Un autre essai avec une comparaison de l'AT, de la RD07 et de la Varadero.
Le prisme de la comparaison est la voyageuse au long cours.
This review is aimed at the old Africa Twin riders that:
Own a RD07 that suffer from elephantiasis,
that use their bikes (don’t own them as a collector’s item)
that probably has more self-mods on them than bought bling
that are not comfortable with any other mechanic touching their beasts – not because they are good mechanics, but because they know mechanics don’t care what happens when you’re hundreds of kilometres in the bush and have to fix their cockups
know that carrying your own spares are vital to their progress on the road
know that there are places where fuel stops are more than 50, 100 and 300km apart.
I bought my Africa Twin secondhand in 2002 after missing the final roll-out of the RD07 when Honda decided to discontinue the legend. I bought a 2007 model, with 42k on the clock and for more than you could buy a new KLR650. Back then I thought I might have made a mistake, and taking “The Legend” for its 1st ride I was not all that impressed. But within a few months, I realised it was the right choice and 15 years and over 200k later, I know why it’s a legend.
Ever since then, every bike I have ridden and/or owned, I have compared to the AT and judge it as a possible replacement for the workhorse. Top of the list was the 950/990 KTM, but reliability and maintenance cost always put me off. Then came the 800GS, and although the bikes are good, sad to say the build quality is not there (replacing steering head bearings after <70k is poor build to me). Tiger 800- what a great machine, but difficult maintenance and longevity question marks shadowed its future (Any bike with crashbars mounted onto the engine needs some serious rethinking).
The CRF came with a LOT of hype. Excellently priced (In Australia its cheaper than both the 800 Tiger and 800GS range) and well received. Unfortunately, the price comes at a price. Now the RD07 was never a ‘cheap’ bike, and for a little more you could get a large beamer. But the bike was excellent quality and robust. Sure, not bulletproof like some say it is, and some known problems include a crappy fuel pump, too soft light carrier frame that cracked and electrical connections that eroded and could cost you hundreds to repair if it fried your ICU or worse. And in my experience, my AT only ever once came home on a trailer when it blew out a sparkplug and almost all problems could be related back to shotty maintenance or the like.
So back to CRF- having now done a few thousand km on the beast, I have come to the conclusion it may not be as good as the old RD07. Don’t get me wrong: I love the bike. When riding it ‘empty’, its better than the RD07 in every form. But as a world traveller, I reckon it’s got a way to go to unseat the legend. I’ve scored the CRF against the RD07 on various points important to me. Then I added the XLV1000 Varadero for good measure because it’s actually a V-twin and I thought the engine characteristics would be valuable. I will discuss some of the issues below. It was a bit hard to break the diagram into pure categories, such as maintenance, performance etc, but I tried to keep it as close as possible.
Also, I have not ‘strictly’ included a standard RD07. Very few touring bikes will still be standard, but I tried to keep it relevant to standard mods most people would have done by now. But for the sake of this exercise, the RD07 includes:
Upgraded progressive front suspension
Firmer rear spring (a complete replacement shock will obviously score even higher)
Standard fairings, lights, protection hand guards etc.
Also to compare apples with apples, I used exactly the same panniers on both Africa Twins, but the XLV1000 is equipped with SWM panniers, but other than included as ‘standard’ with no mods.
Economy, performance and response:
I found the CRF’s throttle response to be too jerky in low-speed technical riding conditions. It seems to lack the smooth roll-on required. I think we all accept that FI will never be as smooth as carburettors, but I found the CRF to be twitchier than the XLV which also has FI.
The RD07 was never a scorcher, but as a tourer, it was more than capable. Lots of torque, low down grunt, capable of lugging and fully capable to still do freeway speeds fully loaded. The CRF however really boogies. Oodles of power in comparison, but the engine quickly runs out of steam (as can be seen in the acceleration figures against other bikes in its class). I want to go as far as to say the XLV is better at the top end. Not as smooth low-down as the CRF, but it still lugs comfortably. However, performance is not what makes a good tourer, which brings us to…
The biggest disappointment was the CRF’s economy. It has the smallest tank, with 18.8l compared to 23l of the RD07 and 25l of the XLV. Claims of 400km/tank for the CRF was supposed to make up for the small volume, but those figures are probably only possible with road tyres, under freeway conditions with no panniers. With a bit of a headwind, I have to reduce my speed to around 80km/h to get 300km on a tank. Sand riding saw figures of around 10km/l. now these figures are not bad, and very similar to the RD07, but its also worse than the XLV. So the choice of such a small tank or the CRF is a major shortcoming and it has by far the smallest range.
The RD07 air cleaner has four screws. Takes you two minutes to get in and check it. The CRF has two air cleaners, and you have to remove the side panels. The experienced guys say it takes about 6 minutes a side. BUT- can you still remove the side panels if you have crashbars ffitted, or will you have to remove the crashbars as well? There lies the conundrum. The XLV, you have to remove the tank and then undo 8 screws, of which two have a tendency to disappear into the depths of the frame/engine, so generally a royal pain.
Then there are simple things like checking the oil. The XLV has a window. Simples, easy and quick. The CRF has a dedicated dipstick on the left side of the engine. Relatively easy, but not as quick and you need to wipe it, reinsert it and make sure the engine is not dirty. The RD07- I always found it a pain to do- seems I always have dirt that fall in the hole and my bashplate ‘wing’ is always in the way if you need to add oil.
But then changing the oil on the RD07 is easy and you don’t need to remove the bashplate. Not so on the CRF or the XLV. Bashplate needs to be off, but other than that pretty straight forward. BUT, and this is a big BUT- The XLV and RD07 used 10W40 oil, which I already battled to find in out of the way places. The CRF uses 10W30. Good luck finding that in the middle of Africa or Australia. And we know the V-twins would happily run on 20W50 if needed, but what will happen with the new engine and will its smaller tolerances be a problem in the long run?
And on the subject of oil- the RD07 had a tendency to cook its oil. Unless you actually ran a oil-temperature gauge on the bike, you may not know this. That is despite its oil-cooler. Neither the XLV nor the CRF seems to have this problem, which is a good thing. I have ridden the CRF in >40 ˚C in soft sand with no visible sign of overheating. The RD07 under similar circumstances, I had to nurse to keep oil temperature under 125˚C.
Other maintenance includes tyre changes. The CRF has by far the most bolts to remove on the front wheel to accomplish this. The winner being he XLV. The rear wheel is pretty straightforward on all bikes, with the RD07 being the only one that has ratchet clips instead of full adjustment. This sometimes mean you have to run the chain a bit looser than specified, because one clip up, and the chain is too tight. And then tyre choices- the XLV with its 19” front and tubeless rims is a bit of a pain. Tyre choices in remote areas are very limited and tend to be the most expensive. The RD07’s Achilles heel is that 17” rear. If you intend to load the bike up, you need to go for the more expensive tyres, which are hard to find and you are limited in off-road choices. The CRF’s 18/21 configuration is excellent.
Spark plug changes on the v-twin engines are always a pain. And the RD07 has 4. CRF wins hand down in this area.
One problem with the RD07 has always been spares. The bike was not released in America or Australia, and apart from certain countries on the Eurasian and African continents, forget about walking into a shop and buying what you need over the counter. The CRF is being released much wider, and a few years maybe, spares will be more readily available for it. Currently however, Honda Australia can’t even supply essential servicing spares like oil filters or technical schematics. But I’m sure that will change and should be an improvement over the pre 2002 Africa Twins.
Apart from the base model, the CRf comes with pretty decent handguards, the RD07 and the XLV both came with wind deflectors that do absolutely nothing for protecting leavers when you drop the bike.
There seems to be two schools on the subject of bashplates. One believe a bashplate must be as strong and rigid as possible. The other favours a softer, thinner unit that can deform and absorb energy. The RD07’s original subscribe to the latter. Judging by the fact no one has bothered to ever make a bashplate for the RD07, and that it was copied for other bikes like the XLV, it must’ve been good. I’ve seen a rock go through the standard RD07 bashplate and puncture the sump, so mine is slightly modified with a thicker base, but as far as baseplates go, it does an exceptional job. In fact its so good, the I have yet to hear of anyone on a RD07 that have ever needed to replace their brake or gearshifter. And with the narrow v-configuration of the engine, the bashplate does a dam good job of protecting the casings as well. The XLV’s bashplate is just an excuse and pretty useless. The CRF’s seems to be adequate, but doesn’t protect the exhaust. But for most people touring, it’ll probably be adequate.
And on the protection issue- the CRF’s gearshifter and brake pedal is not very good quality and I doubt they will survive repeated drops and abuse. And the wider CRF engine means if you drop the bike, the casings are gone. Both the CRF and RD07’s radiators are pretty well covered and protected. The XLV has it’s radiators on the side and a drop on a rock or stick will see you looking for an extraction.
Load, suspension and handling
I’m sorry to say, but this is where the CRF’s shortcomings are really start. The front suspension is great, but the rear shock simply cannot live upto the task. And on the XLV, a stiffer rear spring saw the bike cope quite well with overloading we call elephantiasis. Even with everything on the rear shock dialled upto max, I still bottomed the suspension. But worse- on extended sections of corrugations and rocks, the rear shock started fading and bouncing. My RD07 still runs the original rear shock with a stiffer spring. Even after >200kkm of riding, it copes better than the ‘new’ CRF shock.
Other than that, the CRF handles beautifully - Low speed balance is exceptional. The standing position on the CRF is also by far the most comfortable (I’ve always found the RD07 footpegs to be a bit too far forward for comfort). The standard footpegs on the RD07 and CRFR are almost identical in dimensions and too small. An overloaded bike is more than a handful on sand, and the CRF is no exception, but still the easiest to ride in these circumstances.
I’ve read several reviews where they rave about how smooth the CRF and how little vibration it has. Yes, its smooth, but not more so than the XLV or RD07. And I know seating is a very personal matter, but I still find the RD07’s straight seat to be the most comfortable of the lot. One advantage of the spit seat system of the CRF- you don’t have to take your stuff off to access the stuff below the seat.
On this theme – there are very limited on-board storage on the new CRF. And the toolkit does not even include a spanner/wrench to adjust/remove the rear wheel. The RD07 has a very nice tool compartment under the seat. The XLV has an adequate compartment, but also has a glove box in the fairing. So plan to carry your tools separately on the CRF.
Durability and build quality -
There is a lot of flex on the subframe of the CRF. RD07’s cracked subframes to, but they were more rigid than the CRF. I have serious reservations about the longevity of the CRF subframe, and with a similar ‘design’ as the 800 Triumph, I think we’ll start to see failures at 30-40kkm like on the Trumpies. Other ‘cheap’ aspects of the CRF include the front fender, the brakepedal and the handlebars. Yes, the handlebars. I had to lift my fully loaded CRF of its side, and I could actually feel the deflection in the handlebar.
So what makes a legend? Other manufacturers had good bikes and tried, like the Super Tenere and the Cagiva Elephant. But I believe the Africa Twin became a legend because of its build quality and what you could do with it. The new CRF may be a better, cheaper bike than the old XRV-range, but sadly, I can’t see it topple the old Africa Twin from its pedestal. So am I disappointed in the CRF – no, not at all. But I will also not retire the RD07, because if I have to pick a bike today, now to leave on a cross-continental trip, the RD07 would still be my 1st choice above the new CRF.