The ’80s luckily were not just the Duran Duran and the shoulder pads. It was also the decade that gave birth to the big road/trail bikes that later went to dominate the world. Sure the then new Paris-Dakar race was the start of everything: soon big trails were all around us, in city streets, often never venturing out of tarmac. And they were really beautiful and competent bikes, with a functional design: capable chassis, quite powerful engines, reliability, high seats, off-road talent. And garish red, white, blue and orange decals.
HONDA AFRICA TWIN – Ah…those double round headlights and those colours! What a beauty. Born in 1988, vaguely based on the NXR that won many Dakars, this liquid-cooled Vtwin is probably one the best ’80s bikes, and I’m not talking just about trails. It was produced – first in 650cc then in 750cc – till 2002 and it was a huge success so it became quite a common view in our cities, together with the smaller and ubiquitous Transalp and the bigger Varadero. It seems that at next 2014 Milano Eicma, Honda will introduce to the world a new Africa Twin. Nowadays the first serie Africa Twin is a gorgeous and very usable classic bike. I want one.
YAMAHA SUPERTENERE’ – From 1989 to 1996 the fiercest adversary of the Africa Twin was the Superteneré. Bigger and heftier than the Honda, with a twin parallel cylinders engine, it was more road-oriented and the perfect bike for long raids and trips with plenty of luggage. Its road presence is still today extraordinary. Weirdly lasted less then the Africa Twin but Yamaha already introduced a new version a few years ago. Of course we prefer the original. I need a bigger garage because I want this one too.
BMW R80 G/S PARIS DAKAR – Sorry the PD was already in my list of five best bikes ever. Promise next list it will be not in it! But you can’t talk about ’80s big road/trails without the Paris Dakar, the bike that literally invented this kind of bike. The normal one is fine, and the second ’90s serie too, but the Paris- Dakar – of which around 3000 were produced from 1984 to 1987 – is the one to have.
SUZUKI DR BIG – The biggest syngle cylinder displacement in history, it seems, if we talk about standard production bikes. And that alone is a reason to own one. Launched in 1988 with a 750cc engine it gained 50cc in 1990, reaching 800, and stayed in production until 1997. This too has a Paris-Dakar heritage and its big tank (in the first years model) made it perfect for long distance raids. Newer models got a smaller tank but are generally more comfortable. Think big.
APRILIA TUAREG 600 WIND – A sort of outsider or underdog maybe, in this company, the Aprilia Tuareg 600 was the “big brother” in the Tuareg family: small displacement single cylinder two-strokes and 350cc and 600cc four strokes. The 600 Wind was more road-oriented and followed the path of the Sahara “desert ships”. It stayed in production from 1988 to 1994, when the more modern Pegaso took its place.