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Cagiva Elefant 900ie

 

 

 

 

Make Model

Cagiva Elefant 900ie

Year

1990-91

Engine

Air cooled, four stroke, 90°“L”twin cylinder, SOHC, desmodromic 2 valve per cylinder. 

Capacity

904
Bore x Stroke 92 x 68 mm
Compression Ratio 9.2:1

Induction

Weber L.A.W

Ignition  /  Starting

Marelli electronic inductive discharge  /  electric

Max Power

68 hp 49.6 kW @ 8000 rpm   (rear tyre 63.0 hp @ 7900 rpm)

Max Torque

70.6 Nm 6.7 kgf-m @ 5250 rpm

Transmission  /  Drive

5 Speed  /  chain

Front Suspension

45mm  Marzocchi clamped stanchion telescopic forks non adjustable

Rear Suspension

Öhlins Rising rate box, monoshock adjustable for preload

Front Brakes

Single 296mm disc

Rear Brakes

Single 240mm disc 4 piston caliper

Front Tyre

100/90-19

Rear Tyre

140/80-17

Dry Weight / Wet-Weight

206 kg  / 211 kg

Fuel Capacity (res)

24 Litres
  (4 L)

Consumption  average

17.5 km/lit

Braking 60 - 0 / 100 - 0

14.0 m / 40.6 m

Standing ¼ Mile  

12.8 sec / 160.9 km/h

Top Speed

190.2 km/h
Manual 1990 900ie Work Shop Manual  /  1991 900ie GT Work Shop Manual  /  EFI information

Elefant vs R100GS

Mass sales of large capacity trail bikes have so far eluded the UK importers despite the fact they are the marketing success story in the rest of Europe. The reason is probably the fact that the style base is the Paris-Dakar rally, and media coverage and involvement this side of la manche is minimal compared to the three weeks of overkill the French, Italians and Spanish get every January. The reigning champions of the Dakar are Cagiva with their 900 Elefant, a fearsome machine in works guise with a seat height of nearly 40in! Fortunately, the production replica is a good bit lower but is still a pretty awesome proposition.

But if you're looking for a benchmark in the big-cube trail arena, it has got to be the BMW R100GS, the longest lived, if not the most popular bike in this particular niche of the market. In some ways it was BM that started the ball rolling with their Paris-Dakar achievements with a very long legged -

literally and metaphorically - and highly tuned version of their Boxer twin. But unlike their late-arriving Japanese and Italian counterparts they didn't offer a production version with an evocative name like Tenere or Tuareg. You can even understand Morini using the model name Camel, but what about the Cagiva Elefant? It doesn't exactly conjure images of a svelte desert racer; perhaps it was named after that ancient geneticist Hannibal who crossed the Alps with an elephant. Was he hoping for a camellike quadruped with snow-capped humps and a trunk? Whatever, Cagiva have produced a winning machine this year using the fuel injected V-twin motor more usually found in a hard charging road bike, so the formula isn't that different to the one employed by BMW.

The Elefant's power comes via the 900SS, its 904ccs being produced by a very fat 92 x 64mm bore and stroke running a compression of 9.2:1. Carbs are dispensed with in favour of indirect fuel injection controlled by the obligatory black box. Standard Cagiva practice runs through the rest of the power train with a hydraulically operated dry seven-plate clutch feeding the five-speed box. Cooling is taken care of by both air and oil, the latter being pumped through two radiators. It's necessary, too, as most of the motor is covered by plastic bodywork. Unlike the sports road bikes, the. Elefant's frame is a fairly standard tubular cradle but with a few rectangular struts bolted on to hang things from. The rear end is suspended by Soft-Damp which is Cagiva's name for their monoshock rising-rate link, with the damp bit being provided by Öhlins. Up front you've got the solid 42mm Marzocchi fork holding a 19in front wheel shod with a 100/90 boot. The rear sports a useful 140/80x17in doughnut.

BMW's power plant should be well known to most. The actual capacity is bigger than the Elefant at 979cc with its dustbin lids measuring 94 x 70.6mm. The old flat twin has undergone a few changes over recent years apart from capacity increase; the rocker gear receiving the most attention. Various carbs have done service and the ones presently fitted are 40mm Bing instruments. Perhaps the 100GS's biggest claim to fame is its Paralever rear suspension, which also graces the K1. BMW also use a Marzocchi fork but with 2mm smaller diameter stanchions. Another similarity is the use of an oil cooler to stabilise running temperatures, though with a cylinder stuck out in the breeze either side its job is less demanding than those fitted to the Cagiva. Other than this, BM make no real concession to the engine for off road use. The Metzeler tyres are fitted to rims of more conventional size if not construction, 21 in at the front and 17 rear. BM's ace in this department is the spoking pattern on those alloy rims which are laced to the hubs by spokes from the outside of the rim and so can be replaced without removing the tyre. That's about as high-tech as this dirt boxer gets.

Funny how time alters things really, the R80GS was launched in the company of much less porcine, single-cylinder trail bikes and was considered by many at the time to be something of a lorry, ill-suited to off road use. Then the biggest got bigger - the 100GS arrived and the handling improved with the double-knuckle rear end. Luckily for BMW, Yamaha brought out their Super Tenere, and although it has style aplenty, it is very big for a trail bike and even less well-suited to dirt. The BMW suddenly seemed well-behaved by comparison, so my reaction when faced with the Elefant for the first time is probably best left to your imagination!

It isn't much different to the Super Tenere in size, but it does look more foreboding with that mass of plastic up top. Throwing a leg across doesn't do anything to diminish first impressions either, the seat is high and hard and the rear end doesn't settle to allow a comfortable foot to be planted either side. But as is often the case with first impressions, they can be deceptive. Once fired and rolling the Cagiva becomes more 'normal'. The tyres help a good bit, even if they have a compromise tread pattern, as the profile is strictly road orientated and there's enough rubber in contact with the tarmac to handle the power under most conditions.

Speaking of power, we can safely say that the Elefant is the most powerful production trailbike available, even if Cagiva are coy about putting a figure on it. The benefit of the fuel injection can be felt in the smoothness and pace of acceleration and gone is the hesitation sometimes felt on big vees when a large handful is applied at low revs. In every roll-on test we tried, in any gear, the Cagiva stomped away from the BM. The injection system also makes sure that the carburation is perfectly balanced between the cylinders which removes virtually all the roughness that can affect normally carburated engines. This means that the Elefant has an unexpected lack of vibration all through the rev range - just as well as the plank-like seat would soon induce numb bum syndrome.

As the fuel has to be pumped up to pressure for the injection system, the petrol tank can be carried low either side of the motor and help keep down the centre of gravity, something that the layout of the motor is inherently good at anyway. Despite all this the bike still feels high, that front wheel is a long way from the rider. In handling terms, the bike will drop into turns if you let it but it is easy enough to pick up on the throttle. It helps if you drive the bike through corners, slow in and power out. Braking deep into a corner then throwing it over can cause the odd moment due to the change in attitude caused by the long-travel suspension. The forks work superbly well in both directions but the rear suspension would be better matched if the spring was softer. Perhaps the strong spring rate is needed to stop the back end squatting down too much under hard acceleration or for off road use.

Braking is adequate for a big trail bike with the Nissin caliper having a firm grip on the front disc; don't worry about there only being one, the forks aren't likely to flex. The rear brake can be a little sharp but unlike the BM's at least you can feel it.

By contract, the BM as a roadbike is more flickable and has more grunt at very low revs, but this aside it feels like what it is, a machine from an earlier generation.

You're also stuck with the torque and shaft reaction even though the latter is much alleviated by the Paralever. This was amply illustrated during a couple of trips into soft sand where the BM just dug its rear wheel in despite having more suitable tyres. The Cagiva was easier to roll over the top with. We can't pretend that either of these bikes are ideal trail machines but the BM with its low down torque and longer throttle action is easier for the novice to handle. If you're capable of riding bikes very fast off road and don't mind an abundance of wheel spin, I suspect you could have loads of fun on the Elefant.

The BM still has many virtues, its tractable power and comfort being the main ones. The riding position is more relaxed than on the Cagiva which tucks the knees up a bit more. For town use, the BM could use an inch off either end of the bars which are wide even for the long armed. The seat does have the edge on the Cagiva despite having to absorb more vibes from the engine though most vibration is felt through the footrests. One criticism though, the rear brake lever is tucked tight into the right pot and can be elusive to a motocross boot. The brake itself isn't massive which makes you rely more heavily on the front Brembo (the German machine has Italian stoppers and the Italian has Oriental brakes?). Using the front brake hard produces the old BM trait of excessive fork dive, not helpful if you need to apply it when cranked over.

Fork dive aside, the GS handles well. The Paralever back end allows the considerable engine braking to be used - much more than with any ordinary shaft-drive system. This is true also of downchanges where the characteristic tyre squeal is noticeably absent. The BM's box, however, still needs time, regardless of which way you're changing. The Italian's cogs, by contrast, are swapped effortlessly. Given that the GS isn't quite in the same go-for-it league as the Cagiva, it can still provide what traditional BMW riders like to refer to as the 'true spirit of motorcycling' on twisty A-roads. In fact, the twistier the roads get, so the gap between the bikes narrows with the Cagiva eventually becoming a point and squirt machine. The GS will just roll on until it runs out of ground clearance; admittedly, this this is well before the Cagiva. The GS is a much less frantic performer and doesn't tempt the rider to explore limits in the same way as the Cagiva.

The Elefant is a high profile machine and certainly won't disappoint anyone prepared to pay the eight grand-ish price (available in limited numbers from Three Cross Motorcycles). The styling is superb and, for once, 'Italian style' is not a euphemism for poor engineering. The exhaust system illustrates this best perhaps: it's virtually all hidden until the upswept silencer pops out under its brushed aluminium cover (Yamaha eat your heart out). Everything is as it should be - nothing catches the eye to make you think they could have done better; the reversed rear brake lever and master cylinder are tucked into the sumpguard, and on the other side the fuel pump takes its place. Even the plumbing to the twin oil colours in the fairing looks thought out. Instruments and switches are on par with most sports-tourers and the neat clocks are set in a soft rubber facia. There's even a digital time piece so you can keep to all those important schedules.

As a race replica the Elefant comes closer than most: colours, striping and decals are all there. Even the suspension is pretty close to the real thing but the bike, unlike some, doesn't fall down in the user friendly department. This almost puts the bike in a class of its own, particularly when you feed power into the equation. In the end it is a very able touring machine with some off-road capability. The BM is still the benchmark, but looks low-tech in comparison. But if you want the ultimate sports touring trail bike, then the Cagiva Elefant is it.

Source Motorcycle International 1990

 

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