The popularity of the Paris-Dakar
Rally in Europe has spawned a whole generation of enormous on/off-road
superbikes, and none of them is more impressive than the Cagiva 900 Elefant.
The Paris-Dakar covered thousands
of miles of desert in northern Africa, and the major motorcycle
manufacturers spent many years, and enormous quantities of money, building
bikes that would win it. Success in the Paris-Dakar translated directly to
sales in Europe.
But the demands of the Saharan
marathon meant that these trailbikes had to be very big and very fast, not
something normally associated with off-road bikes. They also had to be
immensely rugged and capable of carrying a lot of fuel and water with them -
the two-wheeled equivalent of a Landcruiser.
The Cagiva 900 Elefant is a
production version of the bike which triumphed in the Paris-Dakar a few
years back, and is one of the biggest and best
Paris-Dakar replicas available.
It's also one of the most interesting in that it uses a 900cc air and
oil-cooled overhead cam 90-degree V-twin motor with desmodromic valve gear
(as used on countless Ducati road and race bikes). Electronic fuel-injection
helps the Elefant to produce a healthy 70bhp at 8500rpm, although brute
power is less important with this kind of off-road machine than a usable
spread of torque.
A high level of suspension
equipment is de rigeur for desert-racers, and here the Cagiva gets
full marks for Marzocchi forks at the front and an Öhlins multi-adjustable
monoshock at the back. Rugged long-travel suspension is a must for this type
of machine, and the Elefant has it in abundance.
Hefty twin front disc brakes give
the Elefant plenty of stopping power, with twin-pot Nissin calipers
providing bite. A large-capacity fuel tank (although not as large as the
pukka desert race bike's) and twin-headlamp fairing are also part of the
essential P-D package, as is a vertiginous seat height of over 35ins.
As a road bike the Elefant is
surprisingly capable. Although lacking the kind of power to compete directly
with road-going sports 900s, the Elefant has a wide spread of power and
torque which makes it very usable on twisting back roads. And with a top
speed of 120mph the Elefant offers plenty of thrills along the way.
But it is off-road where the
Cagiva really excels. That lazy, low-rewing motor and low gearing make the
Elefant a superb dirt bike that is equally at home idling along narrow
gravel tracks or blasting at speed across open desert. The flexibility of
the V-twin engine means that gear-changes are kept to a minimum, allowing
the rider to concentrate on picking the right line across whatever terrain
he happens to be traversing.
The long-travel suspension soaks
up all but the biggest bumps, giving a soft manageable ride under almost all
road and off-road conditions. That suspension travel also makes the Elefant
a comfortable long-distance road mount, too.
Although bikes like the Elefant
can't offer the kind of searing performance a high-performance road-bike
can, their go-anywhere, do-anything capabilities give them an appeal all
their own. The Cagiva 900 is undoubtedly the pinnacle of on/off-road
overview: Super Bikes by Mac McDiarmid
NOTE: Any correction or more
information on these motorcycles will kindly be appreciated,
Some country's motorcycle specifications can be different to
motorcyclespecs.co.za. Confirm with your motorcycle dealer
before ordering any parts or spares. Any objections to articles
or photos placed on motorcyclespecs.co.za will be removed upon