Built in homage to the giant
desert racers of the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally, the Africa Twin is a huge,
imposing trail-styled bike, powered by a rather softly tuned V-twin engine.
First launched in 1990, the Africa Twin features fully-faired bodywork,
including a large 23-litre (5 gal) fuel tank and a tall windscreen. A wide,
long dual seat stretches back from the tank to a tough, aluminium
grabrail/luggage rack, while a tough aluminium bashplate protects the bottom
of the engine from flying rocks and impacts.
But, while the Africa Twin's
styling points to off-road prowess, its detail design and performance
suggests otherwise. The trail-styled knobbly tyres are designed for Tarmac
use, and offer little grip on wet dirt or deep sand, while a close-fitting
front mudguard quickly clogs with mud and debris. The plastic bodywork is
easily damaged in the inevitable tumbles of off-road riding, and the 205kg
(4521b) weight makes the XRV very hard to pick up after dropping it.
Kept on the road though, the
Africa Twin works well as a touring bike and is also useful in town. There
is plenty of weather protection from the fairing, and the large tank gives
an extended range. The riding position is comfortable for extended two-up
riding, and the rear rack is useful for carrying luggage. The seat is very
high, however, and even average-height riders will struggle to touch the
ground at traffic lights.
Although the 742cc liquid-cooled
engine is rather dated and low on power, its
flexible delivery allows
reasonable progress, and it is both reliable and economical. The long-travel
suspension insulates the rider from uneven surfaces and while the twin-front
and single rear brake discs are a trail-styled compromise, they work well
enough in the context of the bike as a whole.
The XR V's instruments have some
unusual additions: a large trip computer LCD display mounted above the
conventional speedometer and tachometer is styled like Dakar racers'
navigational displays, and incorporates a range of extra electronic timers
and trip meters.