DUNE CON­QUEROR

We’ve tested a range of ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cles on these pages. This hard­core, no-frills, of­froad ma­chine is some­thing else en­tirely...

Car (South Africa) - - TEST - BY: Wil­helm Lut­je­harms @Wil­helm­l_­car­mag

bike

SAND, they say, is the great equaliser. Rid­ers will proudly boast of their off-road skills (which are of­ten more about their ve­hi­cle’s abil­i­ties), but take them onto sand and you soon find out who re­ally has the moves.

Dual-pur­pose mo­tor­cy­cles are ca­pa­ble, com­fort­able and per­fect for the open road but, if you want play in the sand, there are few mo­tor­cy­cles as ca­pa­ble as a full-on en­duro or moto-x bike.

It’s the rea­son all three of us CAR bik­ers – Peter Palm, Ni­col Louw and I – are a lit­tle tense as we wheel the CRF450RX off its trailer. This is, af­ter all, the largest moto-x bike Honda of­fers and, even though we’re on sand dunes, you can still hurt your­self pretty badly.

These bikes are ex­tremely nar­row, which helps with con­trol once seated, but it’s a seat­ing po­si­tion that’s higher than we’re used to thanks mostly to the sig­nif­i­cant amount of suspension travel needed for the kinds of sur­faces (and heights) this par­tic­u­lar Honda is built to con­quer.

The rut­ted gravel road which leads to the At­lantis dunes out­side Cape Town chucks the CRF’S front wheel around but, once we hit the smooth sand, it is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story.

At first we take it easy – it’s a steep learn­ing curve – but, once we get used to stand­ing on the foot pegs and let­ting the bike move be­neath rather than try­ing to man­han­dle it from the sad­dle, the CFR re­wards its rider with im­pres­sive agility. Never be­fore have I had to ma­noeu­vre my body across a bike so much; mon­i­tor­ing the way it re­acts to the sur­face and shift­ing my weight ac­cord­ingly, while keep­ing a firm grip on the han­dle­bars.

The deep sand does un­set­tle the front wheel but the key is to keep your weight shifted fur­ther back to aid rear-wheel trac­tion. A twist of the throt­tle and a pul­sat­ing burst of torque from the sin­gle-cylin­der en­gine sends up a rooster tail of sand, rock­et­ing the light­weight bike over the sur­face. Riding the Honda is in­cred­i­bly tir­ing but you can’t help but grin like an id­iot, ei­ther.

Once you be­gin to trust the phe­nom­e­nal grip of­fered by the knob­bly tyres, you can en­gage in fur­ther sand spray­ing as the rub­ber studs bite the sur­face and sling­shot you off on an­other tra­jec­tory. The throt­tle has such an im­me­di­ate ef­fect on the rear wheel that you can per­fectly mod­u­late the amount of spin re­quired or, as you get braver, de­cide on how much lift you want from the front wheel or how long you want to keep the wheel in the air.

TEST SUM­MARY

As is of­ten the case with sportscars, the more in­tense and raw the ex­pe­ri­ence and the more ex­hausted you are, the more en­joy­able the ex­pe­ri­ence. This is ex­actly the case with the CRF. Cov­ered in sweat, we re­alised just how fit you need to be to get the best out of bike like this. The pay-off, though, is one of the most in­tense off-road ex­pe­ri­ences you can hope for.

These bikes may have only a small fuel tank, no in­stru­ments, in­di­ca­tors or even lights – you can’t even reg­is­ter them on the road – but why would you, as there are sev­eral places where they can be en­joyed. Our pub­lic roads can be haz­ardous and our morn­ing with this Honda was a re­fresh­ing re­minder mo­tor­cy­cles can be en­joyed in al­ter­na­tive ways. And hit­ting the sand might just be the most ex­cit­ing method of the lot.

clock­wise from top left It’s easy to kick up some sand on this hard­core Honda; knob­bly tyres al­low for suf­fi­cient trac­tion while two ex­hausts look great; wheel­ies are a sim­ple twist of the wrist away; a square starter but­ton … and that’s it; sin­gle-cylin­der punches above its weight.

For­get heavy ad­ven­ture bikes – this is off-road riding in its purest form Ni­col Louw

Light­ness and abun­dant torque al­low it to de­vour the dunes Peter Palm

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