Around this time last year, I found myself traipsing around the luxurious island of Sardinia, just a short hop off the western shores of Italy, sampling the charming scamp that is the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure. It is, like most offerings from Moto Guzzi, an entity unto itself, straddling several fences at once.
The whirlwind nature of press launches will often offer a thorough taste of a new bike, but not a complete one. Yet, my original assessment that the V85 TT is a significant leap forward for Guzzi as a brand stands firm. It’s an opinion that I feel needed to be revisited with a test in my own backyard to truly experience the full palette of flavors.
In a class of eminently capable middleweight adventure bikes, such as the BMW F 850 GS, Ducati Multistrada 950, KTM 790 Adventure, and Triumph Tiger 900, the V85 TT carves out a niche that no one even thought to consider. The adventure category is highly technical and modern, so, this vintage-styled machine instantly stands out. Beyond its retro appearance, the V85 TT Adventure has an unlikely amount of off-road chops that complement savvy street manners.
When first entrusted with a set of keys to the V85 TT Adventure, Guzzi staffers described their gallant new steed as boasting a “classic enduro travel” design motif. While it is reminiscent of the 650 TT entered in the 1986 Paris-Dakar Rally, the V 85 TT is an homage to those old rally racers, so I should curb any aspirations of tackling the dunes of Senegal immediately.
Dirt roads and double-wide trails on the way to your coastal camping spot with epic views, yes; last-bike-standing hard enduro, no. “Travel” is the operative word here, which can be interpreted as “touring” or in the V85 TT’s case, “sport touring.”
That’s all dandy and fair play to a manufacturer being honest about its product intended use. That assessment downplays this bike’s off-road ability, if we’re talking about real-world ADV riding. As it turns out, the V85 TT has some advantages that the competition doesn’t.
To begin, let’s home in on what is emanating all of that classic Moto Guzzi character—the 853cc air-cooled transverse V-twin. It is what makes a Guzzi a Guzzi, after all. And yet, the V85 TT marks a turning point for the brand, as it adds a level of refinement that hasn’t been seen before.
Chock-full of personality from the moment you hit the starter button, the 853cc engine rumbles to life with a burbling 2-into-1 exhaust that lets out a hearty note that never becomes overbearing. Thanks to new counterbalancing, the V85 TT delivers the revered Guzzi vibes, sans excessive shaking.
Cracking the throttle is smooth, tractable, and welcoming, offering the kind of performance that nearly anyone can settle into, with 80 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 59 ft-lbs of torque at 5000 rpm, according to the dyno at the factory in Mandello del Lario, Italy.
Once you’ve released the light clutch, you’ll be met with a satisfying amount of torque that leads a waltz into a potent midrange. Unlike Guzzis of the past, it doesn’t peter out when you keep it pinned—it will pull to the redline.
That newfound level of performance isn’t a coincidence; it’s the direct result of significant upgrades while utilizing similar architecture to the V7 III powerplant. The traditional pushrod valvetrain is still in play. New titanium intake valves, aluminum rods, revised roller tappets, a new low-profile piston, and a redesigned crankshaft are responsible for the complete change in character for this eagle-badged beast. You even get an oil-level window on the cases these days.
In a word, the V85 motor offers a gentlemanly amount of performance, revving up with urgency, but not too frantic. It will punch a hole in traffic instantly and see you using all of the delicious torque to lunge out of corners in the canyons, without making your hair gray out prematurely. This is what a street bike should be, and it doesn’t boast triple-digit horsepower figures that can make riding off-road a wheelspin-inducing mess.
The phrase ‘refinement’ crops up again with the final drive thanks to flexible coupling between the gearbox and driveshaft. It’s the only motorcycle in its class to utilize it, but Moto Guzzi engineers have managed to rid it of nearly all the driveline lash that is commonly present on shaft-drive machines.
Now, when you’re banging through the slick six-speed transmission, you won’t be met with kick-back. Without the flexible coupling, you’d be left with a final drive that’s prone to unsettling the chassis when ridden aggressively, and that isn’t the case here—not one bit.
While the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT dons a vintage aesthetic, it turns to modernity for its modest electronics package, which relies on preset values and wheel-speed sensors, as opposed to costlier, lean-angle-detecting IMUs. It is replete with ABS, traction control, and riding modes, as any bike with this MSRP should have.
Owners will be able to choose between three preset riding modes—Road, Rain, and Off-road. Road mode has the crispest throttle response, accompanied by the most lenient ABS and traction control settings. Rain mode has the most subdued throttle whilst cranking up all safety features.
Meanwhile, Off-road mode features a dirt-friendly throttle map, designed to help you cope riding in uneven terrain. Off-road mode kills ABS in the rear only and uses a TC map that allows a nod-worthy amount of slip before subtly cutting power. TC can be completely disabled, if need be. Changes are made via the same TFT display used by other Piaggio-owned brands.
When exploring those wide fire roads, you’ll be able to whack the throttle open and let the backend hang out a respectable amount before the off-road TC reins in the party. In a tight trail section, you’ll also be able to goose the throttle and easily get the bike pointed in the direction you want.
Still, I’d recommend disabling TC altogether as the engine is so tractable, it almost isn’t needed. Turning TC off will also help if you need to get up a tricky little climb where you might be spinning up the rear, prematurely triggering intervention and interrupting your drive. Remember, this aspect of traction control will be influenced by the amount of grip your tires offer on the trail.
ABS in the front cannot be disabled in, even in the Off-road mode, which in most situations will be an advantage. When making your way down descents, it’s always good to have ABS there to ensure that you don’t lock the front wheel and can lean on it a bit. In certain situations, I’d like a little more leniency before it engages. On pavement, the ABS works perfectly well.
Thanks to ample geometry figures that bode well on and off-road, the generous 60.2-inch wheelbase and relaxed 28 degrees of rake encourages impressive stability. The V85 TT tips into corners gently, requiring little effort from the rider. One can sit atop the plush seat, enjoy the spacious cockpit and wide handlebars, telepathically voicing your intentions, letting it sort everything out through the corner. Even when the need to carve up the corners as if you’re one of the sportbike lads does arise, the V85 TT abides.
As a cost-savings measure, the V85 TT uses budget KYB suspension repurposed from the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900. The 41mm fork features spring-preload and compression-damping adjustment, while the shock allows the same kind of tailoring. The suspension is damped enough to keep a sporting pace on the street, while chomping down on everything it comes across.
The spring and damping rates certainly seem to favor on-road use, and once I managed to do a bit more adventuring on home turf, I discovered that the KYB suspension is quite capable of completing an off-the-grid mission.
It seems counterintuitive, but one just needs to ramp up the pace and let the suspension get into the meat of the 6.7 inches of travel. Those initial hits are felt a bit more than suspension setup with off-road use as a priority. In either role, the suspension keeps the bike balanced.
Don’t feel the need to shy away from hopping off a whoop or two while riding off the pavement. Importantly, the chassis doesn’t deflect off small ruts or ruts and make the rider uneasy, most likely as a side effect of its mass.
Equipped with 19 and 17-inch wire-spoke wheels, the Guzzi strikes the right balance between street and off-road capability. The 19-inch gives some leeway while playing in the dirt, but doesn’t compromise its handling when on the asphalt as a 21-inch wheel would. Sure, a 21-inch wheel would be better off-road, but the taller wheel and narrower tire would make the bike less comfortable on the edge of the tire in the street in exchange for off-road abilities that don’t serve its overall purpose.
Michelin Anakee Adventure rubber is mounted on the rims. We do need to note the use of tubes, even though these are tubeless tires. That’s because these wire-spoke rims won’t hold air on their own.
At 505 pounds wet, the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure is comparable to the middleweight ADV machines, and it is equipped with a massive 6.1-gallon fuel tank, making 200+ miles in one sitting easily achievable. Still, its center of gravity is quite low, as it is one of the lower-slung adventure motorcycles on the market, and this is where the V85 TT truly carves out its niche.
The downright comfy seat has a height of 32.6-inches (31.9 or 33.5 inches with optional seats), which makes it easy for my 32-inch inseam to reach the deck. When paddling along a difficult trail or in soft terrain, it’s a massive help to be able to get boots on the ground to stabilize yourself. On taller ADV bikes, I struggle with that quite a bit, and this gives the V85 TT a noticeable advantage when off-road, especially in sand.
There’s always a trade-off in the two-wheeled world, and with the 19-inch wheel, along with the lower chassis, you’ll have reduced ground clearance in comparison to other ADV bikes. It’s something to bear in mind when on the trail, though there is a bash guard to protect the V85 TT Adventure’s exhaust.
Where the competition takes it a step further is the inclusion of other forms of crash protection. With the jugs of the transverse V-twin poking out of the sides, I am more conscientious of what I’m doing in the dirt—I don’t want to tip over and damage the engine. Those looking to cake their headers in mud will want the optional Sport Adventure Pack, which offers protection for the exposed cylinders. Oh, and that package includes Öhlins suspension and a titanium muffler.
On the street, riders need to be conscious of their foot placement, as you’ll be scrubbing the footpegs when the pace picks up and the lean angles increase. Trust me, it’s not going to stop you from having fun—just consider the footpegs to be knee pucks for the lazy.
Four-piston Brembo calipers handle braking with 320mm rotors in the front. In the rear, a dual-piston caliper grabs on a 260mm caliper. Feel at the level is good, with ample stopping power. However, the brake pedal has more play than I’d like, and it is tough to modulate while standing. It does work much better while seated, highlighting the street bias.
The V85 TT Adventure comes standard with panniers and a top case for all of your touring needs with a massive amount of storage space. They are installed and removed easily enough. Conveniently, you can comfortably stash a single full-face helmet in the top case. My singular gripe with the cases is that there is a separate key for the top case and panniers.
There is no doubt in my mind that the competition in the middleweight ADV class has a higher off-road performance ceiling—this doesn’t fill the same role as the KTM 790 Adventure R or Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro. However, adventure bike ownership can be boiled down thusly; most will only ride on the street, some will do light off-roading, and a precious few will be serious about it.
The V85 TT Adventure is entirely capable of completing the type of off-roading that most adventure riders will be doing in their careers. The other machines, again, are going to be better at it, but this is where the touring potential bubbles through. So, pack those panniers full of camping gear, and toss a dart at the map with a mind to hit the road and trail. If you want something undeniably unique, the 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure is worth a test ride.
Action photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Defiant-X
- Jacket: Spidi Garage
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Spidi J-Tracker
- Boots: TCX X-Blend WP
2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure Specs
- Type: Transverse 90-degree V-twin w/ longitudinal crankshaft
- 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 w/ tubes
- Front wheel: 19 x 2.50
- Rear wheel: 17 x 4.25
- Tires: 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
- Rosso Kalahari
- Giallo Sahara
- 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure Price: $12,990 MSRP
2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Adventure Photo Gallery