Way before the big-bore parallel twin-cylinder Africa Twin, came the original – and some say best – model…
Now then, way before the latest model of Africa Twin was even in development, the old, humble V-twin version was heading way north in value…
It’s interesting to realise that the last XRV Africa Twins were sold in 2003 for between £5500 and the £6149 RRP that dealers were asking for them. Then, by 2010, some dealers were asking around £3000-£4500 for second hand machines with up to 50-60K on them. Today, we still see ‘original’ Twinkies with 30K on the clocks for around £4500! It’s crazy… right?
When you put that into perspective, it blows used prices out of the water for its contemporaries the Aprilia CapoNord (under-rated machine, that) and its replacement the dull but durable FireStorm powered Varadero. Hell, four and a half large is also almost GS money, too! So why are people prepared to pay big for an old XRV? Simple: they love them in a way they haven’t loved a Honda big trailie/adventure iron before or since…
Honda’s first Africa Twin was based on the classic Honda desert racers – the NXR family – and the road-going one first came out in 1988. This was the XRV650 model – styled after the Paris-Dakar racers of the day and pumping out 57bhp through the 52-degree V-twin engine. The RD-03 was based on the Transalp motor and many original Africa Twin experts reckon it was the best put together of the whole family. By the end of 1989, the NXR had been winning/doing well in the Dakar race since 1986, so to celebrate the Africa Twin got a full revamp with the 742cc RD-04 model. As well as more motive power and many aesthetic changes, the bike got an extra brake disc that it really needed from the start.
Come 1993 and more changes were made for the RD-07 model, most notably in came the electronic ‘Tripmaster’ (just a set of trips/clocks looking like a Dakar road-book) and redesigned bodywork. More importantly weight came down by eight kilos and the frame was re-designed. For 1996 Honda made some small changes with the RD-07A which gave a slight alteration to the fairing shape, higher cowling and re-shaped saddle for greater comfort. The bike was allowed to carry on until 2003, when it was deleted. Before that in 1999 the FireStorm-powered Varadero was released, but even with a full 1000cc it wasn’t a patch on the Africa Twin, was more road-biased than able to handle even fire-tracks and was thirsty and soul-less, to boot…
By 2016 Honda had heard enough cries for a new Twinkie and so the CRF1000L parallel-twin Africa Twin was born. Only time will tell if it’s as loved and durable as its noble predecessor.
WHAT GOES WRONG?
ENGINE: A softer version of the three-time Paris-Dakar winning NXR750 (779cc) derivation of the liquid-cooled, 52° V-twin-engined Trans Alp lump. In the Africa Twin it was a 742cc, twin-plug head, giving 62bhp at 7200rpm and 46ft/lbs at 6000rpm. It’s pretty robust, but on the very early models the CDI gets squashed by the seat. CDIs cost an arm and a leg from Honda, thankfully aftermarket replacements can cost as little as around £150.
CARBS: Early models tend to lose fuel from carbs if laid up for a week or more a fix using different vent tubes and connectors from 1997 (RD-07A) models onwards can cure this. BUT if you lay a bike up for longer expect to have to give the carbs a clean – preferably in an ultra-sonic bath.
FUEL PUMP: Often fail, replace with a Facet fuel pump.
FUEL RANGE: The 23litre tank means you have around 170 miles of range and the comfort allows you to exploit this. Many bikes will have uprated seats/screens (MRA Varios are popular) luggage and heated grips.
FINAL DRIVE: Check how you adjust your chain – do it with a mate sitting on the bike. Owners often over-tighten the chain and this can lead to the final-drive sprocket shedding splines or worse. You want 20-30mm of slack when seated on the bike.
FORKS/SUSPENSION: 43mm forks offer 220mm of travel, the Pro-Link rear end has 214mm. By now you’d be looking at replacement units if the bike has had a hard life. 1990 (RD-03) to 1996 (RD-07) Africa Twins had air-valves in the front forks so damping could be firmed up, but don’t put more than 0.4 bar or the seals could be damaged. OE Honda springs are fine, but owners often change the fork oil to 7.5W or 10W from the standard 5W.
FRAME: Frames on the later RD-07 versions do suffer from corrosion: silver Hammerite is a good match!
WHEELS: Rear wheel bearings have been known to collapse on earlier bikes and even if they look good on the outside, DO check rims when you change tyres as rust can be on the inside.
HONDA XRV750, 1990-2003
Price New: £5513 (1991)
Price now: £1500-£5000
Engine: 742cc, liquid-cooled longitudinal 4-stroke twin.
Power: 62 bhp @ 7500rpm
Weight: 220kg / 462lbs
Wheelbase: 1565mm / 61.6ins
WHY WE LOVE IT: Classy and characterful…
WHY WE DON’T: Kinda underpowered today, and heavy…
Useful sites: www.xrv.org.uk, www.ruggedroads.co.uk or www.ruggedroads.com