STREETFIGHTER MEETS SCRAMBLER
‘The TT… also builds on lessons that Guzzi have learnt from several decades spent in trying to crack the dual-purpose market, dating back to the 1980s and ’90s, when the firm’s dual-purpose Quota 1000 was too tall, heavy, and crude to attract many riders’
Story: Roland Brown Photography: Moto Guzzi and Andy Saunders
Even Moto Guzzi’s staff Must have been surprised by the success of the v85 tt last year. after all, production in Mandello del Lario had been unspectacular for decades. countless new models had come and gone without making much impact, let alone breaking sales records or approaching the status of 1970s icons such as the 850 Le Mans or original california. suddenly, the two-wheeled world couldn’t get enough of a new bike with Guzzi’s trademark pair of air-cooled pots sticking diagonally out on each side. show-goers had swooned over the adventure v-twin on its unveiling at eicMa in Milan; journalists had enthused at the press riding launch in sardinia. More importantly, customers were making it a hit in the showrooms — so much so that for a while the atmospheric old factory on the banks of Lake como couldn’t keep up with demand.
Looking over the Guzzi’s stubby perspex screen as a curving main road unravels at about 125 km/h on a sunny afternoon months later, this outbreak of italian-style tt mania seems perplexing — but, at the same time, entirely justified. that contradiction is apparent in many ways, not least engine performance. the v85 tt feels perfectly content at that speed and happy to add a gentle burst of acceleration when required, but lacks the grunt to get my adrenaline flowing as a more powerful bike would.
similarly, the Guzzi is delivering a pleasing platform from which to watch the hedgerows flash by, without being hightech or luxurious. provided i don’t rev it too hard,the tt is thrubbing along with a gentle vibration and restrained exhaust sound that anyone who’s ridden a Guzzi v-twin would recognise. it’s proving respectably quiet, roomy, comfortable, and well-appointed.
and although its chassis is not particularly sophisticated, i’m fine with that. the fairly long-travel suspension is soaking up all but the biggest bumps pretty well, while retaining sufficient control that when a roundabout appears, i’m glad of the chance to leave my braking late, then squeeze the lever hard, tread down a few gears, and crank round at an enthusiastic pace.
sometimes i’ve been adding an extra lap just for fun, relishing the bike’s cornering ability as though its “tt” stood for tourist trophy rather than that “all terrain” designation confirms the v85 tt’s design brief as a contender in the thriving middleweight adventure category, amid competition from bikes including bMW’s f 850 Gs and honda’s africa twin. that’s timely, as is its ability to join the retro-themed scrambler ranks popularised by ducati, triumph, and more.
if the tt gains by having a foot in both camps, it also builds on lessons that Guzzi have learnt from several decades spent in trying to crack the dual-purpose market, dating back to the 1980s and ’90s, when the firm’s dual-purpose Quota 1000 was too tall, heavy, and crude to attract many riders. More recently, the stelvio 1200 had its merits but failed to take a significant slice of the fast-rising adventure bike cake and the 744-cc v7 stornello was cute but underpowered even for a middleweight.
the v85 tt slips neatly into a gap between the two and seems to have hit that Goldilocks spot of having just about enough of everything. it’s a product of Guzzi’s v9
family of 853-cc v-twins, following the forgettable bobber and roamer roadsters. its engine retains the aircooled, pushrod-operated, two-valves-per-cylinder layout favoured since the ’60s, but is a complete revision.
a long list of top-end updates, including titanium inlet valves, reduces weight and friction considerably, allowing an increase in peak output from 55 hp to a much more useful 80 hp. a redesigned crankshaft and conrod assembly cuts weight by almost 30 per cent, improving throttle response and reducing vibration. the lubrication system is also new, with a semi-dry sump layout that allows increased ground clearance.
the engine forms a stressed member of the purpose-built tubular steel frame which holds upside-down forks and a diagonally mounted single shock, both from Kyb. each end gives a generous 170 millimetres of wheel travel, with adjustability for spring preload and rebound damping. Wheels are wire-spoked with a typical adventure bike’s 19inch diameter front, rather than a roadster’s 17-inch or truly dirt-friendly 21-inch.
slightly strangely, Guzzi have chosen to fit different tyres to the single-colour and two-tone tts. this bluey-green test bike wears Metzeler’s tourance nexts, as do its grey or red alternatives, but the two-colour model (white plus either yellow or red), which also has a suede seat-cover and red frame, comes with Michelin’s slightly chunkier anakee adventures.
either way, there’s no doubt that the tt’s style is a big part of its appeal. those twin lights, linked by the eagle-shaped daytime running light, make a beaky face with the high-level front mud-guard. With its air-cooled pots jutting out seductively between the shapely fuel-tank and aluminium bash-plate, the Guzzi has a streetfighter-meets-scrambler look that perfectly reflects its intended use.
that “just enough” feeling held true when i threw a leg over the 830-mm high seat and reached forward to the wide, slightly raised handlebar. the tt is big enough to feel substantial and roomy, yet, at 229 kg with a near-full tank, it’s lighter than most big adventure bikes and low enough to be manageable for most riders. that said, it weighs more than retro-rivals, including bMW’s r ninet scrambler and ducati’s scrambler 1100 sport, and is more than 20 kg heavier than KtM’s 790 adventure and yamaha’s ténéré 700.
it barked into life with a familiar Guzzi sideways shuffle and whir of air-cooled valvegear, if not with the pronounced lurch-and-rattle of old. in this and other respects, it’s sort of Guzzi lite, with enough traditional Mandello character to make it interesting, but also with modern touches to appeal to riders coming from other brands. there’s a usb socket alongside the tft screen, which is colourful if slightly small and busy, and a choice of three riding modes (road, rain, and offroad), which automatically change the abs and traction control settings to suit,
turning off the rear wheel anti-lock in the case of off-road.
in its modest way the engine is a gem, despite its 80-horse maximum being below the low-90s figure that many middleweights produce these days. crucially, Guzzi’s engineers didn’t make the mistake of chasing top-end power at the expense of lowerrev performance, as they initially did with the stelvio. the tt’s power delivery is flexible and well-controlled and there’s plenty of urge through the mid-range.
Guzzi say that 90 per cent of maximum torque is delivered from 3,750 rpm, which felt about right. from anywhere much above 3,000 rpm the bike rumbled forward obediently, getting increasingly enthusiastic as it approached the peak at 5,000 rpm. it was very much at home on twisty minor roads, accelerating at an entertaining if not arm-straining rate as those lightened internals showed their benefit in conjunction with nicely metred fuelling.
the revised six-speed gearbox is a notable improvement on most Guzzi efforts of old, too. first went in without the traditional clonk and the box changed very sweetly, though it’s a shame there’s no quick-shifter even as an option. the shaft final drive didn’t intrude.
the tt also worked well on more open roads, having sufficient grunt for easy overtakes and cruising at up to 125 km/h with a pleasantly long-legged feel. above that speed, roughly five grand in top, i was aware of some tingling and the bike felt increasingly breathless as it headed towards a top speed of close to 200 km/h. the Guzzi would sometimes feel underpowered if loaded with a pillion and luggage; a rumoured larger-capacity model would satisfy that need. for touring it does at least have an easily used cruise control.
Rear Brake: 260-mm disc, twin-piston Brembo caliper,
Front Wheel: 2.50 x 19; wire spoked
Rear Wheel: 4.25 x 17; wire spoked
Front Tyre: 110/80 R19 Metzeler Tourance Next (Michelin Anakee Adventure on two-colour model)
Rear Tyre: 150/70 R17 Metzeler Tourance Next (Michelin Anakee Adventure on two-colour model)
Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/128 mm
Wheelbase: 1,530 mm
Seat Height: 830 mm
Ground Clearance: 23 litres
Tank Capacity: Xxx 14.5 litres
Weight: 229 kg (with 90 per cent full tank; dry weight 208 kg)