Moto Guzzi 850 T5  


Make Model

Moto Guzzi 850 T5


1983 -


Four stroke, 90° V twin, longitudinally mounted, OHV, 2 valve per cylinder


844 cc / 51.5 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 83 x 78 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 9.5:1


2x 30mm Dell'Orto VHB carburetors


Battery with double contact breaker with automatic advance
Starting Electric

Max Power

68.5 hp / 51.0 kW @ 7000 rpm

Max Torque

54.2 ft-lb / 7.5 kgf-m @ 5800 rpm


5 Speed 
Final Drive Shaft

Front Suspension

Paioli telescopic air assisted

Rear Suspension

Dual Koni adjustable for preload.

Front Brakes

2x 300mm discs 1 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 242mm disc 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre

110/90 V16

Rear Tyre

130/90 V18

Dry Weight

219 kg / 482.8 lbs
Wet Weight 230 kg / 507 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

23 Litres / 6.0 US gal

Consumption Average

15.1 km/lit

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.8 sec / 97.2 mph / 156.4 km/h

Top Speed

120.8 mph / 194.4 km/h

HEN A VENERABLE MARQUE prostitutes itself in order to follow trends, the results are inevitably crass and invariably compromised technically. No better case of this was Moto Guzzi's decision to equip almost their entire range with 16-inch wheels front and rear, a sop to fashion and a complement, perhaps, to the new bodywork that most of these models were clad in. But with little apparent thought to the geometric alterations they wrought to largely unchanged chassis, 16-inchers ended the Italian company's reputation for stable and predictable handling.

What someone in the Modena design studios should have remembered was that fashion is by its very nature ephemeral, and subordinating fundamental rules of rake and trail in favour of fashion might win a few cheers from the pose 'n' point brigade, but when the Japs started the next wave of 'soft' aerodynamic styling (aided not a little by Ducati's Paso), then they'd be left with something that not only wobbled , but also looked daft. Rather like flared jeans in an age ^ of straight-leg 501s. Convincingly persuaded, it is said, by a disasterous reception in the vital American market (and, one smugly hopes, the massed whining of Euro-journalists), the factory have at last done something about the 16-inch controversy. Or at least as far as two of their most important models are concerned, the venerable T5 and the newish lOOOcc Le Mans Mk4.

The T5 is the one we put to a full test, but a few days with a Le Mans (see sidebar) also proved something of a revelation, and is in some respects an even more radically transformed machine than Mandello's smaller and rather genteel roadster.

Guzzi have not only done the decent thing and put an 18-inch wheel in back, but they've also added a fork brace and kicked out the forks in the yoke, thereby improving rake and curing fork flex in one fell swoop. However, doubtless hedging every possible bet in an effort to obviate recalcitrance in the handling dept, they have also stuck on a hydraulic steering damper. In fact the T5's frame is exactly the same as the bigger, heavier Spada from whence this contraption came, and I'm not at all sure that the better-balanced 4831b T5 really needs it.

In practice, however, the package works just dandy. The 16-inch front wheel facilitates quick-ish steering at slow speeds, but the revised geometry, fork brace - and perhaps the steering damper -bestow the T5 with a sense of surety on motorways and fast A-roads that recalls the days when Italian bikes were simply the business as far as roadholding was concerned. That yardstick may've passed on to the Japanese in recent years, but given the T5's rather rudimentary suspension, it still acquits itself well by comparison.

Even by Guzzi standards, the Paoli air-shocks fitted to the previous T5 were numbingly hard, but these have been elbowed in favour of Konis, which what they lack in (token) air-adjustment, make up for in progressively damped comfort. Front forks are still manufactured by Paoli, and still sport linked air-assistance for the compression stroke, but no rebound damping. Coupled with the comfiest seat ever offered on a Guzzi (also a hand-me-down from the Spada), this is a set up that's firm without being harsh, and comfortable without being cushy. As a consequence, non-stop riding between All-ups is perfectly tenable - unlike long distance travel aboard the altogether more macho Le Mans. This is swell for touring folk, because the 5.7 gallon tank and an average fuel consumption of over 45mpg, means that you can bop along for well over 200 miles before hitting reserve.

And bop along you will, for whilst obviously not a device for humiliating GPZ and CBR riders, the T5 provides performance that will accommodate most riders's basic needs. Old Italophiles will know that the basic 650cc two-valve engine on which the T5's motor is based, first saw life powering agricultural and military machinery some 30 years ago. Increasing the bore and stroke, replacing the belt driven generator with a crankshaft mounted alternator and jettisoning gears in favourof a chain to drive the camshaft improved the 90° transverse V-twin, and this latest incarnation of the 850cc powerplant really first saw duty almost a decade and a half ago. Squared-off barrels and rockerbox covers distinguish it from the original T3 850, but apart from that, the only significant updates relate to Nikasil bores and breathing arrangements.

The former of these enabled Guzzi to abandon steel cylinder liners, with the consequent disadvantage that rebores are an impossibility. However, the Nikasil plating process imparts an extremely hard finish to the alloy walls and claims for a 80,000-plus mile service life are not uncommon. The breathing arrangements on the 1987 T5 begin with the same 30mm Dellorto carbs as of yore, but they have been rejetted to account for an improved recirculatory system which draws unburnt gases from the crankcase, up through the top frame tubes and then back into the carbs. Through primarily a consequence of ever-tightening EEC legislation, this has spin-off benefits in terms of better cold-starting - the choke can be dispensed with just seconds after initial ignition. Throttle response, however, is still on the heavy side, but because of the upright riding position, this isn't the pain in the wrist that it can be on other Guzzis (such as the Le Mans, for example).

Another thing that hasn't changed is the transmission. 'Robust' is the polite word for it, while harsher critics point to the Guzzi's agricultural antecedents and snigger. Truth is, the single, dry-plate clutch is reasonably progressive these days, but the cogs do need some definite coercion if they are to find their way home smoothly. Lever action isn't too demanding (again, the riding position helps here), and finding neutral usually presents no problems. In practice, the T5 rider quickly acclimatises himself to the transmission, but once off the bike I was quite surprised at the loud metallic 'clack' that accompanied Mr Ryder's gearchanging as he posed for my camera.

However when you find the right road, wind up the revs to the point at which the Guzzi starts to sound seriously businesslike, upward changes produce a real lurch as you throw in the clutch. It's a sensation evocative of the first Guzzi 1 ever rode, way back when the marque was imported by Barratts of Redhill. I'd never ridden a shaftie in my tender young life, and trying to project a portly V7 back to London on the manner of a more familiar Triumph twin frankly scared the wits out of me.

The T5 is in many ways the best performer in Guzzi's stable. .No, it's obviously not the fastest - that privilege belongs to the 133mph Le Mans - but it offers such a broad and utterly manageable spread of torque, enabling it to accomplish so many tasks, that the phrase 'all-rounder' might well have been coined for it. Below 1500rpm the long-stroke T5 motor grumbles and grunts a bit, but it does not baulk at carelessly opened throttles, nor does it mind being pushed way passed the 7000rpm "yellow line'. At 2000rpm below this point, the T5 cruises at an extremely comfortable 85mph in fifth - vibration may be apparent on the T5, but it is never intrusive or numbing. With approximately 16mph/1000rpm available in the same gear, one might even expect a higher maximum speed than the mean 117mph we got, once, that is, the engine is fully run-in (our T5 had only recently emerged from its first service when we took it over). And unusually for the products of Veglia Borletti, the speeds we acheived using our radar gun almost always matched those on the T5's speedo!

In town, the T5 was every bit as comfortable and easy to ride as it was on the open road, the steering damper having little discernible effect on really slow speed manoeuvres in tight situations. There was also no evidence of the dreaded clutch-wrist fatigue, and the Brembo brakes, though now rather long in the tooth design-wise, offered a comforting balance between sensitivity, effort and retardation. The 270mm cast iron discs are perforated in an unusual fashion, with U-shaped chunks taken out of either side of their perimeters. The advantages (if any) of this are not apparent in use.

Interestingly enough, this T5 was the first Guzzi I've ridden on which I instinctively found myself using the company's linked braking system in the manner in which it was designed for -depressing only the rear brake lever to effect operation of the off-side front caliper as well as the more obvious one. Don't know why this should be; possibly because the T5 has such an equable all-round nature, whereas most Guzzis of my ken were more demanding in the extraction of their performance, and thus imposed a psychological burden on the rider to brake in the same way as he accelerated, ie using maximum effort.

Indeed, the T5's abiding impression on me was how relaxing it was to ride. Even two-up - never my favourite thing on a Guzzi - the machine never felt too crowded, too irritable or too stressed, and little things like the quartz clock and the smoked perspex instrument shroud which enabled you to see it and the rest of the instruments properly, all added to this sense of well-being. Of course there has to be a downside, and contributing to it are trafficator lamps that on this particular T5 remained stubbornly independant of the ignition circuit (and so continued flashing after it was switched off) but are a bit too small and dim to do their job effectively, and of course, the notoriously strange switchgear.

Finish is another age-old problem, although our T5 was perhaps better than average - not least by dint of someone at Three Cross having judiciously greased the hinge on the filler cap cover and the grommets into which the rather brittle side-panels are push-fitted. But the plastic cover on the underseat toolbox was tacky and ill-fitting and one of the studs holding the perspex screen in place had already sheared.

This is not what one expects of a £3675 motorcycle, but if Guzzi can bend to public opinion in respect of roadholding and handling, then perhaps word will also get through to them on finish and build quality. Then, and only then, will machines like the T5 prove a real match for BMW's boxers. But in the meantime, here is one Guzzi that rewards rider input in a thoroughly satisfying fashion -ironically because it abandons fashion in favour of the practical and the pragmatic. Anyone who appeciates the virtues of a big V-twin, and who can accept a few rough edges, will not fail to be quietly impressed bythe T5 H

Source Motorcycle International 1987