The Africa Twin is a legend in its own lifetime. In 1986 Honda decided to tackle possibly the most arduous endurance race on the planet, the Dakar Rally (formerly the Paris–Dakar Rally). To do this, they built an exceptional and now legendary 1986 NXR750. The Africa Twin was born. This bike went on to win the Dakar 4 times in a row.
Honda capitalised on the Dakar bike by producing a road-going homage called the XRV650. It first appeared in 1988 as the 650cc XRV650, then in 1990 grew to 750cc as the XRV750 and was then discontinued in 2003.
In 2016 Honda gave us back the bike that so many had missed. The new 2016 bike was a 1,000cc parallel-twin CRF1000L. I remember first seeing the bike at the NEC Motorcycle show in the UK and it looked fantastic.
It 2020 the engine grew to 1100cc which is the bike we have been testing. The CRF1100L. My test bike is actually the Adventure Sports version which means it’s more touring focused as opposed to the CRF1100L which has a more off-road biased.
The Adventure Sports shares the frame, engine and riding position of the off-road focussed CRF1100L Africa Twin, but is aimed at those of us that want real continent-crossing, long-haul ability and practicality, on something that is comfortable and can take anything that’s thrown at it.
Some differences between the Adventure Sports version over the standard version are a larger 24.8L fuel tank and extended wind protection (from both the fairing and fairing side panels).
You also benefit from a height-adjustable screen, large engine sump guard, aluminium rear luggage carrier plus tubeless wheels and tyres. ACC charger and heated grips are also standard equipment. All very practical and useful additions.
Our test bike was fitted with the optional Showa EERA™ (Electronically Equipped Ride Adjustment) suspension. This is electronic suspension with four default modes – SOFT, MID, HARD and OFF-ROAD to cover every type of riding situation. There’s also a USER mode for further fine-tuning, where you can create your own personalised custom mode. Rear spring preload can be electronically adjusted while stationary with four default settings; riding solo, riding solo with luggage, riding two-up and riding two-up with luggage.
Seat height is the same as the Africa Twin at 850-870mm and is easy to adjust. You also have the option of a low seat at 825-845mm and high at 875-895mm as accessories. While we’re in this area, there’s a bolt-on aluminium subframe now, just in case of a spill.
The Africa Twin is bristling with technology. The bike has a six-axis IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) that measures real-time roll angle/rate, pitch angle/rate and yaw angle/rate. It then manages rear wheel traction via TBW (Throttle By Wire) and HSTC (Honda Selectable Torque Control, like traction control), front braking grip through Cornering ABS (with off-road setting), front-wheel lift through 3-level Wheelie Control and also adds Rear Lift Control. It’s an incredible machine.
You control the setting for all of this awesome technology through the full-colour MID (Multi-Information Display) 6.5-inch TFT touch screen. At first, it’s a little overwhelming. There are so many parameters to select and alter if you feel like it, but it’s pretty intuitive and becomes familiar quickly. As well as rider modes and suspension setting, you have the benefit of Apple CarPlay®, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, heated grips, an ACC charger, dual-LED headlights three-stage Cornering Lights. It really is the complete package.
For 2020, the engine capacity was increased to 1,084cc, with peak power increasing to 102 PS @ 7,500rpm (75kW or 100 bhp) and peak torque increasing to 105Nm @ 6,250rpm (77.5 ft-lb).
I absolutely loved the Africa Twin Adventure Sports. It’s unbelievably practical with a huge range and is really comfortable. You could do hundreds of miles without stopping, no problem at all. It's great fun to ride too. I know it’s not what it was designed to do, but you can really throw it around and have fun. The tyres give great feedback and grip. The bike moved around a little when pushing on, on the road, but was totally predictable and great fun. Tyres on my test bike were Metzeler Karoo Street 90/90-21M/C tubeless on the front and 150/70-R18M/C tubeless on the rear. The brakes are also very good, offering great feel and superb stopping power.
I really gelled with the Africa Twin. It’s a bike for all seasons. You can tour, off-road and play if you want. It’s really easy to ride, despite the size (238kg) and looks great in my opinion.
If you are looking for an adventure bike or just a practical, fun bike to cover distance, you owe it to yourself to check out the Africa Twin.