As I crest the dirt rise, two BMW R 1250 GS riders come into view. For me, this is a common occurrence. BMW motorcycles—especially the BMW GS model—seem to be everywhere. Yet for them, judging by their long, drawn out stares, I bet I’m the first rider on a Moto Guzzi adventure bike they’ve seen in ages, possibly ever.
You don’t see many Guzzi riders getting off road, which is precisely why those who do go the way of Italy’s Mandello del Lario–born beauty love it so much. Guzzi’s represent individuality and independence. They’re different. Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way should be the company’s anthem.
The Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel is precisely the bike to take in this vast expanse I’m in, just outside of Julian, Calif. An up-spec version of the V85 TT that was released in 2019, the Travel variant is still powered by the unique 90-degree, 853 cc transverse V-twin mounted to a steel chassis with a maintenance-free shaft drive. And it doesn’t buy too much into the electronic arms race engulfing modern maxi-ADV bikes.
You get three riding modes of Street, Rain and Off-Road, that let you vary the delivery of the motor’s 80 hp. There’s also ABS, traction control, heated grips and an elegant execution of the cruise-control switch on the left handlebar. That’s largely it as far as electronics, which is great because it allows the rider to just get on and go, without having to worry about which setting to adjust.
Weighing 487 pounds with a tank of gas, the bike—wearing the Sabbia Namib color scheme exclusive to the model—comes standard with side cases that have a total of 17 gallons of storage capacity.
At speed, the V85 TT Travel makes you want to keep going. It overflows with personality, as the splayed-out cylinders pulse between your legs and the quiet rumble of the exhaust provides a unique soundtrack. Sure, it’s far from the fastest accelerating ADV out there, but power is adequate for almost every off-road, and most on-road, situations and is matched to a silky-smooth gear shift, devoid of quickshifter electronics.
On tarmac, the chassis provides a very comfortable ride. The rear suspension with its right side-mounted shock helps lay the foundation for smooth two-up riding that will have the passenger returning for more. The shock, however, is very soft and will blow through the stroke if you use the bike in any form of anger. Smoothness is the name of the game.
The Travel’s overall weight is held quite high in the chassis and thus makes it less agile off the pavement compared to a KTM adventure bike, for example. The suspension, however, is adequate for rough dirt roads and you’ll be surprised how far into the hills this two-wheeler can venture. You’ll likely run out of nerve before the bike runs out of capability.
The Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel is not for everyone. Yet, to ride one is a unique experience, and you’ll certainly be part of a select crowd the next time you pull up for lunch, surrounded by BMW riders.