First thoughts: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

First thoughts: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

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

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.