2019 Moto Guzzi V85 TT

First Ride Review

Moto Guzzi’s new retro-themed V85 TT–as in Tutto Terreno, or all-terrain–is part adventure tourer, part streetfighter and part street scrambler. It’s the opening shot in a barrage of forthcoming new midsize models using its all-new air-cooled, 853cc, 90-degree longitudinal V-twin pushrod engine. There’s nothing else quite like the V85 TT in the marketplace, and designer Mirko Zocco deserves praise for producing a bike with unique styling that’s as fresh to look at as it’s fun to ride. The chance to spend a 120-mile day in sunny Sardinia riding it on the hilly, switchback roads of Italy’s second largest island, underlined what a significant model this is for Italy’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer.

Available in three different color schemes for the U.S., with the gray tint/black frame, the bike costs $11,990 fitted with tarmac-friendly Metzeler Tourance Next tires. You’ll need $1,000 more for the red/yellow or red/white versions, each with red-painted frame, carrying more off-road-focused Michelin Anakee Adventure rubber. Both variants come with a 19-inch front wire wheel with aluminum rim and 17-inch rear.

With a bore and stroke of 84 x 77mm, the V85 TT’s motor produces a claimed 80 horsepower at 7,750 rpm, alongside 59 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, claims Guzzi, with 90-percent of that torque available at just 3,750 rpm. At the other end of the rev scale is a 7,800-rpm limiter, making this the most high-revving Guzzi OHV motor, despite being a two-valve design (rather than a four-valver) in keeping with the model’s traditional focus and retro-inspired styling.

Guzzi engineers have delivered an ultra-flexible power unit that’s more responsive than previous such engines, with reduced inertia. It has achieved this via a semi-dry sump design with the oil tank positioned in the lower crankcase half with twin oil pumps. This reduces oil drag on the crankshaft assembly which, with lighter conrods and pistons, weighs 30-percent less than previous Guzzi small-block motors, resulting in more zestful pickup from lower revs.

That’s aided by using titanium for the large 42.5mm intake valve while retaining a 35.5mm steel exhaust valve in each cylinder head, operated by aluminum pushrods with roller tappets, resulting in a lighter and also quieter operation of the valve gear–there’s none of the top-end rattles of previous Guzzi OHV motors. Partially aimed at decreasing fuel consumption–Guzzi claims a frugal 48 mpg, which with a six-gallon fuel tank delivers a 250-plus mile range–there’s just a single 52mm throttle body controlled by a Magneti Marelli ECU, with RBW digital throttle offering three different riding modes–Road, Rain and Off Road. Each delivers full engine power but with a different throttle response via altered engine mapping, plus variable engine braking settings, and diverse calibration for the Continental ABS and switchable MGCT traction control. Power is transmitted via an all-new six-speed gearbox coupled to a revised single-plate clutch in a redesigned housing, giving increased ground clearance.

Guzzi’s new small-block motor is wrapped in a tubular steel chassis using the engine as a fully stressed component. This removes the need for a lower frame cradle, thus reducing weight while also increasing engine ground clearance to a useful 8.3 inches for off-road riding, with the engine protected by an aluminum sump guard. The more compact new engine’s shorter length permits a long asymmetric cast aluminum swingarm delivering a rangy 60.2-inch wheelbase, the curved left arm of which permits the 2-1 exhaust’s oval-section silencer to be tucked in tight, with the V85 TT’s shaft final drive housed in the right arm.

Suspension is by Kayaba, with the 41mm fork set at a relaxed 28 degrees of rake with 5.0 inches of trail matched to a cantilever rear single shock offset to the right with a dual-rate spring. Suspension stroke front and rear is a generous 6.7 inches, and both fork and shock are adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping. Braking comes from Brembo via twin 320mm front discs with radial four-piston calipers, and a 260mm rear disc with two-pot caliper. Dry weight is quoted as 459 pounds. Zocco’s distinctive neo-Classic enduro styling sets this all off, complete with a short screen that isn’t adjustable for height. The 1980s-style twin round LED headlamps are ingeniously bisected by a bright DRL depicting the Guzzi eagle motif. An upsized 430-watt flywheel generator provides the current to power these, as well as any of the wide range of accessories like heated grips, which Guzzi offers in the bike’s dedicated accessory catalog.

The TFT dash is well designed and legible, with a variable color background depending on light conditions. Aside from the speedo, tach, odometer/twin tripmeters, clock, gear selected, ambient temperature, fuel level, average and current consumption, DTE and selected Riding Mode displays, you can even adjust when the shifter lights flash to remind you to change gear.

The V85 TT has real visual presence, and build quality seems high, with excellent paint finish. Hop aboard its 32.7-inch-high seat (there’s 31.9/33.5 options), and you’ll find a quite upright but very comfortable riding stance via the taper-section alloy handlebar and relatively low footrests, which only drag in turns at quite extreme lean angles. The Kayaba suspension is really outstanding, especially the well-damped 41mm fork which gives good feedback so you can use heaps of turn speed despite the skinny 19-inch front.

The TC lets you get on the throttle hard and early exiting the switchback turns along Sardinia’s southwestern coast, where my only criticism was that the rear suspension is a little “dry” in low-speed damping over ripples and ridges, with initial compression of the twin-rate spring not as smooth as I’d like. But medium and high-speed damping is excellent, even without a rear link–I could feel the shock compressing and releasing smoothly beneath me through faster turns, or over a series of high speed bumps. And the generous wheel travel front and rear, coupled with the wide handlebar and tucked-in silencer, makes this a comfortable and capable ride off-road.

Guzzi has got it just right, and the same goes for how the V85 TT steers. It holds a line well but changes direction easily–it’s almost delicate in the way it steers. The radial brakes also performed well, with a strong but not aggressive initial bite. You can even finger the front brake lever to throw off a little excess speed once committed to a turn, and this Guzzi won’t sit up on you and head for the hills like some other motorcycles with this much trail dialed into the steering geometry. Job well done, amici.

However, my real plaudits are reserved for the V85 TT’s outstanding new engine, which feels more “modern” and sophisticated than any Moto Guzzi OHV/pushrod engine I’ve yet sampled. Work the light-action clutch lever–this’ll be an excellent commuter bike, thanks to that and the upright riding stance–to insert bottom gear, and not only does this go in with no sign of the clunk previously ubiquitous on Moto Guzzi engines, but as you drive forward practically off idle with minimal use of the clutch, the V85 TT motor gives a good imitation of a turbine. It’s unbelievably smooth not only by the standards of the past, but also compared to rival middleweight twins.

However, while Guzzi’s new 853cc engine drives very well from as low as 1,500 rpm, you need 3,500 revs or more to get the strong pickup it’s capable of delivering. Top gear roll-on below that mark is a little sluggish, so you’re encouraged to use the very sweet-shifting gearbox–I can’t remember ever using that term to describe a Moto Guzzi transmission!–to keep the revs up on the open road. If you do that you’ll get excellent response from the motor from 4,000 revs upward, meaning I spent a lot of time in fourth gear. But there’s vibration through the footrests from 5,000 rpm upward, equating to 80 mph in top gear. The engine is otherwise very smooth with just a few tingles through the seat as you near the 7,800-rpm limiter. Instead, you’ll want to surf the V92TT’s ultra-flat torque curve and hit a higher gear at around 6,800 rpm, which’ll put you back in the fat part of the powerband each time.

A relaxing and enjoyable everyday ride, with the debut of the V85 TT the wings of the Moto Guzzi eagle have started flapping a lot harder.