First thoughts: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

Staff Writer Simon’s initial ramblings about Honda’s popular adventure bike

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Simon Greenacre's picture
Submitted by Simon Greenacre on Thu, 01/09/2016 - 18:11

Honda Africa Twin

UNTIL NOW, adventure bikes have always eluded me; I just haven’t got the wallet or the legs for them.

And until now, life on two wheels hasn't got more adventurous than that time I was hunkered down behind the screen of my old ZX-6R, flat-out and frantically searching for a service station in the middle of rural Nowhere for an emergency poo. What more can a bike like the Africa Twin bring to the party?

Being honest, adventure bikes have never done much for me but I want to understand what makes them so popular, if only so I’m not vaguely bewildered at why people ride them.

Here’s where the Africa Twin comes in: together we’re going on a journey of discovery – I’m going to see what it’s like on the road in the UK (we did a lot of off-road riding at the launch, but come on – most of these are destined for life on paved roads) and it’s going to let me know what I’ve been missing out on.

I’m already starting to see why the Africa Twin, Honda’s best-selling bike, is so popular; it’s the motorcycle equivalent of power dressing. Riding it immediately puts me in the resplendent posture of any self-respecting adventure bike rider – arms wide, back straight, chest out. I feel commanding, I feel like saluting – something I attribute to the Africa Twin’s size and sweet sounding burbly exhaust. It makes me feel like I’ve got rock solid road presence and it’s wholly reassuring.

Speaking of size – the dimensions of adventure bikes is a big turn off for me because at 5ft 7" and less than 10 stone, weighty bikes with high seats are so low down my wish list, they’ve fallen off the bottom. But as I’m learning, I think size is part of the allure and I’ve been happy to discover that the Africa Twin is easily manageable because I’ve just put the seat in the low setting (850mm) and once aboard the bike, it feels really narrow between my legs.

I also think the Africa Twin’s dimensions are also contributing to an unexpected zen-like peace to my riding. Because there’s less sharp-eyed imminence to the ride experience, I feel less inclined to go haring for gaps, ever on the brink of using all my power in the rush to get home and do… not very much. Instead I feel more relaxed, happy to pick and choose my moments more languorously. In other words, the Africa Twin is nurturing the patience I’m usually mindful of practicing when I ride.

Yesterday’s ride also quickly told me that the Africa Twin is brilliantly balanced and the wide, high bars make it easy to dominate so my fears about size and weight have already been allayed. Not that the Africa Twin requires much domination - it’s agile and responds deftly to inputs. I thought it might be a pain to ride in London but it laughs at filtering through gridlocked traffic because its narrow and the widest point (the ends of the bars) clear most car mirrors.

And what about the twin-cylinder 998cc engine? It’s a peach and although it’s only got 94hp, so far I haven’t wanted for more – it’s mega smooth, friendly and useable, with lovely midrange power (but it’s also happy to rev hard).

So far, so good. Adventure ho!

Look out for a full road test soon.

Comments

Apart from the full page adverts for this bike in all the major publications, I cannot see why the media love this thing so much.

Back in 2015, well before launch, I placed a deposit on one of these. I waited patiently for many months for the demo to come in to test drive one and in the mean time attended the NEC twice to see it. I was that excited. When I finally got a test ride? What a disappointment - the next few paragraphs are my thoughts on the bike when I rode it last January.

The demo bike that I rode was manual and had the high screen on. The seat was set on the low position and the bike had 70 miles from new. Looks wise, it is a thing of beauty and has a lovely throaty burble on idle. I mounted up and took off and immediately I felt that my legs were in an odd position, the pegs seem to be a bit too far forward for my liking - I didn't try standing, but I am assuming this forward peg position is to get the body closer to the front for weight balance and easy bar reach when upright.

The other problem I had is that I like to ride with the balls of my feet on the pegs, this means that with my size 10's, my heel catches the exhaust cover and makes for an awkward ankle angle. With the seat in low and the high screen on, I experienced buffeting on the top of my head (I am 6ft 0 ) and the top line of the screen was directly in my line of sight at all times, causing a distorted and obscured view of what was up ahead.

Handling was neutral though it was very cold so I did not push it. The brakes felt quite good even thought they are not bedded in - the front did not dive nearly as much as I expected which was a good thing. I expected the motor to be silky and vibration free (due to all the write ups) but it wasn't. It is smooth enough but there is still a tingle through the bars and the pegs. It does have a very linear drive but in truth is not very inspiring, I started flipping through menus hoping to find that it was in " rain mode" or something as I could not remember whether this had selectable maps.

The seat is very comfortable and I like the up slope that stops you sliding to the tank (all other manufacturers take note). Overall a few good points, but for me, mostly disappointment.

Fast forward to September and all the media are raving about this thing - I don't get it. It is quite simply dull. All I can assume is that everybody has "emporers new clothes syndrome" about this thing and no one actually wants to be the first to say it is actually quite average, Cynical me thinks that it may be to do with to all the advertising revenue that the media is pulling in from Honda.

Very odd to hear a 6 foot guy complain of a peg size. Get aftermarket pegs or a rearset for your big leg. There are companies that sell them for the AT now.
The OEM screen is pretty decent for 6 foot and below. There's an accessory tall screen for the tall guys. Screens on any motorcycle out there do not come with a one size fits all. Its why aftermarket screen market exists.

"still a tingle through the bars and the pegs"
70 miles, still not bedded in. God knows how many people ripped that thing during their test rides before you got onto it. Ofcourse there will be vibes. Ride one that's completed the run-in period and then talk about it.

I don't see why anybody should have to shell out over over 10K for a bike and then start spending more on aftermarket accessories to make it fit for purpose.

If not, then you haven't experienced it to anywhere near the full extent of its capabilities. Firstly, yes, I own one - let's make that clear. But I am not a fanboy, let's also make that clear. As far as the AT goes, I agree, on the tarmac it is totally and utterly average. It doesn't do anything wrong, it's just bland and uninteresting. But those on-road characteristics are a compromise and on a dirt road - of which we have thousands of miles here in Australia - it suddenly all makes sense: the power delivery is spot on, it fits perfectly when you stand and it takes all the bumps, ruts, potholes and washouts in its stride - especially with a set of TKC80s fitted (which I think should come fitted as standard, crash protection I'd rather go aftermarket). TBH, if I were in Europe I would not buy this bike. I lived and rode there for 15 years, pretty much the entire continent is serviced by decent tarmac anyway and there are many bikes much better suited to paved roads. I also don't much care for riding it around the city for the same reason. But if you intend to ride for hundreds - or even thousands - of miles on a mix of both tarmac and dirt in Australia, the Americas, Russia, central Asia, or Africa then I can't think of a bike I'd rather use.

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