Harry Metcalfe joined me for an MCN road test this week on some old and new adventure bikes.
FYI, Harry is a Dakar expert.
“Everyone thinks Dakar is about small trail bikes, but this isn’t accurate,” he says. “It may have started this way, which is why the Yamaha XT500 was successful in the early years, but the race soon developed into a challenge over wide open desert and that meant hard rock with lots of flat-out nothingness – and for that you needed a fast bike.”
Actually, Harry is a Dakar nut.
So much so that he has spent years searching out the original Dakar replica road bikes that owe their existence to the torturous race.
“Very quickly the riders worked out that power was everything, not necessarily agility, and the XT gave way to the likes of the BMW R80G/S as the event evolved. This then opened the door to the road-going Dakar replica and machines such as the Honda Africa Twin, Yamaha Super Ténéré and Cagiva Elefant soon emerged. They aren’t particularly good off-road, but have long-travel suspension and are very fast, which is what the Dakar racers wanted.”
While it seems insane for off-road racers to be demanding big capacity bikes to race the Dakar, road riders were very happy they did, because the 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of the adventure bike. Based on their Dakar racer siblings, these came with tall bars, huge petrol tanks and the ability to conquer whatever the world threw at them.
Very quickly this new class of bike stole the hearts of road riders and global explorers alike and the adventure bike revolution began. Nowadays adventure bikes are more popular than ever and the manufacturers are using the legend of their desert-conquering ancestors to help boost sales.
But is this just a marketing ploy or do they really have some Dakar DNA coursing through their oil ways? MCN put the two generations of Dakar replicas through their paces to find out.
Browse the gallery above to check out the 2017 Ducati Multistrada, 2017 Yamaha Super Tenere, 2017 Honda Africa Twin, 2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S, 1988 Honda Africa Twin, 1989 Yamaha Super Tenere, 1984 BMW R80 G/S and 1994 Cagiva Elefant 900 in action. And pick-up this week's MCN for more.