Honda Trans Alp 750.

First Time On The Honda XL750 Transalp

Honda Africa Twin

Yes. This is the first time that I managed to swing a leg over Honda’s latest Transalp. We took a good long ride out to the mountains of Mpumalanga and really got to know the bike…

By: Glenn Foley Pics by Deon VDL mostly.

Our team went along to the launch and they have ridden the bike several times since, most recently when Pete rode it to Lesotho and back for last year’s Roof Of Africa. I have spent thousands of kilometres on Honda’s big Africa Twin, so was curious to see how the relative newcomer stacks up in the ADV market. It’s new to me particularly, as I have been out of action for a year and have only in the last few months got back in the saddle, and am now playing catch up…

Honda delivered the bike. This one was fitted with aftermarket crash bars and a larger screen. Honda also very kindly fitted a quickshifter, taller windshield, wind deflectors, bash plate and engine guards, too cool!

Honda Trans Alp
Our bike even had a centre stand and tank bag. So Handy when you need to work on the bike.

It’s GORGEOUS! 

Man it’s one pretty bike, certainly in my book anyway, and that’s important. Just look at the way the styling flows and that colour scheme, gold wheels. Hmmm too lekker!

 

It’s always lekker going out for a full day. You kinda lie awake looking forward to your mates arriving… up early, check all the gear, a lekker hot cuppa coffee in the crisp early morning air excitedly chatting around the bikes, swing a leg over and off you go.

 

We were a motley crew of bikes, three road bikes and this adventure, so it was mostly a tar route out to Mpumalanga and the Schoemanskloof pass as well as Abel Erasmus pass for some twisties and glorious forest roads.

Climbing aboard, there is a familiar feeling to the Transalp. It’s definitely got those Honda family genes, still tall, but smaller and more compact than the Africa Twin big sister. It’s also a lot less cluttered, with a simpler display and a lot less buttons. I like that. There are also many owners who want simple systems that can be engaged with a button that you can press without having to look too carefully. Hit the one-touch starter and the parallel twin rumbles awake. The standard pipe is not loud but it does give a pleasant burble. The clutch is soft, snick first and off we went.

                                       The controls are a lot less involved than the Africa Twin.

It was a chilly morning, but the screen kept the bulk of the chilly air off the rider as we trundled down the road towards Bapsfontein. Supremely comfortable. That’s important for long trips. Kind of sit-up and beg posture with wide bars and sensibly placed footpegs and all that. The seat is firm – you don’t really want soft, or you end up sitting through it onto the base plate on long trips like this.

 

The engine was burbling away beneath me, the birds were singing, the traffic cops were still asleep… How much better can it get?

Toll gates aaargh!

We tried so hard to be honest citizens and we did stop and pay most of them. We promise. But you see there were about seventeen of the things along our route – each with different rules… Average sized people will easily get their feet to the ground on the Trans Alp, fish out the card and then head off again. The fuel gauge still showed a few bars, but as a precaution we stopped off at Alzu, took a gander at the Buffalo’s and topped up and looked for Indians.

The ride has been good so far. 

On the freeway, she happily pops along at 140 odd and when you need to overtake crazy truck drivers, there’s plenty of squirt to get you past. The gauge told me that I was getting 23 KM’s to the litre in standard mode. Oh hang on… The Trans-Alp has 5 rider modes. Nope! I didn’t use them all.

I generally stuck in standard and then switched to sport when the itch started. Sport is more fun, acceleration is more rapid but the consumption does go a little bit awry. The 750 engine is very willing and she easily gets to 180 KM per hour and more. Climbing those

climbing those long hills on the freeway hurts your consumption as the bike leaps forward.

Honda Trans Alp
Simple, uncluttered. A great place to spend the day.

The Trans Alp has a very usable, fun engine. It’s not intimidating or overly powerful, just good fun and she does like to rev. The experience is focused on long-distance, low-vibration comfort.

There’s decent power on tap for a 750 twin, but when you want to get going,  you need to use the gears more than you do on a bigger bike.  

300 km’s odd down the road, we arrived at our stop. A quick coffee and we were up into the passes in and around Schoemanskloof. It really is a beautiful part of the world and thankfully, the roads are still in good nick. The Sudwalaskraal  pass is particularly tasty. The TransAlp gobbled it all with glee. I have never really understood people who complain about 21 inch front wheels. I had just as much fun as my fellow travellers, and I’ll say this, “I’m not the fastest knee scraper around. The Trans-Alp is not the baddest, fastest bike around, but, man – it’s fun. So easy to ride with impeccable road manners, brakes and suspension. The horsepower curve is a very linear run to the top. This bike is made to rev, not to lug around at low speeds.”

Some might say that the Showa suspension could be stiffer and require a bit of setup. Honda uses Showa’s non-adjustable 43 mm SDD-CATM fork (Separate Function Fork-Cartridge) with 200 mm travel. The remote-reservoir Showa shock is preload-adjustable, with 190 mm travel. This is basic stuff, but it works. I like a plush ride and to be fair we did push the bike a bit through the corners and came out smiling on the other side every time.

After this trip, we did play in the gravel. The Trans Alp has great manners and is so easy to ride.

As you do, I found a gravel road, and a little river and nailed it along just to get a feel for the dirt. If you are not looking for huge horsepower figures in a very capable offroader then you’d be silly to overlook this bike, it’s all really easy. The tank is profiled to fit between your knees while you’re standing on the wide footpegs. It’s comfortable. I will take the bike out again and spend a lot more time in the gravel soon.

Riding at night? The headlight is excellent.

Did I say comfortable?

It was a full 700 odd kilometre day for our lot in the saddle. Guess who was the least tired when we eventually rolled back home in the late evening? And that’s not just because the Honda is a true, comfortable adventure bike, it’s also because it has such a smooth, grunty little engine and soft suspension for our potholed roads. This was the smallest capacity bike of the bunch. Did my friends need to wait for me? No! The TransAlp was more than fast enough to hold its own.

The 16 litre tank should deliver a 320km plus range, depending on how you twist her ear.

Honda trans Alp
The Berg-en-Dal Monument outside Balfour was erected to honour the soldiers killed during the Battle of Berg-en-dal, which was one of the biggest and most significant battles of the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. It took place on the Bergendal Farm in August of 1900, when South African General Louis Botha led the local troops against the British, but was forced to retreat. The remains of those killed in the battle were re-interred under the monument when it was unveiled in 1970.
Honda Trans Alp
Honda's latest Transalp is a proper Adventure Machine

Conclusion:

Love it. Easy. Fun. For a long trip like this, the bike does exactly what it says on the box with a big smile. It’s gorgeously pretty too. It doesn’t need a quickshifter  and I barely used it, but it is a ‘nice to have’. It doesn’t need all those rider modes, but again, that’s what’s expected these days.

It was a great day out and you can bet your ass that we’ll be doing soomething else with it again. Sooner rather than later. 

From R189 999. At your Honda dealer.

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