Before highlighting the vintage trails selected by our team, it seemed interesting to take a quick tour of the past. Rather logical after all when we are about to talk about vintage!
Whether on a bicycle or on a motorcycle, the idea of trying out all-terrain is not new. At the beginning of the 20th century, motorcycles were not really suited to the game and lovers of trails and other muddy fields made some adjustments to satisfy their passion: wider handlebars, raised exhaust, engine with torque, headlight protected by a grille, off-road tires. The scrambler was born, precursor of future enduros and trails.
The Seventies, for their part, are marked by a need to return to nature. Manufacturers are following in the footsteps of this trend to produce two-wheelers capable of fully satisfying this passion. The trail , a mixed machine intended for both road and off-road use, paves the way for a new concept.
If today, the new generations of trails are far from what their "ancestors" were, it is clear that the price of the older generations is clearly on the rise. The opportunity here to take stock of the 5 best vintage trails .
- Paris-Dakar: Trails showcase rally
- From the decline of the 2000s to the return of vintage trails
- The 5 best vintage trails in detail
- The 1988 Yamaha XT 600Z Tenere 3AJ
- The 1990 BMW R 80 GS
- The 1989 Honda Africa Twin XRV 650 HRC
- The Cagiva Elefant 900 IE Lucky Explorer 1991
- The Suzuki DR 800 S BIG 1990
- Comparative table of the 5 best trails
- How to improve the lighting of your trail?
- Optimize trail visibility with premium additional lights
- A wide choice of additional lights adapted to your trail
- What we can remember
- Guest Star: the Yamaha XT500
Paris-Dakar: Trails showcase rally
It's hard to talk about trails without mentioning the Paris-Dakar rally. In 1977, Thierry Sabine (1949-1986) got lost during the Abidjan-Nice rally. After several days of wandering in the desert, he returns with the desire to share the grandiose landscapes discovered during his journey. The Dakar was born.
On December 26, 1978, 90 trail runners (including 7 women), 80 cars and 12 trucks are preparing to take the first laps of a race that will become legendary: the Paris-Dakar.
For the general public, this original test borrows from adventures, emotions, dramas and exploits will mark the spirits. Over the years, the rally has established itself as a must and enjoys tremendous popularity. The prowess of the motorcycle riders struggling in the immense dunes of soft sand, spinning at dizzying speeds on the rocky tracks provoke a real craze.
The trail of the 90s: symbol of spaces and adventures
Sales of trail bikes progressed rapidly and in the years 85 to 90 these machines experienced real success, boosted by the exploits of prestigious pilots: Edi Orioli, Cyril Neveu, Hubert Auriol (1952-2021). The trails are distinguished from classic road cars at first glance by their height, their bright colors, their handlebars, their imposing tank.
Massive-looking motorcycles, but capable of evolving with ease on all kinds of terrain. Both practical for weaving through traffic, with good autonomy and a solid engine, trails enjoy a low maintenance cost, compared to road cars, and an affordable purchase price. .
The trail running market is doing well and many space enthusiasts are taking advantage of their holidays to travel the roads and paths of France and Europe. True to its primary vocation, the trail allows everyone to leave the asphalt and venture into wilder areas at leisure.
From the decline of the 2000s to the return of vintage trail running
The beginning of the 21st century saw a sudden stop in the world of trails, sales of which declined rapidly. The image of dreams of adventure conveyed by rallies is marking time under ecological pressure.
The supermoto riders take over while the youngest soon abandon the 50 cm 3 trails in favor of scooters . The range of choices is widening and the explosion of roadsters quickly returns the good old trails to the shed.
However, less than two decades later, several factors contribute to their “resurrection”. The high prices of increasingly sophisticated roadsters, the cost of their maintenance, their spartan comfort and their low functionality in terms of space available to carry a few things on weekends or holidays weigh on the final decision.
Add to that the new traffic standards and restrictions in terms of speed and radar controls, you get a different approach to the practice of two-wheelers!
The return of vintage trails has sounded! The movement for the Café Racer, the old motorcycles that we retype, transform, personalize is in full swing. Ténéré, Africa Twin, R 80 GS, trails from the 80s and 90s are highly sought after today. They offer leading solutions for lovers of neo-retro .
The 5 best vintage trails in detail
The 80s to 90s were booming years when it came to trail bikes and many of these bikes are now looking for buyers on the various ad sites available.
Count today between €4,000 and €9,000 or even more, depending on the mileage and general condition, to obtain one of these off-road motorcycles.
You wish to acquire a trail and hesitate on the brand, the model? We have undertaken to clear the ground to offer you those that we consider to be part of the top of the basket, the 5 best vintage trails :
The 1988 Yamaha XT 600Z Tenere 3AJ
No order in our ranking, but to open the ball, a nod to the victorious brand of the first two editions of Paris-Dakar, and its winner on Yamaha 500 XT, Cyril Neveu.
La Ténéré … A benchmark in the world of trails. The third version, released in 1988, has a clearly rally-oriented look. Its large fork fairing, fixed to the tank and mounted directly on the frame, is a plus in terms of comfort for the rider and passenger who will benefit from the rest of the effective suspensions .
The Yamaha is in fact a valuable motorcycle for two-person trips. The passenger has a wide saddle, well-positioned handles and footrests placed low enough.
An ideal motorcycle for trips on secondary roads and side roads, with a range of over 300 km. As with the majority of trails, its size and weight are to be taken into consideration for small builds (complicated for those under 1.75 m), especially in urban traffic or off-road use.
The 1990 BMW R 80 GS
Initiator of road trails, the R 80 G/S marks a turning point for the German brand. Undermined by competition from the Japanese, BMW Motorrad accentuated its efforts on enduros and in 1980 launched its trail R 80 G/S (“Gelände/Straße”, off-road/road). The press raved about its off-road performance and sales exploded.
In 1987, the "slash" disappeared, it became the R 80 GS and exploited an important technical development: the Paralever rear suspension. Despite its weight, it takes advantage of a low center of gravity due to its flat twin, which makes it very stable.
The BMW is the precursor of what will be called road trails . Comfortable on the slopes, it is particularly effective on the road. Indeed, it benefits from a driving position that remains pleasant over long distances, supported by an indestructible engine that never runs out of steam. A motorcycle at ease on long journeys therefore and which benefits from the extensive luggage range of the German brand.
The 1989 HONDA AFRICA TWIN XRV 650 HRC
At Honda, trail bikes fall into two main categories, the sport-oriented XRs and the more versatile XLs . Thus, the XRV 650 Africa Twin is the sporty alternative to the Transalp XLV 650.
The XRV has a more rigid and reinforced frame and offers very good agility and maneuverability. Be careful though, its seat height and its weight complicate its piloting in urban mode for those under 1.80 m . (And yes, always this size problem. What brings these trails together is a substantial saddle height which clearly makes the task a tad complicated for the less tall.)
On the engine side, the Honda is at the top . Despite the weight of the machine, it responds perfectly, supported by smooth and precise gear changes. Particularly reliable, the Africa Twin ensures long distances, its large tank effectively protecting pilot and passenger. In this regard, adding a higher bubble will provide additional comfort.
In summary, the XRV 650 HRC lives up to its excellent reputation. A comfortable saddle and a useful rack make this bike the ideal companion for long journeys whether on tracks or on asphalt.
Small flat, its lighting, in spite of the double optics, suffers as for the other trails of the time, from a relative efficiency, not to say very relative! Fortunately, the progress made since then makes it easy to improve this point. You will find in our shop quality LED headlights and at the end of the article a presentation of perfectly adapted additional lights.
The CAGIVA ELEFANT 900 IE LUCKY EXPLORER 1991
If the Italian trail has not benefited from the same media impact as the Ténéré and Africa Twin, the Cagiva Elefant 900 IE does not have less arguments. Its docile and powerful engine and its smooth handling make this trail practical in town, on long journeys and off-road.
With a seat height of 90 cm and a weight of more than 200 kg fully loaded, it is also aimed primarily at tall riders, who are also well protected by the tank and the very efficient fairing screen.
The Lucky Explorer does not go unnoticed and impresses as much with the characteristic purr of its engine as with its aggressive front end and its white color.
Complete dashboard, engine oil temperature gauge, the Cagiva is also illustrated by details, such as a compartment for a pair of gloves with key lock, please!
Important point to take into account, its slightly high center of gravity requires careful handling in tight turns and particularly in hairpins .
The SUZUKI DR 800 S BIG 1990
In the big single-cylinder series, Suzuki fielded a DR 800 BIG in Marlboro colors during the 1989 edition of the Dakar. Driven by Belgian Gaston Rahier (1947 - 2005), it finished the race in 9th position.
The 1990 version of the BIG DR now increases to 779 cm 3 , while retaining the aesthetics of its single-cylinder characterized by its “duckbill” front end and its typical exhaust.
Perfectly at ease on all types of roads, the Suzuki releases a constant power , rhythmic to the specific sound of the big mono. Like the other trails of the time, it is intended more particularly for tall pilots. Past the obstacle of height, the Suzuki offers excellent road arrangements for a range of nearly 500 km , with the downside of a saddle clearly lacking in comfort.
The small bubble does the job while the volume of the tank effectively protects the pilot's knees from the air. The driving position is ideal and very pleasant , with slightly bent legs and a straight torso. However, as mentioned above, the BIG DR does not display the comfort of its competitors and the feeling of sitting on a board is not conducive to long journeys, especially for two.
Comparative table of the 5 best trails
|YAMAHA XT 600Z Tenere 3AJ||HONDA Africa twin XRV 650 HRC||CAGIVA elephant 900 ie Lucky Explorer||BMW R80GS||SUZUKI DR 800 S BIG|
|Engine||4T, single cylinder||4T, V-twin||4T, V-twin||4T, flat-twin||4T, single cylinder|
|Displacement||595cc||647 cc||904 cc||798 cc||779 cc|
|Power||43 hp||57 hp||63 hp||50 hp||54 hp|
|front/rear brake||1 front/rear disc||1 front/rear disc||1 front/rear disc||1 front disc / 1 rear drum||1 front/rear disc|
|Gearbox||5 gears||5 gears||5 gears||5 gears||5 gears|
|Headlights||2 round headlights||2 round headlights||2 round headlights||1 round headlight||1 rectangular headlight|
|L x W x H (mm)||2210x835x1340||2320x900x1320||2295x860x970||2290x1000x1165||2265x865x1325|
|Saddle height (mm)||890||890||900||860||890|
|empty/full weight (kg)||160 / 185||193 / 217||188 / 212||184 / 210||185 / 213|
How to improve the lighting of your trail?
Café racer enthusiasts know it all too well, going back in time to buy the motorcycle of your dreams means reconsidering a few points, particularly with regard to the safety provided by the lighting.
The trails of the 90s are no exception to this observation. Whether equipped with dual optics or not, the lighting capabilities of the time are very far from reaching the performance of the models of headlights available today.
However, whether in off-road or road use, the need to see far, to the side and above all to be seen by other users is an essential priority.
On this subject, you will find an article on our blog to inform you about LED optics , their advantages, prices, etc. We have selected for you, in our lighting department, something to meet your requirements and take advantage of prices adapted to all budgets, from €49.90 to €299.00 .
Optimize trail visibility with premium additional lights
As a reminder, the law does not prohibit the use of additional lights on a motorcycle. Although they are not mandatory, they are nevertheless strongly recommended. Indeed, the safety contribution provided by this type of lighting is undeniable and in fact recommended .
To meet the demand of our customers, Blackpines has extended its offer of LED optics by integrating the PIAA brand, specialized since 1963 in high quality additional lights.
The Japanese brand, very present in motorsports, now offers LED lights equipped with Reflector Facing (RFT) technology .
The LED chips are angled towards the reflector and not forward like conventional LED headlights. The benefit is twofold:
- a more direct and defined light beam that does not dazzle oncoming road users. Compliance with the SAE standard;
- exploiting the full output of each LED chip provides more light with the consequent reduction in energy consumption.
A wide choice of additional lights adapted to your trail
To match the design of your trail, you will find in our additional headlights department different models of all sizes, round, square, rectangular. Main beam, fog or mixed lights, white or yellow lighting, PIAA additional lights are ECE approved .
- fog lamps : provide wide-angle proximity lighting;
- main beam : range greater than 50 meters;
- mixed headlights : greater lighting angle than main beam headlights, without illuminating as far.
What we can remember
Whether the Yamaha XT 600 Z Ténéré 3AJ, Honda Africa Twin XRV 650 HRC, Cagiva Elefant 900 IE Lucky Explorer, BMW R 80 GS and Suzuki DR 800 S BIG are the 5 best vintage trail bikes or not, ultimately has little of importance.
What matters is that each of them is a compendium of stories, titles, emotions. We were stunned by their performances on prestigious rallies. We, in turn, wanted to ride them and live our own adventures.
Today these solid , powerful , racy motorcycles find their place in our daily lives because they are, among other things, perfectly adapted to the new traffic restrictions.
Lower consumption , controlled maintenance , practical for transporting luggage and going far, venturing off the roads according to your desires, they perfectly meet current expectations.
If they benefit from a particular and unique look, many enthusiasts will not fail to add their personal touches and they lend themselves very well to it.
And if only one element had to be changed to enjoy its trail even better, in perfect safety, it would be the old generation headlight against an efficient LED headlight and finalize the whole thing by installing additional lights .
Once you've made your choice, all you have to do is go on a quest, but that's the start of your adventure...
Guest Star: the Yamaha XT500
The Yamaha XT 500 , driven by Cyril Neveu , won the 1st Paris-Dakar, it illustrates this article on the 5 best vintage trails, so why not associate it with the comparison with other trails?
With the XT500, we go beyond the notion of a mythical motorcycle and enter the order of the timeless . If there is a model who has crossed the ages without taking a wrinkle, it is her. Following its presentation at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1975 , this simple but ultra-versatile trail bike was so successful that even today the mention of its name arouses real enthusiasm .
Just under 18,000 XT500s will be sold in France (61,250 worldwide). Despite its small tank, its 32 horsepower and a tight front brake, the XT benefits from a light and slender chassis , the high torque of an undisputedly reliable engine and a weight of 139 kg which make Yamaha a formidable competitor on rough terrain, even against more modern trails.
Its success and robustness inevitably have an impact on the price of this coveted model. Depending on its overall condition and mileage, the XT500 is currently trading between €4,000 and €8,000. About ten years ago, it was trading between €2,000 and €3,500!
|Year||nineteen eighty one|
|Engine||4T, single cylinder|
|front/rear brake||front/rear drum|
|Headlights||1 round headlight|
|L x W x H (mm)||2175x875x1180|
|Saddle height (mm)||820|
|empty/full weight (kg)||139 / 155|