Class of '89 - Adventure heroes - Honda XRV 750 Africa Twin

Rally replicas of the desert kings, the Honda Africa Twin in a used battle with the Yamaha Super Ténéré

Posted: 6 September 2010
by Jim Bowen

Africa Twin - The Best

The Honda is a slightly better known quantity and they are more common on our roads today having sold well across Europe for so much longer. Remembered with affection by so many, Honda’s friendly Adventurer hit the spot with those that wanted the styling and the pedigree but in a package that could offer no form of threat or intimidation – an already very Honda idiosyncrasy. Yet in their wisdom, Honda as with all the Japanese manufacturers, eventually bowed gracefully out of this fruitful orchard and proceeded to offer only fully bogus styling exercises. With a similar design and dimensions, the Africa Twin isn’t likely to offer an especially different riding experience.

It does still command an imposing presence thanks to its bulk and is easier on the eye than the Super 10 with more flowing bodywork and softer edges. The gentle thump from the SOHC engine is pleasing enough, and it’s already easy to guess that it’s a lower spec motor in a lower state of tune than its rival. The 3-valve, 52° V-twin is willing enough and pulls cleanly from the lights without a fuss or the need for a big handful. Unlike the Ténéré, it moves through the gearbox with the slightest prod and selecting neutral remains simple whether hot or cold.

The initial feel from the Twinkie is that of a slightly softer bike - both in the tune of the engine and its power delivery and also the chassis. You feel more a part of it and sit slightly lower in a more intimate position. The ride is very soft, bordering mushy, but it also rolls effortlessly in and out of turns with a graceful momentum. Sitting at 80mph/5,500rpm all day long is a given and will return 50mpg with another admirable tank range. Grab the front brake and the performance is much the same from the small front discs but at least they’re progressive and offer more feedback.

Getting into the flow is simple. Keep as much corner speed as possible (without any undue effort) and avoid heavy braking that has the long travel forks diving up and down. The Africa Twin is lazy and soft yet also friendly and easy to cope with. It also has no components special enough to boast about but will go about its business with enthusiasm and legendary reliability. It feels more likely to be at home taking one man and his tent to the Alps and back rather than a sandy far away continent as the 60bhp motor, though only a few horses down on the XTZ, doesn’t feel like it’s up to hauling 350kg of people and luggage for days on end. It feels like it has enough on its plate already.

It is more comfortable though, and is happiest plodding along at around 65-70mph on a good stretch of smooth A-road. It will glide over the rougher roads and is more compliant, especially at the rear, but it doesn’t have the same sporty leanings as the edgier Yamaha. For faster riding, the Honda also needs a generous throttle hand as the V-twin shows no torque advantage over the parallel twin. The difference is that it feels woolly and less happy at sustained higher revs, where the Super Ténéré positively thrives and will gladly produce the goods hour after hour. The Honda will probably have the last laugh though as there have been so many reports of happy 100,000mile owners, whereas functioning high-mileage ST’s are a rarity.

For my money, I’d sacrifice looks, reputation and longevity and go for the sharper tool that more closely represents the spirit of Adventure Sport.

Honda XRV 750 Africa Twin Specifications

Price now: £750 – £3,000
Engine: 742cc liquid-cooled, 6-valve SOHC V-twin
Power: 62bhp @ 7,500rpm (claimed)
Torque: 47 lb-ft @ 6,000rpm
Front suspension: Air-assisted telescopic fork, non adjustable
Rear suspension: Monoshock, preload and compression adjustable
Front brake: Twin 276mm discs, 2-piston calliper
Rear brake: Single 256mm disc, 2-piston calliper
Dry weight: 205kg
Fuel capacity: 25 litres
Top speed: 110mph
Colours: white, red, blue

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