THE FAST AND THE TEENY- TINY

THE 2016 HONDA CRF1000L AFRICA TWIN AND THE 2017 KAWASAKI Z125 PRO GIVE YOU TWO VERY DIF­FER­ENT EX­TREMES OF POWER, VER­SA­TIL­ITY, AND FUN. YOU’LL LOVE THEM BOTH.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Driving - BY DAVID CURCURITO

First, the name. It’s called the Honda Africa Twin be­cause it has a 998-cm3 twin engine. The Africa part comes from a gru­elling thing called the Dakar Rally, the fa­mous off-road rally that orig­i­nally ran from Europe through the African desert and that al­ways de­volved into a Mad Max movie. Hun­dreds of ma­ni­acs driv­ing mo­tor­bikes, quads, cars and trucks ripped through the desert for two weeks, hit­ting live­stock and the oc­ca­sional lo­cal, and of­ten maim­ing the driv­ers them­selves. The twin’s pre­de­ces­sor won the race four times – from 1986 through 1989. The 2016 model is a hell of a ride, on and off some coun­try roads. What’s in­ter­est­ing is the dual-clutch op­tion, which means… no shift­ing. It feels strange. My left hand keeps reach­ing for the miss­ing clutch like I have a lob­ster claw, and my shifter foot taps into empty air, like I’m do­ing the soft shoe. As soon as you get over the phan­tom­limb sen­sa­tion you re­alise how bal­anced, fast, and easy it is through the tight-lean­ing turns, and all with­out hav­ing to think about the gears.

The sus­pen­sion is high and for­giv­ing and – with its ABS and dif­fer­ent modes of trac­tion – easy to con­trol. At 242 kilo­grams, the bike is light, but it feels much lighter. Did I men­tion this bike is re­ally fast? The twin in Africa Twin throws 75 kilo­watts, plenty to launch me off a 15-me­tre sand dune, over a rally car and a ter­ror­ist fir­ing a ma­chine gun at me to win the Dakar Rally. Yes, all of those things have hap­pened in past ral­lies, al­though not at the same time, but I de­cided in­stead just to kick a lit­tle dirt, avoid the graz­ing buck, and call it a day.

The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is tiny. The seat height is only 79 cen­time­tres, just above my kneecaps. When I first saw the Z125, I laughed, and my voice cracked like a goofy 13-year-old kid’s. I hopped on im­me­di­ately and rode in no par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion on my 8 000-square-me­tre lawn like a gig­gling fool. My wife Jes­sica’s head was on a swivel fol­low­ing me, not know­ing if I was com­pletely men­tal or not. It was too much fun.

The mo­tor­cy­cle (yes, it is a real four-speed, air- cooled, 125- cm3 mo­tor­cy­cle) was ini­tially de­signed for South­east Asia, where its small size lets you weave in and out of traf­fic- clogged streets. The bike is ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing a sec­ond pas­sen­ger, but I wouldn’t rec­om­mend more than one small­ish wife at a time. Since there’s not a lot of traf­fic where I live, I de­cided to take it on a fun back road in the coun­try. But first I have to take it on a stretch of high­way to get there.

I’m fully geared up and I feel silly. Full-face hel­met, pro­tec­tive jacket and pants, proper rid­ing boots and gloves. I make sure there’s plenty of room be­fore I pull on to the road. My knees are prac­ti­cally hit­ting the han­dle­bars. The bike is sur­pris­ingly quick as I get through all the gears. Soon this thing is mov­ing. It feels re­ally fast be­cause I’m just cen­time­tres off the ground. On the straight, I seem to max out at 90, al­though I gain a lit­tle speed go­ing down­hill – 92, 93, 96... . As I go up­hill the bike slows con­sid­er­ably. Even when I down­shift I can’t gain enough speed. This par­tic­u­lar hill seems to go on forever and I quickly slow to 65. I hear hoot­ing be­hind me, and when I turn I see a kilo­me­tre of backed-up and fu­ri­ous driv­ers. Even­tu­ally I get back to my happy place, my yard, where I can once again ride like a fool, de­liv­er­ing rounds of drinks while my friends play bocce and my wife shakes her head from the porch. I’m pretty sure she’s smil­ing, too.

Log on to and com­plete the on­line en­try form. Com­pe­ti­tion closes 31 De­cem­ber 2016, and the win­ners will be drawn on 31 Jan­uary 2017. Com­pe­ti­tion rules on­line.

The Twin throws enough power to launch me off a 15-me­tre sand dune over a rally car and a ter­ror­ist.

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