A look back at the 1988 Honda XRV650 Africa Twin

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With its eyes firmly on endurance racing, Honda entrusted the HRC team with the project of creating a machine that would be competitive in the most difficult rallies in the world. It was competitive, Honda won four consecutive Dakar titles between 1986 and 1989. The NXR750 and 800 may have been pure rally machines, but the production bikes they inspired were just as good. In 1988, to celebrate their second Dakar title, they released the XRV650 in HRC colors, it was met with rave reviews as the bike delivered in all respects. Horsepower was mediocre by today’s standards, but the way the V-twin produced its power meant there was always more than enough torque for everyone.

It was a rally replica

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One of the biggest business cards of motorcycles was its design, in HRC colors it really looks like the part and can easily be mistaken for one of the real rally bikes of the time.

Related: These Are The 10 Best Off-Road Adventure Bikes

While not having the raw horsepower of the real Dakar bike, it was immensely capable of off-roading, able to go anywhere a contemporary dual sport would without any issues. It had the added benefit of being much more comfortable and could be used for hours on and off the road. Back then there was nothing like it on the market, even BMW motorcycles were more off-road oriented and the Honda beat them in every way.

The V-Twin torque was awesome

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When it came out, it was ahead of its time, with a water-cooled V-twin that delivered smooth power. Its 57 horsepower may not seem like much by modern standards, but the 40 lb-ft of torque was delivered in a generally smooth manner, meaning the bike was more predictable and still had more than enough horsepower to go in. and get out of trouble. It was also more than enough to climb the steepest slopes or get out of difficult fine sand dunes. Where it made even more sense was on the road, as the bike could easily reach highway speed and could roll for days at a time.

Related: 10 Coolest Off-Road Adventure Bikes, Ranked

First adventure traveler

Honda XRV650 Africa Twin

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Up to this point, the closest thing in the market to an adventure bike was the BMW GS, which was excellent but wasn’t exactly ideal for touring when compared to more modern bikes.

Related: Here’s Why Adventure Bikes Are Growing In Popularity

At the time, it was much closer to an advanced dual sport motorcycle, while the Honda was truly one of the first modern adventure bikes that combined excellent off-road capability with polished manners on the road. It beat the most powerful Yamaha Super Tenere on the market by a year and had a very short production life of just two years before being replaced by the XRV750.

Although the 750 was an upgrade the original 650 was by no means upgraded and is now the bike that is becoming increasingly rare, anyone interested in classic Honda HRC bikes will love this one for its color palette and its distinctive rally roots.


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