It’s universally acknowledged that any work experience kid who progresses through the corridors of AMCN must be scared shitless at least once during their two-week tenure. After all, they’ve got to get more value for their time than just a paltry $5.00 a day. That’s where Wayne comes into it; the latest ankle-biter to try his hand at two-wheeled journalism.
All had been proceeding without too much fuss on our big day out on the Ducati-engined Cagiva Gran Canyon. We set out during the wee hours via a couple of windy back roads for an appointment in the bush with the Vertemati enduro weapon featured elsewhere in this issue. Nothing too startling so far.
But then it was time for photographs on the gravel stuff.
Of course, what I wasn’t to know was the young buck — despite hailing from a farm in western Victoria — is not to fond of the dirt. So as soon as I tweaked the big twin for a fleeting second — resulting in a slow motion slide — Wayne tightened up and let out an adolescent, wimpy, high-pitched scream. All the prior banter about his horn riding skills and bravery turned out to be just lip-service.
“Mav, I got a little bit scared on the way up here, but that slide really gave my daks a work out,” an ashen-faced Wayne said afterwards.
Call the slide a lowlight for Wayne, but I reckon that blast in the gravel was the highlight of my day on the Gran Canyon. Let’s make it clear from the outset — the air-cooled 900cc twin’s habitat is really on the blacktop, despite its dual-purpose moniker. With its firmish, road-like suspension it doesn’t take a great deal of throttle to get the Pirelli MT80 rear tyre sideways.
That’s why I enjoyed it so much.
The Gran Canyon (there’s also a 500cc single-cylinder Canyon model) derives its roots from the Cagiva Elefant, which was first released in 1991. Since then, Cagiva has released a number of other dual-purpose machines, including a Paris-Dakar replica in 1997. Then the Gran Canyon came along in 1999.
But don’t pussyfoot around thinking about buying a Canyon. You see, now that Cagiva and Ducati are separate companies once again, Cagiva will no longer be using a detuned 900SS desmo engine in the Canyon. The model is to be run out. Instead, watch out for an all-new Suzuki TL1000-engined Cagiva Navigator later this year.
Among other things, the new jigger will have remapped fuel-injection and a higher screen.
But let’s concentrate on the now. As mentioned, the $16,500 Canyon (there’s also a Gran Canyon T model with a topbox and panniers for $17,500) is powered by a 900SS engine, which has forfeited top end mumbo in Ducati trim for more midrange on the Canyon. Cagiva claims 75ps at 7500rpm for the bike compared to the standard 900SS’s 80ps.
Claimed torque is 7.4kg-m at 5000rpm.
Standard gearing is quite short on the Canyon, certainly enough for easy overtaking in top (sixth) gear — even with a pillion. At 100kmh the bike motors along at 4400rpm — redline is 9000rpm. The bike pulls from as low as 2000rpm with a minimum of fuss and vibration is negligible.
Incidentally, fuel consumption saw 13.7km/lt two-up on the highway and 14.9km/lt in town with a pillion.
So while the Canyon’s engine is up to the task of long distance touring or commuting, it does produce a lot of heat which is radiated directly on to the legs. That wouldn’t normally be a real beef, but the huge plastic cladding at the front of the bike smothers a constant flow of fresh air. Great for the cooler stuff; poxy in summer.
Besides that, the wind blast during general riding wasn’t too bad, although it’d pay to give the neck a short breather after a few hours on the go.
UP TO THE TASK
The Gran Canyon is very nimble on the road. Although it tips the scales at 201kg, combine that with a skinny 100-section Pirelli MT80 front tyre and 92mm of trail and you can see why it performs with aplomb through the twisties.
Similar to what the AMCN crew found when we took the Honda Varadero along for the Tour of Duty in 1998, you can punt these dual-purpose things along just about as quickly as a top-notch sportsbike — all in relative comfort.
The seat height on the Gran Canyon is 850mm while ground to peg clearance is 190mm. That gave me 660mm of room to fit my tiny little torso into; not a problem. The wide and plush seat is positioned so you sit a fair way forward in the bike with the handlebars within easy reach.
Wayne, pillioning on the back, also commented on the comfy seat as soon as we left Melbourne for the ride. Obviously the day went downhill from there.
HARD TO CHOKE
The mirrors on the Cagiva are excellent, with more than just the shoulders in normal view.
Starting is also an easy affair on the fuel-injected bike — when you manage to find the choke. It was only while perusing over the bike before I started writing the test did I find it; mounted on the left-hand side of the bike within easy reach. Oh dear.
There’s a plastic bashplate on the jigger, but it’s definitely not in the ball-tearing class as the one that was fitted to the original Elefant in 1991. That was a whopper.
The dashboard is clean and well-laid out and includes all the basics, including a fuel warning light and clock.
Fuel-filling duties for the 20-litre tank is via twin filler caps, which overflow very quickly if you’re too rabid with the pump.
The big-bore trailie class is hotting up at the moment. Besides the Gran Canyon and the soon-to-be-released successor, the Navigator, there’s Honda’s Varadero ($15,490), Moto Guzzi’s Quota ($18,495), Triumph’s Tiger ($15,750) and BMW’s R1150 GS ($17,900) to choose from. And it’s rumoured that Aprilia is about to release a bigger Pegaso using a version of its 1000cc V-twin.
Exciting times ahead.
What you can be rest assured on is that if you’re after out-and-out offroad performance, then the Canyon is best left untouched. But if something a little less brutish on the loose stuff but beautifully-equipped for the road is your longing, then look no further. As it says on the bike, it’s full of “powerful emotions.”
Perhaps Dumb Dumber IV through the snow with a couple of big trailies on hand will settle a few arguments. I’ll put that to the Woose.
Photos: Paul Barshon
CAGIVA GRAN CANYON SPECS
- Harley Davidson SX 350
- Cagiva Bike Insurance Cover Bennetts
- BikeBoy.org – Cagiva GRAN CANYON
- The Cagiva Alazzurra – Classic Italian Motorcycles – Motorcycle Classics
- Cagiva Mito 125 Review at NST