Honda CTX200 vs. Lesotho

The toughest bike on the planet? Quite possibly.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I'd never heard of the Honda CTX200. This weird strain of Honda doesn't sell in Europe or America or most of the world for that matter. Infact it only sells in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Chile. Countries not exactly known for their shortage of rough terrain.

When I arrived in Lesotho with Get On Africa, I can't say I was that excited by the thought of a week hacking around on any old 200cc bike. Little did I know that the CTX200, the Bushlander as it's known, isn't just any old bike. It's tougher than an anvil.

Out in Lesotho, the Riders for Health operation has over 120 Bushlanders on its fleet. The bikes are the life blood of the Riders mission, allowing the Riders medical staff to get to remote locations across this mountainous and hugely under-developed country.

The Riders chief mechanic ran us through the bike's main features; namely an engine and some wheels all connected by a robust steel chassis. Crash bars and a sump guard were welded into place to beef up the bike's natural defences. Despite its lack of titanium this and fully adjustable that, the Bushlander is single-minded and focused on one task: to get medicine and medics to hard to rach locations. Everything that it lacks in power and carries in weight it more than makes up for in reliability and capability. The mechanic boasted that these bikes never break down. Well that might have just cursed it...

Our group of 8 Bushlanders got a pretty hard time throughout the week. On our first day of practice, I saw Bushlanders being abandoned halfway up steep slopes, only to tumble back down and then fire up first time. They were being jumped, ridden through puddles the size of duck ponds and generally abused in the way they they were built for. Even the best-made MX bikes would have broken levers, twisted bars and refused to kick over if they were dealt with in the same way.

During our week on the Bushlanders we resembled a group of beserk pizza delivery riders, flat out everywhere. Even if flat out was only 60mph. On a typical day we rode 60 miles off-road and in that time we had perhaps one 100-metre stretch where we didn't have to crash-over and bounce up from rocks, potholes and other road debris.

The constant barrage of abuse that these bikes get given is astonishing. Without the invention of threadlock, I'd have been left with a seat, clutching a set of handlebars by the end of the day.

On our longest day, we battled the terrain for over 5 hours; being bounced out of the seat, dodging cattle, skimming past buses crammed with at least 200 locals but we were rewarded with the Maletsunyane Falls, a 600ft waterfall set amid breath-taking scenery. We couldn't have got there without the trusty Bushlander.
By the end of the week I'd grown immensely fond of the CTX200. It's got just enough to get you everywhere but not so much that when you're knackered it punishes you. The condition of the bikes were a credit to Riders but of course, one of them had to break: Darren Gough snapped the chain on his. I suppose they're allowed that one. The local riders don't have the frame of an England fast bowler..

To read more about our trip, check out Get On Africa