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ADV BikesFirst Ride: 10 Things to Know About the New Africa Twin

First Ride: 10 Things to Know About the New Africa Twin

 Key takeaways after testing the new Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin.

Published on 05.17.2016

5. It Can Make You a Better Off-Road Rider

Marc Marquez and Joan Barreda new Africa Twin test

The new Africa Twin is packed with features that will make off-road riders feel more confident on the trail. It all starts with a low seat height that doesn’t sacrifice suspension travel or ground clearance, and a low center of gravity that makes the bike easier to manage in technical terrain. There’s even a slipper clutch that helps avoid dangerous rear wheel lockup when downshifting too aggressively on slick surfaces.

While some adventure riders might snub their nose at any type of electronic aids that could potentially fail or add more weight to the bike, there’s no denying they can make you a better and safer rider. It takes years to master shifting and clutch control off-road, especially in a standing position. DCT removes any worries about stalling on a rough hill climb caused by improper gear selection or not slipping the clutch enough. It takes all of the extra mental processing off your plate so you can just concentrate on selecting the best line and maintaining proper balance.


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Unless you’ve been riding off-road for years, it’s hard to anticipate how much grip different types of surfaces provide. The Africa Twin’s traction control and ABS systems are always aware of how much grip is available and can help protect you from making mistakes in judgement. Plus traction control setting 1 lets you do controlled powerslides and carry more speed through turns, so you can up your pace off-road with confidence.

All of these different technologies can help riders of all skill levels get to more remote places and ride more technical terrain. While the Africa Twin is still a big bike, you might be surprised where it can take you.

6. It’s a Beautifully Balanced Street Bike

honda-africa-twin-test-street
The Africa Twin is enjoyable to ride at a sport bike pace in the twisties.

You can easily set a sport bike pace on the new Africa Twin. Its agile handling carries over to the street allowing it to initiate turns effortlessly. The stock Dunlop Trailmax tires are grippy on pavement and there is plenty of lean angle available before pegs begin touching down.

During our street testing, we encountered rain in the morning that gave us the perfect opportunity to test out the Africa Twin’s traction control. With traction control in level 3 (most intrusive) and DCT in standard D-Mode, the Africa Twin traveled confidently over wet pavement. The bike maintained good traction, even transitioning over wet tar snakes on the throttle in turns.

The bike’s excellent off-road suspension made big pot holes barely noticeable. Yet the long-travel suspension doesn’t pogo excessively under hard braking and acceleration.

The AT is just as comfortable being ridden at a more casual pace. Its Parallel Twin makes a soothing sound on the highway and there is more than enough power on tap for quick passes. Vibration in the bars is minimal thanks to rubber mounted risers, counter weights and bar inserts that kill off much of the vibration. Thankfully, Honda gave the Africa Twin spacious ergonomics and a good seat that ought to provide hours of comfortable highway riding.

Hours in the wind tunnel have also produced an efficient windscreen design that keeps the wind off head and chest for riders up to about 6 feet tall. However, taller riders may want to opt for Honda’s touring windscreen.

7. It’s Simpler Than You Think

Testing the rear abs off button on the new Africa Twin
Instead of developing a complicated off-road ABS system, Honda just offers a simple rear ABS off button.

While the Africa Twin is packed with clever engineering and advanced technology, in some ways Honda kept things simple. The electronics are fairly basic when compared to other big-bore adventure bikes from the top European manufacturers. There’s no ride-by-wire, no fuel maps or off-road-specific traction control. No off-road ABS either. If you don’t like the Africa Twin’s ABS, then you can only turn off the rear.

Other examples of its simple design (for the category) are the use of inner tubes instead of tubeless wire-spoke rims. There’s no fancy electronic hill hold control system either to keep the bike from rolling backward on steep inclines. Instead, DCT models have a mechanical hand brake.

The windscreen has no electronically controlled adjustment nor is there even a manual one. And the lack of ride-by-wire means that cruise control may not be an option we’ll see in the near future. Some may feel the Africa Twin lacks sophistication, but for many, a more simple approach will be a breath of fresh air.

8. There Are Few Nits to Pick

Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin Centerstand
A centerstand is not standard equipment on the Africa Twin and is only available as a factory option.

The new Africa Twin is an incredible achievement for Honda but it’s not without a few items to nit pick about. Truth be told, it took some digging to find any flaws and they didn’t reveal themselves easily. Which is even more incredible when you consider this is the first year of the model.

One of the minor annoyances about the bike is that anytime you turn the bike off, all of the electronic settings get reset. With so many electronic settings for DCT, G-Mode and HSTC, it can be a pain to reconfigure everything when you stop for a quick conversation. One trick we did learn during the test is that if you kill the engine by putting the kickstand down (activating the kickstand kill switch), it retains all your settings once you put the kickstand back up.

Off-road the bike’s handling was impressive, but it did exhibit one undesirable trait — a heavy front end feel. Honda claims the Africa Twin has a 49.1% front / 50.9% rear weight distribution but getting the front wheel to pop up over obstacles takes a little extra effort, even with traction control off.

Another minor gripe is with the windscreen. If you are a taller rider, it can easily get in your face when riding aggressively off-road. It also doesn’t block wind very well if you are taller than 6 feet. An adjustable windscreen that could be lowered for off-road riding and raised for the highway would be a great aftermarket upgrade.

While DCT is an amazing system, it’s not for everyone. The DCT bike felt slightly heavier than the standard model and a bit less nimble off-road. It didn’t impact handling in a major way but it was noticeable. The DCT model also didn’t seem to have the same direct connection to the road as the standard model. DCT also isn’t quite as smooth as an experienced clutch hand during slow-speed maneuvers.

Honda decided not to include a centerstand on the Africa Twin, which we’d say was an oversight. Whether this helped save weight on the spec sheet or keep costs down, we’re not sure. But a centerstand should come standard on any adventure bike over 500 pounds. Try heaving a big adventure bike over a fallen tree or balancing it on a rock next time you get a flat tire, and you’ll know why.

9. They’ll Be a Bit Hard to Get

New Africa Twin Test Review

While Europe has already started receiving the new Africa Twin since the beginning of this year, US shipments will start trickling in around June (although we’ve seen a few earlier arrivals). According to Honda, everything is on schedule for a June delivery but a few dealers will be delayed until August. Each dealer that put in an order is getting at least one Africa Twin, so if you were the first to pre-order at your dealer, your bike should be on its way.

The bad news is that two large earthquakes shook Japan last month knocking out the Kumamoto factory where the Africa Twin is produced. The plant isn’t expected to get back to full capacity again until August. At this time, Honda isn’t sure how this will affect orders but they expect it could delay replenishing showroom inventory later in the year.

10. It’s a Game Changer

honda africa twin review test

With the huge hype surrounding the new Africa Twin for these last two years, it was easy to become skeptical. But after our Africa Twin test, it was hard not to be left impressed. It’s an Adventure Bike that does pretty much anything you ask of it well. It can be your daily commuter, your sport bike, a two-up tourer or a dual sport. Best of all, you get this versatility and Honda’s top-notch quality all for a reasonable price.

All this should come as no surprise though. History has shown that when Honda brings its full resources to bear on a project, they are able to accomplish some pretty amazing things. And while it was a long time coming, you can tell Honda wanted to make sure every single detail was perfect before releasing the product. It’s been well worth the wait and with a base price of $12,999 for the ABS model and $13,699 for ABS/DCT trim, the new Africa Twin is going be hard to beat. Consider the game changed!

Full technical specs on the 2016 Africa Twin

Gear We Used

• Helmet: Touratech Aventuro Carbon – Companero
• Jacket: Alpinestars Durban Gore-Tex
• Pants: Alpinestars Durban Gore-Tex
• Gloves: Alpinestars Megawatt – Black
• Boots: Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex Boots

Photos by Kevin Wing and Ray Gauger
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Author: Rob Dabney
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Comments
 39

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39 thoughts on “First Ride: 10 Things to Know About the New Africa Twin

  1. I have $15,000 in cash sitting on my desk and the keys always in my pocket waiting for the phone call that its there. The bike is amazing by all accounts but still means nothing until it actually makes it here unfortunately. I’m running insanely low on patience now.

  2. Yes, the new AT is very compact, I own a XT660Z Tenere here in Central EU and I was suprised with ATs dimensions side by side. Seems very refined, well detailed and hardly could anyone tell it is an almost 1000 ccm ADV bike. It does 2008 vs. 2015. Personally still prefer the simplicity of a XT .)

  3. Wow I rode one and got a completely different opinion. But then I don’t have advertisers to please.

    I only rode the DCT version which I found to be clunky and when in auto mode didn’t know what gear it wanted to be in.

    The manual version would be better.

    Also found the power delivery dull. Felt similar to my Vstrom 1000 but nowhere near as exciting as my 1190 Adventure.

    But your right about the comfort and compactness. Great for shorter riders to get their feet on the ground.

    • Hi Guy. We have no problem pointing out flaws in this or any other bike we review, and we did dedicate a section in this article to the bike’s faults (including issues with DCT) in point #8. Like we said, DCT is not for everyone. But most testers preferred DCT or at least gave it high marks. There are several settings for DCT (S1, S2, S3, D, G) that determine shift points and smoothness. Possibly, what you experienced had to do with settings selection. As far as power, Yes the 1190 ADV has immense power and if that’s what you are used to, the Africa Twin might feel a bit dull. We love big horsepower too, but from a practical standpoint it’s more than adequate.

    • Ohhh…….now you’ve done it!!! Your really asking for it……calling it a “game changer”!! Let the hate mail begin! LOL

      Well, to those of us over the establishment and not happy where the markets been going, more of everything (gadgets, weight, hp, $$$), this IS the bike we’ve been waiting for…..simple, capable, reliable and low cost of ownership. It’s almost like bridging the gap between a KLR and a GS. Fantastic job Honda, wY to go!

    • I just did a 1000 mile trip on my 15 Vstom 650. Top speed 114 (on speedo) with dirt tires. Looking to get a bit closer to 130mph to stay up with my buddys on their BMW R1200GS, Ducati Multi, and KTM 1190 R. This doesn’t look like it will even come close. Anyone had this AT manual WOT?

  4. Great write up! I tested this bike and you nailed every single point. I’ve had a KTM 1190 for a while now but after riding the AT I was left so impressed I’m thinking about switching. Hopefully I can still get one this year!

  5. Pingback: Anonymous

    • Honda’s fuel efficiency claim is 51 MPG (21.8 km/l) for the DCT model. You might expect something closer to 40 mpg for mixed driving. The tank size is 4.96 gallons (18.8-liters), so that should get you somewhere around 200 miles range.

  6. The DCT sounds interesting… BUT… for those low-speed situations where you use the clutch more than the throttle to manage momentum, how’s that going to work? Without the clutch, you’re stuck trying to use the throttle, which is going to result in jerky movements no matter how good the EFI is.

  7. Pingback: Top 10 Heaviest Adventure Bikes - ADV Pulse

  8. I don’t find it surprising that when Yamaha came out with the 270 degree crank, parallel twin, everyone panned it as boring. Now that Honda has come up with this fantastic idea for an engine, it’s brilliant!

  9. I just love my new Africa Twin DCT. Honda did a great job. It might not have the power of the 1190 but to for a long offroad ride and you will feel the difference. Beside, with the AT you balls will stay nice and cold, not as on the 1190… I can say I am an experience enduro rider (ISDE silver medal) and since I got my AT my R1200 GS LC has been parked… A new set of footpegs, crash bars and a skideplate is all it needs…

  10. “In auto-mode, there were only a few times when DCT selected a gear that wasn’t to our liking,”

    I own a 2014 NC700XD. I’ve learned that if you don’t want the DCT in Auto mode to up-shift just tap the AT/MT switch with your right forefinger to keep it in whatever gear the bike is in at the moment. The NCXD will still downshift in Manual mode. Tap the switch again to return to whatever level of Auto the bike was in. Mid corner auto-shifts won’t upset the bike much. Maximum flexibility at any time while under way. The only thing the DCT won’t do is switch to Neutral while the bike is moving.

  11. its better than any other adv out there, i dont need big power hp, 90++ is fast enough for me, the most important, the comfort and engine & parts that can withstand years of overland. i cant wait!

  12. Pingback: Riding the Time Machine – ADVENTURE RIDE GUIDE

  13. Pingback: Is it Possible to get the Front Wheel Off the Ground on a DCT AT? - Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin Forum

    • We do it all the time Jarrett. You need to turn off Traction Control though. It stops it from wheelieing. Put it in sport mode and try rolling about 5 mph, then crack the throttle open with a little bounce and tug on the bars. It will come up high. If you get it high enough, it will shift super smoothly into 2nd gear with the wheel still up in the air.

  14. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why DCT on the Africa Twin Is An Asset Off-Road - ADV Pulse

  15. I think center stands are unnecessary and foolish. It’s a silly bitch. And a monopod Jack (such as Eagle Mikes) is all you need for flats.