Honda's Africa Twin is somewhat of a big deal. The manufacturer has jumped into the budding adventure touring segment in India with a highly capable motorcycle which also has a lot of history behind its name. The best part is that Honda has stuck to the promise it made at the 2016 Auto Expo, and is assembling this motorcycle in India. This has kept its price at a reasonable Rs 13.06 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), at par with its Triumph and Ducati competitors; the Africa Twin, however, is the only one here to get a high-tech dual-clutch (DCT) gearbox. In fact, Honda is getting 50 Africa Twins in the first batch to India and the lot of them have already been sold out.
We just had our first spin on the new Africa Twin and came away fairly impressed (read our first ride review here). Let's take a quick look at some noteworthy aspects of the bike.
India will only get the DCT model (for now)
Experienced riders might cringe at this, but Honda is initially only planning to get the six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) model to India. For the Africa Twin, Honda has packaged the gearbox in an extremely compact crankcase. It allows for manual shifts, through triggers on the left handlebar (or an optional foot pedal), and also a couple of auto modes – 'D', designed for economy and comfort, and 'S' for sporty riding, which itself has three different shifting profiles to choose from. When manoeuvring at slow speeds, this transmission can slip the clutch to avoid sudden burst of torque to be sent to the rear wheel if the throttle is opened sharply. However, for off-road riding, a ‘G’ button can be engaged in any riding mode and that makes the rear wheel more directly responsive to throttle inputs. The gearbox can understands how the bike is travelling on an incline and can delay upshifts when climbing and quicken downshifts while descending.
The 999.11cc parallel-twin motor is very compact
An adventure bike needs high ground clearance and an important step in achieving this is to have a compact motor. Honda chose a parallel-twin engine for the Africa Twin as a V-twin would’ve been too long or too tall for the job. To further package it tightly, it gets a vertically split crankcase with a semi-dry sump and in-tank lower-crankcase oil storage, water pump housed within the clutch casing and even a thermostat integrated into the cylinder head. Speaking of the head, this motor features Honda’s SOHC Unicam system to drive the four valves per cylinder, which additionally contributes to its compactness, mass centralisation and low centre of gravity. With a 270-degree phased crankshaft and twin spark plugs per cylinder, power delivery is similar to that of a V-twin with a straight power curve and a meaty torque curve that delivers healthy doses of bottom-end pull. This compact motor design has helped Honda engineers package the Africa Twin in such a manner that it offers a fairly short seat height (820-840mm) while retaining a monstrous 250mm ground clearance.
It’s focused more on ‘adventure’ than ‘touring’
Just visually, the Africa Twin stands apart from other adventure touring motorcycles in its class. Its slim and compact design, with minimum bodywork, is more along the lines of an enduro bike rather than an out-and-out adventure tourer. Sure, it has what it takes to handle tarmac just fine, and has the ability to get decked out with a whole bunch of touring options like a top box, panniers and heated grips, but at the core of it all, the focus has been on manageability in the dirt. Its steel semi-double-cradle frame has been inspired from that of the Honda CRF450 Rally and even the 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wire-spoke wheels are shod with tube-type tyres for the benefit of simplicity. The instrument cluster is stacked vertically, much like an enduro motorcycle for readability when standing on the pegs and riding. To top things off, the braking system has an option to turn off ABS for the rear wheel to lock it when riding in the dirt.
The suspension is fully adjustable
The suspension on the Africa Twin isn’t as sophisticated as the electronically controlled Skyhook system on the Ducati Multistrada. Honda has focused on simplicity, improved ability and low weight. At the front, the bike features 45mm Showa cartridge-type upside-down forks which offer a massive 230mm of travel. The forks are fully adjustable for rebound and compression damping. But their party piece is that, thanks to extensive use of aluminium and hollowed out parts, they are 0.86kg lighter than the 43mm telescopic units from the XRV750L Africa Twin. At the back, there’s a Showa monoshock, with 220mm of travel, and it features a 46mm cylinder and remote reservoir much like the company’s CRF series of motocross bikes. This allows for a lot more stable damping under extreme off-road conditions. The unit gets a dial on the shock body to adjust spring preload, while the rebound and compression damping are fully adjustable as well.
It’s got real racing pedigree
The name ‘Honda Africa Twin’ is pretty legendary in motorcycle circles. It comes from the legendary heritage of the bike that preceded the current CRF1000L. From 1986 to 1989, Honda dominated the Paris-Dakar Rally with back to back wins four years in a row with the 750cc and 800cc versions of its NXR rally bikes. From the lessons learned when developing these rally bikes, Honda decided to make an adventure touring version which was available to the general public. And thus, the XVR650 (and later the XVR750) Africa Twin was born, named after the continent that Honda conquered. And the same philosophy of the original is still applicable to the modern-day CRF1000L Africa Twin – take race-winning technology and engineering to produce a bike that provides dominating performance and, at the same time, can be used for the daily grind.
Take a closer look at the Honda Africa Twin in our image gallery