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Honda Africa Twin test comparison against Honda Varadero

Change of heart

With the Varadero, Honda’s engineers certainly had something else in mind than inheriting the Africa Twin. But what?

There was an outcry from the crowd. An outcry of disappointment, contempt and derision. No, nobody expected this Varadero. A motorcycle was expected to be the successor to the XRV 750 AT.frica Twin would save both their qualities and their charisma into the next millennium. And then that. Well, at first sight it usually looks worse than it is. And finally, Honda’s market strategists knew how to put the Varadero out of the line of fire of Africa Twin fans by placing it in the touring segment. Nix Enduro, so no successor to the Twin.

Aim an alternative. In any case, the initial prejudices seem to have evaporated. After all, the Varadero, with 1,658 registered units (January to April), is one of the ten best-selling models on the German market and is the top seller at Honda after the CBR 600 F. No wonder, after all, with two comparative test victories (MOTORRAD 1/1999 and 6/1999) it proved that it does not have to fear direct competition from BMW and Triumph. But what about the competition from in-house?

The biggest difference becomes apparent after just a few kilometers. When it comes to the engine, the Africa Twin clearly has to admit defeat: much less power, too temperamental, too many vibrations. The already water-cooled, but aged eleven, three-valve engine draws 64 hp from its 750 cm³ and can therefore only bland like a daisy in a rose bed compared to the four-valve engine with one liter displacement and 96 hp. In order not to lose touch with the Varadero, the five-speed gearbox has to be stirred continuously.

The Varadero can be quite relaxed on the road. Stress-free gliding in fifth gear is enough to keep the Africa Twin pilot in suspense. Because while the 1000 90 degree twin of the Varadero, even with a full crew, a brief command of the gas hand is enough to quickly and confidently execute an overtaking maneuver, on the Africa Twin all levers have to be set in motion for such a maneuver.

As you glide along, the Varadero diligently collects additional plus points. For example in terms of comfort. Relaxed sitting position, wide and softly padded the bench and high the windshield. The latter also has its pitfalls. Smaller people – around 165 centimeters – have no problem getting solid ground under their feet with the Varadero, but they lack a clear view. The high pane distorts reality, especially in rainy weather, and the thick bead can even make entire trucks disappear in unfavorable moments. Tall people have no problems with this, but they are annoyed by annoying turbulence in the helmet area. Mainly on the motorway at a travel speed of around 150 km / h, they are really happy to be able to switch to the Africa Twin. The airflow hits almost unhindered, but brushes evenly around the helmet. Speaking of highway driving: With a consumption of 9.5 liters at 160 km / h, the Varadero makes no friends.

Honda’s new travel enduro is trying to win back lost sympathies on the country road. Above all, she relies on her virtues in terms of comfort. The thick ship glides like a sedan chair even over major frost cracks and other inadequacies in the road surface. The pleasant rocking on long waves is more calming than annoying, the fork dipping away when braking is more like a noble bow than a submissive kosher. The high center of gravity becomes clear in alternating curves. The thick tank barrel must be moved from one side to the other by applying considerable force using the wide handlebars. But this active panning does not look clumsy, but rather majestic. On the other hand, the early placement of the footrests can disturb. Sporty drivers should raise the rear as much as possible using the spring base that can be adjusted using a practical handwheel. The Varadero then does not sag so much at the rear, which on the one hand improves driving stability and on the other hand increases ground clearance.

The Africa Twin is completely different. After the gentle ride on the Varadero, you think you’re sitting on a real hard enduro. The seat bench is extremely narrow and hard, a tank that is much narrower in the thigh area, flat handlebars and a sitting position that is tilted further forward – that’s also good for off-road stages. In addition, a chassis that is very stiff and direct thanks to its tight springs and matching damping. Nimble and much more precise than the Varadero, the Twin sweeps around corners, and quick lean changes are more playful. As if pulled on a string, the XRV 750 follows exactly the specified line. These refreshing driving dynamics are due not least to the narrow but large 21-inch front wheel.

On the other hand, the Africa Twin falls behind when it comes to braking. Not that the double-pane system is particularly sluggish and undersized. But it does not stand up to the comparison with the Varadero’s combination brake, in which both the foot and hand brake levers act simultaneously on the front and rear wheels. The fact that the Varadero system does not quite achieve the effect and controllability of modern touring athletes like a VFR or Triumph Sprint ST is less due to the components used than to the soft suspension setting and the resulting spongier feeling when braking. Even if this combination brake takes a little getting used to, you will like it after a short time.

Anyone who objects now: ?? Yes, but in the field … ??, is of course right. For the Varadero, the term terrain ends where it really starts for the Africa Twin. However, most XRV 750s will hardly ever have conquered more difficult terrain than a dirt road or a gravel pass road. And a Varadero is still adequately equipped for such tasks despite the 19-inch wheel, slack suspension and combination brakes. However, if you want to walk on impassable paths more often, you should stay away from the Varadero. Your 256 kilograms weigh twice due to the high center of gravity, the thick tank barrel and the comfortable, but inflexible seating position. At 236 kilograms, the twin is also not a flyweight, but allows moderate drifts and small jumps without much grumbling.

On the other hand, both offer storage space for luggage in the form of a stable luggage rack. Unfortunately, the mufflers are in the way of large-volume suitcases. What both of them have in common is the annoying tank cap. Not a hinged, but a loose lid, which is why the question arises every time you fill up with fuel: ?? Where to put it ??? Also impractical: the main stand is missing. That would not only make it easier to lubricate the chain, it would also ensure a secure stand. Above all, the Varadero is on a very shaky footing when fully loaded, i.e. side stand. Apart from that, both tour operators shine with their typical Honda perfection of the controls, adjustable hand levers and well-equipped cockpits.

But apart from that, despite their external similarity, the thought rarely arises when driving that these are blood relative. The preferences and interests are too different, the characters of the two machines too different. And that’s probably also what they had in mind in Japan: to provide the Africa Twin with a touring motorcycle, where comfort is more important than sportiness. Driven by an engine that doesn’t have to hide from large-volume four-cylinder engines under tourers. Good for all long-distance travelers, bad for all Africa Twin fans who wanted a little more power for the Enduro.

Eleven years of Africa Twin

Honda set a milestone in 1988 with the 650 Africa Twin. Two years later, the further developed RD 04 took over. More displacement, a double brake at the front, a reinforced frame and an oil cooler catapulted the Twin into the upper league of travel enduros. In 1993 the technicians of the further development RD07 donated a completely new frame construction and reduced the combat weight from 237 kg to 232 kg with a full tank. In addition, there was a new plastic dress, flat slide carburetor, enlarged and better positioned air filter. In the sum of its properties, the Twin remained the test winner in almost all comparative tests for over 10 years, despite its poor engine performance, and achieved cult status.

Pro Varadero

My twin is just good, that’s for sure. It lacks a bit of performance, otherwise it’s only minor things that bother me. The Varadero may be fat and thirsty and looks like a Burgman on stilts, but it has plenty of steam in all situations. The ideal drive for my performance requirements. And first the brakes? Great. And since I am not one of the iron-hard enduro riders who weigh the 230 kilograms of the RD 07 across the pampas, but use it as a tourer who can also take a stage over easy terrain, the Varadero suits me perfectly. You can explore the landscape on both boxes at dizzying heights ?? With the Varadero, things are just a little better. For example, through their much more comfortable bench or better knee closure.

Against Varadero

We loved her. We, the community, the almost 20,000 twin drivers. The RD03, the terror of all Teneristi, and the RD04, king of all ape twins. That the successor, the RD07, was a bit puffier – okay. Why shouldn’t those who have a warm shower ride a great motorcycle? But there was a collective wish to our creators in Japan: More performance! We moaned. For ten bloody years. But what was then presented at INTERMOT last year was too brutal. Brutally heavy, brutally ugly, brutally different. Off-road? Haha! Suitable for long-distance travel? Well, with enough gas stations and tar. Honda responded early. Presented this endural mishap as a tourer. And our Africa Twin? We still love her. And moan. Only ten horsepower. You’re welcome!

Conclusion Honda Africa Twin

2nd place Even if it became more and more »softened«, compared to the Varadero it is the companion for the tough guys. A stiff chassis, hard seat and heavy vibrations take their toll on longer journeys. But the precise handling and the amazing off-road mobility are pleasing. What is missing is a powerful engine.

Conclusion Honda Varadero

Even if this chunk of motorcycle has as much to do with enduro as a weightlifter has to do with ballet, the Varadero has its qualities as a travel machine. Comfortable, powerful and, if need be, lightning-fast. While the turbulence of the windshield is annoying in the long run, the ultra-high consumption is a real disgrace.

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