Honda XRV750 Africa Twin, Admirable Big-Trailie !

Honda‘s Africa Twin is another bike that conjures up specific memories for me. Back in 1994, I joined a sportbike mag, and did so with thoughts of ripping round the country on big bhp, hi-spec, race-reps. But just days into the job I was sent on an errand on one of the twin-pot Hondas.

Deemed back then as a big-trailie (the poncey, pretentious world of ‘adventure’ bikes was still some way off). I treated the prospect of riding the 750 with some disdain. A nose bleed-inducing seat height, skinny tyres with knobbles on ’em and a pathetic 62 HP were just some of the numerous discouraging ‘features’ serving to put me right off the bike. I wouldn’t care, it wasn’t long since I’d been earning a living delivering parcels aboard battered old high-mileage sheds. So quite why I was getting a bit snooty about a trip on the Africa Twin, god only knows.

Turns out the 20-odd-mile run was a real education. What a corker of a bike the 750 was. Super comfy, dead easy to ride, torquey motor were just some of the qualities I quickly listed. By the time I was done, I’d added plenty more. No wonder I’d seen so many of these sorts of bikes whenever I’d whizzed over to Europe. Suddenly the Africa Twin made a load of sense, and made me realise there were more bikes to like than just race-reps.

Since then I’ve appreciated a ton of rides on big trailies and pretty much loved the lot. When I met the owner of this one a few years back, I was in a much better position to understand why he liked it so much. Then when he added a few tales of true adventure behind the near 40,000 miles it had on its clock back then, I admired the Honda all the more.

It’s so damned easy to get on with. It might look a bit of a weighty brute, but get those spoked wheels turning and any thoughts of excess are left back where you began. Balance and poise are so evident from the word go, after just 10 minutes you feel so familiar with the bike it feels like you’ve been on it 50 times before. That’s the sign of a very sorted motorbike.

The riding position helps, with bars and pegs meeting the most ideal points of your extended arms and legs. It fits, and I suspect it’ll fit everyone bar freaks of nature. Fitting as ideally as it does, and combined with the shelter the excellent fairing and screen provides, staying in the comfy saddle all day long wouldn’t entitle you to any claims to fame for mile-eating. I might not have done the sort of miles its owner has done on the Honda, but it’s easy to see why he’s been able to cover so many.

You’re never likely to be stressed by the well-mannered V-twin Engine. Its power delivery is best described as soft, and so progressive and linear is the way it builds, it’s probably fair to even label it as polite. Always feeling unhurried you can understand why it only has five gears, and why you don’t need to swap them much. It pays to drop down a cog or two when you’re in town to nip any snatching in the bud, but in the right gear the engine pulls beautifully from bugger all revs.

There’s a bit of vibration if you ask a lot of the engine in the taller gears when it’s running slowly, but only fussy types would object to it. But you’ll not see any blurring in the mirrors and won’t feel anything through the bars. Then as soon as the 750 is spinning more freely it smooths out completely. It’s a very real world and fully usable engine. Short of sheer power it might be, but as it’s so friendly you can use all it has and never feel intimidated. Oh, it’s lovely!

There’s a nice feel from the chassis too. By modern standards its handling has to be described as a bit slow and lethargic. In fairness though, you’ll only really sense that if you’re trying to hurry it through stuff like chicanes. The majority of the time you’ll appreciate the stability it offers, with the feel and feedback being another bonus to help you realise exactly what’s going on beneath you.

Part of that is down to the soft, supple suspension, which also gives good, comfortable ride quality, making bumps feel significantly less serious. It gets a bit flustered if you test its damping too much, but its slight wallowing won’t generate any worry. Hustling this bike might need a bit more muscle at times, but those same muscles won’t often be made rigid with worry : safe and certain is the best way to describe the handling.

You don’t see many Africa Twins on UK roads these days, and it’s a wonder why Honda didn’t do a better job of replacing it when it was dropped in 2003 to be replaced by the lacklustre Varadero – which had been out a few years even then. I reckon it’s one of the best and most endearing Hondas built in recent times... and easily tough enough to trot round the world.

Honda XRV750 Specifications

Manufacturing: Honda (Honda Racing Company)

Model: XRV750 Africa Twin

Year Built: 1989 - 2003

Engine: 4-Stroke, Liquid Cooled, 50' V-Twin, SOHC 6-Valve (3-Valve per Cylinder)

Bore x Stroke: 81 x 72 mm

Cylinder capacity: 742 cc

Fuel Supply System: 2 x Keihin CV 38mm Flatside Carburetor

Compression ratio: 9,0: 1

Transmission: 5-Speed

Ignition: Digital ECU

Max Power: 62 HP @ 7.500 RPM

Max Torque: 62,7 N.m @ 6.000 RPM

Top Speed: 182 Km / h

Dimensions - Length x Width x Height: 2.315 x 905 x 1.430 mm

Wheelbase: 1.565 mm

Seat Height : 860 mm

Empty weight: 207 kg

Fuel tank capacity: 23 Liter

Frame: Aluminium Double-Cradle Frame

Front Suspension : 43mm Air-Assisted Telescopic Fork

Rear Suspension: Monoshock with Pro-Link System, Compression Damping Adjustment

Front Brakes : 2 x 276mm Hydraulic Discs, 2 Piston Caliper

Rear brakes : 256mm Hydraulic Disc, 1 Piston Caliper

Front Tires : 90/90 - D21

Rear tires: 140/80 - R17