Test and previews Tue 12 December 2017

Africa Twin Rally A “limited edition“ dream by RedMoto

My dream of a lifetime, but also that of many off-road lovers, is to participate in a rally race, if only the legendary Dakar race.
Paolo Ceci lived this dream more than once, as a private rider first, then as a rider for the Honda HRC team and finally taking on the development of the new Africa Twin CRF1000L to make it a key player on the African deserts and trails as it was back in the 90s, when it almost won the marathon that is still being held in the same places of the Paris-Dakar, the Africa Eco-Race. This race has been chosen over the Paris-Dakar because the latter doesn’t accept motorbikes with a displacement over 450cc, while the Africa Eco-Race doesn’t have this limit.
Many wouldn’t bet on a straight-two bike with a curb weight of over 200 kg being competitive against specialized 450cc born for rallies, but this motorcycle is so well made that the standard production model is ready to compete against fierce competition from the start.
Its maneuverability and innate off-road vocation have been widely proven in the various AT tests previously carried out on standard production models with both mechanical and sequential transmission, but we never expected such a direct feeling.
This special bike, only 100 have been manufactured in 2017, has been outfitted by RedMoto S.r.l., partner of Honda Motor Europe Ltd Italia. It mounts components of the highest quality which allow it to race in competitive rallies without losing its road-legal status while retaining the possibility of being fitted with the usual standard model accessories, such as side bags, which make it also suitable for long-distance touristic journeys.
 

The project essentially uses the chassis and engine that come standard. It is the changes to the front end that, for the most part, make it look like a real rally race bike. The steering yokes are solid-machined, stronger than the original ones, and equipped with steering suspension mounts; they ensure greater stability at high speed and on rugged terrain. The suspensions, even if contained in the original tubes, have been completely redesigned with hydraulics totally dedicated to off-road, with new springs and upper solid-machined caps that allow system pressure modification at will.
The original dashboard is placed within an aluminum instrument-holding tower, specifically made to host all the instruments required to safely race in these rallies, such as roadbook, GPS and iritrack. The plexiglass windshield covers the whole front, shielding a very powerful LED triple-headlight. The front mudguard has been revised: it is high above the tire to avoid interfereing with any mud buildups. A “racing” touch is given by the radiator tubes made of blue silicone material, by a wide carbon-fiber engine fender and other details made of the same precious material, such as the frame and pinion covers.
The grids that separate the radiators, plateholder and fork reinforcement are made of aluminum as are the engine caps and the cover of the front brake pan that bear a red anodization.
The stainless-steel footrests are wide with optimum grip for bike boots and strong, to support standing position for long stretches on rough terrain.

Termignoni’s exhaust is simply terrific, with stainless-steel collectors and titanium extremity, and road-legal. During the test we removed the db-killer opening the exhaust completely: this plunged us in the typical rally environment but, on the other hand, a deafening noise propagated every time the throttle was used, so our civic sense made us but the device back on.
The single-shock absorber uses a new spring and, even with an off-road hydraulic setting, it comes standard. The captivating rear tail integrates the led taillight and the rear mudguard. The tank is standard while the seat has been remodeled with ultralight material to connect it to the tail. The wheels, composed of solid-machined hubs and Excel rims, sturdier and off-road specific, are obviously equipped with knobby tires. These measures lighten the bike by more than 7 kg and increase its power by at least 5 hp (rising it to 100hp) but the main peculiarity is that it gains extreme maneuverability.
The prominent air ducts redefine the looks of this Africa Twin making it very similar to the official CRF 450 Rally, so much so that beside this HRC red version there is also a white version which, in our opinion, is much soberer.
The version we tested had a conventional mechanical transmission and costs 21.490 € while the price of the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) version rises to 22.640 €.

We inhibited ABS and traction control.
3-2-1; GO! We wanted to feel the exhilaration of a rally-style start and the marks left in the dirt are revealing. The gears are, rightly so, longer if compared to a true enduro, but the engine delivers regularly and is never difficult. On smooth terrain the bike seems on rails even at close to 150 km/h, the suspensions accurately follow in potholes and dips; taking on a bump we feel suspended in the air, the bike doesn’t break up its gait not even upon landing at least15 meters later. We repeat this fun stretch of trail time and time again almost as if searching for its limit which is way over our abilities; the single-shock absorber reaches the end of its stroke a few times, we harden it a bit using the useful solid-machined handle and the situation improves.
We continue the test on more difficult terrain. Rocks, roots, ditches, tight hairpin turns and more rocks; near the summit we also find powder snow, we shift to 2nd gear and continue climbing; the bike is easy to ride and at every curve we drift by simply playing with the throttle thanks to the steady delivery.
With the braided brake hose, front braking is easily modulated and even too powerful for off-road. We were amazed by the bike agility in stationary maneuvering, you can literally make a U-turn on a hanky.
We didn’t have the chance to try the new UPMAP system, supplied as standard, with which one can choose amongst several power pack configurations using the dedicated app.
We expected a lot from this bike but never thought it would fascinate us so much!
Congratulations to Paolo Ceci for the development and to REDMOTO for believing in this project.
Good job!

Text and Tester: Pietro Bartolomei
Photos: Luca Pucci