The Paris-Dakar rally, a true test of endurance, the ultimate adventure. I’m referring to, of course, the Paris-Dakar of old, when it ran from France to the west African capital of Senegal, Dakar. It was a time when men were men and women were women and the rally itself was more of an adventure, where “winning” was simply finishing. The rally has changed a lot since its inception in 1978. Now, the incredibly competitive teams are hell-bent on racing through the South American Dakar rally stages at break-neck speeds to ensure their spot in Dakar history whilst backed by chase vehicles full of sponsorship money.
The 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT is not the bike you would be racing, well, anything on, but the styling is reminiscent of the V65 TT run by Claudio Torri in the 1985 Paris-Dakar – the yellow and white livery complete with red frame. Motorcycle.com was invited to the launch of the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT in Sardinia to determine where this retro adventure touring bike lands amongst the field and to truly test the capabilities of what would turn out to be one of the most tech-heavy Guzzis in the brand’s 98-year history.
What? Too soon? Shootouts. It’s what we do here at MO. So, what would we be shooting out against the Guzzi when it comes time? That’s a loaded question. Would we compare it to equally positioned retro motorcycles that are sincerely meant to keep going when the pavement turns to dirt? Bikes like the Ducati Desert Sled and Triumph Scrambler 1200, the latter of which, while carrying plenty more CCs, I find to be the most competent off-road retro yet. Or do we look to other tall(ish) touring bikes like the V-Strom 650, Versys 650, and Multistrada 950? With the V85’s 853cc displacement and a price of $11,990 for the standard TT and $12,990 for the ADV version, the lines are blurry and that’s okay. Not everything needs to fit nicely into a predetermined genre. If you like it, you like it.
Moto Guzzi has possibly carved its own niche with the V85, which, looking back, is something the brand has been doing for decades. Guzzi folk and their bikes are inseparable. The brand from Mandello del Lario has established a cult following from the eccentric and loyal who would rather ride nothing at all than separate themselves from their transverse-head V-Twins.
During our test of the Moto Guzzi V85 TT, it would quickly become apparent that the motorcycle wasn’t giving up much, if anything at all, with its retro styling and unwavering Moto Guzzi DNA. When it came time to rail the bike through a set of curves or point its high fender down rocky fire roads, the bike performed with aplomb. Simply put, the V85 TT retains undeniable Moto Guzzi heritage while delivering modern day performance and comfort not before seen in the Guzzi lineup.
Since the late sixties, the transverse/longitudinal/sideways whatever you want to call it, V-Twin has been the beating heart of the majority, and now all, Moto Guzzi motorcycles. Like the transverse V-Twin, the current lineup of Guzzis also use shaft-driven drivetrains to deliver power to the rear wheel.
The V85 TT uses an air-cooled 853cc V-Twin engine with a bore and stroke of 84 x 77mm and compression ratio of 10.5:1. It’s an absolute blast. Guzzi claims the engine pumps out 80 horsepower and 56 lb-ft of torque, but through first, second, and third, you’d think the torque figure was higher. In street riding mode, whacking open the throttle sends an instantaneous surge of power through the shaft drive to the rear tire that catapults the rider forward, spreading a wide grin on any motorcyclist’s face. The pristine roads of Sardinia offered fantastic grip, were mostly clear of debris, and rarely threw any abrupt surprises at us – aside from the odd herd of goats – which allowed our test group to take full advantage of the V85 TT’s strong engine.
Moto Guzzi engineers stressed the fact that the engine is almost entirely new. The new power plant was made as compact and light as possible with new materials and advanced engineering while still remaining robust enough for the crankcase to be used as a stress-bearing member of the chassis. Redlining at 8,000 rpm, the V85 seems to have a small window of overrev as you reach the end of each gear, and while the engineers I am sure were happy with this achievement, a few thousand more revs would be welcome. The two-valve pushrod design is typical of current Guzzis under the 1000cc threshold and the V85 TT’s mill doesn’t differ. When asked why the team chose to work with a two-valve system rather than four, they simply said that they were confident in the two-valve design and wanted to keep the engine as light and simple as possible.
The experience of riding the new Moto Guzzi V85 TT doesn’t stop at the engine, though. The TT’s chassis is equally impressive and capable. The steel tubular frame (red on the ADV model) combined with the 41mm KYB USD fork and right-side mounted KYB shock, both of which are adjustable for preload and rebound, provided a smooth and comfortable ride. On-road, the suspension soaked up the few bumps we encountered well and when the pace ramped up, the V85 maintained consistency. The fork may dive a bit under hard braking, but not enough to feel that the chassis was becoming unstable.
We were also riding these bikes near their full potential and that leads to the next point: It’s easy to ride the V85 TT smoothly. Transitioning from side to side through the curves, the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel combo proved to be a nice “goldilocks” wheel size for the retro ADV bike. The dual 320mm rotors with four-piston Brembo calipers also allowed to us to slow the 505-pound (claimed) motorcycle with ease. Ask what stood out to me after riding the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT and it’s easily the engine, brakes, and styling.
Riding the V85 TT off-road delivers an experience similar to many middleweight ADV bikes. Which is great because this Guzzi seemed to be, and truly is, a more street-oriented motorcycle. The bike’s relatively low seat height of 32.7-inches inspires confidence in those (myself) with abbreviated inseams. Standing up while scooting down some rocky fire roads during our ride felt comfortable with the handlebars and tank in a good position to move around a bit on the bike. Though when I tried to hold the tank with my legs/knees, my jeans and the elegant paint job provided zero grip. Allohra.
The V85 TT has 6.7-inches of wheel travel front and rear while delivering 8.3-inches of ground clearance. Nothing crazy in this day and age of foot-long suspension travel, but enough for you to keep going when the pavement ends. Thankfully, Moto Guzzi also includes the aluminum skid plate as standard, and while it’s no Black Dog Cycle Works skid plate, it will help protect the otherwise vulnerable engine, the exhaust, not so much.
For a street-biased motorcycle, I would be just as willing to huck the V85 TT down a trail as any other middleweight ADV or the bikes mentioned in the intro. That said, I would be admittedly more bummed when the nice paint job got scratched up.
I like both of the red-framed Adventure models whether we’re talking Giallo Sahara (yellow/white) or Rosso Kalahari (red/white). What can I say, I’m a product of the ’80s (1989 to be exact)? The slight bit of metal flake in the white and bright red frame, luggage rack, and headlight stay all look decidedly rad to me. If you’re not into the red frame-laden Adventure models – which have aluminum top and side cases included in the MSRP – the subtler standard V85 TT can be had in Grigio Atacama (grey).
Oh yeah, let’s not forget that the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT is the most tech-packed Guzzi to hit the market in the brand’s nearly 100-year history. Some might say it’s about time that the kids started sharing over at Piaggio. The V85 TT uses an ECU borrowed from Aprilia’s top-o-the-line RSV4, a bright new TFT display that, to be honest, I wish was a little larger, and ride modes among other features.
Delve deeper into the V85’s thin-film transistor display and you’ll find three ride modes: street, rain, and off-road. Selecting a ride mode affects throttle response, power delivery, traction control, and ABS. Street will give the rider all the beans while keeping a “medium” level of traction control, standard (no Cornish ABS) ABS at both wheels, and smooth prompt throttle response. Rain of course, has the highest level of traction control and ABS and a “gentle” throttle. Off-road mode left me wanting. If you want to let the bike keep you conservatively reined in, it may be fine. Who wants that!? Off-road allows you to spin up the rear in conjunction with the front wheel speed though it seems much less than other models we’ve tested with similar features. Furthermore, ABS is tweaked on the front from the standard setting and disabled on the rear, and throttle response is quite soft.
My preferred setting would be street throttle response with traction control and ABS disabled. I would have rather used off-road ABS with TC off and street throttle response, but that isn’t an option.
Naturally, in this day and age, there is also an app to connect your phone via Bluetooth to the motorcycle should you choose to purchase the accessory Bluetooth module. This allows the user to see incoming calls, texts, music, and directions on the V85’s TFT display. Cruise control is also standard on both models.
I found the controls to navigate the menus and the kill switch to be somewhat clumsy. While some of the technology included on the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT is expected these days, this model marks a massive leap into the modern era of rider electronics for the Italian brand.
For nearly 100 years, Moto Guzzi has been churning out motorcycles near the shores of Lake Como. The brand has lasted the test of time through wars, and varying ownership. The V85 TT could be the bike that ushers in a new future for Moto Guzzi. In fact, we were told to expect the platform to appear in the way of other new models in coming years.
All those loyal Guzzi fans surely can’t be wrong. There’s plenty of character to appreciate from any angle of the V85, from the transverse V-Twin engine protruding from either side to the ’80s styling of the Adventure model. The V85 TT delivers undeniable Moto Guzzi heritage while delivering a shot of modern performance and comfort we hope to continue seeing from the brand.
|2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Specifications|
|Engine Type||Longitudinally-mounted 90° V-Twin, two valves per cylinder (titanium intake).|
|Bore and stroke||84 mm x 77 mm|
|Maximum Power||80 hp at 7750 rpm (claimed)|
|Torque||59 lb-ft. at 5000 rpm (claimed)|
|Fuel System||Electronic injection; Ø 52 mm single throttle body, Ride-by-Wire|
|Fuel Capacity||5.5 gallons (including 1.3-gallon reserve)|
|Fuel Economy||48 mpg (claimed)|
|Clutch||Dry single disc|
|Frame||High strength steel tubular frame|
|Front Suspension||41 mm hydraulic telescopic USD fork, with adjustable spring preload and hydraulic rebound, 6.7 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension||Double-sided swingarm in box-type aluminum with a single shock on the right side, with adjustable spring preload and hydraulic rebound, 6.7 inches travel|
|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|
|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|
|Saddle Height||32.7 inches|
|Dry weight||459 pounds (claimed)|
|Curb weight||505 pounds (claimed)|
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