With the huge buzz about Honda’s new Africa Twin, the Tru-Tension Team took one on a test ride this week to see what all the fuss is about. With big shoes to fill, Honda we’re taking a bit of a gamble with this bike, taking on the established and ever more competitive adventure-style market. It’s interesting that they have chose to relaunch the Africa Twin and the NSX in a short space of time. Maybe it’s a statement of intent from them, returning to winning ways after waning car sales and dismal performance in the F1 last year!
We tested the base model with a few bells and whistles, rather than the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission).
At only 93.8 bhp and weighing 232 kg, this bike could be seen as low on power for it’s class, however the torque (72.3 ftlb) makes up for it and then some. Anyone who says this bike is slow is probably used to sports bike performance. My daily ride is a Triumph Tiger Sport 1050, and I would put this on a par. The power delivery is very even and linear across the rev range, complemented beautifully by a very smooth clutch and gearbox.
The best thing about this engine, in my opinion, is the sound. It is filthy dirty.
At silly speeds, the Africa Twin isn’t too comfortable (100mph+). It seems a little unstable. Not unbearable, but it certainly doesn’t enjoy it.
The bike is also equipped with Honda’s HSTC (Honda Selectable Torque Control) which ‘smoothly reduces torque to boost grip and avoid wheel spin’. We put this to the test on some slippery country roads, leaning in and applying the throttle aggressively, only to be pleasantly surprised. Just when you think the rear is about to spin up, you briefly lose enough (but not all) of the power to regain total control.
I am just under 6ft tall, and the bike is easy enough to get on and off. The bike is narrow in the middle, behind what feels like a wide tank. This brilliant design allowed me to utilise every inch left in my legs to easily put my feet down, almost flat on the floor. Brilliant, considering the high ground clearance the bike offers.
It also gives a brilliant illusion of being very light, thanks to excellent weight distribution, rider position and overall design. It rolls beautifully into corners and is very forgiving when you get the line wrong, allowing for simple corrections. The turning circle on this bike is just mind-blowing – a positive to come out of the off-road intentions. What’s more, I have never felt so comfortable stood up on the pegs stretching out and taking a raised look around.
What I love about this bike, is it seems that no matter what factory accessories you add, they fit to the bike extremely well. At times, some manufacturers have tended to offer accessories that just kind of bolt on to the bike, such as heated grips with an awkwardly placed button almost botched onto the inside of the fairing.
There’s plenty of room for an accessible, sensibly placed sat nav which will help keep your eyes on the road, too.
I had read a couple of reviews stating that the heated grips performed poorly, even on their maximum setting. With this in mind, I set them to max as soon as I set off. No further than 400m down the road, my hands were on fire! Well, not literally.
The brakes are dual radial-mount Nissin four-piston brake calipers and 310mm “wave” style floating discs, which are extremely good. Sharp without snatching. The dual ABS was not intrusive at all and was not needed riding in fairly damp conditions under very hard use.
Should I buy an Africa Twin for road only use?
In the face of the competition, this is a tough question. It looks are that of an off-road bike, although this probably influenced it’s awesome sound also.
When considering it for a road only application, it’s very competitively priced.
The Triumph Explorer and the big BMW GS are both shaft driven, which would probably be my drive preference for racking up some serious miles. Although, the Africa Twin will benefit from our Chain Monkey I suppose!
Why buy an Africa Twin?
The sound of this bike is of much debate. The motorcycling world seems to unanimously agree that the tone of the exhaust absolutely rocks. Because it does. In my opinion, it’s one of the best sounds I’ve heard from a modern stock pipe on any bike, especially in this day and age with EU noise regulations coming out of your ears. On the other hand, some have argued that it’s too loud for long motorway journeys – I personally, will never get sick of the sound of it! Filthy, dirty, exciting, popping twin!
The panniers also connect brilliantly – the boxes simply hook onto pre-existing connectors on the bike as standard. Potentially saving costs on expensive adaptors from a 3rd party. However, there are some downsides to the current luggage option, as I explain later.
MPG is also incredible, with Honda boasting 61.6 mpg, which was near enough to what I managed to achieve (when we weren’t having too much fun…).
Things that would stop us buying one – Criticisms
The luggage is a bit of a strange one. The panniers look like robust, metal boxes however upon up-close examination, they are made of a very thin plastic with a classy metal-effect finish on the outside. Great for reducing overall weight on the bike, especially if you’re riding with a pillion. Bad if you’re thinking of going off road. At over £500, they’re not cheap.
The skinny front wheel – again, talking from a road-only biker – isn’t the most confidence boosting in the world. Going into a corner a little too hot did at times make us nervous. However, with impeccable brakes and overall balance, the bike coped with everything we threw at it and then some.
A slight gripe – the horn and the indicator. It sounds silly, but after experiencing this issue myself and then consulting other reviews and test rides, it seems to be a real complaint. Basically, the buttons for the horn and the indicators have literally switch places in comparison to a conventional bike (indicator on top, horn beneath). Maybe you can get used to it. But after an hour of riding, I was still beeping at every couple of junctions…
Overall score: 8.5/10
In our opinion, this bike is near perfect. Everything about it oozes Honda quality and I’m sure it will establish itself as a much-respected bike among tourers, off-roaders and adventurers alike.
It has a few oddities, sure, but they give the bike a bit of character and that’s what the Africa Twin has always been about.
A dedicated, road version would be an excellent addition to Honda’s range and would certainly push an undecided road rider like me, who likes to tour with the misses on the back occasionally, but wants a bit of fun, over the line.