A friend recently reminded me how, in 1960s and ’70s America, it was common for amateur motorcycle racers – yes, including Steve McQueen – to have one unmodified stock bike for everything, from daily commuting to long-distance journeys and Sunday racing.
Fast forward to 2022 and you might not want to race the Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel 850 in the desert, but trust me, you will want to do everything else with it.
Launched in 2019, the V85 TT was intended to rival well-established big BMW and KTM tourers, but the brand from Mandello del Lario managed to instantly invent a class of its own: the retro adventure bike. If this is not Italian swagger, I don’t know what is. The good people at Moto Guzzi designed a bike that looks romantic and aggressive at the same time: one day you’ll put your best white jeans on and take your partner to the Dorset seaside and the next you’ll be strutting through the London traffic. And that’s exactly what I did.
At 243kg, the V85 TT Travel shouldn’t work in town, but surprisingly it does, thanks to the excellent weight distribution and superb chassis, which make it nimble and agile – even with the bike’s aluminium panniers, an exclusive addition to this “Travel” iteration. The suspensions are a dream, so you won’t feel what are widely regarded as the most annoying speed bumps in the world (‘widely’ by me and my London biker friends). The inevitable stop and start of inner-city riding is rendered almost pleasant by a gearbox that, although very similar to the one mounted on my 2012 V7, finally feels slick and precise.
You don’t need to be cooler-than-cool Scotsman, actor and adventurer Ewan McGregor – who is a lifelong fan of the brand – to know that it’s really all about that air-cooled V-twin engine. The minute you’re on those country lanes, you’ll forget that there is “only” 76-horsepower at your disposal because, in McGregor’s words, ‘it pulls and pulls and pulls’. No matter what gear you’re in or what speed you’re travelling, the torque is everywhere (90% by 3750rpm, if you want to get technical). The shaft drive system makes the cruising smooth and easy, and I was surprised by how effective the small windscreen is, even at high speeds. This means that even at 6’1”, I could keep an upright and comfortable riding position. I am a believer that motorbikes, even big bikes, should be for everyone and with a seat that’s only 830mm from the ground, the V85 TT Travel was very manageable for my wife Emma, 5’6”, who took stylish riding to the next level when we got to West Lulworth.
It has been 101 years since the first Moto Guzzi left the production line in Mandello del Lario and to this day each bike feels unique and designed just for you. Now, good people at Moto Guzzi, can I keep the V85 TT Travel a little longer?
Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel has a price tag of £12,500 ex-showroom.
The V85 TT Guardia d’Onore special edition will land in UK dealerships at the end of April. This limited edition comprised of just 1946 units celebrates 75 years of collaboration between Moto Guzzi and the Cuirassiers Regiment.