Though pleasant to ride, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio did not exactly capture the South African adventure biking scene, before the previous distributor closed shop. Now Guzzi is back, under the stewardship of IMI, and they brought the new shaft-driven V85 TT with them. Story by Uzair Abdul-Karrim.
The V85 TT is Moto Guzzi’s second foray into the adventure biking market, after the Stelvio. If you’re wondering, TT stands for Tutto Terreno, Italian for “all terrain”. In contrast to to the modern design of the Stelvio, Moto Guzzi used a different approach to the V85 TT. In fact, when you see the bike in the metal, you realise Guzzi has taken a different design approach to pretty much anyone else.
Classic, retro, or neither?
It looks like an 80s Dakar rally tribute, especially in the white, red and yellow colours worn by the test bike. But it doesn’t look earnestly old like a Triumph Bonneville. Nor does it look like a retro mod Ducati Scrambler or BMW RnineT. It somehow manages to look classic, but also like nothing that’s come before it. Also, I wouldn’t call it a pretty motorcycle, and I’m not even sure about how attractive it is at all. What this design does have going for it, is that it’s legitimately interesting, to bikers and non-bikers alike. Just for that, I’d have to say that the design is a job well done, because the V85TT is genuinely an eye-catching bike.
So, in terms of specifications, let’s start with the motor, as I’ve always found this to be the most standout feature (get it?) of the Moto Guzzi brand. As with any other Guzzi, the V85 TT has a transverse v-twin configuration, unique in today’s market. The motor is an all-new 853cc unit that the bike was reportedly designed around. The engine specs are not overwhelming. It has an overhead valve (OHV) push-rod set-up with two valves per cylinder, and cooling by air. The outputs of 80hp (59kW) and 80Nm of torque don’t sound particularly stellar in the year 2020, especially for a middle-weight ADV motorcycle. However, as I will later explain, these specs mean very little on this motorcycle.
Brakes and electronics
While the engine may seem a little old fashioned, the rest of the bike makes up for it, with it having as much tech as one would expect of a new premium motorcycle. The radially mounted four-piston dual callipers on 320mm discs up front and twin piston rear calliper on a 260mm disc are both Brembo units. They come equipped with ABS which is switchable at the rear. The V85 TT also comes as standard with traction control and rider modes, developed with acclaimed Aprilia electronics. The traction control is switchable, and, while the V85 TT does not have an IMU (inertial measurement unit) for lean-sensitive ABS or traction control, the bike never feels like it needs it. All the electronics can be easily controlled through the TFT instrument panel and a toggle switch on the left handle bar. The rider modes – road, rain and off-road – are changed using the starter button, and this can be done on the fly.
The suspension is taken care of by Kayaba, with 41mm upside down forks up front and a cantilevered rear mono-shock with a dual rate spring. While Kayaba may not be the most premium name in suspension, the springage at both ends works well enough that you forget about what brand they are pretty quickly. The suspension at both ends have 6.7 inches (17cm) of travel, which shows that this is more than just a tough-looking street bike. Another clue to that is the 19 inch front wheel, which allows for off road capability without sacrificing much for tarmac manners.
There is no standard centre stand, although it is available as a cost option. The other omission that I couldn’t help notice, was the lack of standard heated grips. I probably wouldn’t have mentioned this, but conditions on the ride were bad enough to feel the need for warm palms. These are available as a cost option, and they will be standard equipment on the forthcoming V85 TT Travel edition. With the specs out the way, you can pretty much forget them, for this bike is not at all about that. Yes, empirically, the specs matter, but once you start riding, they sort of fade away, and more so than with other motorcycles.
The engine feels pretty special from the moment you start it. It has a characteristic transverse V configuration vibiness, and pulls slightly to the right when you pull throttle, much like a BMW boxer motor. At low revs it even sounds a bit like a boxer, but at full throttle through the revs, it has a deep roar that only a V-twin can muster, and it’s an addictive noise. As mentioned, there’s some vibration, which is often a bad thing on motorcycles. But on this one it translates to a lazy, comforting, and reassuring rumble that constantly reminds the rider he’s sitting on a special piece of equipment.
The flat torque curve means the bike pulls from what feels like no revs at all, making town riding a breeze. That 80hp power figure on a 230kg machine sounds underwhelming. So, I was expecting it to be a bit of a donkey, but I was wrong. It’s not a fast motorcycle, but it always feels peppy. The power is exploitable, and that makes it fun, as you can really wring its neck and it rewards the rider by being exciting in a really unintimidating way. The gearbox is fantastic too, although the shift action is a bit heavy because of the shaft drive.
The steering is much lighter than expected, feeling almost motard like as you slip through traffic and tackle tight city corners. At high speed on the highway the handling is stable, with good feel from the front end through faster corners, although the highway is not where the Guzzi is most at home. For longer tours a taller screen would help a fair deal, and the 23-litre tank means you have a range that few bikes in this class can match.
Where the V85 TT really comes to life is on back roads and through mountain passes. You just ride the wave of torque, and keeping momentum is made so easy by the surefooted handling. The turn-in is predictable, although if you get straight off a 21” front wheel adventure bike, it feels positive and sharp. The sharp(ish) handling and the muscular low-down power makes it feel more like a street fighter than a dirt-capable adventure bike. All in all, the road manners engage the rider when pushing hard, but the ride is relaxed enough for longer stints, with that flat scrambler-esque seat being way more comfy than it looks.
Testing the V85 TT
The weekend we tested the bike had a host of weather conditions, from brilliant to terrible. It was great for testing the full capabilities of the bike, but not the most pleasant to endure, at times. Usually, the roads around Dullstroom are a pleasure to ride, but not when there’s heavy rain, dense fog and strong crosswinds. To the Guzzi’s credit, it did not falter once, lending complete confidence to carry on through these adverse conditions.
The standard-fitment Michelin Anakee Adventure tyres performed well on road, giving superb grip in the dry, and good feel in the wet too. They did not, however, stand up very well to (gulp!) mud. On the more solid section of the dirt, and over some rocky bits, the bike felt great. The suspension took all the punishment, and that torquey motor pulled me along with ease. The mud was where the V85 TT drew its line in the sand – well, in the mud. The mud puddles proved just a bit too much for the bike to handle. What actually let it down were the tyres, and with a proper set of knobblies the V85 TT would have easily cleared these obstacles. It’s no enduro bike, but it will definitely handle more than graded dirt roads.
The V85 TT is just so easy-going that it will do whatever you ask of it, but always in its own relaxed manner. It doesn’t excel in any specific area, and that’s due to it’s lack of outright focus, unlike so many motorcycles today. The V85 TT doesn’t seem like its been designed with any other motorcycle as a competitor in mind. It seems the folks at Moto Guzzi simply sat down with the intention of building an extremely stylish and capable universal machine, built to the highest level of quality.
The V85 TT feels genuinely content with being itself, without pretence of sportiness or extreme off-roadiness, and that is its appeal. It is just a big, friendly and slightly odd motorcycle, which sticks to the basics, but covers them all so very well.
Specifications of the Moto Guzzi V85 TT (2020)
Engine 853 cc, air-cooled, transverse v-twin, 4-stroke
Transmission 6-speed, shaft-drive
Power 59 kW at 7 750 rpm
Torque 80 Nm at 5 000 rpm
Weight 208 dry, 229 kg wet
Seat height 830 mm
Wheels 19” front and 17” rear, with steel spokes and tubes
Fuel tank 23 litres
Consumption 4.9 litres/100km (claimed)
Warranty 3 years or 60 000 km
Price R225 000
More info here https://italianmi.co.za/moto-guzzi-2/v85tt