Reader's Rides: Brian Carpenters Moto Guzzi V85 TT
Often, our Reader’s Rides submissions consist of a sentence or two with a couple of cellphone photos. Imagine our pleasure when we read an actual article about a beloved motorcycle. Brian Carpenter is clearly smitten with his 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT. Join him on a pandemic distancing ride, won’t you?
As I write this story, a pandemic of great proportions is occurring. The COVID-19 virus is no fake news to take lightly. Currently, in the state of Florida, the bars and restaurants aren’t by law able to seat people. The only thing possibly keeping the mom and pop businesses afloat is their finances and carry out services. I could fill this article with numbers and such, but their inaccuracies are guaranteed by the time other eyes hit these words. A friend of mine that works in a marketing position for a company that’s whole business relies on community, is about to lay several workers off. I could very well be one who is laid off, unbeknownst to me, and the current economic state of my day job. Anyhow, this article I promise is about motorcycles I guarantee. One of those motorcycles in particular is my newly minted 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT. Hitting 1500 miles and taking a short trip to my favorite local brewery, I heeded the call to arms (with ‘puters) that Motorcycle.com threw out into the inter-webbed air and was eager to submit a few words. I unabashedly patronize this establishment for their fine hops, ambiance, and family-like atmosphere. I have on multiple occasions ridden up there, mostly to fill up my poor growler.
I’d, for a very long time, wanted a Moto Guzzi. I don’t know what my attraction was, but it was purely organic. I walked into a dealership around ten years ago (it doesn’t exist anymore) and checked out these amazing and quirky machines, not having an idea behind their origins or history. Their cylinders’ poked up into the air, but transverse to the ol’ American twin way. I at first sat atop a Nevada 750, the position was neutral, the way I liked, but the styling and engine size didn’t speak to me. I then peered over to a row of white California Vintages, with their screen (not a fan of the look, but understand they never really are that great to look at), hard bags, bull horn style bars and odd (to me at least) heel/toe shifter. This was the introduction to my Moto Guzzi fascination. The thought of an Italian Cruiser was novel to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love all motorbikes to the point of obsession, but Moto Guzzi had this magic ju-ju that just stuck with me throughout the years. In time I’d test ridden that California Vintage, owned another Italian brand, test ridden the newer Eldorado (and lusted over it), and finally, this V85 TT came out recently. Articles, upon articles, had intrigued me. I’m not necessarily one to follow with the rank and file and this bike would be no exception. The downside to most Moto Guzzi that I entertained (and I must admit the changing in my priorities), was the absence of one thing or another that just prevented me from ownership. Lack of the latest tech, undecided between the model line, undecided what I wanted at the time; I could name plenty more. However, this V85 TT (tutto terreno) or all-terrain, just checked off boxes (theoretically at this point) that I just had to take seriously.
I’m not one to go in blindly, becoming a motorcycle pragmatist of sorts, but sometimes you just take that gamble. Sure, you could get caught up in the weak dealer network, the response times in parts, the quirky niggles that come with owning an exotic (for these parts anyhow) boutique brand. However, being a softy at heart, I tend to fall in love with great stories. Such as, all Moto Guzzi’s are assembled by hand in one factory in Mandello de Lario, Italy. Located on the shores of one Clooney inhabited, or once inhabited, Lake Como. It’s easy to romanticize and I’d commend Moto Guzzi for sticking it out as one of the oldest – if not the oldest – continually to manufacture European Motorcycles. Generations upon generations of hard-working Italians have worked in this plant. I’m sure it instills in them some pride and that is the type of heritage to tip your hat to. The pilgrimage to its museum is a bucket list item this very day for me.
The V85 TT in Rosso Kalahari is unapologetically Italian, adorning the tank, fork covers, and side covers with the red, grey stripe, and white colors. The eagle brand’s symbol emblazoned with a kiss here and there. The Michelin Annakee tires with off-road spoked wheels say “hey, I can take you all sorts of places!” The trellis frame popping in that Rosso livery straddles the star of the show, the newly reconstructed 853cc air-cooled lump that is a stressed member. Moto Guzzi estimates horsepower at 80 bhp and torque at 60 lb-ft. Putting power to the pavement is shaft drive as is the case with all Guzzis. Even the twin eagle eye headlights, which I admit are polarizing, to say the least, are framed by their own trellis that operates as an adjustment point for the small screen provided. I cannot get over the coolness that is the daytime running light, an eagle. Yet, when you throw your leg over, and you must throw it if you have an inseam of 32” and below like mine, what you see is a delight of technology. Peering at the controls, they’re simple to understand (even if their application may not be as simple), immediately on the left-hand side, I see the cruise control module, a luxury that would be a first for me. When turning on, IL Passero, as I would call her, I am greeted by a flash of Moto Guzzi across the screen. MG ain’t playin’! The screen is thoughtfully laid out and easy to read at a glance, albeit small, speedometer is clear, an eagle outlined in blue, as is the theme for this menu so you better like blue. The bike does not necessarily shine on paper as far as the stats say. It is an experience to behold.
Since I’ve owned the Moto Guzzi V85 TT, I’ve had three recalls and a warranty repair. Unfortunately, a friend of mine noticed my skid plate or sump plate, wobbling at speed. It appeared the bolts had loosened and fallen out. Additionally, whilst dismounting the vehicle, the seat “butt” pad lifted right off at a gas station (also held in by bolted-washer-nut). Upon notification that the recall that recently came out this past winter, the clip holding the footpegs was proven to be faulty (recall item #1) and the differential was known to leak (recall item #2) on some models. Although asymptomatic, the latter was serviced and covered. The more worrisome of items was a small drip of oil that some dealerships (if oblivious or just in denial) would consider engine sweat, but proved to be a gasket leak. This item took about three weeks to arrive at the dealership. Since then, these items had been addressed and fixed. The loose nuts and bolts have been addressed by either nylock nuts or Loctite threads.
Beginning on my journey du jour, I reversed out of my single car garage, (luckily shared by two other bikes) by moving her back and then mounting the lockable side bags. The aluminum-stamped Moto Guzzi bags with plastic bumpers were an extremely good value in my opinion, being included in the $12,999 base price. I parked her diagonal in the driveway and let her warm-up a little.
Since purchase, I’d added engine guards, which were simple enough to mount, other than some odd angles underframe with the provided hardware. If you have a table lift you could cut the installation time by half. I almost immediately added a lower seat option, a ram mount for my cell phone, easily installed near a USB outlet (for power only) next to the TFT screen. For extra wind coverage I’d installed, the amazon special, a “spoiler” like extension to my windscreen, which at my height was giving me some wind buffeting. It does fine although getting just the right angle is an ongoing affair. I’m awaiting the funds to get the taller windscreen that is being provided in this upcoming year’s model.
Once underway, it’s extremely notable how pliable the engine power is. Being of an enduro stature, it’s suspension travel is a tick more than your average standard or street naked. Therefore, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for the novice of motorcyclists. Its road manners are superb, the only vibration you get is a pleasant one at idle/startup good enough to shake the cobwebs off. Once your speed of travel picks up (even in first gear) the smoothness is apparent. This shifter and clutch action is very smooth with a positive feel and provides confidence. It’s not vague or abrupt either, but precise. Kudos for Guzzi on this. The brakes, however, are one thing that leaves a little to be desired. They do a good job, but the pull on the front brake requires more of a firm squeeze to engage. Another note on controls, the turn signal cancellation is not a positive click when pushed in. In a matter of fact, by looks alone, you could not recognize by the eye where it is. One must look down to ensure or is paranoid that the indicator is on, to know that it’s off. Rolling along, the fun begins at around 5000 rpm and ends around 7500 rpm, torque is plentiful and enjoyable. The bike tips in easily, almost too easily, and can be ridden in corners aggressively and gracefully. It’s a performance bike, but maybe not in the traditional sense of speed. There are other machines for that. This is a bike of nuance. The engine has the nature of what one would associate with a turbine (much like boxer twins), and it’s apparent that the engineering over the 50 odd years of the transverse layout has resulted in a purposeful character.
I negotiated my local route, carving my way on what amounts to sweepers that I’d get a little too excited on. Over an intercoastal way, which is common for these Florida backroads close to the Atlantic Ocean. Another note on the tires, with a mix of on-road to off-road use, I’d give them a 70% on-road and 30% off-road rating, this machine is meant for light-duty off-road. If it weren’t for the weight, 500-ish pounds fully fueled, it could be a lot better suited for the more difficult adventure roads. As for now, I’ll stick to the underdeveloped lots of suburban sprawl and maybe a fire road or two. Other than that, this is a perfectly good tourer. Recently, I had the opportunity to ride down to Daytona for the first week of the festivities (all events were a “go” at that time) and after a whole day of riding machines that were of the café to sport to sports touring variety, I can unequivocally say it was a savior to these beaten up neck and wrists, to throw this bad boy into cruise and relax on the way home.
Transferring to a short bit of highway, it’s apparent that leisure is this machine’s game, full-on throttle blinding speed it is not. Being that it is a six-speed, one could rationalize making it a five-speed, because that’s where all the power lies. The bandwidth cuts out over 8000 rpm in sixth, and if one were to engage the cruise control, which is wonderful for my carpal tunnel wrists I must say, therein is the value. My other very small gripe here is that the cruise control has a delay in it, that is ever so slight where I’m just getting the hang of setting the precise speed. It’s a vague connection to the throttle of acceleration and deceleration. And the act of turning it on by pushing and holding the cruise control, having the light blink green (which happens to be the same color and very close to the turn signal), then engaging cruise control with another tap at speed, seems over-complicated and not a perfunctory exercise in the least. The fuel gauge is another pleasantry that I’m not used to but happy enough, the tank is meant for travel as being almost six gallons. This new Guzzi incorporates technology in three ride modes, street, rain, and off-road. It also has abs and traction control.
Upon my arrival at the brewery, it’s obvious the ergonomics of this bike are neutral and intended for long hours in the saddle. The suspension eats up craggy tarmac and the mirrors are indicative of the lack of vibration that gets to them. Some of the best mirrors, although the shape could be altered a little, that I’ve ever used. I dismounted the bike in a parking lot with nary a car, which is an absurdity in its own right on a Saturday; this lot would be filled to the max and cars would be parked across the (very busy) road. I entered the establishment and ordered my growler of Blood Drive, a mouth-watering hazy IPA that I’m in love with, and some beer cheese curds (lactose tolerant of my intolerance be damned!) to eat in the parking lot, none of which is new behavior to me. I thanked the barkeep and tossed them an extra tip just to say “thanks.” We need to come together as a community, individually to support these small businesses. Over time, I’m sure they will feel the squeeze of the Pandemic and the effects it has on our economy. So sure, get out there and support them and get back! Nurses, Doctors, Police, and Fire departments, along with essential employees are on the front line, let’s appreciate it and not make the problem bigger.
Last thought on ownership, since the services and repairs were performed, the Moto Guzzi has been my daily driver. Did I expect these issues early on? No. Was I surprised? No. Did Piaggio handle this correctly with the dealer network local to me? Yes, with the exception of shipping time. Would I buy again knowing all of this? Yes, I would and I’ll give my reasons. Knowing this bike’s uniqueness and the possibility of flawed finishing, I knew what I was getting into. Again, I use it as my daily driver, but I wouldn’t do so as my only bike. For personal tradition, I must at least have one bike from the Japanese four. The V85 TT, albeit agricultural and engineered for character that some would call “charm” has its downsides that are mostly supportive and structural (I defer to the network once more), is low on power and traditional performance indicators, has a few niggles and quirks in the operating system, it’s still an immensely pleasurable machine. It makes the daily rides that much more entertaining and engaging. And for me, the Moto Guzzi is so much more than a sum of all it’s parts.
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