Honda Varadero XL125V

 The organisation has set up rules regulating the engine size of the vehicles entering the Mongol Rally. This has been the case since it started, and perhaps is what makes matters more interesting.Motorcycles have to be under 125 cc in order to avoid penalties when signing in for the rally being 250 cc the absolute maximum. 

While investigating which bike could withstand best the harsh conditions, I took several factors into consideration: Cargo capacity, engine reliability, autonomy and off-road capabilities. Applying these filters, I found myself with many choices, specially with 90´s 125 cc, 2 stroke enduro focused motorcycles. People have already done the rally and there was no reason to doubt these were suitable mounts to undertake it. However, I wanted to take absolutely no risks because from where I was standing, I was going to do it alone, without any support.

In the end I looked for a much newer Honda model, more focused to the road than for trail use if you ask me, but with a 17.5 litre deposit allowing it to cover more than 350 Km. with a single deposit and with some modifications like additional lights, defences, a central stand, and an oversized windscreen deflector. And this was only the start, I was going to make a few more off-road oriented modifications in the next days to come.

The Varadero comes fitted with a V-Twin cylinder engine motorbike with roughly 15bhp and weighting around 150 Kg. I decided to buy a unit in good shape because I knew beforehand that I would never have enough time myself to fix if anything was broken due to my trip to China from March to late June. Because of this decision, I met Juan from Olesa de Montserrat, Barcelona. The former owner, now my friend, sold me his bike with only 9,000 Km. because he had moved to a larger sized bike. It could not be in better shape, thanks Juan.

Varaderos from this time are divided into pre-facelift and facelift model with major changes, one being carburetted and the newest one fuel-injected. Mine being a 2005 model comes with a double carburettor feeding each of the cylinders. Why did I choose a carburetted one you may ask? One big factor to consider is simplicity. While roaming through Asian countries, they often lack technological equipment needed to carry on with the repairs, this is not the case with a carburettor. There are still many old-school mechanics with wit to know how to fix and maintain one of this mechanical wonders. The last feature the pre-facelift has compared to the fuel-injected model is its fuel deposit, slightly bigger and better suited for this trip.

Not all are advantages. A major disadvantage of this bike is the tubeless alloy wheels. While they simplify much more many things, it could be disastrous if the tyre got out of the wheel, requiring only then an air compressor to fit it back in, not to mention if the alloy breaks. This bike also comes without any oil pan protection, something I will have to improvise building one myself most likely. The other one is its weight, although for driving in certain conditions you could argue its better, if the bike falls to the ground it is always a pain to recover it, specially if it is fitted with saddle bags on top of much more things.

The suspension is massively exposed to dust and the elements in its stock form. Fortunately there are many solutions in the market to fix it. I will be covering more in detail these modifications later on. 

Especificaciones técnicas

Motor: 90 degree V twin cylinders

124 cc

4 stroke SOHC engine

Compression ratio: 11,8:1

Displacement: 42x45 mm

Power: 10,6 kW @ 11000 RPM

Torque: 11 Nm @ 9500 RPM

Weight: 152 Kg.

Fuel capacity: 17,5 l

Front suspension: 35 mm telescopic bottles with 132 mm length

Rear suspension: Monoshock + Swingarm, 150 mm length.