2019 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Review: ZZ Top

Leow Ju Len

Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT isn’t just a niche retro revivalist – it’s a real contender for class-leader in the mid-weight adventure motorcycle segment 

Khao Lak, Thailand – What is Moto Guzzi known for?

Besides being Italy’s oldest continuously-producing motorcycle manufacturer (since 1921), its stand-out offerings in recent decades include the stylish Griso 1100 naked, the V7 range of retro-inspired road bikes, and its erstwhile GS-rival, the Stelvio 1200. 

But honestly none of those bikes, or indeed the bikes of Guzzi’s current line-up, were, or are, class leaders. With a Guzzi, you live with quirks, such as personality-filled but less powerful/flexible engines, bizarre design choices, and so on.

Enjoyable, unique, and very characterful, but certainly not for every Singaporean rider looking to trade up from a Japanese or mainstream brand. 

But with the Moto Guzzi V85 TT, an all-new retro-inflected adventure bike, MotoBuyer were very pleasantly surprised: With it Moto Guzzi has a legitimate chance at segment greatness, and finally crystallises the Guzzi revival that’s been brewing for decades but never quite caught the big time. 

The V85 TT takes its name from the V65 TT, Guzzi’s 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally motorcycle. Like most other motorcycle makers, Guzzi has had a hand in every sport including enduro at the Six Days and the Paris Dakar, so it was natural to tap this heritage to capitalise on the current retro-revival trend. ‘TT’ doesn’t mean the common bike acronym for ‘Tourist Trophy’ of course, but Italian for ‘Tutto Terreno’, or ‘all-terrain’. 

Kudos to Moto Guzzi for sticking very close to the original concept of the V85 TT at the 2017 EICMA bike show in Milan – besides the more vertically-oriented racing stripes on the tank, the production model looks pretty much the same as the show bike.

That’s a good thing since the middle-weight adventure motorcycle segment is getting quite crowded – besides the BMW F 850 GS, KTM 790 Adventure, there’s also the Ducati Multistrada 950, Triumph Tiger 800, Suzuki V-Strom, Honda Africa Twin, and in the more retro side there’s the BMW RnineT Scrambler, Ducati Desert Sled.  

Guzzi being what it is, aesthetically, the V85 doesn’t try to mimic the mainstream offerings from Bavaria, Bologna or Hickney, possessing instead a style very much its own, which is important in a motorcycle, even in a segment as popular as this one.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT in Giallo Sahara

The bike shown here is the Enduro Premium model in Giallo Sahara (yellow) colour choice, there’s also a Rosso Kalahari (red), both of which come standard with Michelin Anakee mixed tyres. The S$1,000 less expensive Enduro model (gallery below) has a more conventional paint scheme in red, grey, or blue, and comes with Metzeler Tourance touring tyres. 

Conventional paint schemes cost S$1,000 less

The build quality is substantially improved from Guzzi’s of old, in line with what we’ve seen across most of the Piaggio Group (Aprilia, Gilera, Piaggio, and Vespa) brand. It’s official: The Beautiful From Far, But Badly-Assembled, Low Quality Italian Motorcycle is now a myth. 

All Guzzis feature the brand’s engineering signatures: An air-cooled, transverse V-twin engine platform and shaft drive, and the V85 TT is no different. 

But the engine is first clue that the V85 TT represents something special, since the 853cc, air-cooled, transverse V-twin engine is an all-new development and neither a parts-bin special nor adapted from existing powerplants. 

While it still has ‘just’ two-valves per cylinder, it does have a titanium intake valves, and tops out at 7,800rpm, making the V85 the reviest is the modern Guzzis. Moto Guzzi focused on reducing the engine component’s inertia to deliver a more free-revving character, overcoming one of the complaints of the older engines is that they were agricultural.  

Unlike other V-twins, we found the transversely-mounted 853cc unit of the V85 to be smooth from the get-go. Like other Guzzis and BMWs (with transversely-oriented engines) revving the bike when stationary induces a reaction force, with engine vibes visibly seen in the shaking handlebar.

But move off, and the vibes magically disappear. Even at elevated revs above 6,000rpm, the V85 demonstrated refinement not typically found in the mid-weight class.

The usual excessive twin-cylinder engine vibrations were nearly absent in both handlebar grip and rubber-covered footpegs. This meant no residual hand and foot “buzz” post ride, and the heat from the engine was acceptable, a refreshing change from the cat-induced heat often found in Euro 4 compliant engines.

Coupled with a flat torque curve from 3,500rpm to the redline at 7,800rpm, the V85 pulled cleanly through the whole the rev-range. Cruising at 100km/h coincided with 4,000rpm allowing overtakes without the need to drop a gear, so highway work should be relatively easy. 

Ducati’s most affordable and popular bike has been improved and we’ve tested it

Perhaps a little disappointing was the quiet exhaust note, though the characteristic Guzzi muscular induction bellow is still present with liberal opening of the throttle. Local dealer Mah Motors advises that an accessory Arrow slip-on exhaust is being homologated with the bike, so that could be a good choice for those who like their V-twins with a bit more boom.

Gearboxes have often been a Guzzi bugbear, sometimes clunky in the past, but complementing the superb new engine was a transmission that truly stood out.

There were zero false neutrals changing gears with or without pulling the clutch lever. Perfectly matched toe lever and finger lever throw. Clutch pull requiring what felt like half the typical effort (particularly helpful for off-road riding), and a positive, buttery smooth shift with the toe peg (both up and down) the gearbox. It’s a delight to use. 

Guzzi also designed the V85 with ergonomics to suit the majority of motorcycle riders, with the 830mm seat (option for 20mm taller or lower seats) working out for both tall (1.90-metres) and less tall (1.65-metres) riders alike on our test ride.

We found the riding position to be spot on, having spent 220km on the bike across a variety of terrain, with not the slightest discomfort from knees, bum, hands or arms.

The seat was well cushioned and supportive, and coupled with the smoked plexiglass screen and handguards, kept us protected from wind-blast even up to 160km/h. Quite a surprise, considering that the screen doesn’t look particularly tall, and still afforded good ground visibility when riding offroad.

Our test bike’s suspension certainly had the right settings, as it felt spot on both on-and off-road. Despite not being adjustable for compression, only for rebound and preload, we couldn’t muster any complaints about it – owners can also setup the bike easily with the simple-to-access side-mounted shock.

Like most adventure bikes, the V85 TT is expected to spend 80 to 90 percent of its time on tarmac, and it really shines. There’s no wallowing mid-corner even when flicking across chicanes at speed, giving good support under firm braking, the Brembo system with dual 320mm discs giving good feel and modulation even when the tarmac ends. 

The suspension also minimises squat when accelerating hard (even on redlining, clutchless gear shifts) from standstill to past the tonne. 

What really stood out however, was the light touch needed to get the V85 on its ear. There’s much less steering effort than other 19-inch front-wheeled bikes in the class, and even lighter effort than we’ve experienced with BMW’s renowned Telelever and boxer engined machines. 

It’s a pleasant surprise that gives the V85 TT an ease that would be very welcome in daily riding. Bolstering that is an obvious technology feature, the full-colour 4.3-in TFT dashboard (as seen on Piaggio Group cousin the Aprilia RSV4) which provided a clear view of riding information in all conditions. 

Off-road, the 170mm front and rear suspension travel never seemed to run out, even when crossing a small pebbled stream. Composed over gravel and muddy terrain, the chassis gave good feedback and feel. Having sampled Bavaria’s finest over similar terrain and conditions, we found the V85 as good as, if not more, confidence inspiring and certainly welcome for off-road newbies as ourselves. 

As expected of a modern bike there’s ride-by-wire and riding modes, Rain, Road and Off-road, all with different throttle response, engine mapping, and traction control, with the option to turn off rear ABS for Off-road mode. Usefully, all modes can be operated on the move and with the throttle open. 

It’s also clear the V85 TT has been designed and engineered with plenty of features commonly found in modern, middle-weight adventure bikes, and the equipment spec is quite impressive as a result. 

Besides what we’ve just mentioned there’s also cruise control, an aluminium sump guard, LED main lights and daytime running lights. There’s also the usual range of accessories, and three equipment options (Touring, Sport Adventure, Urban) for those wishing to customise the bike further.

Moto Guzzi also boasts that this is the only bike in its class with a shaft drive, which means less chain cleaning mess, and a 23-litre fuel tank for an impressive range of over 400km. 

Full-sized adventure bikes are still the headliners, but it’s not uncommon to see how lighter, smaller and less expensive mid-sized adventure bikes are better suited as all-rounders, especially in the city, and we think Guzzi has hit the mid-range sweet spot with the V85 TT Enduro. 

With enjoyable and impressive riding dynamics, a generous load of features, unique styling, with the Moto Guzzi character and signatures all present and accounted for. It’s the brands first and clearest shot at a class-leading motorcycle in decades, and could end up being many an owner’s first Guzzi. 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT Enduro Premium 

Engine853cc, 4V, transverse V-twin
Power80hp at 7750rpm
Torque80Nm at 5000rpm
Gearbox6-speed manual 
0-100km/hNot stated
Top Speed220km/h
Wet Weight229kg 
Seat Height 830mm (810mm, 850mm optional)
AgentMah Pte Ltd 
Price (OTR)S$26,217 machine only w/o COE or insurance


adventure Moto Guzzi motorcycle TT v85

About the Author

Leow Ju Len

CarBuyer Singapore's original originator, Ju-Len in person is exactly how he is on the written word and behind the wheel. Meaning that he darts all over the place and just when you thought he's lost the plot, you realise that it's just you not keeping up with his incredible rate of speed and thought.

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