The Honda XRV750 Africa Twin is almost thirty years old, and fast approaching legend status. So most Honda fanatics will probably baulk at the thought of customizing one.
Luis Correia and his crew at Maria Motorcycles weren’t keen to cut into their client’s 1992 Africa Twin either. But it wasn’t just down to reverence for the adventure sports icon.
“We accepted reluctantly,” Luis explains, “because a bike like this is not a walk in the park to make. There are lots of limitations when dealing with liquid-cooled bikes: we usually have a lot of parts to hide and to get off the bike.”
Plus, the recently acquired Africa Twin was in a pretty terrible condition. So the Portuguese crew stripped it down without too much remorse, and set about transforming it. “The idea was to make an old Dakar dirt bike,” says Luis.
But first, the Maria team had to bring the V-twin motor back up to scratch. So they cracked it open, checked it thoroughly, and replaced everything that wasn’t in good condition. They stripped off the ageing engine paint too—and left it as a mix of raw and polished finishes.
“With this touch,” says Luis, “the engine looks like it’s from a classic bike from the 70s.”
Maria also refurbished the 43mm front forks, and stiffened and lowered them. The Pro-Link rear suspension was upgraded with a new shock. Then the wheels were rebuilt with stainless steel spokes and nipples, and a new 19” front rim installed—two sizes down from the 21” stocker.
Just about all the Africa Twin’s bodywork is gone now, save for its fuel tank. Maria kept it, but modified it extensively—removing the original fairing mounts, and reshaping it.
Behind the tank is a custom-built seat, covered in brown leather. It’s sitting on an equally custom new subframe, with an aluminum electronics tray sitting underneath.
Maria also built a pair of aluminum fenders, and a set of crash bars—to protect the tank and motor when things get awkward in the dirt.
Despite the robust aesthetic, there’s some really neat packaging going on. The rear fender tucks up perfectly against the battery box, and there’s an additional fender lower down to keep things properly clean. (The passenger footrests have even been re-mounted on one-off removable brackets.)
The taillight is tucked away underneath the upper fender, and there are discreet LED turn signals all round. The license plate’s mounted on a hand-made bracket behind the wheel, and features its own plate light, to keep the law at bay.
Maria also tweaked the wiring, installed a Lithium-ion battery, and fitted a new ignition under the seat. The airbox is gone, and the Honda now breathes through a pair of pod filters.
At their client’s request, they also built a set of stainless steel exhaust headers to the exact same design as the OEM numbers, flowing into a Danmoto muffler.
In the cockpit, Maria have installed new handlebars from Renthal, along with new switches, grips and mirrors. There’s also a new headlight and speedo.
Every last inch of the Africa Twin’s been cleaned up, replaced or refreshed. There are new radiator hoses, brake discs and Hel brake lines. And any part that needed it was either powder coated, or zinc plated.
It’s now wrapped in a typically tasteful color scheme; something we’ve come to expect from Maria. This once-hefty dual-sport is now a stripped back scrambler—an oversized, street-ready enduro of sorts. What’s more, it’s also in a much better state than it was…
“The bike runs perfect,” says Luis, “like it was when new!”
“It starts always and doesn’t have any problems of any kind—proving that this was always a bike with lots of reliability. It’s fun to drive, even off road, and the stiffer suspension and smaller wheel at the front make it even better for city driving.”
Maria have called the Africa Twin ‘Kalahari,’ as a tribute to one of the continent’s driest deserts.
Which is exactly where we’d love to take it, given half a chance.