1850-mile road test on Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT

 

Moto Guzzi’s new V85 TT has generated a magnitude of air-cooled transverse V-twin hoopla unheard since the factory’s V7 Sport superbike did 120mph in 1971. And nearly 50 years is a long time for a motorcycle manufacturer to remain a hoopla-free zone.

But no longer. The first batch of adventure-styled TTs coming into the UK sold out immediately, and the small but perfectly formed Italian marque – unaccustomed to such a clamour for its bikes ­– is struggling to keep up. They can’t build V85 TTs fast enough... which, being a modern Guzzi, is ironic in at least one sense.

And yes, you’d be justifiably baffled by the fuss if all you clocked was the TT’s overweight, underpowered spec (235kg and a claimed 80bhp; nearer mid-to-high 60bhp), and its hefty price tag (£10,399 for single colours, £11,099 for multicolours). Because the TT is heavier than its rivals, makes around 30% less power, yet costs around the same. I mean, surely good looks can only get you so far?

To find out, Bikesocial has got its hands on the first red, white and yellow V85 TT in the country. As befits a bike that just about almost entirely but not quite fails to articulate, through closed eyes, McDonald’s corporate colours, we’re going to ride it from the mainland UK’s most southerly (and westerly) Maccas (in Penzance) to the most easterly (Lowestoft) and then to the most northerly (Elgin in Scotland). And if that sounds like the world’s most thinly disguised excuse for eating three McDonald’s in a day, it absolutely is.

But no long-distance challenge can be contrived enough. Because it’s a 997.7-mile schlep, which Google estimates will take around 19 hours (if you Google it in rush hour with roadworks; it should be nearer 18 hours). And, to make the run even more competitive, the Penzance branch of McDonald’s opens at 6am and the Elgin branch closes at 1am. So that’s also an actual 19 hours to make the journey and eat at all three restaurants.

Perfect – it all fits together (although a tougher gig would be riding from Elgin to Lowestoft to Penzance: the Scotland Maccas also opens at 6am, but Penzance closes at 11pm – and 17 hours into 19 hours doesn’t fit – at least not on a V85 TT).

So: breakfast in Penzance, lunch in Lowestoft, supper in Elgin. That, my friends, is a challenge. And one hell of a test of Guzzi’s V85 TT.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

Well, it said 19 hours when I checked it during rush hour. You can find my Maccas route here: https://goo.gl/maps/B53WQne7YmAwaXmd8

 

If you want the details of the V85 TT’s spec, the launch report is here.

But, to recap, the TT’s (Tutto Terreno – ‘All Terrain’) motor is an uprated 853cc transverse 90° V-twin from Guzzi’s V9 roadsters, in which it makes a polite 54bhp at 6250rpm. The V85 is claimed to make a beefier 79bhp at 7750rpm, and torque is up from 46 lb.ft at 3000rpm to 59 lb.ft at 5000rpm.

All the expected Guzzi engine architecture is retained from the V9 – air-cooling, pushrods, two-valves per cylinder – but the V85 TT gets its performance increase by revving harder, made possible by titanium intake valves, aluminium pushrods, roller tappets, radical cam timing, lighter crank, rods and pistons, revised oil delivery and larger intake and exhaust.

The TT’s frame is also new, yet classically classic; steel tubes – those big, red, Forth Bridge-style girders – use the motor as a stressed member instead of Guzzi’s usual double cradle design. The shaft drive is supported by a KYB shock with preload and rebound damping adjustment, and 41mm KYB forks up front also come with preload and rebound damping twizzlers. Four-pot radial Brembo calipers nip away at 320mm discs mounted on tubeless wire rims, while a big, 23 litre, 250-mile plus tank sits atop the lot.

Rider aids – yup, Guzzi do noughts and ones, too – include Road, Rain and Off-Road engine modes that vary traction control, throttle response and ABS intervention, but there’s no IMU or lean angle-based tech and it’s all a bit OTT anyway given the motor’s modest power output. But practicalities include a TFT dash that looks, when fully lit up, like a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. In a good way. And there’s cruise control – which you don’t appreciate until you’ve tried it; and once you have, you’ll always wish you had it – plus all that strikingly conspicuous pipework on which to bolt or strap stuff. Seat height is a reasonable 830mm – Guzzi say the ergonomics suit 90% of all humanoids – and the TT weighs in at 208kg dry, or over 230kg with a full tank.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

Looks good at the launch in Sardinia. But how about the M6 in rush hour?

 

So that’s the Guzzi’s bare spec. And based on the 150-mile or-so launch test ride, which took place predominantly on Sardinia’s tight, twisty coastal roads, the TT was soft, comfy, spread out, relaxed, had excellent handling and road holding manners at its own prescribed pace, was nippy enough if you revved it but wasn’t likely to blow socks off, steered sweetly and lacked only for ground clearance (which, as someone pointed out, could have been mitigated by winding up the rear preload which was, for some reason, on minimum – actually, it turns out the reason is because that’s what the factory recommends as a base setting). Brakes were sharp, tank range looked for over 200 miles – and, crucially, the multi-coloured bikes looked drop-pants gorgeous.  

So much so it was an effort to maintain some kind of perspective on the bike; like meeting the partner of your dreams, you had to keep reminding yourself the gulf between fantasy and reality. Everyone farts, after all. Even Cate Blanchett. No, say it ain’t so.

So back in the UK and back to reality – how’s the V85 TT cope with HGVs, traffic jams, pot-holes and piss-takes, dodgy driving and ropey roads? We’re about to find out.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

Early morning McMuffin. And mind the thieving seagulls.

 

Penzance McDonald’s at 6am is a place for seagulls and overnight snoozers in steamed-up vans. Two staff arrive but can’t get in the restaurant and hang around outside until the manager appears from a storeroom. Now they know how it feels.

Sausage and egg McMuffin washed down with a cappuccino, and we’re under way into a crisp, clear summer morning at 6.23am precisely. The V85 TT feels, unsurprisingly, exactly as I remember – which it would, because I only rode it down to Penzance from its Silverstone-based home yesterday. But it also feels familiar from a few months ago in Sardinia; this is not a massive, flagship adventure bike crammed with sophistication, opulence, technology and possessed of a globally-dominating sense of presence. It ain’t a 1250 GS or Multistrada 1260 Enduro or KTM 1290 Super Adventure. The Guzzi’s cockpit is sparse and simple; super-wide tapered bars, fragile-looking switchgear (press the starter button too hard and it feels as if it’ll snap), smaller-than-expected dash that lights up blue and looks very pretty, handy USB port next to the clocks, short, stubby tinted screen.

Its riding position is very natural – there’s no momentary sensation of having to adjust where hands, bum and feet fall. Plenty of legroom is great; but I’ve got so much luggage strapped on behind me I can’t shift my arse about much. This eventually could contribute to the screaming agony my butt cheeks are in at the end of the ride.

The Guzzi trembles into life on the button (when you find it) and there’s less rocking reaction to blipping the throttle than Guzzi’s of old. It’s still a distinctly mechanical motor – without a water jacket, you the pushrod valve gear clattering about is clearly audible – but it doesn’t crob or thump like you’d imagine an old air-cooled motor might; instead the V85 TT chatters to itself, whirring and rattling with a muted dull-scuddery.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express


And in terms of performance, the V85 TT is also no 1250 GS. And it’s no F850 GS. In fact even an 800 GS would give it a run for its money. We’re talking F700 GS levels of poke at best.

But as we boogie along the A30 – we probably haven’t got time for back road shenanigans; the A39 Atlantic Highway would take too long – the Guzzi punts along at a fair old rate, and will happily hold 80 to 90mph with a smooth, vibe-free pattering. But there’s not a great deal left in the locker for bombing it; an MT-07 or SV650 would have it away from the lights. The V85 TT feels about as gutsy as Triumph’s Street Twin, if you’ve ever ridden one... or a bit more than an old Bonneville but not as much as a new one. It’s enough to get where you want to be when you want to be (I hope), but most of your riding adrenaline will come from preserving speed once the motor has generated it, not in the generation itself. Still, on today’s roads and at our age that’s probably about right for much of the time.

But what an odd power curve. At a cruising speed of 80mph the motor is spinning at 5000rpm, or a mere 1800rpm shy of the redline (if not actual claimed 79bhp peak power, which is – weirdly – apparently at 7750rpm. Never come across peak power beyond the redline before. Maybe it’s a misprint). That means the engine is revving at 74% of its available (non-redlined) rpm. In comparison, BMW’s F850 GS, say, also revs at 5000rpm at 80mph – but has a 9000rpm redline, so it cruises at 56% of its available revs.

But the V85 doesn’t feel peaky or rushed – on the motorway the motor is relaxed and stress-free. It has an organic dedication to the job, like a three-legged dog chasing a ball, that I can’t help but admire. It’s a ‘Hmmm, fair enough...’ kind of engine.

As the A30 draws to a conclusion, we stop for fuel at Whiddon Down. It’s 7.52am and we’ve done 93 miles at 63mph and 46mpg. It would have made sense to fill up and reset the trip at Penzance, but I didn’t because I didn’t.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

 

A30, A303, M3, M25 – three hours and 28 minutes later we roll into South Mimms on the M25. It’s 34°C on the bike – pretty toasty for a fat geezer – and we’ve done 295 miles in total; 202 miles on this tankful. The average speed is up to 60mph and the Guzzi is doing 50mpg. I’m melting – sweat actually pours out of my sleeves as I fill the V85 TT’s tank. Careful not to get it in the fuel.

Back on the road, next stop is Lowestoft McDonald’s, the UK’s most easterly fast food eatery. The Guzzi threads through heavy, slow-moving, lane-hogging traffic on the M25, then peels off up the A12 around Chelmsford, the A14 around Ipswich, then the A12 again into the town centre. It gets a bit cooler as I near the coast; a chilly 27°C.

At 418 miles and some seven hours of riding, I buy a Big Mac and a Coke from the McDonald’s in Lowestoft. I’m lovin’ it. The Guzzi has been immaculate; but to be honest, all it’s had to do is keep running (check), do 200 miles on a tank (check), be comfy (check-ish; my bum is starting to get a bit sore; maybe it’s my sweaty pants – and the low screen is a bit buffety), not vibrate (check) or annoy (check). To be completely honest, it’s made the ride disappear in what feels like no time. Literally – neither a short time nor a long time; if you asked me how long I’d been riding I couldn’t tell you. Motorways have that effect, I think. But it proves the Guzzi hasn’t intruded on the ride.


Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

 

Away again – and it feels a bit odd to contemplate another 580 miles and 11 hours or so in the saddle. Seven hours is usually job done for the day. However, I have a sneaky pit stop planned – I live a few minutes off the route as the A17 skirts the edge of the Wash – and with temperatures rising as I head inland again, I stop off for a break for half an hour, swapping my rucksack for one with a camel-pack so I can drink as I ride.

I’ve ridden to Scotland many, many times – usually taking the A1 to just north of Scotch Corner, then jumping onto the A68 and heading off towards Jedburgh – it’s not quicker than either staying on the A1 or going A66/M6/M74, but it feels more direct and it’s definitely more fun.

But time is the factor here (especially after my poo pit stop). So after a refill just south of Boston (4.35pm, 515 miles total, 220 on the tank, 50mph av speed, 54mpg) I crack on up the A1 and turn onto the A66 at Scotch Corner. As we bomb along the dual carriageway, the lowering sun looks amazing, but only because storm clouds are gathering over the Pennines. With my phone acting as sat nav, I can press a few buttons and get a radar map of exactly when and where it’ll start raining. Another fuel stop just before Penrith (7.25pm, 697 miles total, 182 on the tank, 53mph av speed, 56mpg) and I sling the waterproofs on, which feels odd on the hottest day of the year when I’m already soaking wet on the inside anyway.

On the M6 it starts to rain, but it’s not hammering down. We seem to be dodging most of the bad stuff. As the M6 crosses the border and becomes the M74 och aye, the weather lifts and I’m treated to a spectacular sunset across the Lowther Hills. Lightning flashes in the distance and the rain sweeps across the sky like majestic stage curtains.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

 

We skirt the southern end of Glasgow and head towards Perth on the M80 and A9 – it’s getting dark now and I reckon I ought to swap visors. I reckon I’ve got one stop left before Elgin, and it’s 130 miles from Perth to the most northerly Maccas in the UK. But I’m not sure about the time – I pull onto the forecourt at 10.05pm (868 miles total, 171 on the tank, 55mph av speed, 49mpg), which gives me around three hours till the Elgin Maccas closes at 1am. Google is saying it’s two and three-quarter hours away. It’s dark. My clear visor is buried under half a ton of luggage and a web of bungees. It’s a close call but a) don’t want to miss supper, b) a rushed bungee job could cost time (and safety) in an insecure load, c) the Guzzi’s headlights are pretty good on full beam and d) the HJC’s dark visor isn’t pitch black, just heavily tinted.

A few miles up the A9, lightning still flashing in the sky and rain falling steadily, an amber engine light comes on. Great. You know that sinking sensation you get when you think, “Oh please, not now, of all times...”. Last thing I need is to get stranded on the A9, surrounded by forests and hillsides, at midnight in a thunderstorm – what is this, an episode of Stranger Things?

But the engine light just glows at me; nothing else happens – fuelling is ok, engine feels fine, lights don’t go out. Maybe the Guzzi is objecting to my clumsy use of the cruise control – it’s straightforward left thumb press and hold, but the button is a bit wobbly.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

 

As we peel off the A9 north of Aviemore onto the A95, I’m heading into unknown territory. Truth be told, I’ve not actually looked too closely at where Elgin actually is – I know it’s east of Inverness, but on the map it looked quite close.

It isn't. It's 50 miles and over an hour away – which doesn’t sound much but at midnight, in the dark, tinted visor, after 17 hours of riding etc... it’s plenty. The road twists and turns and I follow the Guzzi’s headlights, reading the road with the help of the snow poles showing the way. The A95 becomes the A941 and it feels close now.

The Guzzi’s handling and braking is excellent – even on wet roads it’s predictable, accurate and easy. Steering is perfectly weighted, the 19in front is locked into the tarmac and although the bike is soft and bouncy on its long springs, it doesn’t feel vague or underdamped.

As always on a long ride, the last 20 miles take the longest; by the time Elgin appears I’m in agony – my bum has finally cried enough and given up trying to shift the blame. I can barely sit down – it must be a combination of seat width, fixed riding position and 18 hours in one place. I’ve ridden a lot of bikes a lot of miles before, but this level of discomfort is new to me.

But we make it. At 12.17am we roll into Elgin’s Maccas car park – rarely have the golden arches been such a welcome sight. 998 miles, 56mph and 54mpg done, in 17 hours and 54 minutes. I get a quarter pounder with cheese, six nuggets and a cappuccino. The girl at the counter doesn’t know she’s working at the UK’s most northerly McDonald’s, but the lad behind her scares the life out of me: “It’s not the UK’s most northerly.”

What? Hang on, what?

“Well, technically, the branches in Inverness are more northerly because they’re in the Highlands administrative region; we’re in Moray, which is to the south.”

Yeah, but surely, geographically...?

“Yes, geographically this is the most northerly...”

Thank French fries for that. Imagine coming all this way and getting it wrong. Someone will be telling me Lowestoft isn’t the most easterly, or Penzance the most southerly next.

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express

 

So there we have it: 1000 miles, ish, in 18 hours, ish, on Guzzi’s V85 TT, not ish. It’s been an epic ride, brutal on the bum, worrying with an engine light at the last (which disappeared the next day riding home, so who knows?), but smooth as buttermilk in every other respect.
The V85 TT is in a special place in the market – image-wise, it sits alongside Triumph and Ducati retro Scramblers, and possibly BMW’s R nineT Urban G/S – but offers more practicality than them; they don’t have the Guzzi’s tank range, for a start.

And if you look at it’s capacity and price, rival become the so-called middleweight adventure bikes like Honda’s Africa Twin, KTM 790 Adventure, BMW’s F850 GS, Triumph’s Tiger 800 – and even maybe Yamaha’s Ténéré 700. All are arguably more capable off road (they all have more ground clearance, even the Triumph) and all bar the Yamaha have more sophistication than the Guzzi. But if you want its specific combination of retro looks and charisma, couple with a genuine 1000 mile-a-day practicality, I can’t think of a better machine.


Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1850 miles on the McDonald’s Express
Moto Guzzi V85 TT: 1000 miles in a day just for a Big Mac

Because it shares its colours with a well-known fast-food joint, we took the 2019 Moto Guzzi V85 TT from the most southern McDonalds in the UK to the most eastern then the most northern, all in one day.

 

2019 Moto Guzzi V85 TT specification

New price

£11,099 (£10,899 for single colour)

Capacity

853cc

Bore x Stroke

84.0mm x 77.0mm

Engine layout

90° transverse V-twin

Engine details

4v pushrod, a/c

Power

79bhp @ 7750rpm

Torque

59 lb.ft @ 5000rpm

Top speed

125mph (est)

Average fuel consumption

54mpg

Tank size

23 litres

Max range to empty (est)

230+ miles

Rider aids

Traction control, ABS, rider modes, cruise control

Frame

steel tube

Front suspension

41mm KYB usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

preload & rebound damping

Rear suspension

KYB monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

preload & rebound damping

Front brake

2 x 320mm discs, four-pot calipers, ABS

Rear brake

260mm disc, two-pot caliper, ABS

Front tyre

110/80-19

Rear tyre

150/70-17

Rake/Trail

28°/128mm

Wheelbase

1530mm

Seat height

830mm

Kerb weight (est)

235kg

Warranty

unlimited miles/2 years

Website

www.motoguzzi.com/uk_EN/

 

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