Just like the original scramblers led to more functional dirt and dual-sport motorcycles in the '60s, the scrambler trend of the last few years has made way for more plentiful, diverse, and purpose-driven adventure bikes. Manufacturers like Moto Guzzi are finding inspiration in 1980s Baja racing and ditching the scrambler models for bikes that promise real off-road riding potential—not just vintage off-road styling. With more comfort and longer range, bikes like the new V85 TT represent a meeting of riders seeking a highly functional motorcycle and those who turn their nose at an unfashionable bike. While the iconic Guzzi lines and heritage-inspired paint of the new Italian adventure machine may seem to pander to the same scrambler audience, the surprisingly capable 2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT and V85 TT Adventure have the real-world chops to stand among some of the best-in-class adventure-tourers, especially for the price.

We landed on the Italian island of Sardinia to ride the first real neoclassic adventure bike to hit the market. The shuttle passed pink flamingos on the water’s edge, just feet from a man selling wheels of parmesan cheese on the side of the road. Steep hills along the winding coasts of this unique land would be our testing destination for a short-but-sweet 120-kilometer ride, only about five minutes of which we would spend on dirt, but it was as eye opening as five minutes could be, regardless. After a night of rain, the skies cleared for a perfect day of riding and we walked out to claim our bikes.

V85 TT
The 2020 V85 TT is a capable on-road commuter boasting a 6-gallon gas tank and comfortable ergonomics.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi
Although our off-road testing was extremely limited, the V85’s specs and adjustable TC and ABS give us confidence it would perform well in more in-depth trials.
Although our off-road testing was extremely limited, the V85’s specs and adjustable TC and ABS make us look forward to more in-depth trials.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi

The two models available are differentiated by tires, color, luggage, and $1,000. The base model ($11,990) is equipped with road-oriented Metzeler Tourance Next tires, as opposed to the Adventure model’s Michelin Anakee Adventures. After trying both tires, I actually preferred the Anakees on road as well as off. While the base-model TT is a capable urban commuter, $1,000 doesn’t seem like an outrageous spend to add a full set of luggage, more capable and diverse tires, and get the cool paint as a bonus.

eagle-shaped running light
Design details like the eagle-shaped running light make the bike instantly identifiable as a Moto Guzzi, as well as being functional and practical.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi

Hitting the tight turns of the island coastline, the V85 TT's tubular steel chassis was stiff and stable. At deep lean and high speeds, the TT held its line well. Flip-flopping the bike and shifting my weight from side to side through the island's many successive cornering transitions, I found the suspension firm and sufficiently controlled. Aside from excessive dive during hard braking (that wasn't remedied through adjusting for tighter compression-damping adjustment), the fork did its job well. The Öhlins shock offers threaded spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustment and was an impressive performer using stock settings for my 180-pound frame. On straighter sections of pavement, the V85’s ride was smooth and comfortable; small bumps were hardly noticeable and larger ones were absorbed with well-damped chassis motion. The bike wears its 505 pounds well, not feeling bulky or sluggish. Dual 320mm Brembo discs with four-piston calipers up front worked incredibly well to stop the Guzzi, though, as mentioned, the fork didn't cope as well with this braking force as I would have liked. The rear brake is a non-branded 260mm disc with a floating two-piston caliper, but is more than adequate—especially when paired with the hefty braking power in front.

Adventure model
The base V85 TT's Metzeler Tourance Next tires and absence of luggage lowers price and reduces versatility versus the Adventure model.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi

The all-new 853cc engine was the most impressive element of the V85 TT. With a claimed 80 hp and 59 pound-feet of torque, the longitudinally-mounted 90-degree V-twin embodied many of the ideal characteristics of a V-twin. Torque off the line was ample, but the engine revved quickly with smooth power all the way to the 7,000-rpm redline. Three ride modes—Road, Off-road, and Rain—change throttle response, peak power, and traction-control intervention. I stuck with the Road map, as that was our terrain of choice for the day and throttle response was quick and clean. Rain mode smooths out the throttle response significantly while also kicking up traction control; Off-road throttle response falls between Road and Rain, while allowing a degree of rear-wheel spin and shutting off rear ABS. Further, traction control and ABS can both be independently turned on or off. Cruise control is standard on both models.

TFT display
The TFT display is bright and clear with a background that changes automatically at nighttime and in low-light scenarios.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi

The V85 TT is equipped with a bright, clear 4.3-inch TFT display that serves as the digital instrument cluster as well as the access point to ride modes, traction control, ABS, and the general menu. Switching between ride modes is easy, but navigating deeper menus takes a little bit of time to get used to. The switches and buttons on the handlebars were the only thing that felt a little cheap on the bike—just plastic-y and thin. As an example, the passing-light button would stick down on my test bike instead of rebounding to flash like intended. Fit and finish on everything else was great.

Our section of off-road riding for the day was a short loop on the side of the road—hardly somewhere we could adequately test this bike’s true potential for adventure. However, drop the clutch in Off-road mode and power was dramatically cut back, so I left ABS in the front-only setting and turned off traction control. This let me spit some dirt and throttle-steer through turns while standing on the pegs, comfortably navigating the small loop. Ergonomics were comfortable when standing, allowing me to squeeze the gas tank with my knees when I needed stability or shift my weight as required. At 6-foot-4, I was surprised at how well the bike fit me and heard the same thing from shorter riders on the launch as well. The ability to manually swap around ABS and TC made a big difference, though overall our small amount of dirt testing left us wanting.

touring motorcycle
Accessories like a taller windshield and saddlebags help convert the base model to a more capable touring motorcycle.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi

Moto Guzzi fans will be ecstatic with either version of V85 TT, but this is a bike that may win over the rest of us as well. The base model is a solid commuter and a versatile on-road motorcycle with great engine character, adequate suspension, and a stiff chassis for a good price at $11,990. We'll have to wait to give the final word on the Adventure model to give a definitive opinion about the the bike’s off-road chops following more testing, but the additional $1,000 seems more than worth it for the added accoutrements. Of course, the V85 TT would never replace your dirt bike, but it's a machine you can commute on all week and even get a little dirty on over the weekend, do some two-up touring with plenty of luggage for the two, or just park at the café and spark up some conversations–Guzzis have a way of doing that.

V85 TT Adventure
The V85 TT Adventure comes equipped with dual sport tires, which we actually preferred both on and off-roadCourtesy of Moto Guzzi
2020 V85 TT
The 2020 V85 TT felt right at home in the twisty mountain roads of Sardinia.Courtesy of Moto Guzzi

Tech Specs

MSRP $11,990
Engine 853cc, air-cooled, 90° V-twin, 2 valves/cyl. (titanium intake)
Bore and stroke 84.0mm x 77.0mm
Transmission/final drive 6-speed/shaft
Claimed horsepower 80 hp (59 kW) @ 7,750 rpm
Claimed torque 59 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
Fuel system Electronic injection; Ø 52mm single throttle body, ride by wire
Frame High-strength steel tubular frame
Front suspension 41mm hydraulic telescopic USD fork adjustable for spring preload and hydraulic rebound, 6.7-in. (170mm) travel
Rear suspension Double-sided swingarm in box-type aluminum w/ single shock adjustable for spring preload and hydraulic rebound, 6.7-in. (170mm) travel
Front brake Brembo radial-mounted opposed 4-piston calipers, dual 320mm discs
Rear brake Floating 2-piston caliper, Ø 260mm disc
Wheels, front/rear 2.5 x 19 in. / 4.25 x 17 in.
Tires, front/rear 110/80R-19 / 150/70R-17
Rake/trail 28°/5.0 in. (128mm)
Wheelbase 60.2 in. (1,530mm)
Seat height 32.7 in. (830mm); optional low saddle 31.9 in. (810mm), high saddle 33.5 in. (850mm)
Fuel capacity 6.1 gal.
Claimed weight 208 kg (dry), 229 kg (curb)
Availability June 2019
Contact motoguzzi.com