Honda Africa Twin true to its roots
The Honda Africa Twin continues to embody the true sense of an adventure motorcycle
In the four years since it was first launched the Africa Twin has earned a reputation as an easy to own, easy to ride adventure motorcycle.
When the CRF1000L Africa Twin was launched in 2016 it fully embraced the essence and spirit of what made the original so popular, the perfect balance between weight and power and a unique, athletic appearance. The CRF1000L Africa Twin proved itself as a true modern-day all-rounder and has been hugely popular with round the world adventurers, around-town commuters and weekend tourers alike.
In 2018, the Africa Twin received Throttle by Wire Control plus three riding modes, expanded Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) options, as well as intake and exhaust development for improved engine response and sound. The Adventure Sports models were also added to the range adding improved wind protection, greater tank range and long travel suspension, making them even more capable for long range off-road missions.
Honda offers the Africa Twin in four models namely the Africa Twin, Africa Twin DCT, Africa Twin Adventure Sports and the model, which I tested, the Africa Twin Adventure Sports DCT. All models share the same engine and frame architecture but the Adventure Sports features a larger fuel tank, Showa electronically equipped ride adjustment suspension, heated grips, tubeless wheels, a larger skid plate, 12-volt accessory socket and an aluminium rear rack.
The 2020 Africa Twin has a sharply renewed focus on off-road core ability that brings with it the look and feel of a rally machine. Smaller, slimmer and 5kg lighter, it offers even more athletic performance, thanks also to changes to the engine, the capacity of which is increased, boosting power and torque.
The touring comfort, technology and ability of the new CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports are further enhanced thanks to Showa Electronically Equipped Ride adjustment.
A six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit now manages riding modes and HSTC as well as cornering ABS, Wheelie Control, Rear Lift Control, plus a new cornering detection functionality on the DCT version.
Dual LED headlights feature Daytime Running Lights and cruise control is standard fitment. A full colour 6.5-inch TFT touchscreen dashboard incorporates Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. The display offers a myriad of information and a variety of displays depending on the riding mode selected, there are also customisable screens, which would be my preference. The screen is extremely complex in the amount of information and options it offers and will take longer than the week I spent with it to become truly intuitive.
The SOHC 8-valve parallel-twin engine’s essential architecture remains unchanged for 2020 but displacement is increased from 998cc to 1084cc. The longer stroke, 270-degree twin gets a larger throttle body, now 46mm, revised air intake, an updated ECU and re-angled injectors. As a result peak power is improved from 70-75kW (100hp) at 7 500rpm and torque is up from 99Nm to 105Nm at 6 250rpm. These improvements combined with the overall weight savings result in power delivery that is noticeably peppier.
The automatic choice
The unique DCT automatic gearbox delivers consistent, super-fast seamless gear changes and very quickly becomes second nature to use. It uses two clutches; one for start-up and 1st, 3rd and 5th gears, the other for 2nd, 4th and 6th, with the main shaft for each clutch located inside the other for compact packaging.
Each clutch is independently controlled by its own electro-hydraulic circuit. When a gear change occurs, the system pre-selects the target gear using the clutch not currently in use. The first clutch is then electronically engaged as, simultaneously, the second clutch engages. The result is a consistent, fast and seamless gear changes.
Extra benefits that further add to the DCTs appeal include durability of the gear, impossibility of stalling, low stress urban riding and reduced rider fatigue.
Three modes of operation are available. MT gives full manual control, allowing the rider to shift with the handlebar trigger control buttons. Automatic D mode is ideal for city and highway riding and achieves optimum fuel efficiency. Automatic S mode offers three levels of sportier riding, as the ECU lets the engine rev a little higher before shifting up and shifts down sooner when decelerating for extra engine braking.
Honda has sold over 100 000 DCT equipped motorcycles across Europe since the system first appeared as an option on the VFR1200F a decade ago. During the last financial year, DCT accounted for 48% of European sales on models where DCT was an option.
In conjunction with these fancy electronics, the strength and rigidity balance of the steel semi-double cradle frame is now more rigid, while a number of changes saw the weight reduced by 1.8kg.
The revised frame now features a bolt on aluminium subframe and CRF450R inspired aluminium swingarm. At the heart of this chassis package is the addition of a six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit that controls the seven-level HSTC but also the three-level wheelie control, cornering ABS, rear Lift Control and DCT cornering detection. An Off-road setting also joins the Urban, Tour and Gravel riding modes.
The fixed screen is much shorter than before, to allow for easy scanning of the trail ahead, while the seat height remains 850-870mm, the handlebars are 22.5mm higher, offering a more upright riding position.
Most notable from my time on the Africa Twin was how easy it was to ride. Yes, it does feature a ton of electronics, controlling a vast number of things, but these quietly go about their job in the background and make the motorcycle safe and a pleasure to ride.
I wasn't expecting the DCT system to be as good as it was and after a week with the Africa Twin, I think I might prefer it this way. This system seriously reduces the workload of the rider, allowing them to focus on the traffic situation around them or take in the view. Granted sometimes it did feel like the motorcycle was in a gear too high, but the engine has the tractability to pull it through and grabbing a handful of throttle sees the bike instantly choose the right cog and rocket towards the horizon. If that doesn't work for you, one can flick up or down a gear using the thumb and index finger switches on the left handlebar. I do a lot of commuting on a Vespa and the transition to this format of control was seamless, I really did not miss a clutch or traditional gear shifter.
Inspiring confidence even further is the fact that power delivery and ABS is fine tuned within each of the riding modes according to how it will be used and how far the motorcycle will be leaned over or thrown sideways.
Despite the large tank, I found the Africa Twin extremely comfortable, I put the seat in the higher of the two positions and my almost 2.0 metre frame felt right at home, with my legs straighter than they have been on any other motorcycle before.
What the Africa Twin does and does well is inspire confidence, even though Honda have followed suit and in my opinion added too much weight and gadgets to the bike, it still feels nimble and easy to ride, with those seemingly unnecessary gadgets doing a great job in the background of keeping the rider safe and allowing them to focus their attention on more important factors.