Staff, 2022-10-14 12:00:00,
For three straight years, BMW had won the grueling Paris Dakar, and when the starter’s flag dropped on the world’s toughest motorcycle rally in 1986, all eyes were on Gaston Rahier and his R 80 G/S. But Honda had been quietly developing a new desert slayer of its own. Piloted by three-time Dakar winner Cyril Neveu, the Honda NXR 780 dominated the desert stages and completed the 9,300-mile rally in first place. The desert had a new king, and the NXR would reign over the Dakar for the next three years. It would also be the template for a new production model that debuted in 1988, the Honda XRV650–better known as the Africa Twin.
Underpowered, even by the era’s standards, the XRV Africa Twin was, nonetheless, a superb machine. Widely praised for its smooth stability and effortless handling, which belied its imposing size and seat height, it was also a stunning design, familiar to all thanks to the exploits of its desert slaying forbear. The Africa Twin soon garnered a reputation for everyday practicality and outstanding reliability, and demand would sustain production until 2003. In the meantime, BMW had turned its sights from pro rally to the growing dual-sport production market, and the R 80 G/S had morphed into the R 1100 GS. The first of the big-bore, off-road-capable globetrotters and a model that would set a high bar in this evolving class. Fittingly, Honda would resurrect the Africa Twin in 2016 to battle against the GS once more, this time as the…
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