Way back in July, 2015, we asked you whether it was possible that Honda was quietly attempting to take over the adventure motorcycle market segment (click here). Well two bits of news seem to confirm what we speculated more than 7 months ago. Honda is indeed taking steps to produce an adventure bike product line for the lightweight, middleweight and heavy adventure bike market segment.
We all now know that Honda has resurrected the beloved Africa Twin as its heavyweight adventure bike offering. Deliveries will start in the United States in June/July with other parts of the world already taking deliveries of the new machine. Although completely different from the original Africa Twin, response to the Africa Twin has been and continues to be exceptional. But now it appears that Honda has already taken significant steps to produce lightweight and middleweight adventure machines and upgrading the Africa Twin for more off road capability.
At last year’s Osaka Motorcycle Show, Honda rolled out its new “concept” CRF250 Rally. The concept was based upon Honda’s CRF250L dual sport bike, but was outfitted with a larger fuel tank, revised bodywork more in line with the adventure/rally sport, a windshield and other goodies like a Mugen racing dual exhaust, lots of billet aluminum and other anodized parts. During this year’s Osaka Motorcycle Show, Honda changed the bike’s designation from “concept” to “prototype”. If the new Africa Twin is any example, the change from concept to prototype means the bike will be released to production in the not too distant future.
Looking like a smaller street ready version of the CRF450 Rally that competed at the Dakar, the CRF250 Rally is a lightweight machine that Honda hopes will dominate the highly requested and under served lightweight adventure motorcycle market. The new prototype version was shown with a single Termignoni exhaust, bits of carbon fiber, a revised windshield, LED headlights and standard aluminum triple clamps and wheel hubs. It’s unlikely that the new CRF250 Rally will come stock with the Termignoni exhaust or the carbon fiber, but you could argue that if this is to be a true off road adventure machine, the Termignoni and carbon fiber are unnecessary and expensive bits that won’t serve a substantial purpose in day to day running. Perhaps Honda may offer these items as optional accessories, but in an effort to make the bike more affordable, these bits will likely not be part of the production machine. You can find more detailed information over at our friends at ADVPulse. As far as when the bike will actually be put into production, England’s Motorcycle News (MCN) claims that the new CRF250 Rally will be on sale later this year as an early release 2017 model.
Are you interested in what the CRF250 Rally prototype looks like? See the below for a more detailed look including some pictures that show some of the differences between the concept and prototype machine.
If Honda keeps this up, the likes of BMW and KTM may have to be looking over their shoulder from the competition, or worse yet, looking ahead as the competition passes them by. Stay tuned for additional articles and information on Honda’s potential new middleweight and heavyweight offerings in the next couple of days at Ride2ADV.
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With the 2015 Dakar Rally recently completed and the final results published, I could do little more than marvel at the skills, endurance and mental strength of the riders that had completed the entire rally. One hundred sixty-one motorcycle competitors left Buenos Aires on the 4th of January 2015 and only seventy-nine arrived at the finish line once again in Buenos Aires nearly two weeks later. That’s means that more than half the field of highly skilled, motivated and driven riders were not able to make it to the finish line.
Of the 161 riders that entered the event, only two were women. Both were able to finish meaning for the women, there was a 100% success rate. Finishing 9th overall, Laia Sanz was the highest woman’s finisher in the history of the Dakar. As you can imagine, Laia is not new to the off road world and her racing resume is impressive. She is a thirteen time Women’s Trial World Champion and ten time Women’s Trial European Champion in Outdoor Motorcycle Trials. She has also formed part of the Spanish Female Team in the Trial des Nations, winning it five times (2000, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2011).
In 2010 competed in the Women’s Enduro World Championship for the first time. And also in 2011 participated, for the first time, in the Dakar Rally winning the Female motorcycle category and finished 39th overall, position that she managed to better this year.
The other female motorcycle competitor was Spanish rider Rosa Romero Font. Wife of Dakar winner Nani Roma (A Dakar champion on bike cars) Rosa finished 52nd overall at the age of 45. This was her 4th Dakar and her first finish.
In this intensely physical and mental challenge, these two women riders were able to compete with the men and finish better than most of the starting field. Yet they drew very little attention from the media on their accomplishments. You have to wonder why. They compete on the same level as men, often on “inferior” non-factory machines. This year Laia was on a factory sponsored Honda and was able to provide the highest women’s finish in the history of the Dakar.
Her result may beg a question. “Should there be separate divisions for men in women in the Dakar, or is it better to leave the Dakar as it is?” Would having separate dedicated divisions bring more attention to the women of the sport and perhaps more female competitors for the future. Would creating separate divisions create an unnecessary rift between the men and women competitors and over inflate the women’s finishers performance in light of the current small female fields?
I don’t have the answer, but would like to hear what you think.
Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time
I was at another website the other day and found a post that asked whether true “adventure bikes” should be big, medium or small. It was and excellent and interesting question. So I had to stop and ask myself, “do I really think there is a best size of bike for adventure riding?” After some thought, I came up with an answer that really wasn’t an answer. From my perspective there were a bunch of variables that could define what the “best” adventure bike would look like. If I were on a long ride with only pavement and well maintained gravel roads to deal, it seems to me that the full size adventure bikes (e.g. BMW GS1200 or GS800, KTM 1190 or 990 etc.) would be the “best” for covering those distances in comfort, load capacity and speed. However, if there was some real rough stuff ahead, I’d rather be on a lightweight easy handling bike (e.g. Yamaha WR250, Honda CRF250L etc.) might make it the “best” choice. I wouldn’t have to worry about the technical tracks, but of course the light weight nature and size of the bike would limit the amount of cargo I could carry and potentially impact range.
So where does that leave us? Do we need to compromise comfort, range and speed over ease of handling on technical sections? Perhaps not. What about those middleweight machines like the KLR650, Vstrom 650 and KTM 690E? Could they be the answer? Well, after I thought about it a while, I came to the conclusion that everything is a trade off. The middleweight machines weren’t especially heavy, nor were they exceptionally small. They provide the rider with relatively good comfort and can carry quite a good amount of cargo. Not bad, not bad… But when you looked at the entire equation, the Middleweight bikes really constituted a trade off on just about everything. They were neither highly comfortable platforms, nor were they light and “flickable” as the lightweight small bikes.
So where does this leave us? Big bikes do certain things very well, little bikes do certain things very well and the middleweight machines don’t do much with excellence. Therefore, it would seem that the right size for a true adventure bike is the bike you feel confident on that will get you through the terrain you plan to travel. Kim and I travel all sorts of terrain, the majority of which will be maintained gravel roads and fire roads. As such, we’re taking the middle ground and going on middle weight machines. We’re planning a 2800 mile ride through six states in the west this summer, so it’s a KTM 690 for me and a DR650 for Kim. I still have to get Kim’s bike into “adventure” shape, but I think my KTM 690E is coming up to snuff.
So what do you think? Let us know what you think the best size for adventure riding is. We want to hear from you!
Mike and Kim
Ride to Adventure – Shrink The Planet, One Ride At A Time
I’ve gotten to thinking lately about how lucky I’ve been to have discovered two wheeled transportation. Even more so, having discovered two wheels powered by an engine.
I can still remember my first pedal bike very clearly. Those early experiences, spent on two wheels molded a desire for adventure and adventuring. That machine, powered by the force of muscle and the breath of a young boy, was in reality powered by the imagination of a young mind, imagining and longing for adventure.
As I rode that 20″ framed machine, a pair of young legs thrust its rider toward unseen and previously imagined horizons. Two wheels became the means to cover great distances at great speed. I can still remember the rush of the air by my face and the wind tousling my then full head of hair. Just the thought of being able to cover what appeared to be vast distances at what was then great speed, gave growth to a longing sense of adventure to new places and adventures yet untaken.
As the years passed, older and not necessarily much wiser, motorized two wheel transportation came within my reach. Motorized two wheel transportation, to a budding adventurer, young or old represents a waiting magic carpet. Often attractive in looks, slim, sleek and comfortable, freshly cleaned tassels (farkles) glittering, it awaits those who would simply climb aboard and enjoy the ride to the next adventure.
For those that do take that magical leap, the world and a world of experiences await. The only barrier, the willingness to take off on the journey and an open mind with which to experience the world. Should the rider climb on, grab the tassels, and consent to set the journey in motion, the experiences of the world await. Both good and bad.
Whether those experiences are good or bad will be decided by the magic carpet rider. Only that person, the one who has the intimate experiences, can pass judgement on them. For those who truly savor an adventure, the good and the bad are what make up the adventure. These experiences combine to provide a soup for the soul. A tablespoon of fun, a cup of local hospitality and perhaps a dash of mechanical difficulty all combine to flavor the pot with a rich and hearty flavor. Such adventurers know that a soup made of only a single fine ingredient will never match the taste of one made with many different standard ingredients.
So that brings me back to the title of this little article. On any adventure, is it worth it to risk good and bad experiences, with the bad potentially outweighing the good? At the end of the journey, will the adventurer be any better or worse for having taken the adventure? Let’s examine this a bit and see what we can come up with.
Let me give you a real world scenario. My father had frontal lobe dementia, a disease sort of like Alzheimer’s, that first robbed him of his memory, and ultimately his life. A brilliant scientist, as the dementia took hold, his memory was severely reduced and he was a mere shell of the experiences he encountered and the education he obtained. So was it worth it for him to work hard, get two undergraduate and two post-graduate degrees, have a family, raise children, and risk all the hardships that raising a family can bring. The simple answer, of course it was! My father lived a full life and enjoyed his family and his interactions with others despite some of the hardships that came with it.
With the passing of my father, did his experiences die? No, they were had, felt and responded to by him and others. These experiences molded him into the person he would later become. Without them, he and indeed the world itself, would be different. Both he and the people he met had changed, no matter how slightly, by their interactions.
So the same might be said of that would be adventurer thinking about jumping on that two wheeled motorized magic carpet. Is it worth it to take that magical leap onto two wheels and commence your journey of new life experiences to new places and new people? There could be difficult times during the journey… For those that wish to experience the world and those in it, the answer is a clear; yes!
Although we all will eventually die, the experiences we have had, together with the interactions with those we have met, will live on in those people and their children. So by riding the magic carpet, we will have made the world and ourselves, a little richer and better at each waypoint of the journey.
So jump on your magic carpet and take off on that journey!
Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time
Why? That’s the old question asked of mountain climbers by risk averse earth bound mortals who can’t fathom why anyone would risk life and limb to climb a mountain. The well known and sometimes quoted response… “Because it’s there!” attributed to British mountain climber George Herbert Leigh Mallory seems to be a somewhat enigmatic response. Was he really saying that the only reason that he attempted to climb Everest was because it was in front of him? Hmmm…..
One of my acquaintances recently asked a similar question having seen parts of the Dakar Rally, arguably one of the most challenging, exhausting and perhaps most dangerous sanctioned racing competitions on the planet, especially on a motorcycle. Why would someone, particularly a privateer with no corporate sponsorship and no real financial motivation, enter such a competition?
A clearly dangerous activity, racing the Dakar on a motorcycle is one hugely intrepid undertaking. Towering mountains, vast deserts, blistering heat, high speeds on rough terrain and long days in the saddle are merely part of the challenge that is Dakar. Numerous competitors have lost their lives over the years and not just from solo falls, but from collisions with other competitors, getting lost, days long sand storms, dehydration, and some would even say, sheer exhaustion. Some days you ride over one hundred miles just to get to the start of the day’s race. Stages (timed sections of the race) can be so long that by the time many competitors make it to the bivouac at the end of the day, they barely have enough time to eat some food, service the bike and take care of bodily functions before the start of the next day’s stage. Sleep is a commodity that is often in very short supply making this grueling, physical two week feat all the more difficult.
So once again, people may ask, why do they do it?
I’ve never been a Dakar competitor so I can’t say with any degree of certainty why the men and women who take on this challenge and pay huge sums of money to do so, risk it all for a competition that many people don’t even know exist. I know that I’ll never ride the Dakar and probably will never have half the skill necessary to undertake such a racing adventure, but being a so-so rider always trying to improve, I think I may have an inkling of what drives a privateer to enter the Dakar.
The Dakar is a gigantic ever changing and shifting monster. High as the mountains, covered in deep sand and jagged rock, it breathes its hot windy breath like fire onto all who would try to take it on. Its call is a mesmerizing one for those who hear it, at first a chant, but increasingly becoming more of a taunt. “You can’t beat me and you know it. You can’t beat me and you know it. You can’t beat me and you know it.”
To those who hear the chant and taunt, the Dakar is an affront to their abilities. Some people come equipped with an excess of drive; drive to excel, succeed, and overcome challenges that many others might find overwhelming. To them, the Dakar monster represents an irrepressible challenge, the triple dog dare of dares. It’s one they just can’t turn away from. The Dakar confronts them and thus the monster must be slayed.
Thus they risk financial hardship and potentially financial ruin, trying to prepare a Dakar ready and worthy effort. Then there’s the physical training necessary to undertake to ensure the requisite fitness to endure such a travail and maximum opportunity to reach the monster. Finally, there’s the task of slaying the monster. If you are able to financially and physically make it to the Dakar, you have reached a major milestone, but you just begun your journey. The monster awaits.
Over two weeks, you will engage and fight the monster. Some days you may feel like you are winning, but most you will feel battered and lucky to be alive. The monster is that tough. It will fight you long and hard, with all of its elemental power raining down on you trying to force you to fail or quit. If you are lucky, you will do battle for the full two weeks with this unrelenting force of nature few can overcome. But, if you have worked hard enough, if you have trained hard enough, if you have tried hard enough and lastly if you are brave enough, the monster can be tamed, temporarily at least.
Your reward will be your own knowledge that you, using your own skills, strength, stamina and bravery have beaten an “unbeatable” beast. The ultimate recognition that using your own abilities and wits, you overcame and conquered an insurmountable challenge. This time. And for those who have heard the chanting and taunting of the beast and emerged victorious, the question will be, “Was one victory enough?” For this beast never truly dies, it just goes back to where it came from and waits for you or others to try to beat it again. For those who failed, the chant and taunt becomes louder and fiercer. Only the truly daunting will attempt another attack on the beast.
So why would anyone with a sense of riding and racing adventure risk it all to ride the Dakar? The answer is simple, “Because it’s there!”
The adventure riding market segment is indeed becoming a very crowded one. First KTM leaks the news of their new 1190 Adventure, then later formally announces it. BMW announces its new water cooled GS1200 and Honda announces that it is returning to Dakar with a CRF450 based rally bike. Phew! Is it hot in here or what?
Well apparently KTM doesn’t think its hot enough in the kitchen and has released these two videos of the 1190A in action to turn up the heat even more. So take a look-see and decide whether you need to turn on the air conditioning.
So BMW, what have you got up your sleeve to turn up the heat a bit?