Moto Guzzi V85TT: Old-Fashioned Adventure
Twin-cylinder adventure bikes have had a tendency to grow. They started out decades ago around 800cc before evolving into the heavyweight 1200s and 1250s produced by a growing spread of manufacturers.
Along the way there have been smaller bikes introduced, but in many ways these are hard-core off-road or high-tech machines, similar in capacity to the earliest adventure twins, but aimed at a different rider.
Moto Guzzi’s V85TT is different. It’s mid-sized, retro-styled yet modern motorcycle built to carry a load and cover distance in comfort and still provide some off-road capability.
NOT GUZZI’S FIRST RODEO
Moto Guzzi has a long but not-so well-known history with adventure bikes dating back as far as the 1970s with its TTs, Quota and NTX models.
None of these were particularly successful… maybe the V85 will be, because it’s not going head-to-head with the big-bore BMWs and KTMs.
Certainly the current crop of Moto Guzzi retro-inspired machine have been popular and BMW is doing well with its heritage range – Moto Guzzi obviously hopes to capture the imagination of those looking for something a bit different. The retro cues abound, from the shape of the tank to the shape of the headlight, to the minimalist bodywork and tubular steel frame.
Of course a transverse V-twin is very different from everything else out there, with only Honda, with the CX500 and 650 in the 1970s and eighties producing a transverse twin in any numbers other than Moto Guzzi.
The example tested here has what Moto Guzzi calls ‘Evocative Graphics’ which are yellow and white with a red frame which definitely evokes comment. The other ‘evocative’ colour scheme is red and white with a red frame or there are the traditional solid colours of red, blue or grey for those who prefer your bike less ‘evocative’.
DESIGNED FOR ADVENTURES
Many new bikes languish on showroom floors because potential buyers see a flaw in the machine’s execution – for adventure riders it might be too small a fuel tank, sub-standard rider or passenger comfort, too much weight, a lack of accessories or a perception of fragility.
Now, Moto Guzzi’s engineers appear to have considered this, and squarely aimed the new bike at riders looking for moderate – weight, size, capacity, horsepower, range, capability and importantly, price.
Riders of high-tech, long-range, extreme terrain and high performance machines won’t likely be interested in the V85TT - and that’s because it’s not for them. Nothing wrong with that, many buyers of the V85 would consider a 260kg monster with a 30L tank, or a 160HP motorcycle or something that costs $30K. What you do get with the V85TT is a 23 litre fuel tank, which should provide a range of up to 450km, very respectable for a country like ours. 80hp is enough for many people most of the time. And lots of riders aren’t interested in smashing down single tracks and crossing waist-deep rivers…
The high front mudguard and black rimmed spoked wheels are ‘ready for adventure’ and much more durable than cast alloy wheels which are light weight, but much less able to take a flogging off road. This is very relevant when the bike and rider weigh over 300kg and even more with luggage.
What I did find a little curious is why they chose to fit tubes instead of tubeless tyres on a bike of this size. In my opinion tubeless tyre might have been more appropriate considering the (208 dry) 230kg wet weight and amount of road riding this bike is most likely to do. If using tubes I would have like to have seen case clamps (aka rim locks) to prevent a tyre slipping on the rim which can tear a valve out of the tube, something I’ve experienced, painfully. There is a lot to be said for the safety, durability and repairability of a modern tubeless tyre matched to a strong spoked wheel.
The wheels and tyres are 19-inch 110/80 at the front and 17-inch 150/70 at the rear, a common combination in this largely road and partly dirt adventure segment. Tyres on this Evocative model are the Michelin Anakee with the more ‘road going’ Metzeler Tourance fitted to the standard versions.
The brakes up front were strong and effortless fitted with a double floating 320mm discs with a pair of Brembo four piston callipers up front and a 260mm disc and floating twin piston calliper on the rear. The suspension travel feels firm but supple enough to deal with bitumen, bad sealed roads, gravel and through the forests… it’s not designed to be smashed through single-track enduro loops and will struggle in really tough terrain, but you’d be taking the bike way outside of its design brief. The front upside-down telescopic forks have 170mm of travel with adjustable spring preload and rebound adjustment. There is spring preload and rebound adjustment on the 170mm travel rear shock spring by rotating a cam ring around the shock body so you can adjust for luggage or weight on the back. It would have been good to see hydraulic preload adjustment, but alas we don’t get that.
The V85TT feels very smooth, solid, well built, and mechanically very quiet and civilised with seamless gear changes. The engine vibrates from side to side at idle like a lumpy V8 car at the lights but instantly runs smoothly as you accelerate away. The engine is a solid simple mechanical design with modern materials using push rods and roller rockers, an air cooled sump with fins to cool the oil and two valves for each air cooled cylinder as opposed to many of the water cooled engines used today.
Water cooling can allow designers to reduce internal clearances and get more power from an engine but it also increases complexity, weight and risk as anyone that has had a blown hose or damaged radiator out the back of Birdsville may know. The basic design tries to keep things simple and hopefully reliable. The sump and exhaust are protected by a neat aluminium stone guard and the motivation is transmitted through a dry clutch to the six-speed gearbox and shaft drive to the back wheel.
The 80 horses coming from the fuel injected V twin are not class leading numbers but they also don’t tell the whole story. The gearing feels high however the torque curve feels broad and strong so the engine always seemed to have it covered. Overtaking was the only time I would have liked a little more urgency from the ponies to get out and around but it never really felt underpowered.
ON AND OFF THE ROAD
Handling is stable and accurate at speed showing its road pedigree while providing enough off road capability for those harder to get to places. Actually the standout feature of this bike for me is its turn in and handling on the road. There was so much accuracy on turn in I felt I could put the bike anywhere in the corner.
I didn’t venture on the rough or tight or mountainous tracks however it was great on forest roads despite the fact you were always aware of its weight compared to a single cylinder machine.
There are three traction modes available, accessed by pressing the starter button once the engine is running. Road, Rain and Off-road modes change the traction control and ABS to suit the conditions with the off-road mode turning off the rear ABS and minimising the front intrusion. The road setting is great on the road but is very obtrusive off-road so these modes are very useful.
The handlebars are wide which is a common trait in the adventure segment. Cruise control helps cover the long boring bits however there is no tyre pressure monitor or heated handgrips that would have been a nice feature. A USB outlet on the dash provides power for your phone or GPS which has become a must these days.
The narrow hand guards on the handlebars provide some protection from stones and the elements. The mirrors stick out nice and wide past the handlebars providing good vision behind, but have no ability to fold away. They are functional so long as you stay upright however neither the handguards nor mirrors would put up much of a fight if the bike was dropped on the ground.
The screen is functional, keeping the wind off your chest and low enough so you can stand up on the foot pegs and not have it come up and hit you in the chest or neck when negotiating rough terrain. There is adjustment available to roll the screen back or forwards which requires tightening with an allen key on two bolts. Surely they could have made this more convenient by using a nut that could be loosened easily by hand?
Up front the TFT readout is clear and colourful and provides all the info you need on a trip away with a nice little cowling over the top to help shade the screen from the sun to make it easier to read in bright conditions.
A strange feature of the gear selection indicator on the dash readout is that it will go blank when you are stopped so you can’t tell what gear you are in before you pull away. It will tell you when you are in neutral but needs the bike revs and speed to calculate which gear you are in. I guess it’s no big deal for all of us that have spent years without that technology but knowing you are in first before you pull away from the lights would be nice and I thought shouldn’t be too difficult these days. I believe there is also intercom, phone and navigation connection functionality that will be available on the dash screen as in the near future however I did not see that function on this bike.
The seat looks and feels comfortable for covering distance without pain. The riding position feels natural and open for someone 180cm tall and transitioning to standing feels comfortable and upright.
A steel frame around the rear load rack is a nice feature extending along the back of the seat with provision to bolt on optional panniers. The frame provides plenty of securing points for strapping down loads onto the back of the bike and for the pillion to hang onto. A side stand as well as a centre stand are fitted and are a must for on road repair and maintenance tasks.
IS IT WORTH IT
All in all I very much enjoyed travelling on the V85TT, especially touring along winding country roads where it felt most at home to me. At $20,690 for the standard colour and another $700 for the ‘Evocative’ model it feels well-built and civilised.
So who would want the V85TT? Who is the target buyer? Why did Guzzi make the decisions they did and does it do things better than the competition?
Moto Guzzi has dug back into motorcycling history for inspiration. The company is not trying to be the best at everything, just being really good, capable, perhaps a little exotic and different. In my mind they are appealing to the cashed up baby boomers and playing to their sense of the past in a really well polished modern version of a 40 year old dream. The spoked wheels with tubes are more about the retro cues that outright off-road adventure capability. The air cooled V-twin engine is reminiscent of a simpler time and sounds great as well. The position of the rear shock with the cam adjustment on the spring preload is a modern version of classic design with cues that flow beautifully through the machine.
I’ll leave it up to you as to whether you love or hate the styling, but when dealing with competition like BMW, KTM and the big Japanese brands, it’s better for a relatively small volume Italian exotic to be similar but different. And in that regard I think Moto Guzzi nailed it.
For me it’s a comfortable, capable and civilised all-round tourer with beautiful manners, finish and design. It’s something a little different and it will win hearts out there.
Claimed dry weight: 208kg
Claimed wet weight: 229kg (with 90% fuel)
Seat height: 830mm (accessory options: 810mm and 850mm)
Ground clearance: 210mm
Fuel capacity: 23 litres
Claimed maximum power: 80hp (59kW) at 7750rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 80Nm at 5000rpm
Gears: Six speed
Final drive: Shaft
Clutch: Dry, single disc
Frame: Tubular steel with engine as stressed member
Front suspension: 41mm upside-down 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 four-piston callipers
Rear brake: 260mm disc with twin-piston calliper
Wheels: Spoked, 2.50 x19 front, 4.25 x 17 rear
Tyres: Single colour – Metzler Tourance Next, multi-coloured – Michelin Anakee. Sizes: 110/80-19 front, 150/70-17 rear