In the red corner, the 1991 XRV750; in the blue corner, the 2019 CRF1000L.

When it comes to adventure bikes, people like to reminisce about how “better” early-day enduros were compared to today’s luxury-laden, supersized adventure tourers. They were more rugged, but also more capable and versatile than the modern-day one+ liter models. But are they really as good as we remember them or have the decades romanticized our idea of them? 

The guys at Brake Magazine started a new series entitled “Retro vs Modern” in which they compare old and new generations of the same motorcycle. I love everything about that idea and I love the first model they decided to document event more: the Honda Africa Twin

In 1990, Honda introduced the second generation of its Paris-Dakar winning enduro, the Africa Twin. The new XRV750 followed in the trail of the XRV650 it replaced and for the following 13 years grew to become Honda’s enduro flagship. 

Early on the model started piling on the pounds, though the 1993 overhaul came with a four-pound drop. When it was revived in 2016, the CRF1000L, the new 998cc version of the model weighted over 40lb more than the outgoing 750 model. What it lost in versatility, it made up for in travel comforts. 

So how does the new-generation CRF1000L compare to its XRV750 ancestor? That’s the answer the guys at Brake Magazine tried to answer. The result? There isn’t a clear answer.

The 1991 model is lighter and also lower than the modern-day version, making it a more accessible ADV to get on. The XRV is also rougher around the edges which in turns connects the rider to the road more, as explained by Brake Magazine. According to their experience, the bike is also more forgiving on obstacles. It tackles rugged terrains better because of its lower weight and more “connected” 

At 62 horsepower versus 95 for the 1000, however, the older Africa Twin doesn’t perform as well in a touring context as the CRF. The 2019 model-year also performs better on bumpy surfaces thanks to a more evolved suspension setting—there’s more work to be done with the older generation to be able to keep a similar pace. 

As we suspected, while a lot more primal and rough and its successor, the XRV750 performs better on the trails and demonstrates some quality off-road chops. In comparison, CRF1000L is better-rounded, more comfortable on the road and surprisingly capable off of it, but a lot less technical than the 750 can be. 

Ultimately, the new Africa isn’t nearly as clumsy as people picture it to be, despite its above-500-lb weight. While it might not encourage you to do some rock crawling anytime soon, it truly is the proud descendant of the Paris-Dakar warrior after all, wrapped up in a more sophisticated package.