Old Iron – Paying Tribute to the Africa Twin

WIll Yap The Gasoline Addict

Story and Photography By: Will Yap

Seeing many secondary effects due to NEA’s policy against motorcycles registered before 1st  July 2003, along with the reluctant de-registration of many defining motorcycles, we decided to explore a series on the extent of motorcycling history that we would lose in our little country.

Many of these motorcycles were the fore-runners of today’s models and test beds for new technologies. These technologies have led to the modern performance and safety features that we enjoy today. Manufacturers are also still surfing the retro wave, reviving their iconic names and silhouettes in attempts to revisit the memories and emotions tied to nostalgic memories. For some, they serve to grow connections to the machines that “belonged to grandpa” or still “sits in the carpark at dad’s” .

To kick off the series, we set our sights one of the most recognizable machines from the turn of the millenium, Honda’s venerable Africa Twin. Coming to fruition as the XRV650, Big Red ran production from 1988 until it was superseded by the XRV750 in the year 1999. The XRV750 remained in production until 2003. This meant that the XRV750 designated RD07 was Euro-1 complaint as was required for models sold in the European market from ’99 onwards.

Same Name, Different Breed

To see what parallels we could draw between both models, we got 2 owners together, Yu Seong with his CRF1000L and Patrick with his XRV750. Patrick is now on his third XRV750, which incidentally belonged to Yu Seong some 13 years ago.  Think of it as a reunion of sorts.

Taking the scenic route up to Gunung Pulai, Malaysia, Patrick and Yu Seong swapped rides while I fumbled numerous video and photo opportunities on the road and then fumbled at kicking myself in the shin for wasting the opportunities when we stopped for a break.

Brunch and Ogle Break

We had a good opportunity to compare both Twins and asked Patrick for his opinions on the newer Twin. Apart from nimble and easy handling, a comment that stood out was how the CRF1000L felt familiar. If you’ll realize, this comment turns up consistently during comparisons of Honda’s old vs new models within a class. A statement to how Big Red designs their machines with current owners in mind.

Rolling The Beat Like Cops

The extra CCs in the newer Twin were of course another positive. The bigger displacement allows taller gearing and the ability to chug along, reducing the need for gear shifts. The change in cylinder arrangement also concentrates the centre of gravity lower, from V-Twin to Parallel, making the new Twin more 2 up friendly and easier to handle in traffic. Patrick felt the seat heights were similar, while both steering heads provided a equally tight turning radius.

Under his ownership, the 750 Twin has clocked about 130 thousand kilometres, which brought us to questions on maintenance. Describing his riding style as fair and non-abusive, it was a surprise to learn that the timing chains were never changed. In Patrick’s words, he’s “never been let down” – Honda owners often boast about reliability.

The pulsating mechanical whine of the valve train never sounded more typical of anything red out of Hamamatsu. Yet for the different engine designs, blindfolded you’d be hard pressed to differentiate between them both. With a fair amount of offroading somewhere in that 130 thousand kilometres, Patrick says the 750 Twin never felt bulky or sluggish, “more than capable in its abilities”.

Dynamic Duo?

To expand on reliability, another Honda quality we know of is the religious commitment to quality. In the face of frequent travel for work, the engine starts easily on choke. Even after sitting idle for over a month, no oil leaks were sprung either. Aside from regular maintenance, the only repairs needed over the 13 years were a new top end gasket in the rear cylinder and a front end suspension rebuild due to wear.

Big Reds Stopping For err… Red?

An “awesome machine” in his own words, owning an Africa Twin had been a goal for Patrick since his teenage years. One he got to realize in 2005 with his first XRV750. Having spent a good deal of time on 3 of them, the thought of losing such a reliable and trusty machine that has been a significant part of his life for so long saddens him, “things would never be the same” he puts it. – TGA

Editor’s Note: Several of us at TGA are affected by the NEA policy dealing with older motorcycles: Will Yap with his 80s Suzuki GT200X5, Juvena “The Wandering Wasp” Huang with her Vespa PX150 Ebony Rouge and even our favourite photographer Barry “Motorgrapher” Seah and his custom airbrushed ‘Busa are not immune.

One thought on “Old Iron – Paying Tribute to the Africa Twin

  • February 25, 2019 at 6:48 am
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    I would like to say that..both dudes are my friends..haha..

    on a serious note…correction..

    In 1989 or 1990,they have already launched the XRV750 which is thr RD04 apart from the XRV650..RD07 comes in ard 1994/95 to 1997 which then the RD07A comes in with difference in non adjustable fork and rear shock cannister and also the difference i the headfairing coverset and probably the headfairing frame.Not to mention the goldrims were no longer in use probably to cut cost as the carburator has also been introduced to the TPS system.I guess apart frm these…the rest are pretty the same…Why I know?I’ve owned all the RD04/07/07A and now the CRF…and still own the RD04,RD07A and thr CRF1000L…only didnt have a chance to own the XRV650 because its not available here..but..I once saw a nrar mint condition in Malaysia somewhere off Penang.
    Said that….screw the NEA!They can take away our dreams…but they can’t take away our soul!
    Viva la Africa Twin..

    Reply

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