2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure and V85 TT Test: Tectonic Shift
A stone’s throw away from the shores of Lake Como sits Moto Guzzi’s Mandello del Lario factory. Encapsulated by the mighty Dolomites mountain range, Guzzi’s facilities are a direct link to the past; the factory has stood at that location since 1921.
It has been revised and renovated, but many portions of the facility remain unsullied by the call of modernity. Quite literally, every single Moto Guzzi motorcycle produced over the last 98 years has been manufactured there. It is a feat that few manufacturers can claim, and history that just cannot be imitated or bought—it must be lived.Those deep connections to the past define Moto Guzzi as a brand. In a modern context, one could say that Guzzis look the way they feel—they are unabashedly classic, bold, unique, and have avoided over-refinement. It isn’t a marketing ploy—Guzzi engineers and aficionados wear it like a badge of honor by acknowledging history is undeniably etched into every Guzzi, making up its definitive character.
Over the years, the Eagle Brand has pivoted precious few times. Initially, the Italian motorcycle makers heard the siren call of the checkered flag and embarked on decades of racing, including building a legendary V8 powerplant for GP competition. It was foundational to promoting a name untested by time.
By the end of the 1950s, the leather helmets were put in the chest, and the brand began focusing on producing competent, authentic roadsters, cruisers, and touring machines—motorcycles for the everyday rider. In 1967, Moto Guzzi embraced the iconic transverse-mounted V-twin with the longitudinal crankshaft. Today, this is how the brand is recognized by many.
However, racing never entirely left Moto Guzzi’s gaze; the V65 and V75 Baja motorcycles participated in the Paris-Dakar Rally. This is why the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure and V85 TT are so remarkable; we may be witnessing yet another tectonic shift for the brand.In the North American market, we’ll be seeing two models of the V85. They’re mechanically identical, aside from the tire choice, top case, panniers, and color options. The V85 TT comes equipped with well-crafted luggage in the form of a top case and panniers and off-road minded Michelin Anakee tires, giving a decent nod in the direction of adventure touring. Also, you’ll have your choice two attention-grabbing color options with the V85 TT Adventure.
The standard V85 TT, available only in gray, ditches the luggage and sees them presented as an option and uses street-biased Metzeler Tourance Next tires. Tires, bags, and colors don’t seem like much, but the tire choices do have an impact on handling, and we’ll get to that later.
Dabbling in the ADV world isn’t something unfamiliar to Lake Como adjacent folk. The Stelvio 1200 was its heavyweight adventure platform that kept one of Moto Guzzi’s boots in the segment’s door. With Euro4 regulations looming, the big air-cooled V-twin was deemed too costly to continue rolling forward and was terminated.
The V85 TT’s all-new air-cooled 853cc transverse V-twin powerplant elevates the status of the brand with a never before achieved level of refinement, while miraculously retaining the familiar soul inherent to all that is Guzzi.
Hitting the ignition button in the cool Sardinian morning sun, I was met with a welcoming, almost comforting burble spat out from the 2-into-1 exhaust and the side-to-side vibration pull that only a longitudinal crankshaft can offer. Twisting the throttle is another story entirely—the power comes online a few hundred rpm after idle, allowing riders to pull from the depths of the powerband to the peaks of 80 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 59 ft/lbs of torque at 5000 rpm. You’ll feel the solid punch that is the mid-range and carry it—uncharacteristically, I might add—all the way to the redline, with none of the roughness or vibration that previous Guzzi engines would have expressed when pushed hard. It is smooth, with just enough of the Moto Guzzi rustic charm left on the palette.
The power on tap is one of those Goldilocks moments in life—not too much, not too little. It has enough pull to keep you wide-eyed and capture the gaze of the local authorities, though it isn’t something that stresses the chassis and introduces instability. The performance strikes a balance with the rest of the machine in a symbiotic way.
When the prototype for the V85 TT machines dropped at EICMA 2017, many of us, including me, assumed that this was powered by a repurposed V7 III engine. I was wrong, and I’m glad that I was. To help influence my grandiose gesture of humility, engineers used a similar architecture to what’s found in the V7 III, with brand hallmarks such as the pushrod valvetrain. But, to seize higher performance and sophistication, engineers had to go further.
To that end, the engine has been imbued with titanium intake valves, aluminum rods, and revised roller tappets, which are part of why the dyno numbers are significantly higher than what the V7 III lineup can claim. Accompanying those upgrades is a new low-profile piston and the all-important revamped crankshaft that has a couple of critical side effects.
The first is an outright weight saving. The second is an increase to the rev limit, as the V85 powertrain doesn’t seem to stop pulling. The culmination of all these technological steps forward gives us that buttery smooth personality that riders will surely enjoy. Hell, there’s even a newfangled sight glass to check your oil.
The Stelvio battled with weight issues during its life, so the V85 TT platform has been working hard to avoid the same burden. Claiming a curb weight of 505 pounds, the V85 is lighter than the Stelvio by nearly 100 pounds. To do that, the steel-trellis frame now relies on the stiffened crankcase as a stressed member, which has given engineers the opportunity to toss the lower cradle-arms by the wayside.
The non-shaft side of the swingarm mounts directly to the engine, again eliminating excess frame tubing. The new V85 motor still has a stocky figure that is commonplace on transverse motors, but it looks tighter, thanks to the lowered cylinder heads and sump. Both have been whittled down to keep the rider’s legs from conflicting with the heads and improve ground clearance.
Its six-speed transmission deserves commendations, too, as this is yet another point of pride for the staff at Mandello del Lario. Previous Moto Guzzis that I’ve used have always had stiff, chunky transmissions. They weren’t bad, by any means, and felt matched to the old-school motif. However, they weren’t anywhere near what we have here. The snickity, sportbike-esque transmission didn’t offer up a single false neutral during my unrestricted walloping while exploring the island of Sardinia.
That transmission is impressive, sure, but what is far more important to acknowledge is the dramatically reduced driveline lash. Shaft drive has clear advantages in reducing maintenance when compared to a chain final drive. For riders that plan on making their odometer spin like a Vegas slot machine, that’s a huge selling point.
In addition to more weight, the downside to shaft drives is that they can often kick back and unsettle the chassis when shifting, especially when riding hard. It’s a trait that makes me prefer finicky chain drives, yet this is one shaft that I won’t look down my nose at.
Engineers introduced something that they describe as a “flexible coupling” between the transmission and shaft drive. In every gear, the results are felt, and it is an improvement over the V7 III, V9 III, and touring models that I have ridden.
As the electronic icing to the V85 TT cake, we’re also seeing a full-suite of rider aides come into play including three riding modes, cruise control, as well as adjustable ABS, and traction control. Unlike other Piaggio Group motorcycles that use sophisticated IMU-supported lean-angle detection systems, the V85 platform relies on basic wheel-speed sensors, yet does admirably for its application. Could they use those systems? Of course, any bike could. Does it need it? Probably not.
Rider modes come in the form of Road, Rain, and Off-Road. Each mode reflects preset levels of ABS and TC intervention to match its application. Road mode offers up the mode direct throttle response, taking a peek into the sport realm while making sure to avoid any of the snatchiness that can come with it. It’s also the most unrestricted in terms of intervention.Rain has a soft throttle response and is accompanied by more proactive levels of electronic intervention, as you’d want when riding in low-grip riding situations. If you’re too eager on the throttle, the TC will engage and cut power expectedly.
Off-Road mode’s throttle is a middle ground, designed to help riders modulate power when getting bounced around in the saddle. ABS is disabled for the rear wheel, while an off-road specific TC map allows a certain amount of slip, letting riders steer with the rear to a limited degree. One can’t merely light it up and make their best Dakar racer impression, but it gives you a decent amount of leeway.
My only complaint with the electronic package is that it lacks a programmable user mode. Combining throttle responses and levels of intervention can be a great help when finding something that works for you as an individual.
Let’s get back to the tectonic shift that I mentioned earlier. Improvements like these make me consider the motives of Moto Guzzi. In 2019, small motorcycle manufacturers are reluctant to spend millions of dollars in R&D to build a new engine and only use it in one model—the engine needs to be put in as many models as possible to be financially sound. The motorcycles in the V7 III line are practically begging for this motor, for instance.From that perspective of speculation, it’s clear that Moto Guzzi has kept secrets. There was no indication that something as different as the V85 was ever going to happen until the prototype appeared and, yet, here we are. Scramblers? Sport tourers? Bobbers? It could be a move that is lockstep with Triumph and its modern Bonneville platform. The V85 may represent Moto Guzzi drawing the action back, and we’ll have to wait to see if they take the shot.
Staffers with the Italian brand have dubbed the V85 TT motorcycles Classic Travel Enduro, which is somewhat of an ambiguous term until you ride one. The emphasis for me is travel – making handling and comfort other high-points for the two motorcycles. In terms of performance, we’re looking at something firmly planted in the adventure-touring class.
When it comes down to the numbers, we don’t see anything that I’d consider out of place for the class with the all-new trellis frame and swingarm. An ample 60.2-inch wheelbase and relaxed 28-degree rake give the V85s a wide stance while out and about, but it’s an important thing to note as this is where the story of stability begins.
The V85 TTs are gluttons for abuse in the canyons, ready to put their head down and give the leather-clad Power Ranger lads a bit of a go in the curvy stuff. Each machine likes some direction, and once you’ve got that set, the motorcycles carry their line beautifully through the corners—until you’re twisting the grip with reckless abandon once again. There is no doubt about it; the V85s can carve the road up.It’s difficult to upset the chassis, which might come as a surprise to some given that Moto Guzzi is using what could be bluntly described as budget KYB suspension components. It’s the same 41mm fork, with adjustable spring-preload and compression damping, found on the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900. The shock features the same amount of adjustability—in either case, we’re missing compression rebound adjustment. Suspension travel is a nod-worthy 6.7 inches, designed to give you a little more room to play with off-road.
Moto Guzzi could have thrown in Showa, or even pricier Öhlins components, and they would have been just dandy. It also would have driven the cost up. What we’re left with is suspension that does a more than decent job of keeping the V85 TT on the straight and narrow. Perhaps you don’t need gilded suspension every time around, eh? Save for rough asphalt or big compression bumps, it’s hard to get anything negative sent through the chassis.
Taller statured ADV bikes can be susceptible to dive or wallowing. Their softer setups, combined with the weight being distributed much higher can be a challenge for any bike. Even with the sizeable six-gallon fuel tank atop the V85 TT, the suspension deals with the ills of ADV geometry well. It doesn’t behave like a rocking horse or handle as if it were a tuna boat on rough seas; getting on the gas or brakes is predictable. If the suspension settings are a bit soft for your liking, you can still crank them up a bit. I would have liked a bit more rebound damping, but we’re limited in that regard.
Now, thanks to all those positive attributes when it comes to handling and suspension, it does mean that you’ll be quickly lured into the prospect of spirited riding. The V85s are more than up to the task, though you might be finding the footpegs in the process. It isn’t a hindrance, and they do fold up, but in truth, most adventure touring machines can be observed doing the same.
More comfortable ergonomics mean that the foot pegs are lowered to increase legroom—ergo, things grind earlier than a superbike. If you want to push it, be conscientious of your foot placement and be comfortable with dragging pegs. In truth, you’ll probably run out of tire before you find hard parts and lift the wheel.
The choice of tires will have a subtle impact on how the V85 TT Adventure steers. With the blocky Michelin Anakee tires in play, the V85 TT is slightly more subdued on turn in when compared directly to the standard V85, which uses street-centric the Metzeler Tourance Next rubber. The more streetable tire increases the turn-in rate a bit, although, I’d personally keep the Michelins, so a trail isn’t a hindrance.Moto Guzzi has been crystal clear with the V85 TT’s off-road potential and light off-road use is what you should expect to do. I did what could be considered light off-road and went for a casual stroll through some friendly fire roads. It was an extremely short jaunt through the dirt, but it did highlight that the V85s are more than capable of hitting a fire road or dirt road, as well as deal with rocks and sand with some competency. The wire-spoked 19-/17-inch wheels are there to conquer the adversities of the trail, and the wheelset is a good compromise when it comes to the dual roles of street and off-road riding.
If they had opted for a taller 21-inch front wheel, the V85s wouldn’t handle nearly as well on the street, which is easily one of the model’s greatest strengths. The point is, if you need to go down a small trail to get to your campsite, you’ll be well-equipped, especially with things like the standard bash-guard to keep the engine protected.
I should also note that the construction of the wire-spoke wheels requires you to run an inner tube, even though the tires are tubeless. Tubes add a little weight, although dealing with a tube getting a pinch flat vs. trying to reseat a tubeless tire that’s blown off the bead has some advantages. However, plugging a puncture is far easier than patching a tube.
Equipped with dual four-piston Brembo calipers and 320mm floating rotors, the front brakes offer quite a bit of feel and stopping power. In the rear, a single two-piston caliper clamps onto a 260mm rotor with feeling that’s softer than the front. Although not ideal for spirited street riding, it helps when in low grip situations, letting you modulate the rear brake carefully.When it comes to getting the V85 TT slowed down, you’ll be in good company with the four-piston Brembo calipers and 320mm floating rotors up front. Feel at the adjustable lever is good, offering plenty of power to get the job done. In the rear, a two-piston working with a 260mm rotor picks up the slack with attributes that are softer than the front. On the street, it isn’t my first choice when the pace picks up. However, in low-grip environments, it remains easy to modulate and you’re less likely to lock it up.
Ergonomics are another high point, too. You’ll be met with a comfortable, neutral riding position and a wide set of riser handlebars—great for putting the bike exactly where you want it. The 32.6-inch seat height is on the lower end of the spectrum when compared to most gargantuan ADV motorcycles, and this might be the only middleweight or heavyweight ADV bike that will allow my 32-inch inseam to get boots on the ground, mostly because of the narrow chassis. There’s also a high and low seat option (0.8 inches in each direction).
The non-adjustable windscreen seems like it would direct air directly at the middle of my head and yet, I didn’t experience any discernable head-bobbling from poor aerodynamics. When at excessive speeds, I did feel the wind, but that’s an outlier.
Rounding out the accouterments is an easily readable, full-color TFT display, lifted directly from the top-of-the-line Aprilias. The interface is easy to get the hang of and with some curious prodding at the controls, you’ll eventually get it. The controls themselves are simplistic in design and similar, if not the same, as the controls found on other Guzzis.
Of course, there are a host of items meant to accessorize your new Italian machine. This time around it’s notable in that these additions serve both form and function, instead of style alone. Additions such as panniers, the tall windscreen, and heated grips are items that urban minded riders might be wanting to throw in at the point of purchase. Those who have more ADV in their blood will most likely want to invest in crash bars that protect the cylinder heads. If you are going to spend some time on the trails, impact protection is a wise investment.In 24 steps and every eight minutes, a V85 TT Adventure or V85 TT will be born from the Mandello del Lario plant. The modernized assembly line calmly and methodically rolls new Moto Guzzi’s out for the world to see. The V85 TT platform has an impressive resume and not one that is overly burdensome on the consumer.
For the price—$12,990 for the Adventure, a grand less for the standard V85 TT— you’re getting motorcycles that have serious street ability, whether that be fun, commuting, or long distance chops. To keep the market on its toes, the V85 TT is happy to get some dirt under its fingernails, all the while being still being undeniably Moto Guzzi.
- Helmet: Arai Defiant X
- Jacket: Spidi Metropole
- Gloves: Spidi Bora H2Out
- Jeans: Spidi J&Dyneema
- Boots: TCX Hero WP
2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Specs
- Type: Transverse 90-degree V-twin w/ longitudinal crank
- Displacement: 853cc
- Bore x stroke: 84 x 77mm
- Maximum power: 80 horsepower @ 7750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 59 ft/lbs @ 5000 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.5:1
- Valvetrain: Pushrod-actuated 2vpc
- Fueling: EFI w/ 52mm throttle body
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Dry single disc
- Final drive: Shaft
- Frame: Tubular steel
- Front suspension; travel: Spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable inverted
- 41mm KYB fork; 6.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-free spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable
- KYB shock; 6.7 inches
- Wheels: Wire spoke
- Front wheel: 2.50 x 19
- Rear wheel: 4.25 x 17
- Tires: Metzeler Tourance Next (V85 TT Adventure: Michelin Anakee Adventure)
- Front tire: 110/80 x 19
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 17
- Front brakes: 320mm discs w/ radially mounted Brembo 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 260mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper
- ABS: Standard; defeatable
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 60.2 inches
- Rake: 28 degrees
- Trail: 5.0 inches
- Seat height: 32.7 inches (31.9 inches or 33.5 inches w/ optional seats)
- Ground clearance: 8.2 inches
- Fuel capacity: 6.1 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 48 mpg
- Curb weight: 505 pounds
- 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT: Grigio Atacama2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure: Rosso Kalahari; Giallo Sahara
- 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT: $11,990 MSRP
- 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure: $12,990 MSRP