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Old-school adventure touring with the Moto Guzzi V85TT

Underneath the modern look is a charming classic Italian bike

A fascinating marriage of retro style and modern tech. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

One of the things I love about motorcycles is the connection with the machine underneath you. The heat, the noise, the muscle memory required to constantly work the controls, the need for presence of mind to be alert and think two steps ahead of potential obstacles and accidents.

There’s a lot of this connectivity with the Moto Guzzi V85TT “adventure touring” bike, which belongs to a category that has increasingly become popular among riders who value comfort and power for many miles. The engine note is distinctive, the transmission feels robust and clunks into gear, and there’s just a hint of Italian quirkiness to amuse but not annoy.

The paint job isn't too loud, but you'll give it a second look. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Moto Guzzi’s interpretation of this genre utilizes its signature transverse V-twin engine and mounts it in a tubular steel frame with the necessary equipment for the mission: Brembo brakes, 41mm USD fork, twin-sided swingarm with monoshock adjustable for extension and preload, 19-inch front and 17-inch rear spoked wheels, and multi-mode traction control.

At 15-20km/L, you get decent range from the 23L tank. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

As far as adventure bikes go, the bike cuts a distinctive look that never fails to strike up conversations at coffee stops and fuel stations. The big cylinder heads poke out the sides, the silver finish on the sump guard and the left side of the swingarm look like a finely machined sculpture, and there’s just enough red tubes exposed to provide a reference point for all the rest of the bike that’s painted black.

It’s all very clean and elegant to look at, as long as you don’t focus initially on the googly-eyed headlamps that have a weird resemblance to Gonzo. Most adventure bikes are not especially pretty to look at, and while the V85TT isn’t a natural beauty, it has character.

The back end is both functional and easy on the eye. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Part of the engine’s aesthetic appeal lies in its reliance on air-cooling. Freed of the complexity and the weight of a radiator along with all the ugly piping and extra components this entails, the engine sits low in the frame with the headers smoothly flowing out and back under the frame to exit on the left-hand side exhaust. Moto Guzzi’s signature shaft drive further cleans up the rear-end aesthetic, as well as simplifying maintenance.

The TFT display is easy to read in all lighting conditions. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The 853cc pushrod V-twin engine’s output is 80hp at 7,750rpm, while torque peaks at 80Nm at 5,000rpm. Fire it up and there’s the trademark side-to-side shake as the cylinders come to life. Modulating the big, single-plate clutch is a breeze, and I soon found myself on the highway with the bike at an easy lope of around 3,000rpm and a hair over the speed limit in sixth gear. Throttle response is smooth and relaxed to make it easier to avoid surging. The engine sounds agricultural at low revs, and you need to give it a good twist of the throttle to induce some intake roar accompanied by the sound of valves and pistons banging and clattering down there. For the most part, I shifted at 5,000rpm to keep a brisk pace.

View from the rider's seat: Functional and sexy. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Savoring the mechanical noises as you take in the scenery, you get a faint retro vibe that reminds you of Moto Guzzi’s history while still benefiting from all the modern tech at your disposal. A bright TFT panel for speed, tachometer, riding mode and trip information takes up the dashboard. The cockpit setup is mildly confusing with the main-beam flasher toggle on the left grip, and the DRL/auto headlamp switch on the right. A “Mode” rocker switch flips you through the trip computer, but if you want to change the traction control and the ABS settings, you need to do a sequence of button presses that involves a lengthy study of the manual—which I didn’t have.

Shaft drive looks cleaner and simplifies maintenance. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Ergonomically, though, the bike is a treat. I love the Alcantara-clad seat with its long trough and reasonably wide base to support the inner thighs while tapering toward the fuel tank for an easier standover. The foot pegs are low on the bike, while the handlebar has a modest rise to create a comfortable rider triangle. Stand on the pegs and the handlebar is around waist height for my 5’8” frame, making it easy to stretch or thread a trail. The 32.7-inch seat height is manageable, providing enough ground clearance for low obstacles, and I can still flat-foot on one leg.

The saddle is made for all rides. Your bum will love it to bits. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

During my test ride, I had the misfortune of spending up to three hours a day in first-gear traffic. Lane-filtering is a bit of a chore with the bike’s size, but it’s easy to balance and avoid embarrassing yourself in front of the scooter crowd. Extended stops-and-starts on gradients had the clutch sending out warning puffs of smoke, but the engine never overheated and its frontal placement sent most of the waste heat away from me.

We love how Italians pay attention to engine aesthetics. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The V85TT is in its element on scenic side roads—the suspension having just enough compliance to smoothen out rough pavement. It’s enjoyable enough in the twisties, too, displaying a willingness to lean into curves and follow your line without any drama. Similarly fuss-free are the big Brembos, which are worth their weight in gold as numerous hasty stops induced the ABS at times. At night, the LED headlamps light up the road with ample brightness. If you need more, you can attach auxiliary lamps to the front tubing.

You'll enjoy long rides with the Moto Guzzi V85TT. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

With its P835,000 sticker price, the V85TT doesn’t deliver the batshit-crazy ride like the similarly priced KTM 790 Adventure R, yet it’s also at least a hundred grand less than the BMW F850 GS or the Triumph Tiger 900. On the whole, it’s a charming and approachable bike that will appeal to riders who want something different from the usual suspects.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.