1988 Honda XRV 650

Africa Twin

The Africa Twin’s Legend

The first Africa Twin was released in 1988 after two years of Honda’s remarkable Paris-Dakar success. The adventure riding community quickly recognized its excellent handling, reliability and HRC-inspired good looks. The XRV 650 itself won the Paris Dakar Marathon class in 1989 and 1990. Today the Africa Twin is regarded as a rally–inspired classic.

Freshly restored guages.

In September of 2015 Honda asked me for an XRV 650 to accompany the new CRF1000L Africa Twin for a five month tour across the country. I was thrilled, but then realized that I would need to restore this bike in a mere 45 days! With the support of friends and family I completed the bike and delivered it to Honda on time.

Freshly restored guages.

An Early Bike in Bad Shape

A fellow Africa Twin fan found a very early 1988 XRV 650 for me in the UK. Originally sold in France, it was clear to me from the pictures that this bike had been ridden hard, but seeing it in person revealed the truth: it must have spent a lot of time outside! Corrosion, scratches, cracks and expired parts were everywhere. This would be a challenge, but it would be worth it!

  • Loads of currosion on the frame and engine.
  • Rust on the subframes and a rough looking wiring harness.
  • A close-up of the left engine case; nasty stuff!
  • The bodywork was bad too: many scratches, dents and some rust.

The Engine

At the center of the XRV 650 is a reliable 52 degree V-twin. It’s compact, torquey and surprisingly smooth. The 1988 engines have some early parts on them that are not shared in the later 1989 XRV engines, so I was keen to bring this engine back to life. I completely disassembled the engine and replaced seals, rings, bearings and gaskets. The tricky parts was refinishing the the engine; especially the bronze side covers! Pictured below is the unrestored engine next to a fully-restored engine.

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The XRV 650’s HRC livery is iconic. So it was critical to get the colors and decals perfect. Many restorers outsource their paint and decal work to a body shop; I’m too particular to let anyone touch my project! My design background allowed me to recreate the decals (though I was able to find a few NOS decals). After creating the decals and more than a week in and out of the paint booth, the body work was complete!

  • I designed the decals for the bike and had them printed on vinyl.
  • The basecoat is done!
  • Laying down the clear coat. My idea of a selfie!
  • To maintain restoration accuracy, some decals are under the clear coat and some are not.
  • Loads of other parts were painted too...just a few drying in this pic.

Honda USA CRF1000L Africa Twin Launch

45 days after beginning the restoration, I delivered the bike to Honda in Long Beach for the International Motorcycle Show (IMS). Honda will take the bike on the IMS tour across the USA, then Daytona and finally MotoGP in Austin. I'm honored and thrilled to have one of my bikes on tour with Honda.

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Video and Photos