2024 Moto Guzzi V85TT First Ride Review

When Moto Guzzi unveiled the V85TT concept bike at EICMA in 2017, the machine turned heads with its seamless blend of retro-style and splash of modern-scrambler. Interest for the air-cooled, shaft-driven model has continued since its official launch two years later, making it a top seller for Moto Guzzi and a fan favorite of those looking for something a little different than the status quo. 

The V85TT platform has been overhauled for 2024. Plus the standard (left) and V85TT Travel (right) are now joined by the V85TT Strada.

After undergoing some refinements in 2021, Moto Guzzi has given the V85TT another overhaul for the new year with changes that include more power and low-end torque, redesigned aerodynamics, upgraded electronics, improved throttle response, and more. Plus, for 2024 the platform comes in three different flavors with the addition of the cast-wheeled Strada which joins the standard V85TT and the saddlebag-equipped V85TT Travel. Let’s dive in for a closer look!

The cast-wheeled V85TT Strada leaves the rear end streamlined, without grab handles, and abandones the skid plate and handguards to echo its road intentions. 

What You Get

At the heart of all three models is the iconic sideways-mounted 853cc air/oil-cooled V-Twin. The Euro 5+ motor gets significant updates that, aside from meeting stricter emissions regulations, have brought about some performance-boosting engineering.

The Euro 5+ compliant 853cc powerplant has undergone changes to increase power and torque, while improving throttle response.

For instance, the 8-valve V85TT block now claims 80 horsepower, up from last year’s 76. The engine produces that power now with smoother delivery down low and to the redline, thanks to variable valve timing (VVT) via a mechanically driven and controlled camshaft timing mechanism.

The revised V85TT’s engine pumps out 80 hp and 61.2 ft-lbs of torque, transferred through a low-maintenance shaft drive.

With Moto Guzzi’s VVT system, six ball bearings adjust the camshaft’s timing parameters. The bearings either advance or delay the timing and overlap based on engine speed and the centrifugal forces of the ball bearings. No computer is needed for the actual timing changes. A timing position sensor sends signals back to the ECU for the smoothest results when you crack or close the throttle.

This VVT upgrade brings on 90% of the torque at just 3,500 rpm and represents a boost of 5 to 10% more torque in the 3,000 to 4,500 rpm range. The V85TT continues building power all the way to 7,750 rpm, just shy of its 8,000 rpm redline.

The powerplant is tuned for low-end grunt with 90% of the peak torque available at just 3,500 rpm.

On the other end of the spectrum, the V85 motor gets two knock sensors, one per cylinder. These allow it to have precise, self-adjusting ignition timing, and a third lambda sensor (O2 sensor) ensures fuel mixtures are suitable for atmospheric conditions such as ambient air temp and elevation. The results of the engine upgrades were noticed by fellow journalists who had ridden the previous model, and the benefits were described as a smoother, more responsive motor that is felt more than what’s measured on the dyno sheet.

The V85TT is currently the only middle-weight Adventure bike with shaft drive transmission on the market. The rear wheel is guided by a dual-sided aluminum swingarm that works in conjunction with a lateral monoshock.

The suspension remains essentially the same. With 170mm (6.7 inches) of travel front and rear across all three variants, the V85TT is still a road-biased adventure bike. Mechanical preload and rebound are still adjustable on both ends of the motorcycle. However, the V85TT and TT Travel models receive a hand crank preload adjuster on the rear shock to enable tool-free adjustments.

On the V85TT and V85TT Travel the rear preload is now adjustable via a remote hand wheel.
A new passenger grab rail in aluminum replaces the one in tubular steel of the previous generation V85TT (accessory option on the V85 Strada). Seat height stands at an approachable 32.7 inches.

Moto Guzzi has focused much of its attention on improving wind protection using computational wind tunnels. Without losing any of the MG flair and styling cues, air pressure on the rider has been reduced by a calculated 37% over the outgoing V85TT with its updated five-position adjustable windscreen and other small touches. The TT Travel also comes with a manually-adjustable windscreen. It’s also larger and complemented by air deflectors on the sides of the headlights. The taller screen is said to reduce air pressure on the rider’s helmet by 50% over the standard V85TT’s.

Tubeless cross-spoke wheels come standard on the V85TT and TT Travel, while the Strada has more lightweight cast wheels.

To improve intuitive access to all functions, the electric-switch cubes have been completely redesigned on the handlebars, plus a new five-inch TFT display makes it easier to visualize all trip parameters. The standard TT has four standard rider modes: Road, Sport, Rain, and Off-road. The TC and ABS can be set up for off-road or shut-off completely, and the throttle response can be adjusted. In addition to these modes, the Travel model comes with a fifth custom mode, which is optional on the standard and Strada. All models in the V85 range are also equipped with Cruise Control, with a single button to activate it and to increase or decrease the set speed.

The ABS braking setup consists of dual 320mm discs paired with newly designed Brembo radial-mount monobloc calipers featuring 4 opposed pistons connected to the master cylinder via steel braided lines. At the rear is a 2-piston floating caliper with a 260 mm disc.

The V85TT is draped with unique touches like its rocket booster tail lights, elegant headers, high front fender channeling a honeycomb-like vent, and distinctive twin circular headlight with the Moto Guzzi DRL signature emblem which is echoed on the side of the sculpted fuel tank.

The 6-axis IMU is a new addition to the TT and TT Travel, giving them cornering ABS and TC — a nice safety feature on any street-going motorcycle. Curiously, the Strada does not come with the IMU standard, but Moto Guzzi does offer the IMU as an option.

On-Road Experience

On several occasions I’ve been asked by friends if I’ve ever ridden a V85TT, and if I liked it or would recommend it. Well, five years after its official launch, I finally got a chance to try one out. The V85 TT’s initial start-up consists of a whine from the starter and gears only audible for a split second, then it becomes overpowered by the gentle rumble of the single overhead cam two-valve 850 as it shakes the bike to the side. I could feel the torque of the V-twin twisting the bike between my legs as the engine revved, which incited a grin of satisfaction.

The VVT is not too noticeable on the exhale of spent gasses, but on the intake side, it howls and roars between your legs as the airbox noise drowns out the exhaust note.

That grin quickly left my face though as I stepped on the gear shifter to go from neutral to first, which elicited a loud-ish clunk. Later, I started the bike with the clutch lever pulled in and first already engaged to avoid a public display of mechanical noises. Moto Guzzi enthusiasts enjoy the feel of their charming Italian beasts, but I’m a little uncomfortable making that much noise outside of a coffee house.

Feeling and hearing the mechanical symphony as I shifted through the gears with the V85’s dry clutch was charming as we hustled around the twisty roads on the southern coast of Spain. There is more noise and “feeling” than I’m used to, but a few fellow journalists who’ve ridden them for years assured me this is just how Moto Guzzi builds them. Mating a shaft drive to the air-cooled lump also gives some different feedback that took some getting used to.

The V85’s shaft drive rewards riders who use the rear brakes to trail brake into and through turns. I’m a big fan of trail braking the front on the road, but the change to the rear took some time to adapt to and enjoy. Worth noting, the V85 is the only middleweight on the market with a low-maintenance shaft drive.

The suspension is firm front and back but never harsh. The MG feels like it carries its weight well and drives it through both tires in turns, providing excellent grip and letting the handling feel neutral on the initial turn-in. The V85 never felt overwhelmed, even though I’m “thicker” than most Italian test pilots at 240 pounds. This is a true testament to a simple suspension setup working well with properly damped valving and reasonable performance expectations from the rider.

Greater wind protection is achieved on the V85 TT Travel, which is fitted with a Touring windscreen and air deflectors. With the windscreen on its highest position, air pressure on the helmet is claimed to be reduced by an extra 50%.

Thirty-seven percent better wind protection is a significant claim for the V85 TT over the outgoing 2023 model, but the numbers don’t lie. Cruising on the TT Travel with a taller screen and handguards feels like being in an “air-deflecting bubble.” The plastic handguards come stock on the TT and TT Travel, and can be added to the Strada optionally. The chilly winter weather would have been harder to deal with if not for the effective wind protection.

Cruising (as one does on a Moto Guzzi) down a short section of highway, I felt cool. Riding an air-cooled Italian motorcycle towards the coast of the Alboran Sea will be one of those surreal moments for me. It’s also when the V85 clicked the most with me. The enjoyment that the V-twin brings, with its charm and character, sets the MG apart.

The combination of reduced air pressure, near-perfect engine tuning, Brembo monoblock calipers, and variable valve timing all came together, all at once, as we hummed along at highway speeds. This motorcycle is lovely going down the road at sensible speeds. Taking in the sights and feelings of the world around me, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgically connected to the Moto Guzzi brand.

Perfect weather, a Moto Guzzi on twisty tarmac in Spain, and my impending 40th birthday might have contributed to this moment of Zen and motorcycling, and I couldn’t help but wonder if MG enthusiasts feel it all the time.

Should you opt for the V85TT Travel, you’ll get the most optimized wind protection as stated above, but you’ll also get a total of 64.5 liters of storage space in the panniers that come along with the Bronzo Deserto (flat sand/mud) paint scheme. Having spent time on the TT Travel and bagless TT, the weight added by the saddlebags felt unnoticeable from the “driver” seat. From a touring aspect, the Travel model package also comes with heated grips and a heated seat. From a price perspective, if you factor in the customizable ride mode, air deflectors, an XL windscreen, and heated equipment, along with the boxes. The $1,400 premium you pay for the TT Travel is a good deal and requires fewer accessories to install later.

Besides offering the most optimized wind protection across the three models, the V85 TT Travel is equipped with panniers, heated grips, heated rider’s seat, 5 rider modes, and Moto Guzzi’s MIA for Bluetooth connectivity.

Lastly, the ergonomics are sweet for road riding on an air-cooled Moto Guzzi. It has a commanding position with classically-placed handlebars. The seat isn’t too tall at 32.7 inches, and the six-gallon gas tank sits between the knees but also cups them. The seat-to-footpeg distance is OK for 120-mile days, but it might be a little tight for me at 6’2″ tall.

Touring longer than 120 miles on an air-cooled V-twin is different from where I’d want to start a road trip usually, but the V85 TT just makes it feel within reach and reason, all the way out to 400 memorable miles a day. In the same way, I’d love to have a V85 for coffee shop runs on the weekends or as an urban “get around” machine. It takes itself seriously, but swinging a leg over it, taking it for a cruise, street parking it at the local moto hangout  also makes sense for this versatile package.

Off Road Experience

To be fully transparent, 99.7% of our test day was spent on the road with the V85s. The next day, our mission was to test the all-new Moto Guzzi Stelvio. That doesn’t mean I completely ignored the off-road possibilities of the V85 TT and TT Travel during our test, though. If you want a more in-depth perspective on the off-road capability, you can check out our review of the 2020 V85 TT Travel, which is essentially unchanged in the chassis.

Engine characteristics are important to me off-road. The way a bike feels… is it a long stroke, a high torque boat motor like my Triumph Scrambler 1200xe, or an oversquare “brap happy” short stroke like the Honda Transalp? Well, the most noticeable character trait of V85 is the VVT.

Executing slow-speed turnarounds and some off-road technical maneuvers, the V85, of course, shows some limitations with its road-oriented suspension. Still, its smooth throttle actuation and improved low-end torque really balance the overall experience. The ability to entirely shut off the ABS makes steep downhill descents require less “pucker factor.”

The ergonomics for off-road use will come down to the rider and their preference, as the bars are a little low for my 6’2″ frame. But the rubber-covers for the footpegs can be removed and the adjustable windscreen moves out of the way in the low position for the trickier parts of the trail. Making a bike your own with bar risers or changing seat heights is part of motorcycle ownership, and Moto Guzzi enthusiasts know that more than most brand loyalists.

Bottom Line

Arguably, no one will ever ‘talk’ someone into buying or not buying a Moto Guzzi. It’s almost as if they’ve made up their mind before reading a review, let alone listening to anyone’s advice. Are there better bikes out there at this price range? Define better.

With a starting $12,190 MSRP for the standard model and 32.7” seat height, the V85TT closes the gap toward an approachable middleweight. It comes in well below the somewhat shockingly-high price tags and seat heights of other 850cc+ Euro middleweights like the Tiger 900 Rally Pro or Ducati Desert X.

Instead, the V85 TT’s most significant competitors will be more “budget middleweight” bikes like the Honda Transalp or the cast-wheeled Triumph Tiger 850 Sport. In a way, the V85TT splits the middle ground between these two bikes.

The Transalp has the upper hand for off-road in wheelset size at 21/18 front and rear and has an extra 1.5 inches of suspension travel. It has tube-type wheels, and it is pretty bare-boned. The Triumph Tiger 850 Sport has only a little more suspension travel, costs more, and has cast 19/17 wheels leaning towards a sport-touring feel.

Curiously in the Middle of the two, the Moto Guzzi V85 TT sits with its 19/17 tubeless spoked wheels, taught suspension, approachable seat height and touring amenities

Some other competition might be found on the lower end of the price scale. The Ducati Desert Sled is the ideal show down here, as it’s 800cc, air-cooled, and Italian. Similarly, the Triumph Street Scrambler is 900cc of British (mostly) air-cooled fury. The choice between those two bikes comes down to the customer as neither of these bikes stand out from each other in any meaningful way.

The V85TT, on the other hand, does outdo the Duck and the Triumph in a few ways. The V85’s motor, dash, rider modes, aerodynamics, fuel capacity, shaft drive, suspension, touring amenities, and road manners all score higher than its euro counterparts. 

While still more at home on the tarmac than a technical trail, the Moto Guzzi V85TT remains a strong contender for riders looking for a distinctive mid-size adventure bike that exudes loads of character and charm. The V85 not only stands out as the only sub-1000cc Adventure bike with a shaft drive but its aesthetics undeniably contribute to its overall allure. While there may be varying opinions on color choices, the bike’s design seems to consistently inspire praise from fellow riders and its unique character and feel makes it a motorcycle that leaves a lasting impression.

Moto Guzzi V85 Range Specs

ENGINE TYPE: Transverse 90° V twin, two valves per cylinder (titanium intake).
BORE AND STROKE: 84 x 77 mm
MAXIMUM POWER: 80 HP (58.8 kW) at 7,750 rpm
TORQUE: 61.2 ft-lbs (83 Nm) at 5,100 rpm
FUEL: Electronic fuel injection; Ø 52 mm single throttle body,  Ride-by-Wire
FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 23 liters (including 5 liter reserve)
CLUTCH: Dry single disc
GEARS: 6-speed gearbox
GEAR RATIO VALUES: 1st 16/39 = 1: 2.437
    2nd 18/32 = 1: 1.778
    3rd 21/28 = 1: 1.333
    4th 24/26 = 1: 1.083
    5th 25/24 = 1: 0.960
    6th 27/24 = 1: 0.889
FRAME: Tubular high-strength steel frame
FRONT SUSPENSION: Hydraulic upside-down telescopic fork, Ø 41 mm, adjustable spring  preload and rebound hydraulics
REAR SUSPENSION: Double-sided swingarm in box-type aluminium with a single shock on  the right side, with adjustable spring (controlled via a knob on the V85 TT  and V85 TT Travel) preload and hydraulic rebound
FRONT BRAKE: Double 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo radial-mounted  callipers with 4 opposed pistons.
REAR BRAKE: Ø 260 mm stainless steel disc, floating caliper with 2 pistons
WHEELS: Spoked (V85 Strada: with aluminum alloy spokes)
FRONT RIM: Cross-spoke tubeless 2.50” x 19”
REAR RIM: Cross-spoke tubeless 4.25” x 17”
FRONT TYRE: Tubeless 110/80 – R19”
REAR TYRE: Tubeless 150/70 – R17”
BATTERY: 12 V – 12 Ah
DRY WEIGHT: 209 kg (V85 Strada: 205 kg; V85 TT Travel: 211 kg)
KERB WEIGHT (90% FUELED): 230 kg (V85 Strada: 226 kg; V85 TT Travel: 243 kg)

Photos by Alberto Cervetti

Author: Steve Kamrad

Steve has been labeled as a “Hired Gun” by one of the largest special interest publishing groups in America. His main focus now is video content creation as a “Shreditor” (thats shooter, producer, editor all in one nice, neat, run and gun package). If he’s not out competing in a NASA Rally Race you can find him on the East Coast leading around a rowdy group of ADV riders. Some say Steve_Kamrad has the best job in the world but he’s not in it for the money. He’s a gun for hire that can’t be bought and that’s the way we like him.

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