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ROAD TEST HONDA VARADERO

LONG DISTANCE EXPRESS

WORDS: Big Dave PICS: BD & the Co-Pilot

A fine day and a Varadero in the garage? All the excuse Big Dave needed to ‘really get a feel’ for the big Honda.

W

hen I was chatting away to someone or other about it, my first go at summarising Honda’s Varadero was…..(and it’s quite good) ‘a Firestorm in a Driza-bone!’ The conversation had come about because the good folk at Blue Wing Honda were kind enough to make their demo unit available so that ‘BD and the Co-Pilot’ could put in a solid week’s riding (read….take a much needed break). A quick Google (imagine saying that in 1990) came up with an interesting background of the machine. From the UK enthusiast’s site: ‘The first Varadero models appeared on the roads in 1999. Powered by a re-tuned version of the V-twin Firestorm sports engine the Varadero has proven to be powerful and reliable, and of course comes with the renowned Honda build quality. In 2001 production of the Varadero was switched to the Spanish HondaMontessa factory outside of Barcelona where the model continues to be built.’ A further Google search revealed that Varadero is also a beach in Cuba.

UPDATES Updates for the current (2008) model include a long-range 25 litre fuel tank and a new, re-contoured seat, new instrument panel, locking side pockets, sidecover panels, tail cowl re-design, tail pipe caps, and a new aluminium undercowl. That said, the longevity of the basic design is testament to the fact that ‘if it ain’t broke, you don’t need to fix it.’ The first day of riding was around town and settling into the cockpit was very comfortable. For a longitudinal V-twin the bike is quite wide; the bodywork and handlebars with their protective hand guards are broad indeed meaning lane splitting isn’t the machine’s forte but it has other, more than adequate compensations as we found out later. Otherwise the bike’s traffic demeanour was fine. The clutch is light and easy and gears change with a sure click. Comfort is of the highest order too. The riding position is upright and the tall windscreen and the lower bodywork provide good element protection. The seat is all-day good, the legroom is also good for tall riders and the Co-Pilot rated the pillion set up as ‘very good’.

a trip through the Waikato on a glorious summer Saturday. We exited the city via SH1 for a feel of the bike in freeway conditions and really appreciated the general comfort on the boring bits. Being able to stretch out and sit back in the ‘bubble’ made the trip over the Bombays very easy. Stability is excellent and the engine is smooth throughout its rev range, as I found out when we pulled off the freeway and headed for Waiuku and a subsequent cruise along Karioitahi beach. Before we get there I’d better mention the engine; a liquid-cooled 996cc 90 degree V-twin which produces an easy 70.1kw (94 horsepower) of peak power and 98Nm of peak torque. It punches all 244.2kg of machine along very satisfactorily. In action, I found the six-speed gearing to be quite tall, and the motor iidles along at around 3,000 rpm on the speed limit. Hoofing it down a few cogs delivered easy overtaking power. Keep it spooled up and the surge and cornerexiting pull are very rewarding.

A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY

Along the beach the 110/80-19 front and 150/70-17 wheels tracked nicely and the way the bike tipped and handled back on the tarmac dispelled any initial doubts I had about the narrower than normal rear section tyre.

With that comfort in mind we were looking forward to the first foray into touring conditions. The ride took us on

After lunch on the beachside hilltops we doubled back to the East coast through the Hunuas. KIWI RIDER 41


ROAD TEST HONDA VARADERO COROMANDEL HERE I COME The ease with which the bike negotiated some of our favoured ‘difficult’ roads was again impressive and we returned to base fresh and very satisfied with the overall performance. Sunday and Co-Pilot’s busy social schedule meant she was unavailable for a visit with Cookie at Kuaotunu on

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Coromandel’s eastern coast so I loaded up the camera gear and headed for paradise. Again I exited the metro area via the Hunuas then continued across the Hauraki Plains. The bike coped with the variety of sports and touring conditions on the first part of the journey admirably. Very easy to roll away the distances.

Up the Firth of Thames to Tapu and the Coroglen Road turnoff I really enjoyed the handling of the bike. Big unit, but very easy to throw around. Then ‘30km of winding road’ proclaims the sign not far past the turnoff. The first part is sealed and twisty, however most of it is steep, very twisty and gravel. The bike’s dirt road


Stable and easy to manage over some quite badly rutted sections and fast and flowing when the conditions allowed. The 43mm front forks offer 155mm of travel and the rear pro-link set up is 3-way adjustable. They soaked up all I threw at them admirably. A catch-up and inspection of the Kuaotunu Hilton and I was on the road again. This time the classic crossing of the ranges and down to Coromandel Town was on the agenda. I punted it at reasonable pace over the saddle and was again very impressed with the ground clearance and flip-flop ability of the machine, particularly with the engine ‘spooled up’ and ready to pull. LINKED ABS The demo unit is fitted with a linked ABS system featuring twin three piston calipers up front and a three piston rear. They wash off speed very smoothly. Vege and the other hard-core dirt riders around the KR office lament the lack of sliding ability on the dirt with ABS. Those less skilful of us considered it a bonus on a 244kg beast capable of the speeds the Varadero is. Then slipping back to relaxed mode up the Firth side of the peninsula on the

homeward journey was again an exercise in easy comfort – as was rolling away the rest of the return.

and the integrated indicators, but most of all I enjoyed its versatility and tourability.

I arrived home quite refreshed and nothing like as weary as when doing the same length ride on other road bikes, including some touring machines – and that’s with the 50kms of bad road I had intentionally sought out.

We didn’t get a chance to test the range of the bike and the 25 litre tank – I wimped out and filled it up at 250km several times with no sign of the warning light. e Owners report 300-330km before the countdown light appears.

The final few days with the bike included a photo shoot, running the bike over obstacles and general tomfoolery – to which the bike again responded nicely. It wheelies easily and is sure footed over rough ground, right to the limits of its Trailwing tyres. CONCLUSION We finished a week with the bike very impressed and quite reluctant to return it (like you’ve never heard that before!) I’d become accustomed to the simple yet effective dash and instruments and found some quite eye pleasing angles to the bike as I walked into the shed. Co-Pilot enjoyed the comfort and the fun factor of the machine. I also liked the finish and the nice touches like the chrome exhaust shrouds

ROAD TEST HONDA VARADERO

manners were in keeping with the other types of roads we put it through.

With a retail price of $21,500 for the XL1000V and $25,700 for the Touring version we see the Varadero as a great all-roads touring bike rather than a hard out adventure machine. But what a great all-roads machine it is – an ideal touring bike for NZ conditions. You may have noticed it’s not all super-slab and swept track out there? The Varadero coped really well with whatever road conditions we threw at it, from crumbling back-roads to freeway blast it was easy and comfortable for rider and passenger throughout. A Firestorm wrapped in a Driza-bone indeed. We have more pics, a ride video and onboard footage from the test on www. kiwirider.co.nz now.

Impressed with fellow KR scribe Racing’s Dave’s panoramic efforts in the February issue of KR Big Dave successfully attempted his own when he had the Varadero down the Coromandel. The Peninsula offers perfect roads for a bike like the Varadero

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ROAD TEST HONDA VARADERO Varadeo’s underpinnings go way back – to the before-its-time Africa Twin. Concept of big, open, easy-on-the-body tourer with just enough suspension travel and handlebar leverage to cope with the odd gravel or dirt road is a good one. As is inclusion of a 25l tank, the latter one of the reasons a year or so ago a Varadero proved to be such a good Chatto Creek 1000 miler in the hands of our own Racing Dave. Riders who regularly carry pillions big distances should also consider Varadero. Passenger seat and general ergos are excellent. Build quality from Honda’s Spanish factory is still not on a par with output from Japan but if you didn’t know you probably wouldn’t notice!

SPECIFICATIONS HONDA VARADERO ENGINE Type: Liquid-cooled DOHC 8-valve 90° V-twin Displacement: 996cc Compression ratio: 9.8:1 Bore x stroke: 9.8:1 Starting system: Electric Engine management system: Digital transistorised Fuel system: Honda PGM-F1 electronic fuel injection Clutch: Wet multiplate Transmission: 6-speed Final drive: O-ring chain FRAME Type: Tubular steel Swingarm: Steel Suspension Front: Conventional 41mm telescopic. Rear: Honda pro-Link single coil-over damper w/ stepped preload adjustment Brakes: Twin 256mm discs with 3-piston calipers front and single 256mm disc with 3-piston caliper rear Wheels: Hollow-section triple spoke cast aluminium Tyres: 110/80-19 front & 150/70-17 rear DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 1560mm Rake: 27°30´ Trail: 110mm LxWxH: 2295 x 925 x 1500mm Seat height: 845mm Kerb weight: 262kg Fuel tank capacity: 25l RRP: $17,995 Test bike: Blue Wing Honda GEAR Helmet: Arai Jacket: Triumph leather Pants: Triumph leather Boots: Johnny Reb

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HONDA VARADERO