There are plenty of big touring bikes out there, but few offer the sheer joy of riding that a Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel does.
Photography by Kit Palmer
The older I get, the more I love me a Guzzi. I never really understood the allure of one of Italy’s most revered, and, let’s face it, odd, motorcycle manufacturers until a few years ago when I spent a few weeks on their equally odd Griso roadster.
That low-slung hunk of Lake Como metal gave me a new appreciation for not just the brand but also the feeling of riding a Moto Guzzi, which is unlike any other major manufacturer.
Moto Guzzi’s trademark transverse V-twin, with the cylinders splayed out either side of your legs, is obviously what sets them apart. The V-twin is heavy and doesn’t produce anything like the horsepower a BMW flat-twin would, for example, but the feeling it gives to the rider is unique and something to be cherished.
I got this same feeling after a month on the Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel. I didn’t attend the world launch for the V85 TT last year in Italy, so these past few Covid-19 weeks served as my introduction to the model, which in Travel form, differs slightly but is mechanically identical to the base V85 TT and the North American market-only V85 TT Adventure.
Retailing for $13,390, which marks a $400 increase over the Adventure and a $1400 increase over the base model, the Travel gets a glorious Sabbia Namib sand color scheme, fog lights, heated grips, plastic side panniers with aluminum accents (but no top box as you’ll find on the Adventure model), a larger windshield than either the base or the Adventure, and the Moto Guzzi MIA/Smartphone feature that allows you to pair your phone with the bike and use turn-by-turn navigation.
Under the hood is the same 90° transverse, OHV, two-valve V-twin pumping out a claimed 80 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 59 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm to the maintenance-free driveshaft (no chains here). Those numbers aren’t going to trouble any of the 800cc and up ADV bikes currently on sale from KTM or BMW, but the Guzzi still runs three separate ECU modes of Street, Rain and Off-Road, although none of them allow you to actually vary the power output. Instead, the modes allow you to change the ABS, traction control, throttle response and the engine-braking settings. Off-Road mode goes a step further by allowing you to disengage the ABS altogether for when you head off the tarmac.
Rather annoyingly, the modes are adjusted via the starter button on the right side, which can be a bit confusing and doesn’t always engage the first time you use it. On the other hand, I quite like the elegant little cruise-control switch on the left handlebar, even if the operation is likewise a little clunky. Another annoying trait of the cruise control is when you’re riding with the system turned on but not engaged, a light continually flickers on and off on the dash. You either need to turn the system off entirely or use it everywhere for the light to leave your view. Odd.
The chassis is also the same across the three models in tubular steel (minus the bottom cradle) that uses the motor as a stressed member. Suspension is the domain of 41mm Kayaba inverted forks up front, adjustable for rebound and preload, with the rear an old-school-looking single-shock setup again adjustable for rebound and preload. One difference between the three models is the Travel and Adventure get tubed spoked Michelin Anakee dual-purpose rubber with the base model running road-focused Metzeler Tourance tires.
Moto Guzzi claims a curb weight of 504 pounds for the Travel, which we measured full of fuel.
Once you get the Guzzi fired up, you’ll be greeted with that gentle rocking of the chassis an opposing piston motor will deliver. That pulse is not as pronounced as it’s been in the past, with the V85 TT chassis soaking up many of the vibes that would have otherwise made it to the rider’s hands and feet.
At the twist grip, I’d be surprised if Guzzi’s claim of 80 horses is correct. Seat of the pants feels about 10 less than that, but that doesn’t really matter because the delivery of torque is delightfully smooth and well suited to off-road conditions, even if the overall package is on the heavier side.
The gearshift is smooth, not slick. Compared to the delightful shift you get out of the quickshifter-equipped Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory (Aprilia and Moto Guzzi have the same owners), the Guzzi’s shift is a touch notchy, not by much, but you’ll likely never miss a gear because you’re the one modulating revs to shift correctly, not a computer.
Throughout our time with the Guzzi, we averaged 48.7 mpg, giving a theoretical range 296 miles for a full tank. Not bad at all.
The motor doesn’t have an appetite for revs and will produce a claimed 90 percent of its torque below 3750 rpm, making for a relaxed riding experience, to say the least.
The little add-ons for the Touring over the Adventure are nice—taller screen, heated grips, phone pairing to the dash, fog lights—but as I have not ridden the Adventure or base model, I can’t say they make any difference (although we all know they would). I’m a little disappointed the model badged as the Touring doesn’t come with the top box as standard, given the Adventure does. I feel the top box should be included in the price of the Touring, just because it suits the model designation a little better.
Given the weight and the fact much of it is carried quite high around the outside of the steering head, the Touring’s handled most things we dared to throw at it quite well. Dirt roads are easy once the ABS is off, but we didn’t dare take the Guzzi too far into KTM Adventure off-road territory. That’s not its MO. Tarmac is really where this thing shines. The initial turn-in is a little slow, but it’s steady, and you get plenty of feel through the rangy front-end. It’ll hold a line at speed well, but fast changes of direction require some forethought. Lazy isn’t really the right word to describe it, more…dignified. Yeah, let’s go with that.
You sit very much in the Guzzi, rather than on top of it. With a seat height of 32.7 inches, you feel quite connected to the chassis as opposed to some other mid-size bikes in the ADV category. Then again, I’d align the Touring/Adventure/base model more as street bikes than off-road versions of themselves.
Braking performance from the Brembo four-piston front calipers is not what I’d hoped—there’s a bit of a dud feel at the lever, and you need to give it a good hard pull to get real stopping action. Off-road, this is fine but on-road, I’d have preferred a little more bite.
Even with those gripes, I really enjoyed my time with the Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel. A Moto Guzzi is not for everyone, that much is true, but I’ve yet to find a rider who either has a Guzzi or has owned one who has regretted the experience.
The Guzzi provides a different experience to your average touring/ADV bike, and even though it has all the right tech (cruise control, heated grips, riding modes, ABS, traction control), Moto Guzzi has done an excellent job of not making the rider feel overwhelmed by variable thingies.
You won’t go beating many bikes in the horsepower race with a V85 TT Touring, but then, you’re not meant to. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. CN
2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel Specifications
||Air-cooled, transverse 90° V-twin, 2 valves per cylinder (titanium intake)
|BORE / STROKE:
||84 / 77mm
||80 hp at 7750 rpm
||59 lb-ft at 5000 rpm
||Electronic injection, 52mm single throttle body, RBW
||Euro 4 compliance
||Dry, single disc
||High-strength steel tubular
||41mm hydraulic telescopic USD fork, with adjustable spring preload and hydraulic rebound
||Single shock, double-sided swingarm box-type aluminum, with adjustable spring preload and hydraulic rebound
||Double 320mm stainless-steel floating discs, Brembo radial-mounted calipers with 4-opposed pistons
||260mm stainless-steel disc, floating caliper with 2 pistons
||2.50 x 19 in.
||4.25 x 17 in.
||110/80 – R19
||150/70 – R17
|RAKE / TRAIL:
||28° / 5.03 in.
|WEIGHT (measured, wet):