Beating The Summer Rains

But only but just. Ok actually not at all – we got soaked to the bone. But – man we had fun doing it – and it was all for a good cause… You might have heard about the Sunfields Home for the physically and mentally disabled? No? well it’s a place of safety for people with disabilities out near Balfour. Every year, the magazine gets involved with a dirtbike ride through the area where goods are donated to help keep the home running.

This year, we decided that the Adventure crowd could also get involved – and this was a 300KM recce to find those routes – and a great excuse to ride some of the newest bikes on the market.
Calls went out to dealers and importers and 4 machines were procured for the day.
And the lekker thing is, that these bikes are all distinctly different. Not just in terms of engine capacities and branding, but also in the way that they are designed for adventuring.

Present for Duty:

The riders were a Motley Crew – Roley Foley was along to show the guys how not to do it. The Bike Shows Donovan Fourie came along to laugh a bit. Singer Songwriter Garth Taylor was looking for some inspiration and our local long guy Sean was roped in to pick the bikes up when the wheels came off.
Kyle was behind the camera this time zipping merrily between the whole lot on his trusty KTM690.
Like we said, the bikes on the day were all distinctly different.
Linex Randburg loaned us an almost new T7 that was sprinkled with loads of extras.
BMW Motorrad Fourways sent along a “brand new” 2021 GS 850 Triple Black.
Husqvarna South Africa sent along a bright, Shiny 900 Norden.
The 2022 Honda Africa Twin rounded off this merry band of sukkelers.

Our Route:

Nothing too hectic, a blend of tar and gravel with some lekker Twee Spoor thrown in just for good measure. Some cool windy country roads we know that make their way, through the very sandy trails of Balfour and onwards through Greylingstad to the sleepy hamlet of Val, where the softdrinks are always icy and the burgers are decent!
If you have never visited this old railway village about half way between Heidelberg and Standerton, you really need to get there sometime. It’s all been converted into a hotel with a lekker restaurant, beautiful gardens and a little museum. It’s very, very cool and, if you know the routes, you can get there on an adventure bike or, the tar is decent, so you can run in on your superbike.
The home route included slimy, wet gravel, flooded bridges, big puddles… It was AWESOME!
One of those rides where everything just keeps going right… and even the torrential downpour after our lunch stop could not put a damper on things.

The Bikes:

Yamaha’s T7: Dirty fun
Price R220.000

From Linex Yamaha Randburg.
This was an interesting bike for the day because out lot all had completely different opinions about it before the ride. Kyle and Glenn have always liked it because they are more dirtbike oriented than the rest of the crowd. It was Don and Garths first time riding it, so their opinion carried some weight. Sean had ridden it before and was not over enamoured by the bike when it first made an appearance on our shores. This one has had a nip and tuck and has been set up for Linex’s Michael Collier who is a giant of a man…

The T7 is Yamaha’s flagship adventure at the moment. Well, to be fair, with the demise of the super successful Tenere, it’s really their only current adventure model.
They built it around around the successful 689cc cross-plane parallel twin engine that powers Yamaha’s R7 and MT07, the T7 is one of those Bona Fide dirt explorers.
It’s actually a fairly basic bike, with few electronic interventions. Ok none really – only switchable ABS. Even the display is a pretty basic old school digital setup – but it all works perfectly and the simplicity of the whole machine is what really appeals to lots of people. The switchgear is easy to use, and the standard levers are adjustable too.

The guys at Linex went to town and added some really good bits like Givi crash bars and rack, Acerbis frame protectors, headlight guards, shorty levers, Cycra brushguards, and wider footpegs. Rounding it all up is a raucous slip on tail piece by an outfit called Black Widow. It’s lovely – you can literally hear each spark plug detonating as it shoves those big pistons downwards…
It’s tall, sprung on KYB dirt oriented suspension, with big ground clearance, Rallye type styling and lots of attitude. The 21 inch front and 18 inch rear on this one were shod in aggressive rubber and Big Mike Collier who usually rides this bike has stiffened up the suspension….

Sean Says:

This is a Marmite bike to me, you either hate it or love it and I think, initially that stemmed from the bikes pricing when it was first introduced.

And before I start I need to remind everyone that this particular bike has been set up for a particular rider – it is not standard, which explains the opinions on the suspension setup.
I do really like the height and stance of the T7 versus the overall weight… this is a bike built for riders like me. I could easily stand up straight and ride in any circumstance and this came in particularly handy in the dirt. The T7 is built for the dirt, riding it on the tar I could drag it up to about 196kmh… but there was something funky with the suspension set up on this particular bike which detracted from the riding pleasure quite a bit. However, once it got its feet in the dirt it came alive and I suddenly understood the premium on the pricing and almost fell in love with the T7… until we got back on the tarmac and I had to deal with that suspension again.

Get the T7 in the dirt and it feels like a proper dirt bike in its stance and handling and it just encourages you to crank on the throttle… stand up, look up, gas up… and attack whatever the terrain throws at you with ultimate confidence. That CP2 twin pot motor is a gem, it pulls strong off the bottom and always seems to deliver the torque exactly when you need it in the dirt, get it back on tar and it will happily purr along all day long at 150 to 160Kmh without eliciting too much in the way of mechanical sympathy and will even try to oblige when you want to get closer to the double ton, all the while returning a very frugal fuel consumption.

I do understand that this bike is aimed at the ‘purist’ who does not want or need all the electronic frills, but I do like things like cruise control, dialable traction control, Bluetooth connectivity – especially for navigation, quick shifters and etc, which are kinda the norm on most bikes in this sort of price range. Had it not been for the lack of gadgets and had the suspension not been set up for one particular rider and been in more standard guise this might have been a firm favourite on the day…
And I reiterate again that the suspension setup on this particular bike was not standard

Garth says:

Wow! I love the look of this bike and how simple it is.
But… I was a bit disappointed at the road handling. it felt like it wants to lean over in the corners, it feels really top heavy. Chatting to the guys, they explained that the bike has been set up for a guy twice my size, so that would explain a lot. It also had very off-road biased rubber fitted, so I was kind of careful on the tar.
That engine is so punchy and lekker – so much fun, like a big scrambler. But to me the setup felt wrong.
I love the big presence, simplicity and the scrambler type feel. Please can I ride a standard one…

Glenn says:

One of my favorite adventure bikes. Unashamedly, absolutely, it’s almost like they made this bike just for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit old school and I like the simplicity of the whole thing. Maybe it’s the more Off-Road bias. I’m not sure, but there is something about this bike that just makes it so much fun to ride. It’s not a chore – simple get on and go – 180 odd KPH is fast enough for me – and this one gets close to the 200KPH mark.
I love midrange adventures. I love the fact that this one is so dirt oriented. It’s a great machine.
The T7 is available for R220.000 at Yamaha Dealers.

The Husqvarna Norden 901: Do It All.
Price R246 699

From Husqvarna SA
Harder core dirt? No problem. Twisty fast corners? No Sweat. Husqvarna has come up with quite a bike. Some of us have spent a great deal of time in the saddle of the Norden. Others had never ridden it – so once again, it was a cool mixup of opinions that came through.
Husqvarna wanted to build a fast, comfortable tourer that can do it all – and our hours in the saddle have proved that they achieved this with honours. To do this, Husky took the 890 Adventure platform from their sister brand KTM and reworked it. The engine is taken straight from the KTM, which means a fun filled 899cc twin with 74lb.ft of torque and 103bhp.
The Norden is more of an adventure-touring bike than the donor and so its suspension, riding position and weather protection are all different.
There’s 220mm of front wheel travel and 215 rear, and the Husky is very softly sprung and comfortably damped. For those who find it too soft, you can chat to your dealer about a stiffer spring out back. In general, the bike gives a softer, adventure-touring ride.
The standard-fit ‘Easy Shift’ quickshifter for the six-speed gearbox is very well programmed too, working well at any revs and load. There are power modes and traction control settings aplenty but our lot just stuck it in Rally mode where you can set the traction control settings live for more or less slip and we left it there.
The TFT dash is easy to read, simple to use and relatively straightforward to navigate. Connectivity is optional. Switches are logical, feel quality and are easy to use.
And the looks really do stand out from the crowd.

Sean Says:

I haven’t had much opportunity to ride this bike since it was launched barring a few clicks on the tar calling on customers, I did however at that time get to test electronics package in quite a heavy down pour while whipping down the freeway, and even then I was helluva impressed.
This time around I got to play with the Norden in the dirt more and it was quite the revelation. Yes we only really rode good gravel roads, but they were quite soggy and slippery from the crazy amount of rain we have been having of late.

Initially I was quite concerned about the rider triangle/ergonomics of the Norden, at just on 2 metres tall in my boots versus the quite low handle bar height of the Husky I had to hunch over quite drastically to stand and ride, making prolonged periods of standing not an option. Also, with my not unsubstantial mass not centralised it also had a severely negative affect on the geometry and handling of the 901, which meant that I had to sit the entire time, not a problem when road touring but not ideal when negotiating high speed dirt roads or even negotiating obstacles… and much more concerning with the wet dirt roads we were riding.

Husqvarna does seem to have taken all this into consideration, the low bar height is great for shoulder comfort whilst touring long distances and the wide, firm yet comfortable seat supports that aspect of the 901, all this also keeps the bike nice and low and helps to reduce the centre of gravity making it less of a handful to man handle in precarious situations. Stick it in the dirt and start fiddling with the electronics, of which there are plenty, and you can dial in the Norden to suit your riding style, the terrain and weather as well as your level of skill.

MTC or Motor Traction Control allows you to adjust the levels of intervention on the fly, it is lean angle sensitive and detects when the rear wheel is getting overly squirley or way too an acute angle of lean and quietly and quietly reduces the amount of throttle input until you are back up straight again. Two great things happen here, the 9 levels of MTC are like invisible training wheels and help you develop your riding skill and increase your riding confidence at the same time as well as making you the rider look a whole better than what you actually are. The fact that you can adjust it on the fly had me toggling away at that switch quite a bit, instead of slowing down on the wet stuff I just dialled up the level of intervention and then dialled it back down again when conditions allowed for more speed and power. This is my second favourite feature of any motorcycle I have ever ridden, first is still DCT because I am just that lazy.

MTC is only available in ‘Explorer mode’, an optional extra, but dig that bit deeper into your pocket and get it, it is a really worthwhile investment. Everything just works so well together on the Norden, the chassis, the suspension and the entire electronics package, my only gripe is that I still look like an Orangutang bobbing around on a wine barrel.

Garth says:

I watched this bike from its inception all those years ago. Back then, I was on a Svartpilen 701 and I was really looking forward to it. The concept drawings just looked the bizniz.
Riding her, unlike other traditional adventure offerings I found the bike to feel more like a naked than an adv bike. I think that this is because the handlebars were set quite low. I also felt quite low to the ground, but the guys pointed out that the saddle was on its lowest setting for the short legged souls among us. Even with the seat up, I felt as though I was perched on the bike, rather than in it.
I love this bikes motor and gears and the great response. On the road the handling is impeccable, I really enjoyed it, it tears up the corners like a road bike. Maybe its the low centre of gravity but is very confident.

In the dirt, I was very surprised. It’s extremely capable. I switched to full off-road mode and simply took off… even when i stepped the butt stepped out, she sorted it out – and that’s what i want.
love the quick shifter. love the power delivery and I love the power modes that you can adjust from a tame ride to berzerk. Man its fun and all simple on the fly tech. love it.
There are so many bells and whistles on this bike that i didn’t even get to try. It’s a great motorcycle. Serious spunk.

Please can I borrow one, pop my Mrs on the back and head out for a weekend?

Glenn says:

I think that Husqvarna nailed it with this bike. It’s got a peppy, powerful engine, a great chassis and it’s comfortable for that long journey. The rider position is not quite as aggressive as the T7, but is less chilled that the BMW. She’s comfortable and faster for the long road, however in saying this, belt her in anger and the Norden is more than up to the task in the gravel – and when the going gets tough, she’s small and nimble enough to manouvre in the tougher stuff.

It slots perfectly into the groups lineup. A comfortable, fast, capable adventurer.


The 2022 Africa Twin 1100:
Priced R250 600

From Honda South Africa.
If there is one machine in this group that we have all come to admire, it has to be Honda’s 1100 Africa Twin. Sure it’s the biggest capacity bike of this lot, and is possibly a misfit in this group, but we all agree that this model really compliments that legendary name. And it’s armed with all of the latest electronic technology. When you stand next to it, the Honda seems tall with its 22.5mm higher bars and Dakar-style display giving it a very imposing front-end.

Yes, the screen is slightly small and the seat is pretty firm, but the Honda’s fun to use 1100 engine is matched by top-rate electronics and comfort levels. If you are the kind of rider who occasionally ventures off-road but spends most time riding on the road, the Africa Twin will also suit you right down to the ground.

Throw a leg over the saddle and the Africa Twin’s narrow waist, courtesy of its compact parallel-twin motor, makes it easy to get feet flat on the floor. Open the throttle and she is just so well behaved in just about any condition. Pillion? No problem, she is big and powerful enough to handle a passenger and some luggage with great suspension in the dirt or on the road.

Built for Africa? Ask anyone who owns one. It’s such a well-rounded, easy to live with bike for – well everything…

Garth says:

The 2022 1100 feels better than the previous issue, which I have actually spent lots of time riding. Somehow it feels lighter with more direct power delivery.  Maybe that’s just because it is newer, no idea but it feels better than the first 1100. The bike feels smoother. the ABS and TC systems are on point. In full off road mode, the new AT it feels extremely stable.
This is still one of my favourite Adventure bikes.

Glenn says:

Of all these bikes, I have spent the most time in this bikes saddle and I’ve done literally thousands of kilometres. It’s big, fast – without being manic, and comfortable for those long hours. Big electronics are wasted on a pleb like me, but I have fiddled occasionally and everything works well, but I can’t figure out why the Honda system is so much more complicated to operate than some of the others…
So I tend to just leave it in the modes that I find the bike in. and that’s enough for me.
This is quite simply a do it all, do anything bike that is fun and easy to ride.

Sean says:

Here I kind of do feel like a stuck gramophone, we have had a Twin on long term for a while and I really do have a hard time finding fault with it barring the fidgety keyboard cluster on the left switch assembly.

We recently exchanged our unit for a fresh model and even though Honda says there are no significant changes to the bike this newer model definitely feels like it pulls stronger and revs quicker than the previous one we had. It also seems to run a bit lighter on fuel and feels more compact as well. Then there is the suspension and chassis… which also seems to soak up the harder hits even better. Just in general this new iteration just seems better overall but you can’t really put it down to one single thing.

The traction control is great at keeping everything under control in wet condition, not quite as unobtrusive or imperceptible as the Norden, but great nonetheless… I don’t think it is adjustable on the fly like the Norden either, but to be honest I couldn’t see my way clear to scrolling through the menu with the myriad of buttons and sub menu’s, maybe it might have been had I selected the menu option before attacking the dirt… will actually look into that and try, we’ve still got it for a while.

The biggest attraction for me to the CRF1100 is its rider triangle, Honda do seem to understand that not everybody on this planet is five and a half foot tall and have catered for the taller rider without making the AT bulky or cumbersome. From the absolute very first time I swung a leg over a Twin all those years ago it felt natural and immediately comfortable. I could stand without hunching,
has proper weight centralisation which kept the bike stable and inspired riding confidence…
In fact I can categorically state that because of the CRF1100 my skill set has increased as a dirt rider and even to a degree as a tarmac rider as well.

Yes, it may not light your hair on fire and give you an adrenalin rush like some of the big bore adventure bikes but what it does do is give you a quietly satisfied smile, an ego boost and the confidence to know you can go anywhere and do anything with it and look good while doing it.

Donovan Says:

Yamaha T7:

The T7 has received its share of criticism, perhaps rightly so – no electronics, the least comfortable and a motor smaller than its rivals pointed towards Val. More so, the knobbly tyres made life on the tar road towards Nigel feel somewhat off balance. For the sort of person who spends most of their adventure experience gazing at the sights near tarred roads, may I suggest something else?
Then we reached Balfour and the first of our off-road endeavours, and life changed. The proverbal sun came out, the mythical birds tweeted, and the Tenere 700 became hot property.

How does Yamaha get so much thunder out of a mere 690cc twin? I suspect we should set fire to the chief engineer in charge of the drivetrain, at the very least, for being a witch.
I’ve never ridden a proper Dakar rally bike, but I have sat on one – I feel your immense jealousy – and it felt very much like the T7. We can only imagine that the off-road feel cannot be that different because the T7 feels as though it could conquer Everest using one mighty howl of its worryingly good 345cc pistons. It feels well weighted, well positioned, well poised and every other word in front of which we can put the word “well.”

The T7 has received its share of criticism, perhaps rightly so – no electronics, the least comfortable and a motor smaller than its rivals pointed towards Val. More so, the knobbly tyres made life on the tar road towards Nigel feel somewhat off balance. For the sort of person who spends most of their adventure experience gazing at the sights near tarred roads, may I suggest something else?
Then we reached Balfour and the first of our off-road endeavours, and life changed. The proverbal sun came out, the mythical birds tweeted, and the Tenere 700 became hot property.

How does Yamaha get so much thunder out of a mere 690cc twin? I suspect we should set fire to the chief engineer in charge of the drivetrain, at the very least, for being a witch.
I’ve never ridden a proper Dakar rally bike, but I have sat on one – I feel your immense jealousy – and it felt very much like the T7. We can only imagine that the off-road feel cannot be that different because the T7 feels as though it could conquer Everest using one mighty howl of its worryingly good 345cc pistons. It feels well weighted, well positioned, well poised and every other word in front of which we can put the word “well”.

Husqvarna Norden 901:

Let me start by saying that the Norden is, if not the best-looking of the group, then the one that dares to not look like every other adventure bike. From then on, it’s everything you expect from the KTM Group – good power, decent suspension, grand electronics and a ton of fun.

Open the throttle on a dirt road, and you are rewarded with a whizz of revs and a back wheel spinning to your heart’s delight. It may not be as good off-road as the T7, but it holds its own. Then it makes the T7 look silly on tar, where it is composed enough to trouble the sport bikes while cruising easily enough to allow a wave at the people on Goldwings. If there’s a concern, the legroom is strangely limited, something even I, with my short reach, noticed. It might give cramps to the two-legged giraffes like Sean, but then close your visor, take the next dirt road and let mania resume.
It’s the naughty child of the class that the teacher has a duty to reprimand but secretly loves to bits.


While the Norden might be the naughty child at the back of the class pea-shooting at the blackboard, the GS sits in the front row with a neat suitcase and all its homework elegantly laid out for inspection.
It’s not a flamboyant motorcycle, nor does it have the best off-road bits attached, but it went everywhere the other bikes went in a flurry of competence and decency, holding its own in a sophisticated and elegant manner.

The 850GS might not be among the cool kids, but when it is five minutes before class, and you’ve forgotten your homework, you’ll go pleading to the GS for help. With its good nature, it’ll probably give you a hand.

Honda Africa Twin:

Honda is the most predictable bike brand on the planet. Buy a Honda, and you know you’re getting a reliable, dependable, economical, capable vehicle. It might not necessarily light your underwear on fire, but it will get your underwear where it needs to go.
However, an 1100c twin, in the company of motorcycles at least 100cc less, cannot be comparatively dull, and the Africa Twin certainly isn’t.

It might be heavier and more lumbering than the T7, but apart from the seriously technical bits, it will hang on to the Yammie’s coat tail in the dirt while rubbing elbows with the Husky on the tar.
The looks were created by an Italian, which is code for looks good, and the machinery was engineered by the Japanese, which is code for working properly.
Meanwhile, smile when that 1000cc churns out a lump of sonorous torque and enjoy the ride as it sticks with the over-eager youths.


In Conclusion:

This little feature just reiterates that there is a bike for everyone out there. And also… We live in a country that is just so blessed with fantastic riding opportunities.
You need a bike in your life and we guarantee that one of these bikes will fit the bill.
And these are only the four that we could arrange for this ride. There are so many others out there.
Chat to your dealer, try to ride each of them and choose what suits your needs.
See you out there!

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