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Ride any Road. Ask me...
2,574 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)

Hello and best wishes to all (really) big off-road bike fans. With your permission I'd like to use this thread to detail the slow and potentially painful process of managing to make a (half) decent off roader of the mighty Varadero, and how it, and I, fare on this journey of discovery.

A bit of background if I may: I did this sort of thing about 6/7 years ago with a 650 Alp, and evolved it into a quite efficient machine. No big changes, just little tweeks here and there using bits and peices, and parts that would fit. That also gave me a good working knowledge of the bike, and wasn't a wholesale import of TT or similar goodies. I think the Vara is going to be a bit more complex!

The bike:

A standard '00 XL1000V SD01A.

It's already got a few nice bits on it, but more of them later.

I chose the Varadero for a range of reasons:
  • Honda!
  • More power than an Alp
  • Cheaper, for year and condition than an AT or an Alp.
  • More comfort OTR than an AT.
  • You don't see many (any?) at Rallies or on green lanes.
  • Many parts still avaliable, unlike 600 TA rear hubs.
  • Interest - can it be done, cost effectively.

So, a standard, carb'd Vara, 30,000 miles, generally clean condition. Heated grips, rear hugger, touring scotoiler, topbox, engine bars, spotlamps, alarm, already Smartwatered and no HISS. So far, so good.

In the first 5500 miles of testing the spotlamps had to go. Not only were they mounted on the crashbars such that a fall would possibly push them into the side pannels and hence the radiators, the power draw was such that slow speed headlamps on riding (filtering etc) would discharge the battery so it wouldn't start. I know it's too big to bump too! All the other stuff seems to work well, I like the twin trip meters, clock and the bright lights! Engine is not as tractable as an Alp, needing to be spinning at around 3000rpm to take off. Old 3rd gear roundabouts now need to be taken in 2nd, but all part of the learning.

Initial greenlane use felt a little skittish, but tyre pressures from 46psi f + r to about 28 has helped that loads. The high front screen is also a worry, the sharp edge ever so threatening on bumps. The gearchange felt imprecise, having as it did a linkage system, solved by fitting a motorcross gear selector, thinking it was a Yamaha 450 item, but I will confirm that.

Over time, on longer rides, 500 miles +, the handlebars were beginning to be noticed. I couldn't get the angle right to avoid a bent out to the sides feeling in my wrists, almost like riding a factory-custom with swept bars. Easily fixed with a change of bars to Renthal Dakar-Highs, with 30mm risers below them. Slight contact with the screen on full lock, but that is rarely used in riding, no problem then!

Still to do:

The virtually pristine nature of the plastics led me to ebay to source some not so clean ones. Tail pannel and 2 side pannels sourced. The need to cut down the screen, same, and a Honda original sourced, so the copy screen can be modified. High (for me) first and second gear lead to a 14t front (-2 teeth) sprocket, giving a gearing change of -12.5%.

My inability to fit, or rather seat on the bead, tubeless tyres means that easy swaps are not an option. I've sourced a rear wheel, but am still searching for a front. These will need brakediscs fitting, and can then be fitted with tyres. I'm currently leaning towards Metzler Karoos, and although I know the rear probably won't go beyond 2500 miles, it will be a significant improvement on the current Tourances. (Can't get AC10s to fit!)

In terms of protection, I can feel the need to splash out on a TT sumpguard, and need to get a fender-extender and headlamp guard. Rear protection will hopefully be provided by a set of (any old) pannier rails. That will also have the advantage of supporting soft panniers too. (Not a fan of hard luggage.)

An issue yet to face are footpegs. I belive the fitting is the same as a 650 TA, so a set of Suzuki RM85 pegs may need to be found, although a set of Pivot-Pegz are being lusted after! The extra control offered by a flat, mud-grippy foot platform is significant, I find it essential especially on a big bike.

I will need another front sprocket cover/clutch activating arm so it can be cut away/drilled out to prevent mud/stone build up and the potential fires that result!

The suspension needs to be played with, and I'm not sure yet as to how that needs to go. More riding needed I guess!

My biggest stumbling block is going to be the brakes. No ABS to worry about, but they are Honda combined linked brakes, and I'm not sure yet if that's going to be a big issue. The idea of the front coming on when you apply the back is a little scary, but I've yet to confirm that in practice. I do however like them on the road!

Just for fun, it needs a Pipercross air filter, irridium spark plugs, a magnetic sump plug bolt, cut down brake/clutch levers, wrap-round handguards (with the alloy bar in), and a heap of grease nipples fitting too!


So, when I get some of that lot sorted I'll let you know how it all goes! In the meantime, if anyone comes across the following parts or has the skills, PLEASE let me know:

  • Front wheel
  • Nearside radiator protection - may need to be built, i.e. measured and cut/bent/drilled to fit!! (Design job anybody?)
  • Front sprocket cover
  • Pannier rails
  • Footpegs
  • Some kit or method to de-link the brakes
Any comments and advice totally appreciated. :color:

Deer Dodger
3,199 Posts
Jeez Chris,

You sure know how to go about it a difficult way :D

Never been on a Vara off road, so I really can't comment but I would say that I think the Vara would be ok on light trails, but for the type of stuff you do ( ie full on :D ), I would imagine it would be a bit of a handful.
But in saying that,I've seen you off road and you don't 'ang about :thumbup:

I think the most obvious start would be to ditch the fairing and try to reduce upper weight considerably., maybe think about fitting a smaller tank? Then it would be a question of altering gearing as you so rightly said.

Sorry can't be much help, just want to wish you all the best with the project, looking forward to seeing the pics :thumbup:

Good luck

Premium Member
6,168 Posts
Has anyone tried fitting a 21inch wheel onto a vara?

94 Posts
Hi Mudwiz.

Front wheel for sale here
Honda XL1000 XL 1000 Varadero 08 Front Wheel | eBay

Its a bit pricey at £250.
I have been looking for a front wheel for nearly two years. Mainly on eBay.
They rearly come up. This £250 one has been on for a longtime. I wonder why.
But if someone really needed one it might be cheep enough.
Even one with a little damage made over £100 not so long ago
I have a back wheel for a carbie vara which is for sale. If interested pm me
My intention was just to paint a couple of rims and still have the originals but the idea has passed.

As to 21 inch fronts theres a bit about it here

I notice that you don't mention pipes.
Get a good set of aftermarket pipes to loose many llb's
I have a set of Remus on mine, apart from the weight saving the noise is to die for
All the very best with it.


Premium Member
10,746 Posts
Having shared quite a few bottles of wine with muddy while he shivers with hypothermia,

Yup he is most definitely nuts

Sent from my HTC Desire using Tapatalk
Yep certainly nuts but gun what do you expect from a guy which attends bike meets in his underwear :toothy10:
Oh and he is rubbish offroad, I seen him. :toothy1:
Muddy you got to work on your image a bit


Site Admin
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Site Admin
2,420 Posts
Here's some more of the same bike - another build by Italian GPMucci :thumbup:


Ride any Road. Ask me...
2,574 Posts
Discussion Starter #18

Thanks folks, well maybe not :hitler:!! :D:D

I'm aiming to keep it looking like a normal Varadero, I really like the protection given by the screen and fairings, even if it does tend to deposit snow on my crotch at slowish speeds. :toothy10: I like the big tank too, especially at the rate it drinks fuel!

I've looked at that wheel on Ebay, and I think it's just far too expensive! For now I'll hang on for something much cheaper! That breakers site now used to request the parts.

I'm hearing good things of Zen Overland, and handguards will have to go on at some point.

Exhausts are expensive! To have a set of lighter, sexy pipes would be nice, but for now not a priority. I find the bike noisy as standard, and really don't want any more. There's a good relationship with other lane users round here, one I'm keen to protect. I know every little helps in terms of mass, but at only 66kg myself I feel I've done my bit in that repesct!!

That total conversion, and the Twindero way of going is overkill for what I'm after. The budget is pennies not pounds! Looks so sexy though... To do it "properly" would be over and above my plans, the African Queens wheel set alone comes in at about Euro 2000. :(

Further testing:

I've been doing some further testing re. the suspension, and I like what it's doing. Testing on a bumpy track, bricks and 4-6" potholes and the bike seems to do all I'd expect of it. (Certainly at the speeds I'm aiming for.) That bodes well, so a fork oil change and some rear bearing regreasing is the limit of the plans in that respect.

Regarding the linked brakes, so far, and I mean so far, green lane use only so nothing fast, the linked system is not actually causing any problems. For now it's definately in my mind when I brake, but it's not upsetting the bike at all, and that's still on Tourances.

It is nice to see the deposits on the engine in an area that would be limited by an extended front mudguard, with nothing spilling up to the radiator. maybe this is less of an issue than I though? Could be an expensive assumption though?

The extra control given by the new handlebars is excellent, and almost insipres confidence. Just to fix the foot peg issue...

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