First impressions: Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L

A user-friendly adventure bike

I'M on the launch of the Honda Africa Twin in South Africa, where we've just done the first morning of a two-day test ride.

Very first impressions are that it's really compact, with a low seat height, at 870mm adjustable to 850mm.

At 232kg, kerb weight is about the same as a base model R1200GS's 230kg, but the Africa Twin immediately feels smaller. It's narrow between your legs, helped by the parallel-twin engine configuration. At 5'9", I'm usually on tip-toes at best on big adventure models but on this I can almost get both feet flat on the ground, and that's on the higher of the two seat settings.

At 94hp, it doesn't feel super fast but that power is super accessible thanks to a very linear delivery across the range. The throttle response is smooth, and really gentle rolling on from nothing.

The 998cc engine feels a bit like the parallel-twin plant from the NC750 range but making twice the power. The red line isn't quite so low, at just below 8,000rpm compared to about 6,000rpm on the NC, and it's not quite so easy to bump into, but there's the same smooth, unsurprising build from a strong bottom end to a strong top. 

We haven't tried the Africa Twin off road yet, only on tarmac and gravel. We also haven't yet tried the automatic Dual Clutch transmisson version.

On twisty roads, there's enough low-down drive to stay in a high gear through bends and then enough revs to accelerate fairly hard to the next corner. Obviously you'll get there faster by changing down to get the peak power earlier. I think the NC750 with DCT does a really good job of giving you it's full 54hp all the time in 'S' mode. I'll be interested to find out what that's like with 94hp.

On the gravel roads, that broad useable spread of power means you don't have worry about changing gear as you rise and descend hills. I probably changed gear more than necessary. Easier just to leave it in one and enjoy the scenery.

It's all very well for a Dakar veteran to jump on a GS and make it look like a lightweight enduro bike. For lesser riders, like me, a more compact machine reduces intimidation factor on dirt, even if weight is the same, and that makes the Africa Twin a less ominous proposition.

In level one, the traction control lets the back spin and kick up the gravel.

Once, on the twisty tarmac, the dual-sport Dunlop Trailmax tyres threatened to lose traction in a bend, at both the front and back I think. It was a moment when you lift the bike up a bit and think: did it just do that? The front also sometimes seemed to struggle for grip under hard braking.

That's it for now. I'll bring you a full review when I've finished riding.


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