Small bike. Big Appeal.

Sometimes, simple is simply fantastic.

Bigger, better, faster and even more chock full of just about every technological advance known to man—and sometimes previously unknown. That was and still is the progression of motorcycles. The two bikes featured prominently in this issue, the Africa Twin and Ducati Multistrada Enduro, are examples of how far motorcycle engineering and design can go. The Africa Twin at 998cc is larger than the Africa Twin models sold in Europe during the bike’s initial run and is technologically unrecognizable from those earlier models. 

Meanwhile, the Multistrada sits up there in displacement and weight with the BMW, KTM, Yamaha and Triumph competition and it does things you may never expect from a Ducati. And tech is good. Sooner or later it may well save your life. 

But smaller—and simpler—is often just as rewarding. It has been a long time since I was on a bike as light and nimble as the CRF250 that Honda brought along to the Africa Twin launch, which you’ll read about in my story, ‘Trail Breaker.’ 

I am used to light and simple because, in addition to motorcycles, I spend a lot of time on bicycles. But light and simple with a modern compact liquid-cooled motor that makes going uphill as easy as going downhill, to heck with exercise, sign me up. 

The little CRF proved that small bikes still have a place in the market. No, it isn’t going to get you as far, as fast or as comfortably to your destination on the other side of the country, but if you want to explore forests, ride obstacles, get stuck and pull yourself out of a mud pit or over a log, smaller just might be the way to go. 

BMW has made an event—the GS Trophy—out of pushing, pulling, carrying, wrestling and lifting a big R1200GSA across mountains and through jungles, so it is possible to do all that with a very large bike. But most of us aren’t out with a team of riders who do that kind of thing for fun. Besides, how much of your Saturday morning ride do you want to spend carrying your motorcycles over obstacles? 

My own bike is a big ADV machine and I will take it exploring the logging roads and tracks but there always comes a point when I think to myself, “Will I be able to get out of here?” For the most part, common sense prevails because when you are 50 km out in the woods alone it might be a long walk through the dark—and past the bears— to the nearest paved road or cell reception. I might be able to change a flat but lifting a 272-kg bike out of a hole might be a little beyond me. 

So that brings me back to the CRF250. I could take it all kinds of stupid, er, I mean exciting places with the pretty firm knowledge that I would be able to push it out of almost any place that I took it—and if I did have to leave it there it wasn’t all that expensive as bikes go. 

It was in the same hills of Vancouver Island where Honda hosted its event that I rode a Triumph Tiger 955 years ago. It got me into the woods just fine but my following of a single-track downhill pretty much made the case in point. I got out but it wasn’t easy. Pah! Who needs easy? We all do occasionally. 

At the launch Honda also had a Montesa Trials bike. Now the places you could take that little machine! Weighing in at a backpack worthy 74 kg the possibilities are endless.