It’s A Guzzi, Jim, But Not As We Know It
Smooth, comfortable and beautifully finished, the V85TT is a huge step forward for the Moto Guzzi brand. The rough edges of past generations have been polished to produce a gorgeous, smooth and seamless dualsporter that honours its heritage but gives nothing away to its modern, high-tech competitors. Passionate Guzzi owners of the past four or five decades will be squealing with glee at the V85TT, and Guzzi knockers over the same time will be forced to grit their teeth and stay quiet.
One aspect of Moto Guzzi remains unchanged: this is one motorcycle which will have plenty of passionate supporters.
Simple Where It Counts
Where manufacturers have seemingly been in competition to produce ever more technologically advanced and complex bikes with increasing weight and engine capacities, we were thrilled to see the basic parameters of the V85TT included an 853cc, air-cooled, transverse V-twin motor, shaft drive, and ready-to-ride weight of 229kg. Power output is a modest 80hp and a cable clutch and relatively uncomplicated suspension round out the package.
It’s still a bit of a shock that 80hp is considered ‘modest’ power in a dualsporter, but that’s the world we live in. Torque, on the other hand, maxxes out at 80Nm at 5000rpm, and that’s comparatively strong for a bike of this capacity.
Moto Guzzi intended the V85TT to be a complete all-rounder. The bike’s design brief said it should be a good commuter, a bit sporty, capable of punching through some off-road sections and a comfortable tourer.
Our short ride made us feel the designers and engineers had delivered exactly what was asked of them.
Transverse V-twins are almost a signature of Moto Guzzi, and judging by the V85TT the company has the configuration well-sorted, and there’s a general tendency toward simplicity on this bike that we liked a lot. At the same time, the two inlet valves are titanium and the pushrods – yes, it’s a pushrod motor – are aluminium. That should give a substantial reduction in the weight of the valve train, and in turn that’ll help with faster throttle response.
The motor itself runs a shortish stroke and large bore, and the Guzzi engineers explained this would deliver more power in a smaller package. We think that’s what was being said… sometimes our attention wanders with the Italian accent. Every time we hear that distinctive, “Errrm..issa very fast an’ I like ’im-a very much,” we drift off to memories of Valentino Rossi and our favourite MotoGP races.
Anyway, the motor on the V85TT is a sweetheart, we reckon. It’s not a terrifying, arse-tearing computer with pistons, but nor is it a limp-wristed moped. It’s strong but very manageable from around 2500rpm up to near the redline, and according to Moto Guzzi it’s very fuel efficient. The engineers were confident of a range of well over 400km from the 23-litre tank, and a couple of the non-engineering types who’d been riding the V85TT were telling tales of near 500km.
It’s not a technical facet of the motor or the bike’s operation, but hitting the starter button causes the bike to rock gently as the torque rolls the transverse twin in the frame. It was nothing to the same extent of the early Guzzis but it brought back some vivid memories and made us smile. There were a lot of little things about this bike that made us smile.
The rocking of the motor didn’t make itself felt at any other time as far as we could tell, only during start up.
Those who have experience of Guzzis will understand our surprise and wonderment at the six-speed box on the V85TT being incredibly smooth.
Seriously, when we first started the bike and snicked it into gear we honestly thought it was still in neutral. There was no ‘snick’, let alone the clunk and jump forward we were expecting. We looked at the TFT dash to confirm the neural light had gone off, fiddled around with the shifter until it lit up again, then pushed down on the selector again.
We didn’t believe the bike was in gear until we eased out the clutch and felt the revs drop.
All the changes were that smooth. As always, we subjected the bike to some crazy shit, just to see how it’d stand up to abuse, and the gearbox was well-mannered, and the changes easy and positive, no matter what we did.
The clutch was a nice match for the gearbox. The Guzzi techs made a point of how they’d worked at achieving a light clutch and it was a pleasure to use. We didn’t have any trouble changing gears without the clutch, but it was a well-sorted function that did its job with no fuss or drama.
There’s always been a section of riders dead-set against shaft drive on off-road bikes. Theory says a shaft-drive system will make less power available at the rear wheel.
That may well be the case, but the benefits of shaft drive, especially for adventure riders, are considerable. There’s no joining link to wear and fail, there’s no need for mechanical systems controlling chain tension as the swingarm moves, and probably the least important, but most talked about feature of shaft drive, is not having to clean and lube a chain.
On the downside, shaft-drive systems are heavier than chain-drives, and the gearing is very difficult to change.
With all that in mind, the reliability and reduced maintenance of shaft drives make them very desirable, and as far as we could tell, the shaft-drive on the Guzzi is a belter. There’s no rising and falling of the bike under acceleration and deceleration, throttle response is good, and to be honest, unless we’d been told it was shaft drive, we wouldn’t have noticed.
Moto Guzzi V85TT
Recommended retail: Grigio Atacama (silver) $18,890. Giallo Sahara (tricolour) $19,590. Prices include GST but not ORC.
Engine: Transverse, 90° V-twin, two valves per cylinder
Bore/stroke: 84mm x 77mm
Maximum power: 59kW (80hp) @ 7750rpm
Maximum torque: 80Nm @ 5000rpm
Front suspension: Telescopic hydraulic fork, 41mm stanchions, adjustable spring preload and rebound
Rear suspension: Double-arm swingarm, single-side shock absorber, adjustable spring preload and rebound
Front brake: Dual 320mm steel floating discs. Brembo radial, four-piston, callipers
Rear brake: 260mm stainless-steel disc. Dual-piston floating calliper
Front wheel: Spoked, with inner tubes, 19-inch 110/80
Rear wheel: Spoked with inner tube, 17-inch 150/70
Seat height: 830mm
Dry weight: 208kg
Wet weight: 229kg
Fuel capacity: 23 litres (including 5-litre reserve)
Suspension on the Guzzi seemed good to us, but we didn’t get the opportunity to give it a real workout.
Both front and rear have rebound and preload adjustment, and on the road the bike did everything right. We weren’t carrying any luggage to test the effectiveness of the preload adjustment in that situation, and we’re always a little reluctant to fiddle much with rebound. For what it’s worth, it felt as though the components were working well.
We’ll have to wait for a ride where we have a little more time and some tougher terrain to say anything more.
As we gazed at the bike in the early-morning sunshine in Thailand’s tourist Mecca of Phuket, we felt our hearts start racing. We illogically had our fingers crossed for a Giallo Sahara paint job and were going to be a little deflated if we’d ended up on the Grigio Atacama silver version, but our luck was in.
Like a school kid being picked first for the footy team we raced up to the bike and started climbing all over it.
The finish of the bike is beautiful, with stylish touches here and there that Italians seem to do better than anyone. The TFT screen is gorgeous, although a little smaller than some we’ve seen lately, the Paris-Dakar-inspired colour scheme set our bottom lips trembling with desire, and even the taillights were designed to give the impression of jet exhausts.
We only realised that because we were told at the briefing, but once it’s pointed out it’s impossible to miss.
On board the bike the seat is really, really comfortable. It’s generously sized without being huge, and the shape is ideal for long-distance riding. There’s a small ‘bump’ or extension at the back, which we worried might’ve locked us in position, but there’s so much room there we found our regular seating position left a gap between our backs and the bump.
Standing was comfortable for our 175cm test rider as well, although we’d naturally remove the rubber insets from the footpegs.
Speaking of standing, the seat height of 830mm is excellent. The ’bars sweep back a bit from the top triple clamp and the bike steered nicely at speed or commuting, sitting or standing, so clearly Moto Guzzi has the design and ergos well sorted.
Why were we sent to Phuket in Thailand to ride the V85TT?
Now we’ve been there and seen the impossibly gorgeous and incredible scenery, travelled the mountain roads with lush, green jungle closing in tight from either side, thrashed the bikes to a standstill on the beaches near Phang Nga Bay, and felt as though our arms were going to fall off from the constant waving at smiling, cheerful people everywhere we went, we realise that’s what this bike is all about.
The V85TT is a superb and versatile tourer. It’s incredibly comfortable, is stylish and gorgeous to look at, will hold a tight line on a narrow mountain road with the throttle open and will handle dirt road and even, with the right rider, a run through deep sand on the dunes of a beach. The crazy Thai traffic highlighted just how easy the bike is to manoeuvre and control, the scenery underlined how the rider didn’t need to have his mind constantly on the bike to keep it smooth, and the occasional creek crossing and dirt road offered no obstacle whatsoever.
Who wouldn’t want a bike like that?
There’s a few things we haven’t covered that are worth a mention:
- LED lighting all round, including a daytime running light in the shape of the Guzzi eagle (a very nice touch)
- The Sahara colour-scheme bikes are supplied with Michelin Anakees. The silver bikes are supplied with Metzeler Tourances
- Three riding modes: Road, Rain and Off Road. Power output is the same for all, it’s the speed of movement of the throttle butterfly that changes. Off Road turns off the rear ABS and allows the front ABS to be turned off manually. Modes can be changed on the fly, and traction control can be disabled through the menu, but once the ignition is switched off it’s automatically activated again. In Off Road mode traction control intervention is decreased and engine braking increased (which is pretty impressive, we reckon)
- Cruise control is standard and really easy to use
- Wheels are a 17/19 combination with tubes both ends
- Connection to smartphone is an optional extra
Despite the exotic location and incredible luxury afforded during the media release, we kept our razor-sharp minds on the job and came away from our ride on the V85TT with the impression of a really first-class all-rounder. Our overwhelming feeling was of comfort. The bike was comfortable in just about every situation. The exception was the deep sand, and even then, the Guzzi coped – unlike the riders – but the motor felt like it was working hard to keep the bike moving.
There’s no doubt specialist bikes will outperform the V85TT in their specific areas, but to be a little bit glamorous, a smidge sporty and still ready of an off-road look around, Moto Guzzi has come up with a first-class winner.
And have a look at the price.