First Gravel Experience on Varadero

he weather was absolutely gorgeous today. It went from bleak and about 10 celcius to around 19 celcius around noon. A perfect day for a spin on the bike. Since this was only the third time riding it, it was time for some backroads and gravel.

I’d read about how top heavy the Varadero is – and it is. I’d read about how heavy the bike is – and it is. Already though, it is inspiring confidence in backroad riding that I never had with my KLR. It is smooth, comfy and responds well to inputs. The weight disappears when you’re moving and it just loves rough surfaces and even gravel.

Now it certainly isn’t a dirt bike. Honda never claimed the XL1000V Varadero would be a hill-climbing, stump jumping, terror of all single-tracks. But it is certainly capable as a gentle all-rounder and is quite at home on gravel, including the mixed and deeper pea gravel.

The KLR seemed to always be finding its way or the suspension overworked. The Varadero seems to take it all in stride. On the highway the KLR felt wound up and overworked. The Varadero purrs along easily at 110-120 kph. The KLR seemed to wallow in gravel and spend more time working out the forward direction. The Varadero sits quite steadily and solidly on the gravel and finds a keen path forward. The KLR seat was a torture device included as an afterthought on a 1980s bike. The Varadero’s seat is all-day comfortable – literally!

The one area that I’d hope to not be in with this bike is mushy or mucky dirt roads. As I approached the mountains the shadows had a bit of frost, mud and wetness. This is where the weight of the bike starts to show. It was slow going and it did track well forward but the Michelin Anakee 3s and the heft of the bike are out of its element in the muck – fair enough. I have no interest in picking up a 570 pound machine in muck and filth unless it’s absolutely necessary. So if it’s dry, bumpy, gravel, potholed the Varadero is your kit. If it gets squelchy, muck-laden or really wet, I can see how the lighter KTM or CRF Honda bikes would do a much better job.

In one gravel ride I felt much more at home and safer with this new stead than on all the thousands of kilometres on the ol’ Kawasaki. Why didn’t I buy this bike originally? Oh yeah, it was $7,000 more at the time. A few miles and years later this is turning out to be the perfect bike for the type of travel and touring that I do. Way to go, Honda! It ain’t pretty, rip-snorting fast, really designed for dirt, but boy does it do a bit of everything well.

Travel Time: 2:00-5:45 pm
Distance: 230 kilometres
Smiles: Plenty