The essential features of an adventure motorcycle; like a strong engine, tough chassis with long-travel suspension, upright riding position and wide handlebar ensure its usability whatever the terrain. This practicality has been key to the popularity of these machines: they’re easy to maneuver, comfortable and adaptable, and at home on the road whether touring mountain passes and highways or ﬁltering through jammed city streets. And when the desire for a true adventure takes hold, they’re capable of traversing great swathes of distance after the asphalt runs out.
To say that the Africa Twin is a legend in the motorcycling world would be an understatement. The original XRV750 Africa Twin is one of those motorcycles that carved a name for itself as being a touch reliable and an extremely capable adventure motorcycle and Honda went on to produce it from 1996 to 2003 before production finally came to an end. It was famously based on the Honda NXR-750, which won the Paris-Dakar rally four times in the late 1980s.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Honda finally woke up from its nap and launched the all-new Africa Twin, the CRF1000L. It was an immediate success by any measure and orders came pouring in for Honda. There is no doubt that Honda makes some of the finest motorcycles and their approach towards the new Africa Twin seemed to be very calculated, conservative and safe. On paper, the new Africa Twin looked so much unlike any other adventure touring motorcycle out there. While everyone else was going ‘electronic’ in every way, the specs of the new Africa Twin looked pale compared to its European rivals. However, this recipe of simplicity worked for Honda in terms of sales figures.
Inheriting the “go anywhere” spirit of its celebrated predecessors, CRF1000L Africa Twin packs an innovative and powerful parallel twin-cylinder engine into a lightweight, agile chassis ready for true adventure both on- and off-road, whether crossing continents or commuting. In addition to the manual-transmission model, another version is available with Honda’s unique Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission, featuring new off-road functionality. Both versions feature switchable rear ABS and multiple mode Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC).
At AED 56,000, the Africa Twin falls between the Suzuki DL1000 and the Yamaha Super Tenere, which are both priced around AED 50,000 and the BMW R1200GS and the KTM 1190 which are priced between AED 72-76,000.
Lets look closer at the engine. The CRF1000L Africa Twin’s 998cc parallel-twin power plant draws heavily on Honda’s CRF250R/450R competition machines, using the same four-valve Unicam head design for compact overall dimensions.
It is aimed at providing strong and linear power and torque deliver instant response anywhere in the rev-range. A 270-degree phased crankshaft gives the power delivery a distinct character as well as delivering excellent feel for rear-wheel traction. The semi-dry-sump engine’s short height contributes to the CRF1000L Africa Twin’s 250mm ground clearance.
It also uses clever packaging of components to both dynamic and aesthetic effect. The water pump is housed within the clutch casing, and both water and oil pumps are driven by the engine’s balancer shafts. The lightweight, six-speed manual gearbox uses the same shift-cam design as found on the CRF250R/450R to ensure positive changes and is equipped with an aluminum assist slipper clutch.
In addition to the manual-transmission model, a second model is offered, equipped with Honda’s unique Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission, which we are very eager to try.
Both versions feature ABS and multiple-mode Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). The best thing for me while I was riding the motorcycle was how easy it was to switch traction control off. The trigger type switch is located in a position where usually you’d have the high-beam toggle switch. The ABS cannot be turned off completely, only on the rear wheel. There are four levels of control to choose from the Honda Selectable Torque Control: Level 1, 2, 3 and off. The degree of intervention decreases as the levels drop, allowing increasing amounts of rear-wheel spin.
Even though the Africa Twin looks lean and narrower than the rest of the ADV motorcycles out there, it isn’t necessarily lighter. This was one of the things that surprised me about this machine when it was launched. I was expecting it to be in the 190-200 kg range. However, it feels much lighter when you’re on it. The CRF1000L Africa Twin’s semi-double-cradle steel frame provides the perfect balance of high-speed stability matched to genuine off-road ability. Honda has achieved to centralize the mass effectively, making the Africa Twin feel much lighter than it is.
Like the CRF450R Rally, the CRF1000L Africa Twin uses 21-inch front and 18-inch rear spoke wheels. This enables a wide range of off-road tires to be ﬁtted, in addition to the standard dual-purpose 90 front / 150 rear tyres.
Following its design theme of “unlimited adventure,” the Africa Twin is styled with minimum bodywork in a tough, lightweight form that offers both weather protection for the rider and a slim, agile feel. Dual LED headlights maintain the original’s presence and the seat height adjusts 20mm from the standard 34.3 inches down to 33.5 inches.
Another appealing thing about the Africa Twin is its negative LCD meter, vertically stacked. It mimics the dash layout of a rally-race bike, allowing information to be rapidly assessed with little eye movement left or right. Three rows display in the bottom section, and can be switched around by the rider through use of a cursor. The upper-section LCD displays the essential speed, rpm and fuel.
The CRF1000L Africa Twin is available in three color options: Red/Black/White Dakar Rally and Digital Metallic Silver. Personally, I’d go for the Dakar Rally finish, I just can’t get over those anodized gold rims and the handlebar.
Racing is in Honda’s DNA and the Africa Twin keeps up with that tradition by being a very capable machine. Depending on your kind of adventure, if you plan to ride off-road a lot on your tours, then the Africa Twin is certainly the motorcycle you should look at. It does have some very worthy competitors but Honda has another ace up its sleeve, the pricing.