- The Moto Guzzi V85 TT Centenario is a worthwhile mid-size adventure bike that offers a lot of fun to riders despite its seemingly underpowered stats.
- Superb comfort, responsive handling, and a suite of welcome rider aides more than make up for a few disappointments—like the relatively heavy weight and mildly soft suspension.
- While not a cheap bike by any means, there’s a lot of value here for adventure riders who are looking for a bike they can ride every day. Worth a look, especially if you’re already a fan of the brand.
In 2017, Moto Guzzi announced their intention to make a modern adventure bike. They were fashionably late to the party, as the rest of the world’s motorcycle manufacturers had been riding the ADV wave of success for many decades. However, in terms of my own motorcycling journey, their timing was impeccable.
I entertained the idea of buying an adventure bike a short while before the Mandello del Lario factory announced the V85 TT concept at EICMA 2017. I took this as a sign to do two things—firstly, get more experience offroad and secondly, start saving money.
2021 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Spec Sheet
Spoiler alert—the stated specs for this bike end up being pretty irrelevant.
- 853cc 90º transverse V-Twin engine
- 76 horsepower at 7500 rpm
- 60.48 lb-ft of torque at 6500 rpm
- 6-speed transmission
- 32.6” (830mm) seat height
- 507 lbs (230kg) wet weight
- Front forks – 41mm USD with rebound adjuster
- Rear mono-shock – preload and length adjustable
- Front and rear suspension travel – 6.7 inches (170mm)
- 6-gallon (23L) fuel tank – reliable 310 miles (500km) of range
- 19” front wheel, 17” rear with Dunlop Trailsmart tyres
- MSRP: $13,190 USD
Until this point, I was a street-only rider. I grew up in the country but didn’t start riding motorcycles until well into my 20s, and by that time I was living in the city. In a rare moment of logic and self-reflection, I decided to start small and work my way up.
Two of my riding buddies, Garrick and Graham, had gone down the ADV route before so I reached out to them for some tips. A cheap, secondhand dirt bike mysteriously appeared in my garage after this. It was nothing special and terrible to look at, particularly when parked next to my 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Special, which is very pretty.
However, after the first off-road ride on the dirt bike, all its ugliness was forgotten—I was hooked. The possibilities of this newfound riding discipline seemed endless. I chipped away and thanks to Garrick and Graham, I slowly learned the basics of off-road riding (meaning, they put up with me and waited for me to catch up on their rides).
In 2020, Moto Guzzi announced the MY21 V85 TT. 2021 was their 100th anniversary so to mark the occasion they would release a Centenario edition V85 TT. It had green and silver paintwork (a homage to historic Moto Guzzi racing bikes) with gold details, edge-spoked wheels and a new Euro 5-compliant ECU. It was only being sold in 2021. I was done for. There was just one thing holding me back—I hadn’t ridden one (or any other ADV bike for that matter) for more than 10 minutes.
After taking a number of bikes out for test rides, I tested a V85 TT and promptly fell in love. It was everything I was looking for—bigger and more powerful than my V7 and it had modern conveniences like cruise control. Being familiar with the Guzzi platform was a big selling point. Don’t get me wrong, I liked all the other bikes I tested, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the Guzzi family. It’s also the only shaft-drive middleweight adventure motorcycle, which is a huge plus.
Moto Guzzi categorises the V85 TT as a “modern classic travel motorcycle” and this is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve ridden over 40,000km on my V7 and it tours wonderfully. However, I wanted something bigger and more comfortable for the 2-3 day rides that I do 3-4 times a year.
With my mind made up, I waltzed into Thunderbikes (my local Moto Guzzi specialists) and popped the question to the shop’s proprietor, Mario Poggioli. That was September 13th, 2021.
Why do I remember the exact date? Returning home after ordering the bike, a drunk driver ploughed his Jeep into my house. Not only did he launch his car through a brick fence, across my front yard and into my house, but he also drove straight into the room I was standing in. Luckily, quick reactions saved my bacon and the car didn’t breach the house itself. That’s why I remember the date, but that’s a story for another time.
When I ordered the bike I knew I was in for a wait—so wait I did. I got the call in mid-February 2022 that the bike had finally arrived. I now know how my dog feels when I tell her we’re going to the park. It was pure, unbridled joy. I was away for the next three days so I had to wait until I got back to the city. Yes, those days were the longest in living history.
Bright and early on Monday morning I rolled into Thunderbikes. Mario is a world-renowned Moto Guzzi expert and his right-hand man, Mark Venosi, has probably forgotten more about the marque than you or I would ever know in the first place. Suffice it to say in Western Australia, the Moto Guzzi family is in good hands. Meeting Mario and Mark for the pre-delivery checks, I felt like a 30-year-old kid at Christmas.
First Impressions of the V85 TT Centenario
As the box was lifted clear and the plastic wrap removed, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful finish. The matte green and silver bodywork against the charcoal grey frame looks incredible. The gold detailing (only found on the Centenario edition) is subtle but effective.
The fuel “tank” is actually a plastic cover with a composite fuel cell hidden beneath. This is the first bike I’ve owned with all plastic bodywork and I was apprehensive about it. That all disappeared after the first wash. With no chrome and only matte paint, the Centenario doesn’t need polish or expensive cleaners—this aspect alone sold me on plastic bodywork.
After the bike was unboxed (yes, I got to keep the box!), assembled and checked over by Mark and Mario in the Thunderbikes workshop, I made a quick fuel stop before heading home. This is where I had my first V85 TT ownership experience. Filling the 23L tank cost me about $40AUD—almost double what it costs to fill the V7. The upshot of the large tank is that I reliably get about 310 miles between fuel stops.
That first fill was ten months and over 4350 miles ago. Suffice it to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying the V85 TT and every day it continues to be the right bike for me. It does everything it says it does on the box but like anything, there are some downsides. Let’s get into it.
For those unfamiliar with Moto Guzzi, I describe them as a slow burn. Ride one for 10 minutes, and you’ll probably hate it. Push through and ride the same bike for 10 days, and you won’t want to get off. More often than not, once a Guzzisti, always a Guzzisti. Compared to other brands they are down on power, but Moto Guzzi has never been about high-output motorcycles.
What Moto Guzzi does superbly is reliability, easy maintenance and handling. It might be because the weight is carried low, or because the large, single-disc flywheel rotates in the same plane as the bike leans, but I love how Guzzis change direction.
Blip the throttle at a stop and you’ll feel the bike rock to the right. Many people think this is a detriment to the handling, but that is not the case. Moto Guzzis don’t fight the centrifugal force generated by the crankshaft and flywheel as most motorcycles do. Instead, Guzzi uses this to their advantage to provide quick, stable handling. That’s been my Moto Guzzi experience to date, anyway.
Handling & Cornering
Despite being heavier than the V7 by 40kg, the V85 TT handles well through fast sweeping bends and tight corners. Like all Moto Guzzis, the V85 TT tips into corners nicely, with the longer wheelbase providing good stability throughout the corner (primarily compared to the V7).
The aforementioned weight of the V85 TT is only noticeable at lower speeds but thanks to the tall, wide handlebars, there is plenty of leverage. The addition of tubeless, edge-spoked wheels reduces the unsprung weight of the 2021 V85 TT by about 1.5kg. The black rims and stainless spokes look fantastic and it’s great not worrying about tubes when touring.
Fitted to the Centenario edition are Dunlop TrailSmart tires. Being more of a 90% road, 10% off-road tyre they do feel a bit slippery on the gravel. Other V85 TT models come with the Michelin Anakee Adventure tyres, which I have used in the past. The Anakees feel slightly better on the gravel but they are considerably louder than the Dunlops on the tarmac.
The Dunlops have exhibited excellent road manners, even in heavy rain at high speeds. In terms of wear after more than 4000 miles, the front looks brand new and the rear has more than half its life left. Most of that distance has been for commuting duties so the middle section is slightly square, but far less so than I thought it would be.
I wish all those miles were spent on twisty, country roads but alas, commuting is what most adventure/touring bikes get used for (motorcycle marketing department be damned). I would like to fit more gravel road-friendly tires in the future but for now, I’m happy with the TrailSmarts.
Braking comes care of twin, radial-mounted, 4-piston Brembo calipers up front. The rear brake is a single, 260mm disc with a 2-piston caliper with ABS monitoring both front and rear. Surprisingly, the front brakes don’t feel especially sharp compared to the test bike I rode last year.
This could be a consequence of commuting with the brakes not being used hard, or regularly enough. To be honest, it’s not really an issue for me and the lack of initial bite comes in handy when traction is low.
The suspension is on the softer side of the spectrum, the rear more so than the front. The front suspension is rebound adjustable, whereas the rear suspension is adjustable for length and preload only.
Two clicks up from the softest setting on the rear are where I’ve done most of my riding and for the front rebound, it’s set in the middle. The V85 TT is a long-distance touring machine and the suspension is plush if a little basic.
This is all easily changed, it just depends on how deep your wallet is. Compared to the twin shock V7, the V85 TT soaks up all but the biggest bumps on the road. I’m happy with the suspension for now but I do not doubt that I will upgrade the suspension over time.
Comfort & Stability
I keep harping on about comfort but it’s hard to convey just how comfortable this bike is. I even found the V85 TT as comfortable as the BMW R1250GS. However, the V85 TT is smaller and lighter so it’s generally easier to manage for someone of my stature. Also, it costs considerably less than the R1250GS, which adds comfort to both my conscience and bank account.
The handlebar, seat, and footpeg triangle is perfectly suited to long-distance touring. Again, I’m not the tallest guy (5’7” in riding boots) so I have plenty of legroom with decent reach to the pegs. It also means that when I stand up, I’m already halfway there. This is great when riding off-road (but more on that later).
Wind Protection & Noise
More wind protection for touring was one of the reasons I wanted to upgrade from the V7. While the V85 TT Centenario does come with a small windshield, I found it produced so much buffeting that anything longer than 30 minutes at over 60 mph was unbearable.
How I got through a two-day, nearly 400 mile trip with the stock windshield, I’ll never know. The top of the windscreen was creating turbulence and somehow, I had to smooth the air out. To do this, I dived into my Moto Guzzi spares box and I found a small clip-on screen. After fixing it to the top edge of the windshield and testing out various angles, I fixed the turbulence issue. It doesn’t look fancy, but it works for me.
Seat & Keys
The faux-leather seat is long, well-shaped and comfy. It’s wide at the back, narrows towards the tank and there are no sharp edges putting pressure on the underside of my legs.
The rear section of the seat accommodates passengers well but it is on the hard side. According to my fiance, this is fine for an hour but after that, it gets a bit uncomfortable.
The keyed latching mechanism under the tail light releases the seat, revealing the battery, a small tool kit tray and the large ECU.
My only gripe with the seat is the material—it looks and feels great but it’s very fragile. A drop from any height will scratch, mark or tear it (don’t ask me how I know). When mounting/dismounting the bike I’m always mindful of swinging my leg well clear of the seat to not damage it with my boot tread.
What’s it like off-road? Well, it’s an air-cooled, 500+lb twin with 6.7 inches of suspension travel—it’s not exactly an enduro bike. In the 10 months I’ve had the bike, I’ve only spent a few hours off the pavement.
Besides the road-biased tyres, the V85 TT is more than happy to tonk along a dirt or gravel road. It’s highly unlikely I’ll do anything more serious than this, which is exactly what the V85 TT is intended for. Standing up takes the squirrelly feeling away from the back end and the seat’s narrow midsection provides ample room to shove my knees into when cornering. This also helps me to grip the bike with my legs, instead of holding onto the bars with an arm pump-inducing death grip.
The clutch lever is light and thanks to revised gearbox internals, shifting through the 6-speed ‘box is considerably better than Guzzis from just a few years ago. The 830mm seat height is great for commuting, especially on the freeway as it provides a good amount of forward vision. The seat height and wide bars do make splitting lanes (which is legal in Western Australia) a little more challenging, especially on narrower roads and with cars getting bigger by the year.
With 76hp on tap, the V85 TT has almost double the power of my V7. Yes, this is far less than most middleweight adventure bikes but I’ve never been hungry for more. Even when overtaking 60m Australian road trains, the Guzzi pulls smoothly to the 8500 rpm redline. High-speed fuelling is linear, even choked up by new Euro 5 emission standards.
However, down low in the rpm range the throttle feels slightly snatchy, especially just off idle. This could be the fuelling or the ride-by-wire throttle. The throttle does take some getting used to. The lag is almost imperceptible but it is there. Again, this could be the fuel map or exhaust choking things up—I’ll find out if I make any fuelling, exhaust or intake modifications.
Speaking of ride-by-wire, this is the first bike I’ve owned with cruise control. Operated by the CRUISE button on the left-hand switch block, a long press followed by a short tap turns cruise on and then sets the speed. Moving the button up and down changes the set speed and to cancel cruise control you can either hit the cruise button, the brakes or even roll the throttle forwards. I never thought I’d say this but I love the cruise function. The throttle return spring is quite strong (which is not a problem around town) so the cruise function negates this perfectly out on the open road.
Additional Rider Aides
The handlebar switch blocks are made of metal, which is not common on most new bikes. The switches themselves are still plastic and while the buttons (the kill switch, starter, horn) feel good, the switches (indicator, mode, cruise) feel very vague. The indicator switch is especially odd—with little to no tactile feedback, I’m never 100% sure I’ve pressed the cancel button properly.
Along with cruise control and ride-by-wire, this is the first bike I’ve owned with an LCD screen. The 5” dash is set in an attractive surround, with “made in Mandello del Lario” proudly displayed beneath the screen. The display has automatic graphics switching depending on the available light. It switches between a day mode (white screen) and night mode (black screen) to aid in visibility. Using the submenus, you can leave it set to one or the other but I like how it switches itself. Sometimes the screen takes too long to switch over but for the most part, it’s good.
What is mildly annoying is that the brightness doesn’t automatically adjust. During the day with the screen set to maximum brightness the visibility is excellent, even in direct sunlight. However, when the sun sets the brightness is blinding, even on the night mode setting. To change the brightness you have to stop and drill down into the display submenu to change it. Yes, this is a first-world motorcycling problem but it’s annoying nonetheless.
Sticking with display gripes, another is the warning lights on either side of the screen. They are bright and easily deciphered but again, they are blinding at night. Also, the cruise control light is the exact same shade of green as the indicators. When the cruise is active the green light is solid, which is great. However, when the cruise is turned on, but not active, the green light flashes at almost the same rate as the indicator light. Again, this is a small nitpick and not a deal breaker but it is irritating.
The Centenario is the first of Moto Guzzi’s Euro 5 models so the exhaust headers are welded to the catalytic converter. This isn’t a huge drama but if you damage the exhaust, you can’t just change the damaged part. Instead, you have to replace the whole system. The silver lining is that the muffler is still separate so it can be changed quickly and easily.
To soften the blow of having slightly less power than its Euro 4 predecessor, a new ride mode was added to the Euro 5 V85 TT. Along with Strada (road), Pioggo (rain), Sport and Off-Road riding modes, a Custom mode was added. As the name suggests, the new mode lets you set your own throttle response, traction control sensitivity and ABS riding parameters. I particularly like the throttle response settings – the difference between standard, dynamic and soft is subtle but noticeable. Selecting the Off-Road mode turns the rear ABS off, but keeps the front active. This lets you slide the rear into corners and get on the gas to light up the back tyre. I say “you” because I’m nowhere near a good enough rider to do that! But it’s nice to know the option is there if Toby Price ever buys a V85 TT.
There is a button on the right-hand switch block labeled MODE. To switch riding modes, you simply ignore the MODE button and instead hit the starter button while the bike is running. In the beginning, this was extremely confusing but strangely, it’s become one of the functions I love the most. It’s just so typical of Guzzi to do something like this and after a few rides, I was used to it. What the MODE button actually does is cycle through the menu options using short or long presses. Like most modern bikes, you can only do this while the bike is stationary.
Final Thoughts on the V85 TT Centenario
2021 was a big year for everyone. In Western Australia, we were coming down from the Covid-19 pandemic and even though we had it better than most places in Australia (and the world) adjusting to a new way of living was hard. Hever, even though we couldn’t travel and live our lives like we used to, it was still a very joyous time. I turned 30, got engaged, started writing about motorcycles professionally and bought the V85 TT.
Adventure bike marketing is all about stunning imagery with people throwing huge machines around like dirt bikes. Manufacturers are good at convincing people they should buy into the adventure lifestyle of going off the grid and exploring the untamed wilderness for days on end. Realistically, unless you’ve got a serious amount of time, money, commitment and a very understanding family, you are not going to live the life being sold to you. I was mindful of this when I set my sights on an adventure bike and it’s one reason I stuck with Moto Guzzi.
The V85 TT will suit 95% of adventure riders. It has great road manners and it can be loaded up with panniers and a passenger for weekend trips. Moto Guzzi trades outright speed and power for longevity, evidenced by the over-engineered, under-stressed nature of the powertrain.
10 months later, do I still think I bought the right bike? Yeah. Objectively, it’s not perfect but it is perfect for me. The BMW R1250GS and Triumph Tiger 900 GT Pro were too expensive. The Yamaha Tenere 700 was too tall. There were no KTM 790/890 Adventures available to test and in my opinion, they are ugly and don’t have the best reliability.
On paper, the V85 TT is the worst middleweight adventure bike—but again, spec sheets mean nothing in the real world. From the first time I rolled the V85 TT into my garage to every weekend trip away since, I’ve always thought the same thing: I bought the best bike for me.
And c’mon, I’d look pretty dumb if I spent $22,830 AUD on a brand new bike and I didn’t like it.
- Possibly the best-looking adventure/touring bike on the market
- Incredibly comfortable
- Superb handling
- Cruise control is a touring revelation
- 500km between fuel stops
- Edge spoked wheels
- Easy to service
- Top-notch fit and finish
- Matte-finish paint and zero chrome – easy to clean
- The faux-leather seat looks great but the material is fragile
- Suspension is a bit soft
- Euro 5 has made exhaust modifications just that little bit harder
- No automatic brightness for the LCD dash
- Heavy (but it could be worse)
- Accessories are continuously on backorder