SMALL IS NOT a word anyone with one iota of intelligence, a snifter of sanity
or a crumb of common sense should apply to a 750cc monster trail bike capable of
devouring small, sparkly-eyed children. But in this case I'll make an exception.
The new Cagiva E750, or 750 Elefant, is the smaller brother of that
long-standing, starter home-sized bike - the 900ie Elefant. Actually, 'smaller'
is a bit of a mis-noma here. Where the 900's lump is full-bore Ducati 900SS:
68-brake of lunging, bellowing poke, the 750 version is smaller by virtue of
getting the engine from the 750SS but otherwise it's virtually identical. And
yes, it's still huge.
That 750 motor is more than just a sleeve-down job. Though outwardly very
similar, those distinctive Ducati cases house a whole host of differences. Bore
and stroke are 88 x 61.5mm against the 900's 92 x 68 thanks to a combination of
smaller bores and a shorter throw crank. Induction comes through a brace of 38mm
Mikunis compared to the 900ie Elefant's Weber-Marelli fuel-injection system
(although a version wearing the same 38-mil carbs is also available). Cooling,
like both SS sportsters, is by good old air but with an extra oil-cooler tagged
on for good measure. Oh, and let's not forget that Cagiva has also thrown an
aluminium honeycomb catalytic converter into the massive stainless steel exhaust
to help spare us from all those noxious NOx as well. End result? A commendable
60 ponies at 6500rpm which compares usefully to the 900's 68.
But for the first five minutes you don't notice the difference either way.
You just notice huge. The rolling chassis is almost identical to that of its
bigger brother: the same girder-like, black-painted box-section steel cradle;
the same old-fashioned but chunky untapered box-section aluminium swing-arm. In
fact, everything about the Elefant's trellis has the same solid, chunky hugeness
- even the oversized, box-secticrh side-stand looks hefty enough to lever-up
paving slabs. At the front, giraffe-like, leading axle, non-adjustable, 42mm
teles holding a big 21 in laced Akront ally rim. At the rear, Cagiva's
oddly-named Soft-Damp rising-rate monoshock.
And in the middle, a seat which gives a view that'd satisfy a Wimbledon
umpire. Like all monster trailies, the 750 Elefant has a massively tall and
upright riding position. But the seat, surprisingly, isn't that awkWard: it's
reasonably comfy (if a little square and narrow) and a full 30mm lower than
Yamaha's Super Tenere. Instead, what's creating the impression of gargantu-aness
is the Elefant's huge frontal aspect. It starts with the long-travel forks, goes
through chrome, cross-braced bars that are higher than most, and ends up with
mirrors that seem to be at shoulder level. From your knees forward, the Elefant
is big and broad with the large 24 litre tank splaying out wide from the seat.
But it's also roomy without being a stretch - and it's comfortable too.
On the move, its road manners and responsiveness blend beautifully with the
lazy, upright arrogance of the riding position. I was sceptical at first: the
750SS pales against the 900, so how could the 750 Elefant do anything but pale
against its bigger brother? But I was pleasantly surprised: the 750 desmo is
ideal for this sort of bike. Though the 750 has a much greater hunger for revs
than the 900, the 9000rpm redline on its tacho gives the wri impression.
Meat it has: from n four up to 7500rpm the Elefan responsive and perky, leaping
av cruising easily and wanting for lil With the SS sportsters, the 750 < tinctly
and frustratingly lacks 900's extra poke. In the Elef package, the 750 is
Performance-wise it should co pare favourably with both the Y Super Tenere
and Honda Afr Twin. Expect a top-end nudgi 100 with easy, well-protecl cruising
at 85mph. The five-spe gearbox is surprisingly neat (fo Ducati) with gear ratios
well-spac for the road. The hydraulic clutcl reasonably light without the lo
speed grabbiness that afflicts ma an Italian V-twin.
Handling, again like the 900 version, is among the best in the class. With
the narrow V-twin held low (and protected by a massive bash-plate) the Elefant
has excellent natural balance and rolls through sweeping bends with a deft
delight. At just 4141b dry it's a full 151b lighter than the Super Ten - and it
shows. The wide bars give easy leverage, the comparatively low seat gives a
reassuring sense of being 'in' the machine rather than on it and yet, with its
long 1560mm wheel-base, the Elefant remains stable and sure-footed. More than
most big trailies, A-road swoopery is a joy.
The only slight downer is its braking. The single 296mm front disc and twin
piston Nissin caliper needs a great big handful and the
lever comes a long way back to the bar. Relatively softly-sprung forks dive
like a Spanish footballer at the merest hint of rough play. On the up side, the
rear disc is very good.
Where the Elefant differs most from the Japanese competition is in the way it
delivers those sort of abilities. The V-twin desmo is a little chattery and
might have seemed an odd choice for this sort of bike. But on riding, it proves
not only ideal, but characterful and entertaining. What's most disappointing is
that the bike's looks and detail touches don't quite excite in the same way. The
blue/yellow/red paint scheme is about as inspiring as a wet day in Clacton —
give me a red and white 'Lucky Explorer' version any day; some of the com-
ponents, such as the swing arm, are a little old-fashioned and the finish
isn't as good as it should be. That said, at ,£5349, nearly a grand less than
the Africa Twin thanks mostly to bonkers exchange rates, it's good value too.