Every November, I’ve got a work conference to attend to somewhere in the US. If the schedule works out, I try to ride out. This year the festivities were in San Antonio, so I asked Moto Guzzi if they’d lend me a V85 TT to ride out and back for a combined travel story/review. Foolishly, they said yes – so let’s get right to it!
November 7th, 2019 – Los Angeles, California to Blythe, California: ~225 milesI have a soft spot for Shane Pacillo, the self-described Foreman of Fun at Piaggio Group USA. That might be because when I see him, he’s often giving me a bike to ride. But it’s also because I know that when I see Shane, I’ll always have the chance to have an informed conversation about the state of motorcycling. Considering how motorcycling is going in this country, it’s often not a happy conversation, but Shane’s the kind of person I always learn something from when I talk to.
Shane and I were both at the Alpinestars Friends and Family Day, and we spent a little bit of time reflecting on the different machines that were available for riders to try. This led to a conversation in which he laid out three types of motorcycles:
1.) bikes where you enjoy exploring the machine’s limits (Honda CRF50F)
2.) bikes where you enjoy exploring your own limits (Aprilia RSV4 Factory)
3.) the in-between blends.
Those examples are admittedly extremes, but I thought it was an interesting way to look at motorcycling. As he handed me the key to the V85 TT, Shane noted that the V85 TT fell into the third group, suggesting that I would be rewarded by riding it smoothly. That’s the context I got before I took off for ~3,000 miles of a tour.
Guzzi makes two versions of the TT – a base model and an Adventure. I requested an Adventure, as it comes with aluminum bags/trunk and a sweet white/yellow/red livery on a red frame.
UPDATE: After I came back from this trip, Guzzi announced a “Travel” variant at Long Beach IMS. That would have been convenient, no? We’ll talk more about the Travel later.
Unfortunately, an Adventure model wasn’t available, but Moto Guzzi was able to provide a base model with the side bags so that I could carry what I needed out east. So I swung my leg over the V85, disengaged the odd kill switch (it’s a push button) and fired the motor up – the Guzzi responded with a side-to-side shake that I was instantly fond of.
The TFT screen lights up with a “Moto Guzzi” and the eagle logo – a design feature that appears in a few places. It’s a special symbol to the company, as the eagle reflects Giovanni Ravelli, one of three gentlemen (two pilots and one mechanic) in the Italian Air Force who decided during World War I to start a motorcycle company after the war ended. Ravelli, a pilot, died just days after the end of the war in a plane crash, and the eagle logo is a tribute to him. For a bit more of Guzzi’s early history and lots of pictures of machines throughout the company’s run, check out my visit to the Moto Guzzi museum in Mandello del Lario from back when I visited Italy for a Motorcyclist cover story.
The motor is a bit cold blooded, and I was surprised by how much effort the throttle took to rotate. It’s not a Herculean task, I would just call the throttle “tight”. That would end up being one of many small ways in which the V85 TT felt like a mini version of my personal R1150GS, and I felt right at home. Speaking of which, I had to get to my actual home, so I hopped on the freeway for an 60 mile introduction. First impressions were that the V85 was smooth, comfortable, and cool as hell. I could have used a bigger windshield, but I was feeling pretty good about this as a steed for my trip to Texas.
If you’re local to Los Angeles and want to try an extended test ride to see if you’ll enjoy the V85 TT as much as I do, Ride Malibu will rent you one for $179/day.
The riding was not interesting in the least, except for one moment where I caught up to a sportbike and I noticed a bit of shine from his rear tire. He had some cord showing, and I decided it’d be best for me to leave plenty of space between us.
Each day of this trip recap, I’d like to focus on a specific aspect of the V85 TT that’s important to touring. Seeing almost all of my riding on Day 1 was done in the dark, let’s start with illumination.
LIGHTINGIn Europe, the V85 TT gets all-LED lighting. Here, we’re stuck with incandescent turn signals, but the headlight and taillight are LED. They’re also fascinating from a styling standpoint. You saw the headlight in the feature photo up top, but what that doesn’t convey is how the eagle lights up in stages when the key is turned in the ignition:
I think the eagle is a beautiful styling touch, and the brake lights look cool, too. They’ve got a jet engine feel – the outer rings are lit up as running lights and the centers light up when the brakes are applied.
From a functional standpoint, the output of the headlight is wonderful. It lights up the road well, and the cutoff is good so you’re not bothering anyone else. Guzzi wisely uses a switch that integrates flash to pass and permanent highs in one mechanism, which saves up space on the left controls. Maybe I hold my left hand too close to the right edge of the left grip, but I found that the switch was easy to accidentally activate – I often flicked the high beam on while reaching for the clutch lever and I haven’t had that problem with any other bike. That’s a minor issue. A bigger annoyance makes me wonder how many of Moto Guzzi’s test riders put miles on the TT at night: there’s a shocking amount of glare from the headlight that gets reflected back by the windshield.
How much this annoys you will entirely depend on your sensitivity to light and how tall you are – the amount of glare you get back obviously depends on your angle and position relative to the windscreen. Based on my informal experiments while killing time on the road, I suspect this would most annoy someone who’s 6’0″ or 6’1″. Someone on the shorter side may barely see this at all. Here’s a video that shows the glare at varying heights.
Again, the headlights themselves are excellent – it’s just so weird that my face gets lit up with the rest of the road. I got to “enjoy” that sensation for several hours before calling it a night and finding a motel in Blythe.
Tomorrow, the journey begins in earnest!
On to Day 2 – November 8th, 2019 – Blythe, California to Las Cruces, New Mexico: ~540 miles