2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT: Guzzista Magnet

Text: Jeff Buchanan • Photography: Moto Guzzi

For almost 100 years Moto Guzzi has enjoyed a loyalty among its fans (known as Guzzistas) born out of an uncanny sense of exclusivity. The company’s bikes exude a “golden age of motorcycling” aura. Since 1921 every machine they’ve built has rolled out of the original factory in Mandello del Lario, Italy. 2020 represents a new page for the company, with the introduction of the all-new V85 TT, a Guzzi that promises to add members to the exclusive Guzzista club.

Although Moto Guzzi may not bring to mind visions of off-road competition, the company in fact has a rich history in enduro. The bikes collected four gold medals in the 1939 Six Days Reliability Trial, and have made appearances over the years in the Paris–Dakar Rally. And although the new TT—which is being labeled a “Classic Travel Enduro”—has off-road capability, its real panache is its scrambler-esque versatility. 

The heart and soul of the Guzzi is in its raw and thoroughly enjoyable functionality. That big, lugging V-twin, with its unique transverse mount, may not reflect the height of technology, but it possesses a boatload of the visceral, old-school thrills of having a motorcycle between your legs. In an era of engines with sewing-machine precision, the sensation of pronounced torque pull and rotating mass when you blip the throttle is refreshing—and a bit of a guilty pleasure. 

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

The V85 TT is emboldened with a new engine. Air-cooled, with two valves per cylinder for simplicity, the OHV 853cc 90˚ V-twin retains the signature Moto Guzzi transverse configuration. The intake ports—seated with titanium valves—have been reshaped to provide better mix-entry of fuel/air. Producing 80 hp at 7,750 rpm, the TT’s peak torque value of 59 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm is especially impressive given that 90% of that is available at just 3,750 rpm, resulting in excellent drive down low. 

In its new role as a load-bearing element, the engine has been beefed up, with a stiffer crankcase. Crankshaft and piston rods have shed 30% of their weight, resulting in faster revving. A single 52mm throttle body delivers fuel into the big twin via ride-by-wire throttle, the electronic injection providing crisp, instant response.

The gearbox is the real revelation with the new V85. Heavy, tanklike gear changes are a thing of the past. In place of that is a new six-speed transmission that provides succinct, precise shifts. The dry clutch has a high-performance disc rendering a light pull and consistent feel throughout the full range of the lever. The gearbox feeds power to the rear wheel through a stiffened drive shaft, with minimal drivetrain lash.

The V85 TT comes standard with three ride modes: Road, Rain, and Off-Road. Each mode introduces independent engine mapping with varying calibration of traction control, ABS, and throttle response. 

FRAME, SUSPENSION, STYLE, AND BRAKES 

Following in the Guzzi tradition, the V85 TT is simplistic and stylistic, with its distinctive front fender and fuel tank setting the tone for the design flow of the TT, highlighted by spoke wheels. The wedge of the high front fender provides an aerodynamic look while retaining an off-road functionality. Despite the healthy fuel capacity (23 liters/6 gallons), the tank doesn’t feel bulbous or intrusive; the contours are creatively shaped to keep a narrow profile and seat/tank juncture. 

Due to the V-twin powerplant serving as a stressed member, the new high-strength, steel tubular frame has no lower cradle. The relatively short engine length allows for a long, double-sided box-style swingarm for added stability. The single right-side laterally mounted shock and the 41mm telescopic forks both offer adjustable spring preload with hydraulic rebound. Standard seat height is a versatile 32.6 inches. Wet weight is 504.9 pounds. 

The TT employs Brembo brake components: dual 320mm discs on the front grabbed by 4-piston calipers. The rear brake is a single 260mm disc with a 2-piston caliper. The standard ABS—which works exceptionally well, giving the V85 superb stopping power with stability—can be disabled for off-road riding.

Spoked wheels in a 19-inch front/17-inch rear combination speak to both off-road style and old-school heritage. The larger front wheel helps to slow down the rotating mass in off-road situations while bridging modest-sized potholes—as opposed to dropping into them. 

HANDLING AND RIDABILITY

The V85 is extremely agile, with a highly responsive and intuitive nature. Stable on the brakes and calm in corners, the Guzzi has a precise feel and ease of turn-in. 

The majority of the test ride was over varying twisting roads, from fast sweepers to tight, technical plodding, where the wide handlebars provided exceptional maneuverability. Despite relatively low footpegs, which contribute to a relaxed knee bend, touching down was surprisingly few and far between. 

HYPES AND GRIPES

Hype: The beefy rear grab rail provides a number of comfortable hold areas. 

Gripe: The rear shock’s bottom can be reached with one good smack to the rear wheel in off-road situations but, truth be told, the V85 TT is intended for modest off-road use, such as fire roads or dirt access routes.

Hype: The digital instrument cluster has a TFT display with built-in sensor that automatically adjusts backgrounds and characters to adapt to varying light levels. 

Gripe: The handlebar switches leave a bit to be desired, from the turn signals to the engine start, with inconsistent response. 

Hype: The price point is where the V85 TT shines. The base MSRP is $ 11,990, and the V85 TT packs a great deal of motorcycle into that number. 

EMOTION

The 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT manages to step into the 21st century while retaining the charm and substance of its illustrious past. There’s just no way to appreciate the character of a Guzzi until you put some miles on one. People could argue all day about its old-fashioned persona, but that’s the whole magic of the Guzzi. The V85 TT takes those base, unique Guzzi character traits and fuses them with a modern motorcycle, giving it legitimacy in real-world, everyday riding applications. The new machine features a lot of technical advances but has just the right amount of rough-around-the-edges charm to retain that famous Guzzi essence. One thing is certain: That prominent sensation of torque that reverberates up through the handlebars when you blip the throttle of the V85 TT, that hint of old-school, is the thing you’ll miss most when you get on something else.