Since discontinued, it became a very sought after machine by connoisseurs and fanatics around the world. Now she´s back, completely revamped into the twenty-first century. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the return of the queen, the Honda Africa Twin.
Let´s kick start this article by saying that we speak of a motorcycle that won Paris Dakar four times. The Honda Africa Twin was arguably the best in its category in the late 80s.
XRV650 is the first incarnation of the Honda Africa Twin. It was presented to the world in 1988 and was only manufactured until 1989 with the same specs. It was a 650cc dual-sport motorcycle that without any doubt revolutionised the world of two-wheelers. After it was discontinued in 1989, the model and the colours became emblematic. Although with slight differences and model names, it won 1986 and 1987 with Cyril Neveu. It also came first in 1988 and 1989 in the hands of Edi Orioli and Gilles Lalay. By the time it was one of the first high-end motorbikes open to the general public being this powerful. The Honda Africa Twin was, without a doubt, a massive step for the Honda Motor Company and a best-seller around the world.
The next incarnation of the Honda Africa Twin was slightly bigger than its predecessor. It was based on the Dakar-winning Honda NXR-750, another name for the Honda Africa Twin. Two stages can be considered, 1990 to 1993 and then from 1993 to 2003. The bike´s design was road-ready but also admitted drivers a lot of fun. The engine came covered with a huge aluminium plaque that shielded it from bumps and rocks. There was also a baggage-mounting space at the end of the large seat.
The bike was 750cc, a little bigger and heavier than its predecessor, but was very well received by the public. In 1993, the bike was completely redesigned from the inside and the outside. The Honda Africa Twin started using the Tripmaster computer, which was a huge addition. Little by little, the motorbike became more street-friendly with changes like lowering the seat and a larger silencer.
After 1996 and its second redesign, the Honda Africa Twin became a classic. Second-hand models in good shape are very sought-after because of its reliability and performance. The bike shines on and also off the road because suspension isolates the driver. This model of the Africa Twin was discontinued in 2003.
In 2016 and to enormous acclaim, Honda Motor Company announced the introduction of the Honda CRF 1000 as the newest incarnation of the Honda Africa Twin 2016. Colours had drastically changed, and the bike was seen as a step forward gaining more space as a timeless classic. There were some additions to it, but most importantly, it was taken up to 999cc. It can produce a fantastic torque of 70 foot-pounds (25% over Triumph Tiger 800).
As you turn your wrist, you can feel it pushing you forward like a rocket. That being said, the most excellent news about the Honda Africa Twin is that it is the first of its kind to land in the US. The Japanese manufacturer has agreed with shops all over the nation, and it is available directly from them. Although many second-hand and discontinued models can easily be spotted in eBay and Amazon, the news is great. Motorbike lovers across the country have been waiting for this model to hit stores. It promises to be a best-seller.
For a little over the price tag of the Honda Africa Twin 2018, you get the DCT model. DCT was introduced in Honda Africa Twin 2017 and 2016 as well. All these models feature a 6-gear transmission that works awesome in keeping the bike light and fast. For those riders who are more experienced with changing gears, the word “automatic” sounds awful, but this is an exception. Honda Africa Twin definitely shines in this category.
There are many commands available right at your fingertips to improve the experience with the DCT. On your left where the clutch used to be, you´ll find a lever, but it´s actually a parking brake. It is very important to memorise this for obvious reasons and to avoid muscle memory from making us do something very wrong. It is a little further off from the handlebar anyways. On this side, there are several functions and a special up and a down switch. These are great if you want to override the DCT system on your Honda Africa Twin. They will allow you to shift up and down manually as you please. On the other side, you will find a button with the inscription “R/M” which stands for “Ride” and “Manual”. It toggles between Automatic and Manual systems.
The DCT system has all possibilities covered for you. We could consider this as an “automatic transmission”, but it´s way more complex. Let´s take a look at the modes:
Drive “D” Mode: The most conservative of them all, it is suitable for high traffic and easy rides. Your Honda Africa Twin will be as comfortable and smooth as silk on the pavement. You can take your grandma for a ride like this 😉
Sport “S” Mode: Created for the high-demand of the off-road trips. This mode has three sub-modes to choose from:
S1: The one closest to the D and will make for an easy ride with a little more grip.
S2: Things get a little spicier on your Honda CRF 1000L, and the shifts go a little further on RPM before changing. Suitable for middle to advanced dirt roads and gravel. Speed developed by the motorbike is not extreme.
S3: Consider this the “Hold on tight” mode since it takes no prisoners. All shifts will go to the red zone of the tachometer before changing. The Honda Africa Twin 2016 reviews praise this mode across the board.
Neutral “N” Mode: Just like with any other automatic transmission.
This motorbike features a parallel twin motor, which is a strange appearance in the market. The reasons behind this choice are, by all means, not random. The Honda Africa Twin 2018, as well as its predecessors, feature a structure specially built for lowering the weight. The company intended to reduce it while maintaining power and improving stability. The design borrows the head design (unicam four-valve) from the competition motocross bikes like the CRF450. It boasts a full 8-valve design that gets to 93.8 horsepower with the RPM at 7,500. The engine uses a 270 phase crank allowing the parallel design to deliver the traction expected from a V-Twin. It delivers so, but in a narrower package that is more comfortable and lighter.
To control such a fantastic bike as is the Honda Africa Twin, you definitely need a great set of breaks. The Japanese company thought about everything; the Honda Africa Twin 2017 as well as 2018 feature Honda Selectable Torque Control. It includes three settings and a switch to turn it off. The intention with these options is to give more freedom to riders who want more control on the rear wheel. This is crucial, because, let´s face it: sliding the back wheel is a way of having fun. On mode one, which is the “fun mode” you can slide it at ease. On mode three, ABS will kick in as soon as you lose traction. Nevertheless, the Honda Africa Twin always has the ABS activated on the front wheel, therefore it will never be out of control.
As a motorbike that has been around since 1988 at least, the accessories available are very varied. For the Honda CRF1000 Africa Twin some of the most important ones offered by the company are:
Top Case – This is ideal for those who commute to work or want to make a long trip on their Honda Africa Twin. It´s wide, spacious and has a designed place on the rear end of the bike. The Honda CRF1000 is a bike for the road, and there is nothing as comfortable to take belongings.
Panniers – These accessories go down the same line as the one named above. The difference is that with both panniers, the look of the Honda Africa Twin is stunning. Ever wondered how cool it was to race Paris-Dakar? Well, with this on it will look like you´re at it.
Tall Windscreen – Riders often say that the windscreen in the Honda Africa Twin deflected air straight into their face. For those who suffer from this, this accessory comes in very handy. Manufactured with polycarbonate, it will deflect wind over the helmet and off the shoulders (while looking really cool).
Low Seat – If you happen to be a not-so-tall rider like me and have those awful times balancing the bike in the air, this is for you. This accessory allows the rider to sit further down and reach the floor with the feet. Thanks for that Honda, it was a nice addition.
Motorcycle Cover – Last but definitely not least, the cover for the Honda Africa Twin is convenient. It will fit your backpack, and if you want to protect it against storms and such, it hardly takes any effort to cover her. The cover comes in black with Honda logo and will fit with all accessories installed.
Smart Turn System (STS) – This is a very tiny fix that can be made to any bike. It works much like the one found in cars. The little installed device will sense when your ride has done the turn and automatically turns turning lights off. It is an awesome addition especially for those of us who also drive cars! It will fit any Honda Africa Twin. Once you try it, you´ll do the same I did and install it on every bike you own.
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Smart Break Module (SBM) – Shutting down the throttle of the bike will immediately make you go slower. In fact, most bikers on the road hardly ever step on the breaks but use mostly only the engine braking. This great little device senses the deceleration and down-shifting and activates your brake light immediately. It could protect you from many accidents. I feel more secure with it when I’m on the highway or a big road. You can install it on your brand new Honda Africa Twin as well!
Well, it is time to turn the thumb like Caesar. We liked a bunch of things and didn´t like others, but the verdict is definitely a thumbs-up for this bike. Honda has made its way into a challenging segment and done it with style with the Honda Africa Twin. Not only Honda made a great bike you will love to ride, it will also be very hard to replace by any other model.
It is not a light motorbike but feels like one. The electronic enhancements did a lot to bring a classic up to date. The suspension system is incredible, you won´t feel anything under you even in the harshest terrains. Even for experienced riders like myself, the DCT is a great addition and worth trying. It is a fun bike and also a secure one. For the price tag, it is a serious competitor to BMW, Triumph and all other major brands.
The instruments on the bike are not very visible when you´re under the sun. The factory tires won´t handle the off-road at all (at least in my case they didn’t). The motorbike does not come with any crash-protection from the factory, however, they are easy to find in the aftermarket.