The exciting chronicle of the "Moto Guzzi Experience Reporter" - Salvo, Jan and Filippo - who experienced an extraordinary adventure on the "all terrain" Moto Guzzi V85 TT, in Tuscany, on the "Polvere & Gloria" tour (Gaiole in Chianti, Siena, Tuscany, Italy, 17-19 May 2019), facing an unconventional path.
“We were instantly assailed by a mixture of excitement and disbelief when we received the confirmation: it was totally amazing to find out that we would get to represent The Clan as Moto Guzzi Experience Reporters at the ‘Polvere&Gloria’ rally, run on the very same roads as those trodden by the ‘Eroica’ cycling race, but on motorbikes, how exciting is that! We’re Salvo and Jan and we’ve been living in England for the past few months, more specifically in Leeds, West Yorkshire, where we proudly ride around on our all-black, 2015 model V7 II Stone. Ever since this bike came into our home it has truly turned our lives upside down. Exploring Yorkshire by bike is really great, but even the mere thought of riding the brand-new Moto Guzzi, Mandello’s latest little gem no less, around the roads of Tuscany with a hundred or so other bikers made us feel pretty proud and adventurous. That’s exactly the spirit that drove us to apply as soon as we received the e-mail from The Clan informing us that we’d been selected for this very special individual opportunity to register. From then on it was just a matter of waiting: we couldn’t wait for that fateful Friday to arrive when we would finally get to meet our fellow-adventurers and the many other ‘Heroes on motorbikes’ and, above all, start getting to grips with what was to be the most intimate ever travel companion for the two of us, namely the V85 TT.
Friday 17th (May), an ill-fated day for all superstitious people in Italy, but not for us guys who had been waiting for weeks for that day to finally arrive. When we got to the Casa al Vento holiday farm, our home base situated just outside of Gaiole in Chianti, we got to meet The Clan staff and Filippo who, like us, had also been selected to be a Moto Guzzi Experience Reporter and experience the thrill of “Polvere&Gloria” on an identical V85 TT, albeit without a pillion passenger.
And there they are, the two “all terrain” bikes, ready to roar and all decked out in their amazing white, yellow and black “Sahara” colour scheme that is so reminiscent of Dakar adventures. After a quick lunch we head off to take a look at the bikes and register for the event. Gaiole in Chianti is only about 4 kilometres away and the roads between the town and the holiday farm are a prime example of what lay ahead of us on the Saturday. We make a triumphant entry into the square between two rows of parked bikes and the envious stares of the other almost 500 registered ‘Heroes’. There are beautifully turned-out ‘glories’ from the ‘80s and ‘90s, standing right alongside gleaming new maxi-enduros, and the beauty of the V85 TT is that it stands out in any crowd thanks to its unmistakeable style. In fact, the guys don’t leave us alone for a moment and the minute we park the bikes, they come over to admire them and ask us what we think of them. We would have loved to be able to tell them everything right there and then, but at that stage we had only done a few kilometres on the bikes, just enough to fall in love but not enough to give any kind of detailed feedback. Never mind, there will be plenty of time for that tomorrow!
The schedule for Saturday 18th includes a wake-up call at 7:00am, breakfast at 7:30am and a 9:00am departure on our very own “Eroica”! A 208-kilometre route, half on tarred roads and half on dirt roads. A legendary route along some of Tuscany’s most beautiful roads, born back in 1997 thanks to a love of non-motorised two-wheelers and to commemorate old-school cycling and the famous ‘Eroica’ cycling race, and later adopted by the ‘Polvere&Gloria’ rally for off-road and enduro bikes. The event combines these two different spirits into a unique day out on the road with the mechanical sounds of the iconic off-road bikes that have conquered so many roads and tracks around the world, and the feel of the great rallies that have made biking history, right down to the numbered racing bibs! The feel and sounds of epic endeavours, now made available to enthusiasts like us in the form of a well-signposted route that is usually well within the technical abilities of almost any biker who isn’t scared to get a bit dusty… however, this year’s event turned out to be anything but “usual”…
Within the first few metres after the start in Gaiole in Chianti’s town centre we realise that the weather forecasts weren’t joking: the weather proves to be decidedly lousy, with pouring rain and gusty winds that accompany us all the way to Radi and the 10:45am checkpoint, the first of three mandatory stops between us and the finish line, to rest and get our roadbooks stamped (just like in a real rally!).
Radi is an utterly enchanting little village and by the time we get there our V85 TTs are already covered in mud. It may be heresy to say so, but they look even more beautiful this way! The “Heroes” congregate around the small bar, making friends, discussing the route and in a number of cases, deciding to ride together. The same thing happens to us when we meet a couple of Guzzi fans who are tackling the rain and mud on the back of a battle-scarred, series one V7: truly heroic! Just a few minutes break and then we head off into the hills and vineyards of the Chianti area, alternating between wet tar and dirt roads covered with a thin layer of gravel that often harbours more than just a few hidden hazards. On his V85 TT, Filippo seems to be coping pretty well with all the conditions that we encounter along the way, but we’re not having any problems either with the transition between different surfaces, thanks to the bike’s three different Riding Modes – Road, Rain and Off-road – and the knobbly tyres, which seem to be an excellent compromise.
12:53pm, Montalcino. Another stop and yet another stamp as the sun finally begins to peep shyly through the clouds, urging us to enjoy a little walk through this magnificent village overshadowed by a spectacular fortress, as well as the excellent ‘Eroica’ flavoured ice-cream that’s included in the registration fee. But the truce doesn’t last very long at all and just as the rain appears to have no intention whatsoever of ‘turning off the taps’, we equally have no intention whatsoever of throwing in the towel. No amount of rain gear is sufficient to cope with so many hours of rain and mud seeping in from above and below. We’re already soaking wet, but the eagles mounted into our bikes’ headlights seem to whisper to us: ‘don’t worry’, ‘we’ll take care of everything’.
And that’s just the encouragement we need in order to tackle the second half of the route, which proves to be even more challenging than the first half. Having two people on the bike decidedly increases the risk and we soon hear that a number of participants have taken a spill and that some of the guys have even been injured, thankfully not too seriously. However, the V85 TT is proving to be consistently easy to handle and very predictable in any situation, which enables me to loosen my grip on the handlebars and the foot pegs a little, thereby improving my bike-control off-road.
At 2:15pm we’re in Lucignano d’Asso and grab the opportunity to enjoy a well-deserved break for lunch. It’s taking us a little longer than the other guys and we realise that we’re now near the tail-end of the main group, but we really want to savour every last second of this experience and the flavourful Tuscan cuisine is rightfully part and parcel of that. An hour later we’re back in the saddle and things start to get serious: long off-road stretches interspersed with tight hairpins, ups and downs in the woods and a slimy surface layer that becomes increasingly tricky after 8 hours of unrelenting rain. We somehow manage to cover the particularly challenging stretch between Asciano and Radda in Chianti. It’s already 6:00pm by the time we get our roadbook stamped for the fourth time.It seems like we’ve made it and there’s only 20 kilometres left between us and Gaiole in Chianti, but never make the mistake of dropping your guard too soon! I’m leading the pack and we’re heading down a heavily wooded dirt track that’s already getting dark. I come around a tight bend, accelerate a bit on the slight downhill and the next thing I know, both tyres suddenly lose grip on a patch of clay, the bike veers off to the left and the front wheel is heading nowhere. I feel Jan instinctively tensing his knees against my hips and I think to myself “here we go, time to take a lie-down, and so close to the finish too”, but just then the V85 TT once again finds a bit of grip, the handlebars move smoothly in my hands and the bike rights itself and gets itself back on track. Wow! Nothing like this has ever happened to me before in all my years as a road rider. My heart is in my mouth but behind my steamed-up visor there’s a rather tired, ear to ear smile on my face.
Our arrival feels like a concentrated mix of disbelief and satisfaction in equal measure. Ten hours have passed since we left the hotel and we’re amongst the last guys to cross the finish line, but it doesn’t really matter because they even award us a medal! Where else will you ever find an event where they even reward the tail-enders?
This was an adventurous and romantic adventure that allowed us to truly experience, get to know and totally savour the heart of Tuscany, meet a magnificent bunch of people and get to try out an amazing bike in the type of conditions that really tested our limits and those of the bike and established a very special bond between us in the process. This may well not have been the Dakar Rally, but it was nonetheless our very own great little adventure on the V85 TT for The Clan and for all of you guys out there!
We’ve borrowed the slogan from the official event T-shirt in an attempt to explain our feelings with regard to our Guzzi experience at ‘Polvere&Gloria sulle strade dell’Eroica in Moto’ (or ‘Dust&Glory on the roads of the Eroica on motorbikes’): ‘Have faith, follow your dreams and live the life that you’ve always dreamed of’.”
Filippo added: “Riding along the roads of the Eroica cycling race during the Polvere&Gloria rally, it feels almost as if time has stood still. How on earth have those magnificent routes out there in the middle of nowhere still somehow managed to escape the call of tarmac? How on earth have those ancient villages with their majestic stone walls managed to resist for so long and still remain intact? Getting all muddy again as you did when you were a child, smelling the fragrances of the Tuscan countryside accentuated even more by the spring rain, taking in the breathtaking views and battling through the treacherous mud on your Moto Guzzi puts a silly smile on your face that lasts all day long.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re soaking wet, nor does it matter if you’re totally exhausted after 10 hours of riding, that smile never goes away.
Riding the Moto Guzzi V85 TT, the first ever Classic Enduro in history, makes everything seem even more magical. The bike’s excellent manoeuvrability allows you to take things easy and enjoy the surrounding countryside, while its smooth engine burbles along happily under you but is equally ready to instantly change tone and character as soon as you hit the gas and, seemingly effortlessly, take you wherever you want to go.
This was a truly unique experience that has made me fall in love with Moto Guzzi even more than before. The Eagle that I have tattooed on my skin and that is branded on the tanks of no less than 5 of the bikes sitting in my garage has managed to amaze me yet again and has further kindled my passion.
Thanks to The Clan for having given me the chance to act as Moto Guzzi Experience Reporter. I will certainly be there at the start of the next Polvere&Gloria rally with my own Moto Guzzi and I seriously urge you all to do the same! To all you good buddies out there, here’s to our next adventure!”