.

The suspension travel is a reasonable 170mm at each end, which is about right for the design brief. It’s not trying to be a genuine hard-core off-road blaster, but a ‘jack of all roads’ machine and because the action is well controlled and has reasonable progression it suits the bike very well. The brakes are excellent too, they’re by Brembo and top notch in all regards.

Many thanks to Moto Guzzi for having the balls to come up with such a great new machine. The V85TT is a left-field but must-ride machine for anyone looking for an all-round machine with some adventure chops.

THE NEW ZEALAND TEST RIDE

I thoroughly enjoyed riding the V85TT at the media launch in Phuket, Thailand. Over there the Guzzi seemed absolutely ideal for the conditions and was just a ridiculous amount of fun. The roads were smooth and very curvy and not so fast… mostly somewhere between 80-120km/h the majority of the time. We were continually sweeping in to lovely constant radius turns that were immediately followed by even better ones in the opposite direction. As you can imagine with such great riding roads, most bikes start to feel awesome, because you are having such a great time. So, yes, the V85TT performed faultlessly, but as with most things, it’s often a good idea to wait a while before making a final assessment. Sit back. Wait until you can ride the machine back home away from all the hype, in local conditions and then finally decide what you really think. Getting the bike for a couple of weeks here on NZ soil would give me that opportunity.

A couple of weeks later it’s fair to say my early opinions have only been confirmed. The V85TT is a fantastic all-purpose touring bike. It has all the elements required to be an excellent all-rounder. It is very comfortable, has great weather protection, handles in a lovely, light and reassuring manner. Plus, it has an excellent fuel range and looks very cool. I think, despite its TT designation, gravel roads are about the sensible limit to its adventure abilities in standard trim. It is more of a soft roader than an off-roader. Even with knobbly tyres fitted it will really only become a better gravel road blaster, it won’t transform into a vastly more suitable off-road adventure bike. That’s not to say it couldn’t be ridden in more extreme conditions, but it will be out of its comfort zone to some extent, certainly when compared to more focused dirt bikes – like most adventure bikes which weigh in over 200kg in actual fact.

This slightly softer edge to the adventure bike segment is exactly what Guzzi had in mind when creating the V85TT. They could have gone down the 21-inch front wheel route and pushed for a more off-road style machine, but wisely they went with a 19-inch front hoop and the superior feel and grip which come with it for tarmac duties. It’s simply more in keeping with the rest of the bike and what the majority of riders are actually doing on this style of bike.

ENGINE

The engine is a transversely mounted, 90-degree V-twin that is oil/air cooled, 853cc and has titanium intake valves. It produces 79hp (59kW) at 7750rpm, 80Nm of torque at 5000 rpm and has a six-speed gearbox. There are three power/riding modes of Street, Rain and Off-road. MGCT, which stands for Moto Guzzi Traction Control, can be fully disabled for off-road use along with the two channel ABS – good for those who might want to ride a little more friskily on the gravel.

In old money the engine produces about a smidge under 80hp, but because it’s honest, old school hp it feels more. To explain that, the engine has great torque and plenty of flywheel weight/effect and while somewhat slow revving, it still has decent throttle response. So, it always feels like there is decent thrust at most revs. It’s one of those power deliveries that is super effective, flexible and fun while still being extremely easy to use. And to be honest, this is the general feeling you get from the whole bike. It will cruise happily anywhere between 90 and 140+ km/h in top gear and, frankly, what more do you need than that?

CHASSIS

Right from the get-go the chassis impressed me in Thailand. It is the effortless, intuitive turn-in that gives so much confidence that grabs your attention at the beginning. The V85TT just drops in to turns beautifully, remaining very stable while doing so. The suspension for this style of riding and for gravel road work is pretty well sorted. It has USD 41mm forks up front and a single right-hand side mounted shock absorber with double sided swingarm and driveshaft. I did a little off-road work riding through a few short, sharp, G-out style creek crossings and, yes, the shock bottomed out a bit, but really it coped pretty well for standard trim. At both ends preload and rebound is adjustable. Overall the suspension action is well controlled, but importantly very comfortable riding too. This is a bike that will cover big miles in a day and be kind to the rider while doing so.

The brakes are strong and of high quality. With a full fuel tank of almost 24 litres, the Guzzi is a decent 229kg to stop. So, it’s important the brakes work well. Twin, floating stainless steel 320mm discs and opposed four-piston Brembo calipers control the front-end stopping in a very successful way. Most importantly, the front braking feel is spot on. The rear is good too. A 260mm single disc and twin piston caliper do the business. Although, I often feel that ABS at the rear messes up the pedal feel until you switch it off. Fortunately, in off-road mode the rear ABS can be disabled.

Other stand out features include a large TFT display, full LED lights with DRL, cruise control, handguards for weather protection and an aluminium sump guard. Also, a nicely proportioned carrier is fitted standard at the rear.

ITALIAN FLAIR AND CHARACTER

I like the V85TT and would happily park one in my shed. It’s very attractive, has loads of personality, is beautifully functional and simply has that difficult to define feel-good factor. It’s not super-fast, yet it’s plenty fast enough – we’re not all as talented as Chris Birch. It’s largely a simple design that should go forever with only basic maintenance. And lastly, the V85TT is a bit different. There’s traditional Italian flair and character just dripping from it, which makes it even cooler in my book.

SPECIFICATIONS  Moto Guzzi V85TT

ENGINE

Type: 853cc, oil/air-cooled, DOHC 4-valve, four-stroke transverse V-twin

Bore x stroke: 84mm x 77mm

Power: 59kW (80hp) @ 7750rpm

Torque: 80Nm @ 5000rpm

Compression: 10.5:1

Fuelling: 52mm throttle body, electronic injection

Clutch: Dry single plate clutch

Transmission:  Six-speed, shaft drive

CHASSIS

Frame: Steel frame, engine as partially stressed-member

Rake/Trail: 28°/128mm

Swingarm: Aluminium two-sided

Front suspension: 41mm USD fork with spring preload and rebound damping , 170mm travel

Rear suspension: Off-set monoshock with spring preload and rebound damping, 170mm travel

Brakes: Twin 320mm floating discs, Brembo radial mount four-piston calipers front; 260mm disc, single piston caliper rear; Three ABS rider modes and can be disabled completely

Wheels:  Spoked with aluminium rims, tube type

Tyres: 110/80-19 front; 150/70-17

DIMENSIONS

Seat height: 830mm (810mm, 850mm accessory saddles)

Wheelbase: 1530mm

Weight (wet): 229kg

Fuel capacity: 23 litres

Price: UK £10,899 (Premium model £11,099)

*Premium models get Michelin Anakee tyres, red frame, logo-stitched suede saddle, multi-colour paint scheme with colour-matched fork protectors and double-coated components.

MOTO GUZZI V85TT TRAVEL

New for 2020 is the Travel edition, which as you’d imagine brings some travel related extras:

60% bigger screen

Panniers (37-litres RHS, 27.5-litres LHS)

Heated grips

Michelin Anakee tyres

Mobile phone connectivity

Unique ‘Sabbia Namib’ colour scheme

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2 Responses

  1. I have to confess that I find this particular category somewhat confusing. Whilst there can be no doubt that you can have an adventure on any motorcycle, does that also mean that any motorcycle can be called an Adventure Bike?
    There seem to be so few things that bikes in this class have in common I wonder if the term has just become another marketing label along with Café Racer and Scrambler etc.
    As a consequence making a meaningful comparison between any of these bikes somewhat arbitrary. So I guess if it puts a smile on your face and its within your budget then have at it! It is after all an adventure.

    1. It is indeed a broad church. You could park Ted Simon’s Triumph Tiger 100 at one end and say a KTM 500EXC at the other – with so many options in between. Also, after riding (almost ‘racing’) a Suzuki V-Strom 1000 successfully around the Hafren Rally some years back (including riding Strata Florida), as much as we can be cynical about bigger heavier bikes, when they do indeed go neck and neck with an EXC you have to cut them some slack. We’re hoping to do a decent test on the V85TT later this year, including off-road. Also, Jock there is an ace enduro rider – used to compete and win on XR650Rs – so he has a taste for the faster, meaner machines. If the Guzzi pleased him it must be some bike!

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