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ADV NewsMoto Guzzi V85 TT Travel: Modern Classic ADV With Italian Flair

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel: Modern Classic ADV With Italian Flair

We get dirty in Italian style riding Moto Guzzi's travel-ready Adventure Bike.

Published on 12.08.2020

I think it was during a pass on the downside of Central California’s Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, headed east through the forest towards the more open spaces surrounding Fort Hunter Liggett, when it hit me how much fun this bike is, but for reasons that didn’t seem to add up. Questions about suspension internals, why there’s a sideways motor pushing a shaft drive on a sub-liter bike, and why I keep forgetting how to navigate a menu I’ve already gone through dozens of times, all faded away as I felt the traction control let the rear wheel step out just a bit to grab some helmet cam footage of the hooliganism happening on this currently-empty road.

The Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel is a very unusual motorcycle. Looking at the company from the 5,000-foot-perspective, I almost wonder if there’s some overall genius level of wit that such a unique machine comes from a manufacturer whose first bike was called the “Normal” (Italian: “Normale”, 1921). In the ensuing 99 years, horsepower has gone from eight to 80, but very little of normal has crept into the design philosophy.

First Look

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review

Perhaps more than any other bike in the adventure class, the V85 TT’s aesthetics arguably play a significant role in the bike’s overall appeal. Other than encountering some difference of opinion regarding color choices, the design seems to inspire universal praise from other riders encountered on the road or trail. Front and center is the signature transverse V-twin, which serves as both the icon and speech pattern of this motorcycle, and the Moto Guzzi brand as a whole. 

The 853cc powerplant’s distinctive rumble employs a shaft drive to spin the rear wheel in the double-sided swingarm. No other mid-sized adventure bike uses this setup. Searching for the answer to why both the pipe and rear brake disk are atypically located on the left side of the bike, is perhaps solved by thinking on the nature of Italian design — that 45º single-sided shock mated to the final drive looks damn good when the bike is tilted over on its sidestand. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review
Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review

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At first glance, several features help to make the V85 TT Travel’s intended use for adventure riding immediately recognizable. A stock skidplate and wrap-around hand guards, 6 gallon tank, high front fender, cruise control, comfortable seating, excellent stand-up ergos, and wire-spoke wheels are among the list of things which allow this bike to comfortably move between the worlds of dirt and tarmac. The ‘Travel’ edition improves its long-range adventure capability with a set of ample-sized (33-liter left; 39-liter right) panniers, heated grips, taller windscreen, LED auxiliary lights, and a Bluetooth interface to connect phone features with the dash. 

Potentially contradictory aesthetics somehow work perfectly with the V85 TT. Rocket booster tail lights portend a bike that wants to blast off like some street fighter, while elegant headers breathe exhaust like someone relaxing along the Amalfi Coast with a cigarette and an espresso. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review
Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review

First glance at the right side of the bike might provide an impression it has a twin shock setup from times past, yet flipping the bike around reveals a perfectly-positioned exhaust where there would normally be another spring. Six gallons of fuel hide in plain sight in a shapely tank, and beneath a tribute to a fallen friend, in the form of Guzzi’s winged emblem. With no radiator to hide behind, the transverse V-twin’s cylinders emerge from underneath the blanket of the tank, to cool themselves in open air.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review

Closer inspection reveals deeper qualities. The smooth texture of its thumb switches is echoed by equally smooth movement, and connected to wiring which travels through dedicated grooves, positioned to create a surprisingly clean under-seat environment. Even details out-of-sight, are not left unchecked on the V85 TT.

The Engine

What makes a Moto Guzzi immediately recognizable is the transverse V-twin engine configuration. For 2020, claimed output for the sideways powerplant remains the same as the previous year with 80 horsepower at 7,750 rpm, and 59 ft/lbs of torque at 5,000 rpm. Aside from being the only shaft-drive arrangement in the mid-size adventure bike category, the unique engine is also the only air-cooled pushrod setup, incorporating a dry clutch in this class. Before even thumbing the starter, throwing a leg over the bike reveals a quirk for riders of a certain height, or at least those having a certain thigh-length. I’m 5’11” and apparently have a slightly less-than-Guzzi-compatible femur measurement. Minor gripe, but my left knee will tend to hit the cylinder on that side occasionally. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review

We’ll come back to the starter button itself, as there is some weirdness there as well, however using it for the commonly accepted purpose of bringing the engine to life opens that door to Guzzi charm. The engine’s character seems to be the sum of all the things it’s not. Not quite the torquiest, nor the most high-strung power plant for this class, but almost certainly the most idiosyncratic. Not to say by any means the twin doesn’t perform. Low-end power is readily there just off idle, and this thing likes to rev! Tight pavement curves is where it becomes easy to lose all short-shifting discipline and wind the thing out as deeply into the power band as the rev-limiter will allow. Fuel economy be damned, it’s got a 6 gallon tank. Claimed numbers of 48 mpg and 250-plus-mile range being possible are definitely curtailed by this type of riding. Anything worthwhile has opportunity cost however. In this case, hacking around 50 miles off the tank’s range is worth affecting outside same-lane passes on stupidly twisty and empty roads.

The Electronics

Moto Guzzi first introduced a TFT to their line in the 2019 V85 TT. Turning the key initiates a welcome screen where the spread-winged Guzzi logo is revealed in a collection of colors and motion graphics. Both the boot up and shut down screens are the perfect duration to inspire “this bike is cool” thoughts versus “this screen is annoying and I wish it would stop.” The primarily blue and white display, with highlights of green and orange indicators is nice to look at, especially at night.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Review

Power delivery can be tweaked through the V85 TT’s three riding modes of road, rain, and off-road (displayed as “strada”, “pioggia”, and “off-road” as one scrolls through the selections). Notably, there is no user-adjustable ride mode, so one of the three preset options must be selected. The process of scrolling through the ride modes themselves, is a little different however. There’s a “mode” button, which has nothing to do with ride modes. I’d mentioned earlier we’d talk about the starter button itself. Use it first to fire the bike up, then it changes hats and can be pressed while the bike is running to scroll through and select between ride modes. There is some logic to this I’m sure. Perhaps to minimize the number of switches on the handlebar? Understanding it fully probably requires way more espresso than I have in me right now.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

The “mode” button accesses a host of other features, which at the top of my list was switchable ABS and traction control (or MGCT). “Off-road” mode will defeat rear-wheel ABS automatically, but both ABS and MGCT can be switched off completely via the menu, accessible with the “mode” button. Above the mode button is a separate switch to toggle the LED headlight between its three options: a driving light in the shape of the spread-winged eagle, driving light plus dual round headlights, or driving light, headlights, and fog lights all on simultaneously. Between the display and LED light setups, the styling of this bike extends beyond the physical structure to how it lights up the surrounding environment.

The Chassis

Flipping a V-twin sideways has the advantage of shortening up the entire motorcycle, and putting it in a realm normally only occupied by parallel-twins. The beefy engine case itself is a stressed member which means there’s no cradle hanging from the trellis frame. This both saves weight and allows the Italian engineer/artists to further enhance the bike’s aesthetics. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

At 32.6 inches, the low seat height opens this bike up to a wide range of riders. Even given my 32-inch inseam, I generally prefer taller seat heights for adventure motorcycles. While the V85 TT’s numbers and first impression aesthetics might inspire concern of a cramped cockpit, I was pleasantly surprised to find the riding position both seated and standing to be nearly ideal.

On the Road

After clocking more than 1,500 miles aboard the V85 TT, it settled that a combination of aesthetics and performance are what rendered it my go-to commuter bike. An entirely comfortable seating position, windscreen offering good protection without hindering visibility, an unusual but user-friendly and appealing TFT interface, and the charm of the transverse V-twin rumbling along. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

Rather than an annoyance, the smooth vibes from the power plant remind you of the unique engine you’re piloting. For my build, the seat was nearly ideal. Caveat: I think saddles like the KTM 950 Adventure S are good, where most find that like sitting on a 2×6 plank. Thus, the V85 TT’s cushion felt like a Barcalounger by comparison. Long road miles are made easier both by the comfortable seating position, and a very usable cruise control setup. When cruise control is active, but not engaged, there is a constantly flashing light on the display, which does take a bit of getting used to. Where most bikes are visually appreciated more when looking at them while parked, the V85 TT’s aesthetic is apparent while riding. Couldn’t help pulling up to stops and thinking I was the coolest guy I saw all day.

The V85 TT is quite stable at speed, in spite of a wheelbase roughly two inches less than many V-twin adventure bikes. This reduced length translates into a fun and aggressive feel when the road becomes more twisty. Pushing the Italian steed through the most belligerent corners revealed a surprising balance out of the KYB boingers. Throwing the bike into a turn feeds back a slight, predictable dive, just enough to steepen up the head angle and get through the corner that much quicker. Accelerating out of a turn, the opposite happens, and the subtle slackening of things quickly gets things stable and moving. Bonus, there’s a cool engine pushing everything, even if my left knee would sometimes brawl with one of the cylinders.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test
Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

Braking performance was largely behind-the-scenes. Smooth lever feel and good modulation were confidence-inspiring when road mode (“Strada”) was called up, and both the pavement bends and the riding became more spirited. Engagement of the clutch has a slight delay to it under hard deceleration, and sometimes you’ll get a chirp, and a brief slide, just enough to be fun, not enough to throw you into the weeds. Disclaimer: Do not try this at home. Even though it is quite fun. 

In the Dirt

While the V85 TT is quite capable all-around, the overall bent is towards the tarmac versus off-road. The 6.7 inches of travel front and rear, along with 8.3 inches of ground clearance bodes well for general adventure travel, however the limits of the suspension are found a bit more quickly than some bikes in this class. Where many big-twin adventure bikes suffer from under-sprung rear shocks in stock form, oddly, the V85 TT is perhaps the opposite. Even fully loaded for a multi-day camping trip, rarely did I notice the rear shock hit the bump stops. The forks however, can often remind you to ride within the limits of the machine’s intended use. Both preload and damping of the 41mm legs and rear shock are adjustable, so these limits can be tuned to a degree.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

Removing the luggage, and venting some of the street pressure from the Michelin Anakee Adventure tires, allowed even the street-biased tread to explore how the V85 TT behaved in more technical terrain. Steep, rocky climbs and descents, deep sand, step-up ledges and sudden drop offs all put the bike through its paces. In short, the bike has no problem getting through your typical adventure riding terrain. Primary limitations were found in situations like steep, technical descents, where you’re already under hard braking and navigating significant obstacles. This is where the forks can be heard, literally, telling you there’s “Travel” in the name. The word sounds like a clunk, but the message is received either way. Fortunately the same braking modulation on the road applies to the dirt, and quick adjustments of finesse are easily made.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

As is true with many adventure bikes in the modern era, the ABS and traction control systems work quite well outside of the most technical situations. In those technical situations, however, you’ll definitely want them off. Fortunately, this is possible through the V85 TT’s menu. As is also true of many adventure bikes in the modern era, this menu is not difficult, but it is somewhat non-intuitive. Once gone through a few times, the process becomes easy. Until you forget and have to re-learn it again.

In some ways, the V85 TT reprogrammed my riding style a bit (which tends to be aggressive). The on-road characteristics are well-balanced to the point there’s a hesitance to change anything like beefing up the suspension for more off-road worthiness. At times, the short chassis and good standing position for my height (5 feet 11 inches) inspires the bike to be ridden more aggressively than perhaps it should be. Dialing things back a bit, is a win-win, so long as you’re not trying to race.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test
Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Test

Weaved into the nimble nature of the V85 TT Travel’s chassis is an unusual stability. At first, the feeling is almost a hesitation on the bike’s part to change direction quickly. Once you ride around this characteristic in the dirt, it proves to be a useful form of balance. The source of this quality is likely the transverse motor. Similar to a tightrope walker holding a balance pole, positioning some of the bike’s cylinder weight further out to the sides inherently creates stability. In the case of the V85 TT, this effect occupies the middle ground between a traditional longitudinal V-twin and a horizontally-opposed twin.

The Bottom Line

Deciding if a particular motorcycle is the “right” choice likely comes down to where it falls on a scale with form at one end, and function at the other. A bike’s performance might meet all your needs, but if you find it uninspiring to look at, probably not the one you’ll go to as a first resort. The flip side is true as well. A two-wheeled machine might be so pretty it would make as much sense to hang on a wall as it would to park in a garage, but if it doesn’t rise to a place where it meets your riding needs, it’s most likely not the right choice.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Tested
Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Long-term review

Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT Travel occupies a wider space on this scale. Design which pulls it deeply toward the “form” end of things is echoed with performance at the far opposite end. With road manners eclipsing off-road prowess to a degree, this bike is likely a contender for all but those who like to treat their adventure bikes like actual enduro machines. Character, it turns out, is a powerful feature, and compromise is a good thing. Adjusting one’s riding in some technical situations to work within handling limits is rewarded by an overall experience behind the bars which makes this a motorcycle I don’t want to give up.

Aesthetics play a huge part in the appeal of the V85 TT. All the lines work together to create a bike which seems to have perfect proportions. If Da Vinci’s Vitruvian had pants, and $11,990 burning a hole in his pocket, and decided to get an adventure bike, I’d hazard a guess it might be Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT. Were there $13,390 in that hypothetical pocket, that same bike would end up factory-farkled with luggage, heated grips, a touring screen, and LED lighting. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Long-term review

Moto Guzzi had essentially left the adventure/dual sport bike market for a time with the end of the Stelvio in 2016. As their re-entry into the adventure motorcycle segment, Guzzi’s V85 TT does not seem to be a direct attempt to chase after any one particular manufacturer’s corner of the market. There’s no aim to mimic anything else out there – this bike is purely its own self. The V85 TT is its own unique thing, where you accept any foibles and peccadillos as part of a greater whole. “Flaws” become character, deficiency becomes design. In the end, you’ll probably want to bring one home.

GEAR WE USED

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Specs

Type:Transverse 90° V twin, two valves per cylinder (titanium intake).
Cooling:Air
Engine capacity:853 cc
Bore and stroke:84 x 77 mm
Compression ratio:10.5: 1
Maximum power:80 HP (59 kW) at 7,750 rpm
Torque:59 ft-lbs (80 Nm) at 5,000 rpm
Fuel system:Electronic injection; Ø 52 mm single throttle body, Ride-by-Wire
Fuel tank capacity:6.08 gallons (23 liters)
Approval:Euro 4
Consumption (WMTC cycle):48 mpg (4.9 l/100 km)
CO2 Emissions (WMTC cycle):118 g/km
Clutch:Dry single disc
Transmission:6 gears
Gear ratio values:1st 16/39 = 1: 2.437
2nd 18/32 = 1: 1.778
3rd 21/28 = 1: 1.333
4th 24/26 = 1: 1.083
5th 25/24 = 1: 0.960
6th 27/24 = 1: 0.889
Frame:High strength steel tubular frame
Front suspension:41 mm hydraulic telescopic USD fork, with adjustable spring preload and hydraulic rebound
Front wheel travel:6.7″ (170 mm)
Rear suspension:Double-sided swingarm in box-type aluminum with a single shock on the right side, with adjustable spring preload and hydraulic rebound
Rear wheel travel:6.7″ (170 mm)
Ground Clearance:8.3″ (210 mm)
Front brake:Double 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo radial-mounted calipers with 4 opposed pistons
Rear brake:Ø 260 mm stainless steel disc, floating caliper with 2 pistons
Wheels:Spoked
Front wheel rim:2.50” x 19”
Rear wheel rim:4.25” x 17”
Front tire:With air chamber 110/80 – R19”
Rear tire:With air chamber 150/70 – R17”
A/C generator:430 W
System voltage:12 V
Battery:12V – 12 Ah
Seat height:32.7″ (830 mm)
Dry weight:463 lbs (210 kg) * without panniers
Curb weight*:531 lbs (241 kg)
MSRP:starting at $13,390

Photos by Stephen Gregory and Rob Dabney

Author: Jon Beck

Jon Beck is fulfilling a dream of never figuring out what to be when he grows up. Racing mountain bikes, competitive surfing, and touring as a musician are somehow part of what led Jon to travel through over 40 countries so far as an adventure motorcycle photographer, journalist, and guide. From precision riding for cameras in Hollywood, to refilling a fountain pen for travel stories, Jon brings a rare blend of experience to the table. While he seems happiest when lost in a desert someplace, deadlines are met most of the time.

Author: Jon Beck
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14 thoughts on “Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel: Modern Classic ADV With Italian Flair

  1. Pingback: Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel: Modern Classic ADV With Italian Flare - ADVENTURE & OVERLAND MOTORCYCLE TRAVEL

  2. Pingback: Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel: Modern Classic ADV With Italian Flare – Bikers Connection

  3. I recall riding with Jon in the Copper Canyon about ’06 as he captured us on film. Me on my yellow KLR. I had forgotten he could write this well. Dare say as well as he works a camera or pilots a motorcycle.

  4. Really enjoyed this detailed and thoughtful review of the V85. Great looking bike with surprising ability on- and off-road. I own one (12,000 kms) and it has been flawless. Jon’s summary nails it: not a bike for hard-core enduro riders, but great for everything else and probably for most of the dirt riding adventure riders actually do. The simplicity and manageable size of the bike make it a great platform for adventure riding. I would have liked to see four valves rather than two to give it a little more urgency on fast overtakes going uphill and when riding two-up, but overall it is so beautifully balanced and smooth that lacking a bit of power can be forgiven. For reference, my other bikes are a guzzi griso and aprilia tuono, so maybe I’ve been spoiled! An aftermarket exhaust and decat pipe help to lighten the bike, improve throttle response and make it sound like a guzzi should.

  5. Great review – love the looks of this bike, and also the shaft drive. May not have the same level of electronics of some of the competition however what it has should be sufficient. My concerns would be does it have sufficient power for 2 up riding and is the dealer network sufficient to support touring with this bike. One of the alternates to this bike is the Triumph Tiger 900, a better performing and equipped bike however it will definitely cost more and its styling is more generic.

  6. I own one. I wish Moto Guzzi offered an optional lowering kit for short riders. The forks can be moved up in the triple clamps to lower the front about an inch. But no optional shorter rear shock is offered to lower the back…
    And also put on a horn you can hear further away than the front wheel…
    Cheers…

  7. Pingback: Watch: Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Tested – Bikers Connection

  8. 531 Lbs Curb. My Left Knee fighting with that cylinder (it is further back than right side cylinder). Toasty leg heat in So. AZ. I guess I have my answer about buying: No.

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