Author: Bike Social's 2nd hand bike expert Posted: 02 May 2015
Honda XRV750 Africa Twin 1990-2003
Fact: the last Honda Africa Twins were flogged off during 2003 for between £5500 and the £6149 RRP that the last models went for.
Sobering fact: today some people are flogging second hand machines with up to 50-60K on them for £3000-£4500. That means it can cost more than the later/newer Honda Varadero (which isn’t as cool), the Aprilia Caponord (which isn’t as reliable) and it’s even starting to approach GS money – the daddy of the class. Why? Simple: people love ‘em and there isn’t (yet) an Africa Twin in Honda’s range, although we know that’s going to change soon...
So, the 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, not officially brought into the UK. It played on the fashion for the Paris-Dakar racers of the day and pumped out 57bhp through the 52-degree V-twin engine. Also known as the RD03, this was based on the Transalp motor and Twinkie experts reckon it was the best put together of the lot. At the end of 1989 the NXR had been winning the Dakar race from 1986, so to celebrate the Africa Twin got a full revamp with the 750cc (well, 742cc) RD04, which was the first machine to reach our shores officially. As well as more motive power and many aesthetic changes, the bike got an extra brake disc up front.
For 1993 more changes were made for the RD07 model, most notably the electronic ‘Tripmaster’ (basically just a set of clocks looking like a Dakar road-book) redesigned bodywork and a new frame. 1996’s RD07A changed the fairing shape once more, with a higher cowling, and new saddle. The bike continued through the launch of the FireStorm-powered XLV1000 Varadero in 1999 and eventually petered out in dealers around 2003, where they often sat unloved and out of fashion.
How things have changed – try and find a good, clean one for under £2000: it’s nigh-on impossible. Part of the bike’s charm is its soft, easy-going nature. In today’s times of 150bhp adventure bikes, the Twinkie could ‘doff-doff’ through most stuff, both on and off road, and it was as docile as big bikes come. OK, so the 60bhp of the last 07s isn’t going to scare you, but that’s the point. They were darn near bulletproof too, apart from the following issues…
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
REG/RECTIFIERS: A common failure on 1990s Hondas – have a spare in the garage or replace with a more modern such as a MOSFET item. It’s a wise investment as the standard one can frazzle electrics, blowing bulbs, fuses and even boiling the battery if it’s kaput.
FUEL PUMPS: Carbs can lose fuel on older models, so there is a fix using different vent tubes and connectors from RD07A models or later. One of the big issues faced by Africa Twin owners is the fuel pump failing. A Facet fuel pump cures both these ills and is a worthy investment for just around £40-£60.
BROKEN/STICKING CHOKE: Another common issue: owners either get the system blanked off if it’s sticking, or replace the plastic, easily-broken choke cable retainer with a metal part.
BRAKES: Adequate but improved with braided lines and different pads.
ENGINE: No big issues, some areas are hard to get at by the home mechanic (twin plug heads can be a swine without the right tools) and you need to strip off a lot of bodywork on later machines to get to the oily bits, but generally good. Carbs suffer more than most when you store the bike, so always benefit from a good ultrasonic clean. There is an 840cc conversion which pumps out around 75bhp+ if you’re serious.
DRIVE CHAIN: Don’t worry if it looks slack on the bike you’re buying: that’s good. Some people over-tighten the chain and it shears the output shaft. Tighten chain with a person on-board. Tell-tale issues in this area is weeping oil from around the shaft. If not sorted, this means a full engine strip. For info, you want around 40mm of slack with a rider on-board. Many dealers get this wrong.
CDI ISSUES: Costing a packet OE (around £400) you can replace with a pattern version for around half that – check out specialist Africa Twin websites for latest prices (www.xrv.org.uk and www.ruggedroads.co.uk) . Some CDIs suffer from loose connections internally and can be repaired by carefully splitting the unit and re-soldering the internals.
EXHAUSTS: Original systems can rot if left out in the elements – just like the frame can. Budget around £400 for a good replacement – the latest GPR is stylish and sounds good and was recently developed for the machine and comes in at around £380.
FRAME: Later 750s seem to suffer big-time from surface corrosion which can get worse with time. A number of workhorse rebuilds have led to full stripdowns, a blast of the frame and a repaint or powdercoat. They can get that bad… Check the rear subframe for the same, too. On RD07s you’ll find Silver Hammerite is a good match for the frame colour…
FRONT SUSPENSION: Soft as anything and can get rough from the elements, despite fork gaiters and fork shrouds. OE springs are up to the job come replacement time, but heavier oil (10wt) is a good move. RD03-RD07 models had air-valves so damping can be adjusted: don’t put more than half a bar in or you can do internal damage. Some owners – mainly the globe trotting brigade – graft custom-made Showa or Marzocchi inverted forks to the bike. Oh and speedo drives fail up front too.
REAR SUSPENSION: Most will be tired by now – expect to replace, especially if the bike has been used hard: expect to pay around £350 for a good, adjustable for use, unit.
WHEELS: Need care and TLC. If buying a rough one, it pays to get the rims and spokes checked every-which-way for corrosion. It’s a big problem on older bikes or neglected ones. Little wonder some go for new/refurbed rims. Early signs can be rust coming up through spoke holes.
REAR SUSPENSION: Rear wheel bearings have been known to collapse on early models, but modern replacements can be found better than OE. Swingarm bearings can also be an issue on older/well-used machines.
TRIPMASTER: The glorified trip meters often go wrong but can be fixed. Serious owners replace the whole dash with a strong, functional unit with built-in power supply for sat-nav/accessories.
ACCESSORIES: Shop around and don’t pay top dollar for a Twinkie without accessories. The useful stuff includes all the updates mentioned above (reg/rect, fuel-pump, choke etc…) and bigger screens, heated grips, Scottoiler, luggage, different seats (comfort is often a matter of taste) 12v power supplies, auxiliary lights (even the later headlights are poor) and sat-nav.
Price new: £5513(1991) £6149 (2003)
Price now: £2000-£5000 – unbelievable, we know…
For: Charming, capable, kudos!
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