Honda's Transalp is one greatly underestimated bike. The problem is that, despite its hugely capable off-road abilities, it hasn't looked the part of a serious dual-purpose trail buster or city fun bike for quite some time now. With drastically redesigned, all that has now changed.
Honda XL700V Transalp. Pics by hsa@honda-media
In addition to (admittedly very long overdue) restyling the 2008 XL700V, as it is formally known, also gets a new fuel-injected V-twin engine for better cruising, 33 extra cubic centimeters of displacement and improved handling to bring it up to speed with competitors.
The Transalp debuted on the European motorcycling scene in 1987 in response to the surging popularity of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Back then it was a revolutionary creation which combined elements of a mid-displacement tourer with a trail-going enduro chassis and look. The Transalp pioneered a fresh new direction in motorcycle development that has remained popular for over twenty years.
Although initially based on the intrepid rally bikes that raced across Africa, the Transalp also won a strong and growing following for its superbly comfortable ergonomics, confidence-inspiring control and inherent ability to cruise high-speed motorways with strong, agile performance, and remarkable riding ease.
Styling for changing times
But for some time now the Transalp has been in drastic need of some nipping and tucking with styling that clearly lacked the edge its competitors could offer. There is no denying that the result is very avant garde, even if you remain unconvinced about the round headlight.
Overall the styling appears sleeker and more aggressive with curved and angled bodywork. According to Honda the Transalp was "modelled on the image of galloping horse" so that it will appear "to strain at the reins even when standing still".
Whether the Transalp does indeed appear like an unruly beast of the equine species is debatable, but the freshness of its design is not. The sleeker new compact front cowl improves wind protection (an annoying shortcoming on the outgoing model) while a number of improvements enhance all-round wind protection at higher speeds.
In an unusual move, the new Transalp is now fitted with a slightly smaller fuel tank (reduced by 1,5 liters capacity to 17,5 liters), but Honda claims the 7% improved fuel efficiency from the new fuel-injected engine will actually increase range.
More horses for demanding courses
To complement the radical new styling, a redesign and upgrade of its V-twin powermill was essential. The engine now comes fitted with a new fuel injection system and new 4-valve heads to improve its popular smoothness and effortless power.
One advantage of this fuel injection system is stronger power output (up 5kw to 44,1kW), but the engine has also become more frugal with its emissions which is lower than its smaller displacement predecessor.
The latest version of this V-twin also sees Honda upping the displacement from 647cm³ to 680 cm³ (the original 1987 Transalp by the way had a meager displacement of 583 cm³) and the company has increased the bore by 2mm to 81mm and the compression ratio from 9.2 to 10.0:1.
Not much has changed on the frame and chassis front, and the comfortable upright riding position has been retained for the new Transalp. This model does, however, get a new smaller diameter 19 inch front wheel and a new wider radial rear tyre for responsive handling and improved high speed handling.
The new 2008 XL700V Transalp will take to the road in three distinctive colour variations which provides contrasting elements to the black fuel tank, seat, wheel rims and mudguards - a golden metallic (Barley) yellow, Camelian red and more subtle metallic (Anchor) grey. The Transalp is available through Honda motorcycle dealerships at a recommended retail price of R69 999 inclusive of VAT.