Moto Guzzi V85 TT: Eagle Rock
Dennis Denuto’s famous fumbling case about the Australian Constitution perfectly describes Moto Guzzi’s long-awaited V85 TT – “It’s the vibe” – and that’s before you even consider the visceral feeling from the traditional Italian company’s signature engine.
It is indeed very easy to fall for this bike. It’s not trying to reign supreme with gnarly offroad ability accessible only to a gifted few, and it’s certainly no hellraising licence-loser. Well, it’ll make a pretty good go of it if you insist. Instead, the V85 TT happily and effortlessly chugs along all day with an endearing sense of character and user-friendliness while offering touring comfort, adventure capability and urban practicality. Above all else, however, it has soul. For a modern motorcycle, that’s increasingly difficult to come by.
The transversely mounted 853cc air-cooled V-twin is responsible for much of that – right from the moment you fire it up to awaken that iconic lazy rocking motion. The engine is loosely derived from the unloved V9 Bobber and Roamer models with pushrods, rocker arms and two valves per cylinder but we’re talking 30 per cent lighter internals (via titanium valves and aluminium pushrods with new roller tappets) and much livelier outputs. In this case, 59kW (80hp) at 7750rpm and 80Nm at 5000rpm with 90 per cent of the torque available at 3750rpm, sent to the rear via shaft drive. It’s also the first Moto Guzzi small-block engine that revs to 8000rpm thanks in part to a revised intake system, combustion chamber, valve actuation and lubrication (there’s now a semi-dry sump with two oil pumps), according to the Mandello based company. So short-shifting through that nice, flat torque curve is the natural modus operandi.
Priced from $18,890 (plus on-road costs) for the single-colour versions and $19,590 for the tri-colours, the V85 TT makes the V7 and V9 models look like overpriced and underwhelming toys while finally filling the company’s adventure-tourer gap after the demise of the Stelvio 1200 (as well as the Griso and Norge models) since the introduction of Euro 4 emissions in 2016.
Now we have a mid-capacity machine weighing 229kg (wet), offering a suite of useful electronic rider aids, a generous 23-litre fuel tank, an all-new steel frame and that engine. And, yes, it’s all built on the same production line in Mandello del Lario, Italy.
Those rider aids include ride-by-wire and multiple ride modes (Road, Rain and Off-Road), with matching levels of traction control intervention, cruise control, a TFT display, strong brakes with ABS and a nicely sorted chassis that encourages as much as it inspires. At the other end of the technology spectrum is that air-cooled, pushrod engine. As a collective, there’s a distinct sense of harmony between digital and analogue of modern chassis dynamics and handling with the traditional Moto Guzzi charm and character. It works. If this was the engineers’ objective, well done.
From the neat ‘Flying Eagle’ daytime running light motif, LED lighting, lovely historic liveries and ’80s bulbous tank, the V85 has plenty of nice touches and attention to detail to give the semiretro dual-sport machine a premium yet accessible feel. The 90-degree engine will tug the heartstrings of nostalgic Guzzisti as well as pique the curiosity of a new generation admiring its mechanical simplicity and symmetry, while the bike’s roomy dimensions mean your knees are a long way from bashing into those big jugs.
Our launch ride covered two days of brilliant twisty bitumen as well as plenty of slippery clay fire roads, while enduring rain, snow and low single-digit temperatures (we saw -1 at one point), none of which was conducive to pushing the limits of the standard Michelin Anakee Adventure tyres. We’ll report back once we’ve put the V85 more thoroughly through its paces in better weather.
Similar to BMW’s popular R 1250 GS, the V85 rolls on 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wire-spoke wheels while the off-road capability comes via sump protection, a high-mounted front ’guard, 170mm suspension travel at each end and 210mm ground clearance. The latter was marginally put to the test as we hopped over an ice-covered log with ease. Plastic handguards, an effective but non-adjustable windshield and a small rack complete the ADV picture.
The seated riding position is comfortable and commanding with a supportive and user-friendly 830mm-high seat, a natural seat-to-’peg placement without needing to stretch your legs too often and nice wide ’bars that provide plenty of leverage. The traditionally styled tank is nicely scalloped for the knees, which leaves the bulbous section to somewhat melt over the cylinder heads.
In the standing position, taller riders will need a set of ’bar risers for greater comfort and to provide a bit of bend in the arms while the narrow ’pegs (with removable rubber inserts) will need to be replaced with wider off-road offerings to prevent your feet from cramping. But if your off-road jaunts are infrequent then the standard setup might be fine.
COME BACK AGAIN
The first few minutes of riding the V85 reveal several nuances: the fiddly sidestand takes some getting used to as do the separate engine start and kill switch buttons; the clutch is incredibly light; and the gearshift action is unconventionally light and syrupy to the point where there’s no traditional ‘thud’ or ‘snick’ into first. That also takes a bit of getting used to. A patented drive dog engagement design is responsible for that anti-backlash effect combined with a reinforced clutch, lowfriction gearset and anti-shock input shaft, according to the company. In fact, it’ll happily upshift without using the clutch.
On the move, the ol’ dear builds momentum convincingly and rarely gets caught in the wrong gear thanks to good fuelling from the 52mm Marelli throttle body. It straight away feels light and weightneutral, further helped by those wide ’bars, to make slow-speed riding (such as on a petrol station forecourt) a breeze.
On the open road and standard cruise control at the ready, the Italian flaunts its long legs with tall gearing and a relaxed engine that hums along at around 3800rpm at 100km/h. There’s an assured feeling of effortlessness and temptation to go beyond your destination, encouraged by the 23-litre tank that’s good for 400km.
Its general ride compliance is wellcomposed with well-damped KYB suspension that’s on the acceptable plush side of controlled. It’s good. The 41mm fork and side-mounted shock are both adjustable for preload and rebound, but the rear can be upgraded with an Ohlins unit ($1950), which adds compression damping.
Two things went against the V85 during our cold launch ride: the screen, though effective, can’t be adjusted on the fly (this is 2019, isn’t it?) and, despite the button fitted, Guzzi heated grips won’t be available until September (pricing TBC). When you’re riding in freezing conditions, seeing that redundant button is just cruel. You can opt for the taller touring screen, which provides 60 per cent more coverage from Jack Frost.
Speaking of blue, hopefully you like the colour because there’s plenty of it on the TFT display, which is otherwise clear and legible enough. But a masterclass it is not.
Typical of bikes from the Piaggio Group, switching rider modes involves the strange sensation of pressing the starter button when the bike is running to toggle between Road, Rain and Off- Road, with their varying levels of ABS and traction control intervention.
The latter disengages ABS at the rear. The ABS at the front, meanwhile, does intervene quite early in the loose stuff. At least it can be switched off. All three rider modes produce the same maximum horsepower, just soften throttle response.
We’re already missing the V85 – especially to sample it through some dry twisties to see how it responds to quick direction changes. And therein lies the V85’s endearing problem: it has you coming back for more.
SPECS: MOTO GUZZI V85 TT
TYPE: Air-cooled, transverse 90-degree V-twin
CAPACITY: 853cc BORE X STROKE: 84mm x 77mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.5:1
FUELLING: EFI with 52mm throttle body
POWER: 80hp (59kW) at 7750rpm
TORQUE: 80Nm at 5000rpm
TYPE: Six speed FINAL
CLUTCH: Dry, single disc
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR
FRAME: Tubular steel with engine as stressed member
FRONT SUSPENSION: 41mm upsidedown forks with adjustable for preload and rebound, 170mm travel
REAR SUSPENSION: Shock with adjustable preload and rebound, 170mmm travel
FRONT BRAKE: Twin 320mm discs with radial-mounted Brembo fourpiston calipers REAR BRAKE: 260mm disc with twin-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES
WET WEIGHT: 229kg SEAT HEIGHT: 830mm (accessory options: 810mm and 850mm)
GROUND CLEARANCE: 210mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 23 litres
WHEELS & TYRES
WHEELS: 2.50 x19 (f), 4.25 x 17 (r), spoked and tubed
TYRES: 110/80-19 (f), 150/70-17 (r). Single colour models: Metzeler Tourance Next. Tri-colour models: Michelin Anakee Adventure
PRICE: From $18,890/$19,590 (plus on-road costs)
COLOURS: Single: Blu Atlante, Grigio Atacama, Rosso Vulcano. Tri-colour: Giallo Sahara (shown), Rosso Kalahari
WARRANTY: 24 months, unlimited kilometres www.MotoGuzzi.com.au