Cagiva Gran Canyon
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
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
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
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 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
Engine type Air-cooled, four-stroke, two-valve, 90-degree V-twin, desmodromic
Bore x stroke 92mm x 68mm
Compression ratio 9.2:1
Ignition Weber electronic
Starting system Electric
Lubrication system Wet sump
Primary drive Gear
Clutch Wet multi-plate
Final drive O-ring chain
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type High-tensile steel rectangular,
single tube cradle
Rake not available
Front suspension. 45mm conventional telescopic forks Rear suspension
Single shock with spring preload and adjustable rebound damping
Front/rear wheels Spoked alloy rims,
2.15/19-inch front, 4.25/17-inch rear
Front/rear tyres Pirelli MT80
100/90 front, 150/70 rear
Front brake Dual 296mm discs with hydraulically-operated twin-piston
Rear brake 240mm steel disc with hydraulically-operated single-piston
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Dry weight (claimed) 201kg
Seat height (claimed) 850mm
Oil capacity 3.5lt
Fuel capacity 20lt
Maximum power (claimed) 75ps at 7500rpm
Maximum torque (claimed) 7.4kg-m at 5000rpm
Maximum speed (claimed) 190kmh
Test bike supplied by Paul Feeney Group,
Recommended retail price $16,500 (plus ORC)
Warranty 24 months/unlimited km
Colour options Red/black
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