Review: Moto Guzzi V85 TT

The midweight adventure bike segment is getting pretty crowded lately. We already double-tested the new BMW F 850 GS and the Triumph Tiger 800 last year, and this year the KTM 790 Adventure and the Yamaha Ténéré 700 are causing quite some buzz. You’d almost overlook an Italian bike that mingled in quietly: the Moto Guzzi V85 TT. A brand-new model with a brand-new engine.

I wouldn’t say the Guzzi is a direct competitor of the aforementioned four. For that, it lacks the off-road capabilities. Just look at its 19″ front wheel and the 170 mm suspension travel. The other four have a 21″ in the front and at least 30 mm more travel.

Nor does the V85 TT compete with the less off-road oriented Kawasaki Versys 650, Honda NC750X or Suzuki V-Strom 650. No, the Guzzi has something that these bikes don’t have, and that’s a good portion of emotion and a distinct look which also characterize the BMW R nineT Urban G/S and the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled. These aren’t typical adventure bikes, but motorcycles that combine the sturdy looks of an adventure bike with a classic design and a distinctive engine.

Off to the Pyrenees!

I took the Moto Guzzi V85 TT for a trip to the Pyrenees (still working on the report). On that 4,464 km trip it regularly turned heads and during various stops “my” two-wheeler evoked nothing but positive (and even some enthusiastic) reactions.

The V85 TT’s outspoken design may not be for everyone, but I clearly wasn’t the only one liking it. The double headlight (with the Guzzi eagle as daytime running light), the nicely shaped tank, the bold colour scheme in red, white and yellow, the red framework: I’m a fan.

Next to two multi-colour paint jobs, and depending on the market, the bike’s also available in (boring!) monocolours. These are cheaper but you won’t get the luxury seat that’s offered as a standard on the multi-colour bikes.

The ideal long-distance bike?

My bottom was very fond of that luxury seat. During the return trip I did 1,223 km in one day, without one second seat pain.

During such long journeys, a big tank and a good fuel economy are a convenient combo. And the V85 did well. The on-board computer recorded an average of 5.8 l/100 km on the first day of the trip: almost 900 km, mainly motorway. The other days, when we left the dullness of the motorway and started twisting and turning through the Pyrenees, the consumption dropped to 3.8 l/100 km. So it took a while to drain that 23-liter tank.

Still the Guzzi isn’t the ideal long-distance bike, despite the excellent seat, the good, relaxed seating position and the large tank. The windshield spoils some fun. Although you can adjust its height, it offers very little protection. By the way, you won’t be able to adjust it while riding because you’ll need an Allen key to get the job done.

A larger windscreen is therefore recommended if you spend a lot of time on the motorway. That windscreen is offered in the accessoiries list. The bike I tested was equipped with other accessoires: a centerstand, an Arrow muffler, a crash bar set and aluminum panniers.

Minor flaws

The cruise control on the other hand isn’t optional. It belongs to the TT’s standard equipment. It works perfectly but since indications (like speed and resume) are absent, you’ll need to study the manual or spend quite some time doing the trial-and-error thing.

It’s also impossible to find the button for the riding modes without consulting the manual. To switch from one riding mode to another you have to press the – you’ll never guess it! – the start button. My bike also had a button for the heated grips, although the bike was decked out without. And since I’m in a complaining mood: there’s no 12v connection, just a USB port, and the mirrors’ blind spots are simply too large.

So the V85 doesn’t seem perfectly thought-through. Which is a shame because the team from Mandello del Lario clearly spared no effort in terms of design. Fortunately, the rather low price tag allows some minor flaws.

Moreover, the Guzzi has an important sales argument in this bike category: it is the only one equipped with a shaft drive. Maintaining a chain during long journeys? Forget about it!

Surprisingly fond of cornering

The typical Moto Guzzi air-cooled longitudinal 90° V-twin delivers 80 Nm at 5,000 rpm and 80 hp at 7,750 rpm. In true Guzzi style, the 853 cc engine is a blatant stationary shaker. Once started however, the vibrations stood out due to their absence. The seat in particular seems to filter away a lot.

The smooth power delivery was also striking. The twin engine always remained civilized with the loudmouthed Arrow rear silencer being a nice counterweight. In low revs I would’ve liked to see some more power, but from about 3,500 rpm it takes on smoothly. It’s best to stay in that rev range when you attack hairpins, or you’ll exit the corner in a less fluid manner.

Entering corners is really easy with the TT. Its center of gravity is low, the bike feels agile, stable and responsive. You really have to go to extremes to get the bike into trouble, both in corners and when hitting the brakes aggressively when going flat-out straight ahead. You can adjust the spring preload and outgoing damping, but for my riding style the standard settings were just perfect.

Even when fully loaded for our big trip, the TT turned out to be surprisingly fond of some cornering fun, to the extent that the footpegs occasionally touched the Spanish and French asphalt. Sometimes I bumped into the rev limiter when exiting a corner, just before 8,000 rpm, which felt too short to the the maximum power output. Anyway, along with the excellent six-speed gearbox and efficient Brembos, the TT easily convinces as a smooth cornering machine.

Tutti Terreni

The letters TT (standing for Tutti Terreni, or All Terrain) spurred me on to test the bike’s off-road capabilities. Though I didn’t want to ask too much from the Guzzi, since it’s simply not built for hard rally raids. I rode some smooth gravel roads and a slightly more challenging, stony trail: the Smugglers Route on the Andorran-Spanish border.

Which proved to be about the limit you can handle with the V85. The last part of that route, near the top of the pass, had to be done at a very slow pace, hitting the maximum attainable of the Kayaba suspension. On easier parts, the Guzzi restored confidence and made sure our pursuers had some dust to eat. The low center of gravity resulted in good maneuverability and stability, even if things got a bit more difficult.

The standing position on the footpegs is pretty good without any adjustments. Only the knees lack something to clamp firmly. As is often the case, the handlebars would profit from a higher position, but you can tilt them forward and up easily. A set of risers is of course also an option.

The Moto Guzzi V85 TT has three riding modes: Road, Rain and Offroad. Road has the most direct throttle response, medium traction control and fully engaged ABS. With the Rain mode, the throttle reacts more gently and the traction control becomes more sensitive. The Offroad mode reduces the responsiveness of the front ABS, switches off the rear ABS, limits the traction control and softens the throttle response with more engine braking.

The settings allow you to switch off the traction control completely in all riding modes, but the ABS can only be disabled completely in the Offroad mode.

Personally, I found the traction control to be a tad too sensitive, both on asphalt and off-road. Potholes made the engine stutter for an instant and when I wanted to drift out of a dirt corner, the traction control spoiled the fun. And yes, I had selected the right riding modes.

The digital dashboard of the V85 TT is rather small but complete. In addition to the autonomy, chosen gear and outside temperature, you’ll find all the usual information. You can connect the dashboard to your smartphone via the Moto Guzzi Mia app, so that GPS instructions appear on the display, among other things. However, I didn’t manage to connect my phone to the bike. After installing the app my phone wouldn’t pair with the Guzzi. I didn’t feel like losing too much time, I wanted to ride, so I didn’t look into it any further.

I was more concerned about the quality of some parts. When I went to pick up the bike, I spotted humidity in one of the direction indicators. During the trip I noticed that the red frame of the luggage carrier started to colour the bottom of my roll bag. And after 10,000 km, some plastic pieces already showed signs of use.

Conclusion

The Moto Guzzi V85 TT holds a unique position in the midweight adventure segment. It’s one of the better commuters in the category (Shaft drive! Luxury seat! Overall ergonomics!), even more so if you get a larger windshield. It’s an eager cornering bike, thanks to a good chassis and the engine that’s smooth and powerful, as long as you stay away from low revs.

Riding off-road is a bit of an issue. It can handle gentle gravel paths and other, not too demanding terrains, but if you want to leave the paved roads regularly, you should forget the Guzzi. This Italian is more about style and appearance than about dust and mud. And style, it has plenty.

Its price isn’t a showstopper either, although there are some imperfections to ignore, and its durability is yet to be determined.

Pros

+ Distinct look and character
+ Shaft drive
+ Ergonomics
+ Price

Cons

– Not everything is very thought-through, especially the electronics
– Traction control too sensitive for bad roads
– Long-term durability of some components?
– Stock windshield offers little protection

Tech specs

Engine: Transversal 90° V-twin, two valves per cylinder (titanium intake).
Cooling: Air.
Displacement: 853 cc.
Bore x Stroke: 84 x 77 mm.
Maximum power: 80 HP (59 kW) ‐ 7.750 rpm (Also available at 35 kW, A2 driver license).
Maximum torque: 80 Nm ‐ 5.000 rpm.
Consumption: 4,9 l/100 km.
Gearbox: 6 speed.
Fuel tank: 23 l (5 reserve).
Seat height: 830 mm.
Dry weight: 208 kg.
Wet weight: 229 kg (Weight with motorcycle ready for use with all operating fluids and with 90% fuel).
Front suspension: Upside‐down hydraulic telescopic fork Ø 41 mm, with adjustable extension and spring preload.
Rear suspension: Swingarm Twin‐sided with lateral mono shock absorber, adjustable extension and spring preload.
Front wheel: Spoked with tube, 19″ 110/80.
Rear wheel: Spoked with tube, 17″ 150/70.
Front brake: Double stainless steel floating disk Ø 320 mm, radial Brembo calipers with 4 opposed pistons.
Rear brake: Stainless steel disk Ø 260 mm, floating 2 pistons caliper.
Features: Display TFT, full LED lights, Ride by Wire, 3 Riding Mode (Street, Rain, Off‐ road), Cruise Control, Handguard, Aluminium sump guard, MGCT Moto Guzzi Controllo di Trazione, Standard double channel ABS.

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