Moto Guzzi V85TT

A few months back I went to visit Gavin Pietersen at Italian Motorcycle Importers in Cape Town. It had been a while since we'd seen each other and after shooting the breeze the conversation naturally turned to motorcycles which is when the Moto Guzzi V85TT came up. Gavin and I have a similar appreciation of oddball motorcycles and so he insisted that I put their demo through its paces. I didn't need much more convincing, and starting dreaming up an appropriate trip. After securing an Africa Twin Adventure Sports DCT from Honda SA, Ian Lindsey and I hit the road on a 4 day tour of some of the best roads in the Western Cape.  You'll find a route map at the bottom of the page.
We left Cape Town on a drizzly July Friday afternoon. Weaving through the gridlock traffic we headed toward Du Toitskloof Pass which was covered by ominous clouds. Luckily as we crested the pass we left the rain behind us and sunshine began to break through the clouds. 
Continuing to Ceres, we topped up fuel and supplies before climbing Gydo pass and hooking a right at Op Die Berg towards Katbakkies pass. Dropping down into the Tankwa Karoo I noticed that my sleeping bag, tent and tool bag had slipped off the back of the bike which was slightly problematic given the forecasted winter temperatures. We back tracked as night fell, searching for my scattered kit and luckily found most of it thanks to the Guzzi's excellent headlights. Now sleeping bagless, we pushed on to our first night's stop, Bike X Cape, which is always a winner with glamp tents, frosty beverages and braai packs containing their legendary lamb chops.
The next morning we rose, readied ourselves and mounted the motorcycles. Leaving Bike X Cape we headed Eastward on the R356 until we hit the asphalt road to Sutherland and turned North. Two kilometers was enough asphalt for us so we swung West and headed back into the Tankwa opting for the long route to Sutherland via Oubergs Pass. The gravel roads and vast expanse of arid landscape have a way of lulling you into a meditative state. The Guzzi was lapping up the dirt miles comfortably and I only had to slow down a bit when approaching drifts as the suspension isn't as capable as the Africa Twin.
The Moto Guzzi impressed us with its lovely character, comfortable ergonomics and retro looks. The simplicity of its controls was appreciated compared to the Africa Twin's incredibly complex electronics and handlebar controls stuffed with buttons. 
Nothing like the remoteness of the Tankwa Karoo to get some headspace.
Interestingly the less off-road oriented Guzzi was easier to control up Oubergs pass. Its lower centre of gravity, v-twin torque and smooth clutch made it much more controllable than the electronics on the Africa Twin allowed. I still hadn't figured out the optimal combination of traction control, power level, engine braking and DCT settings for steep rocky uphills. Doing so probably would have involved a 3 week training course in computational dynamics. The result was that every time I accelerated with any sort of gusto, the wheel would slip, traction control would intervene, I'd loose momentum and then the bike would change up a gear. I'll put this down to user incompetence as I know that the AT is extremely capable in the right hands - but either way, the Guzzi pleasantly surprised us.  
We made it to Sutherland where we refuelled the bikes and ourselves before continuing towards Matjiesfontein.
Our destination for the night was Porcupine Rest Camp on the northern side of the Klein Swartberg mountain range. In Laingsburg we turned South off the N1 and took a beautiful back road off the R323 and were rewarded with a spectacular sunset.
Is there anything better than the combination of mates, motorcycles and the open road?
Porcupine Rest Camp was a welcome sight after a long day in the saddle. We pitched our tents in the fading light and headed to the boma for refreshments, burgers and a few spirited games of pool with the owners. Fun was had. We highly recommend it as a stop over.
The next morning we were up with the sun and packing our damp tents away to get an early start. We were heading through Seweweekspoort but not before descending the dramatic Bosluiskloof Pass to pay an unwelcome visit to Oom Fox at the Gamkapoort Dam. 
Thank you Thomas Bain.
Recent flash floods had washed away sections of the road and again the Guzzi, with its lower seat height and clutch lever, made rock crawling a less intimidating experience than the tall clutchless Africa Twin. Granted, a rally rider would have just wheelied over the washouts, but alas, not us.
 After a typically unfriendly encounter with the infamous Oom Fox (we think he actually likes people but doesn't let on) we headed back up the pass and entered the majestic Seweweekspoort. No matter how many times I've been through it, I am always awestruck by its dramatic beauty. 
Ian and I both own Yamaha TTR250s and usually ride them at full throttle, dreaming that we are in the Dakar, concentrating intently on the road surface ahead. Surprisingly we rode more sedately on the bigger bikes, content to trundle along in second gear admiring the fascinating rock formations of the Cape fold mountains. It was a different story when it came to tackling extended asphalt stretches with the heavenly assistance of cruise control. 
We spent our third night at Warmwaterberg Spa camp site and soaked our bones in the geothermal waters after three days of spirited dirt riding. Coupled with cold beers and a meal in the restaurant, it was the perfect wind down and became firmly cemented in our list of favourite moto camp spots. It may not be off the beaten path but the luxuries certainly eased the pain of having to return to normal life the following day.
Our last day of riding saw us munching asphalt miles which was more enjoyable on larger engines bikes when compared to the 250cc steeds we normally straddle. First hitting the R62 south-west, we then took a detour over Tradouw pass which was particularly green and adorned with waterfalls after recent rains. We lunched in Swellendam before continuing up the R60 and back to Montague, heading North on the R318 up the often overlooked Koo Valley. I always forget about Rooihoogte pass and although not the most dramatic road it has a wonderfully long 180 degree righthand bend which is just the icing on the cake.
With the sun dropping towards the horizon we joined the N1 highway and set cruise control to go fast mode with the aim of getting home before dark. This would have been achievable if Du Toitskloof pass hadn't invited us to grace its twisty ribbon of asphalt for one last hurrah as the sun set, basking the Paarl valley in golden light. How could we resist?
 What a charming motorcycle - the Moto Guzzi V85TT. 
A huge thank you to IMI Cape Town for the loaner. We definitely put it through its paces and then some. I doubt that the typical V85TT owner would subject it to the type of riding we did but it's nice to know that it can handle its own out in the field. It may not have all the latest electronic gizmos, the ground clearance of a dirt bike or the power of its competitors but it sure does make up for it in character. It feels like a motorcycle, not a robot, and that counts for a lot in my books. 
I haven't mentioned the attention that the bike gets - most bikers are baffled and non bikers intrigued. I really like the retro dakar-esque look, and far prefer it over the other alien like ADV bikes so prevalent on the roads today.

If this bike tickles your fancy - I urge you to go and take it for a test ride at Italian Motorcycle Importers.

Looking for a more thorough review of the V85TT including all the tech specs?
This article by Kyle Hyatt at Road Show has a more detailed look at the bike.  

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