Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

Simon Hargreaves
By Simon Hargreaves
SimonHbikes Simon rides motorbikes, and then writes about them. He also co-presents the Front End Chatter podcast and plays bass guitar rather well.

 

Honda claim they’ve sold 87,000 new Africa Twins worldwide since its re-launch in 2016. That’s almost 500 Africa Twins leaving showrooms every week, or 63 every day... or 2.6 bikes every hour, night and day, seven days a week, for the last three years and nine months. If you parked every Africa Twin sold since 2016 nose-to-tail on the M1, the line would stretch from Toddington Services to Redgate corner at Donington Park. You could see it from space.

That’s a lot of Africa Twins (although, rather ironically, Africa Twins are only sold in four out of 54 African countries, which says something about cultural appropriation).

No pressure on the new bike, then. Can the 2020 model, in its multiple variations and guises, have continued success in the face challenges from Yamaha’s cheaper new Ténéré 700 at one end of the market, and BMW’s revamped flagship R1250GS at the other? BikeSocial is at the launch of the new Africa Twin on the island of Sardinia, to find out.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

2020 Honda Africa Twin versions, price and availability

There are, effectively, six new Africa Twins for 2020 – but three are manual gearbox versions and the other three have Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (more of which later), so really there are three new models:

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin

• the cheapest, lightest, most sprightly and most off-road and urban-traffic biased Africa Twin

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sport

• the Adventure Sports model with a bigger tank, for more serious touring and longer distance road-based riding, but still with off-road ability

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sport Semi-Active

• as per the Adventure Sports model but equipped with flagship Showa semi-active suspension. This is the model on which the review will concentrate, with additional comments about the differences in specification and riding impressions of the base model and standard Adventure Sports at the bottom.

But whichever spec of 2020 Africa Twin interests you, they all really are new – as in almost everything has changed from the previous bikes (a Honda engineer said the only shared component is the brake calipers – and he was only slightly joking). The basics of all models are the same: they share an enlarged parallel twin engine with more power and torque, a frame with redesigned stiffness, and a new, stronger, lighter swingarm. The bikes also share new electronics – the most sophisticated system on a Honda road bike yet – and all have cruise control and heated grips as standard. All three also have new or revised suspension of varying types.

This is because Honda are keen not for any of the models to be seen as lower-spec – they all get the updates, gadgets and goodies; the differences really are about the riding you prefer and the uses to which you’ll put the bike.

Either way, basically, with almost every component on the new Africa Twins different from the previous model, it should be no surprise prices have risen accordingly – when you consider the extra sophistication you get over the previous bike, the increase seems legitimate.

Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin

OTR: £13,049 (DCT £13,949)

Colours: Grand Prix red (red/black), matte ballistic black (black)

PCP example

Model

Price otr

Deposit

Credit

36 x

Final Payment

Total

APR

CRF1100L

£13,049

£2729.22

£10,319.78

£159

£6332.24

£14,785.46

6.9%

CRF1100L DCT

£13,949

£3164.56

£10,784.44

£169

£6503.26

£15,751.82

6.9%

 

Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports

OTR: £14,649 (DCT £15,849)

Colours: Pearl glare white tricolour (red/blue/white), darkness black metallic (black)

PCP example

Model

Price otr

Deposit

Credit

36 x

Final Payment

Total

APR

CRF1100L AS

£14,649

£2948.38

£11,700.62

£189

£6819.11

£16,581.49

6.9%

CRF1100L AS DCT

£15,849

£3245.74

£12,603.26

£199

£7528.28

£17,948.02

6.9%

 

Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports Semi-Active

OTR: £16,049 (DCT £17,349)

Colours: Pearl glare white tricolour (red/blue/white), darkness black metallic (black)

PCP example

Model

Price otr

Deposit

Credit

36 x

Final Payment

Total

APR

CRF1100L AS ES

£16,049

£2841.97

£13,207.03

£219

£7470.81

£18,206.78

6.9%

CRF1100L AS ES DCT

£17,349

£3189.71

£14,159.29

£229

£8240.78

£19,684.49

6.9%

 

All models in dealers from late November 2019.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Power and torque (claimed)

100.6bhp @ 7500rpm (was 93.8bhp @ 7500rpm)

77.4 lb.ft @ 6250rpm (was 73.1 lb.ft @ 6000rpm)

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

In 2016 the previous Africa Twin landed in an adventure bike sweet spot, cutting a slightly more imposing and significant figure than rival mid-spec adventure bikes such as BMW’s F800GS and Triumph’s Tiger 800 – but the Honda was less bulky and ostentatious than flagship adventure bikes such as BMW’s R1200GS, Triumph’s Explorer 1200 and KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure.

Part of that positioning success was down to its 998cc, 94bhp parallel twin motor. The lump contained current, not radical, engineering – a 270° firing interval for that familiar, off-beat, tractive grumbliness, and a single camshaft spinning all eight valves for compactness (exhaust actuated by rocker arms, intake by bucket and shim). But at 94bhp it remained inside the mandatory maximum permissible for subsequent restricting down to an A2-friendly 47bhp, and technically on par with its smaller-capacity rivals.

But the Africa Twin’s larger capacity gave it a beefier, torquier bottom end than them, and added to an air of grown-up superiority. It was definitely boss in that part of the adventure bike market.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

An Adventure Sport version in 2018 added a larger tank, taller seat and screen, plus gold rims and an HRC-ish tricolor paint scheme that could give an erection to a fossilised Neanderthal at 50 paces. And with electronic updates of ride-by-wire, traction control, new suspension and a DCT version for both base and Adventure Sport models, the Africa Twin continued to be a whopping hit. Last year Honda sold almost 15,000 ATs across Europe, second only to that funny German thing with the sticky-out cylinders.

Speaking of which, in many ways Honda faced the same challenge BMW had last year with upgrading the R1200GS – how do you get it through Euro5 emission regs and make it substantially better at the same time? And, like BMW, Honda have the same kind of answer: make the engine bigger, don’t screw up the essential character of the bike that everyone loves in the first place, and make the spec even more comprehensive.

So that’s what Honda have aimed for. The 2020 AT motor retains the same basic architecture and layout as before – but almost every component is revised (or, in the case of balancer backlash gears, removed entirely). Piston stroke has gone up from 75.1mm to 81.5mm, taking capacity up 86cc to 1084cc – but bore widths remains the same at 92mm.

The reason for increasing engine size is partly to be able to claim more performance without fundamentally altering engine character – in the old days, when sportsbikes were limited by capacity, more performance was extracted by allowing the engines to rev harder, upping power but also making engines increasingly peaky.

So the new Africa Twin is as solidly chuggable as the previous bike, and thuds to the same 7500rpm peak and 8000rpm redline – but now with even more muscular intent. The 2020 also AT leaps off the throttle with a keener jump; it’s so energetic it sometimes verges on being snappy, and the motor then pummels through its gear ratios at fair clip (gotta love the immaculate quickshifter and autoblipper £695 optional extra on the manual transmission bike). It’s so rapid it gets into law-breaking territory in very short hors d’oeuvres. The 8000rpm redline and am-dram rev limiter are easy to bump into in the lower gears; a little more over-rev would be welcome. And despite a massive array of customizable engine tuning options, modulating throttle response doesn’t appear to be one of them – and even in low-powered Gravel riding mode the Africa Twin sometimes catches me napping with its instantaneous power delivery. But when it comes to powering past Sardinian traffic in a hastily arranged overtake, the Honda always has the headroom to get the job done; the extra cubes are definitely noticeable and welcome.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Another good reason to make a motor bigger these days is to help slide it through tighter emissions regs. The new Africa Twin is Honda’s first Euro5 compliant machine, and the challenge of getting it approved is made easier if its engine uses – essentially – a bigger pair of lungs to do a similar job. A longer stroke motor with the same piston diameter has a smaller bore/stroke ratio, can be more heat stable, have higher gas speeds, run leaner for the same valve diameters, and use ‘cleaner’ valve timing without compromising peak power (because the engine is bigger – if you ever wondered why bike engine sizes creep inexorably upwards all the time, this is one of them).

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

And there’s another, simpler reason for sticking with longer stroke instead of wider bores to make your motor larger – according to the Africa Twin’s engine design project leader Nozomi Okada (cool dude; he plays bass too, ahem): “Bigger bores make the engine wider; it’s very important that the Africa Twin stays as narrow as possible so it is easier to control and people can reach the ground!”

The result of all this fiddling, for Honda, means around 80 engine components are revised: pistons, sleeves, balance shafts, gears, rods, crank, valves (same size, different shape), and cams are all modified for weight or performance improvements. Throttle bodies are bigger, up from 44 to 46mm diameter, and realigned into wider inlet ports for a straighter, more direct intake path. The Africa Twin’s exhaust is redesigned too, with twin catalytic converters repositioned closer to the header junction (it’s that extra area of phony ‘bash plate’ on the lower right of the motor), plus extra sensors added to monitor fuel/air mixture upstream as well as the usual downstream lambda sensor.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

If that wasn’t enough exhaust tinkering, the new bike also gets a redesigned exhaust valve that switches between two exhaust routes to augment a wider spread of performance. The fact the new Africa Twin sounds surprisingly, beguilingly loud from behind, almost like it has an open slip-on, is surely an accident. Yeah, right. Naughty naughty, Mr Honda.

The overall effect of all this tweakery is a much improved, more efficient, lighter, feistier, cleaner engine – it’s not a ground-breaking, up-stumps-and-skewer-the-wicket-keeper kind of increase over the previous engine (existing AT owners can put the protest placards down), but it is definitely a noticeable and welcome improvement which, given it’s now Euro5 compliant as well, is no mean feat.

But it’s also worth pointing out the Africa Twin is still a 100bhp adventure bike – somewhat shy of BMW’s claimed 134bhp for the 1250GS, and well south of the 158bhp of KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure and Ducati’s Multistrada 1260 Enduro. So despite the rest of the new Africa Twin’s electronic and technical spec planting its noughts and ones very clearly in the flagship adventure touring camp (which we’ll get to in a minute), if sheer horsepower matters to your giant trailie ambitions or if you habitually ride two-up plus luggage and with enough enthusiasm to really need that extra poke, the new Africa Twin might still not be quite pokey enough.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

DCT v manual

The AT’s DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) option keeps its existing mechanical system but has revised the software side of the auto gear-shifting technology, so now takes the bike’s lean angle into account and won’t change gear mid-corner in auto mode (a common complaint of the usual DCT operation).

As before, the system is super-clever – once you’re used to not having a clutch or gear lever (you can still specify a foot lever if you need one) the gear shifting is, for the most part, smooth and intelligent. As before there are four auto modes: Drive – which hunts for top gear as often as possible – and three increasing modes of Sports setting – which hang onto gears for longer. And there are still a pair of flappy paddles on the left bar cluster (how do they find the room?) for shifting manually, as long you can remember up and down.

I’m a big fan of the design and technology of DCT – it’s very, very clever – but I’m not a fan of using it because whatever situation I find myself in, I prefer having a clutch so I can control the engine – whether I’m backing it into corners for fun, or using it to help smooth out throttle transitions when going bananas. DCT is very good at automating gearchanges when you’re just cruising and riding normally (which, to be fair, I don’t find particularly onerous), but it’s not so much fun when you want to mess about doing skids and wheelies.

You do want to mess about doing skids and wheelies, right? Still, Honda say around 45% of AT sales are DCT, so many of you don’t. It’s a broad church, eh? Personally, I’d go for the manual box with optional £695 quickshifter and autoblipper every time. Especially when DCT also adds a whopping 10kg in weight and around £1000 to the price. Clever, but not today, thanks.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Equipment

This is, perhaps, the most obvious list of changes for the new 2020 Africa Twin – and it’s a big one so buckle up.

A central change for 2020 is the addition of a 6-axis IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) – effectively, giving the AT complete spatial ‘awareness’ of the bike’s dynamics in real time (six axes is one more than the Fireblade; I ask which is missing from the Blade – apparently it’s the previous generation Bosch IMU that uses two gyros to calculate the theoretical position of the third; the Africa Twin knows all six at once).

The benefit of an IMU is being able to design electronic systems to better augment the riding experience, either with more performance or more safety. In the AT’s case this means cornering ABS and cornering headlights (both as standard) – both of which add safety without reducing riding pleasure.

Next, an IMU allows the development of powerful control strategies – which, on an off-road bike, means potential for allowing limited degrees of rear-wheel drifting before intervention (perfect for semi-skilled off-road riders, ahem), as well as variable wheelie control, alternative braking ABS strategies, alternate engine braking control and, in the case of the Adventure Sport fitted with Showa semi-active suspension (see below), integration with damping settings to tailor suspension performance according to lean angle and/or braking conditions. And as a final bonus, it also means DCT algorithms can now include lean angles – meaning no more auto-shifting while the bike is cornering.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

It’s an extraordinarily long list of adjustability that can easily overwhelm and confuse – you know, all we want to know is do the mirrors work? But it’s only by riding and owning an Africa Twin do the benefits of technology become apparent (or you can take my word for it). Some folk are happy to stick with technology where they are – and if you think disc brakes over drum brakes and radials instead of crossplies is where you’re happy for bike technology to end, you can rest assured you can buy bikes like that for as long as you have air to breathe.

But the rest of us can instead enjoy the fruits of innovation – and, in the Africa Twin’s case, that means hanging the back out in the dirt when you get the chance, relatively safe in the knowledge the IMU has you, should you wish it, in hand.

There are, if you’re still counting, four levels of power, three levels of engine braking and eight levels of traction control on offer (including off). There are also three levels of wheelie control (plus off).

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Riding modes are:

• Tour: high power, mid engine braking, road cornering ABS

• Urban: mid power, mid engine braking, road cornering ABS

• Gravel: low power, low engine braking, off-road cornering ABS

• Off-Road: low/mid power, low engine braking, off-road cornering ABS, switchable rear ABS

• User x 2: two fully customisable options

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW
Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

All that adjustability is worthless if you can’t access it easily – or at least without thinking too hard – and this is where the AT’s new, generous, bright, touchscreen, multimedia TFT dash comes in. With lots of display options, it’s un-touchable on the move – so then you resort to a cluster of 15 (!) buttons on the left and another seven on the right. The left bar cluster is for general riding use – changing modes, changing trips etc – as well as swapping tracks when using the dash as a multimedia console (the dash can hook up to a phone via Bluetooth, with a USB charging port nearby, and run CarPlay so you can communicate via a headset with your mobile or listen to music etc).

It looks extremely complicated but in practise it takes a short time to get to know how to navigate the system and make the changes you need to make as you ride – it’s the kind of thing will become second nature to an owner in no time.

Admittedly, all this stuff can get a bit esoteric, so let’s answer some immediate real world concerns, like – why are cruise control buttons on the same side as the throttle? Because there’s no room on the left bar – but it’s not a problem to use; the buttons have a smooth, obvious simplicity (there’s no balancing a tiny rocker with your thumb to push it as with some systems). Why is there a mini-speedo under the main dash? Because when you’ve got Google Maps up on the screen, you still need a speedo reading. Do the heated grips now get hot enough (the old Africa Twin’s were a bit lame)? Jury is out; they’re the same as before but it was 31°C in on the launch; probably hotter than the grips. And can you operate the buttons with winter gloves on? Probably – but, importantly, the buttons are sturdy and high quality – the central toggle has none of the flimsy feel of Triumph’s system. These are buttons built not just to last (eh? BMW?) but to feel good as well. If the stuff you touch on a bike feels classy, the bike feels classy.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

2020 Honda Africa Twin Economy

The 2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports came with an enlarged, 24.2 litre tank over the base model’s 18.8 litres. Honda claimed a range of over 310 miles, which would assume fuel consumption around 60mpg (they claimed 61.2mpg in their press bumf). In the real world, with real riders in real clothes doing real riding at real speeds into real headwinds, the real economy figure varied wildly – due, no doubt, to the AT’s less than aerodynamic form. On one road test I managed to go from under 40s to over 50s (sounds like my browser history) which got me between 200 and 250 miles before a fill-up – but over 300 without carrying a spare can? Not recommended.

The new Adventure Sport has added half a litre tank volume, now up to 24.8 litres, but consumption has dropped to a claimed 57.6mpg which, according to my abacus, means the range is still just over 310 miles. Average consumption on the launch bike was 46.2mpg, which included some hard mountain roads, steady 80mph cruising, light off-road, and low- to mid-speed village-to-village riding. After 115 miles the trip reckoned the tank had 160 miles left in it, which sounds about right.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Handling: frame, suspension and weight

It’s not often you hear a manufacturer claim to have deliberately taken rigidity out of a frame – but that’s what Honda say they’ve done with the 2020 Africa Twin’s steel double cradle, and blimey has it worked.

The aim was to get more feel for grip under steering and braking from the Africa Twin’s front end which, apart from significant fork dive, was a... ‘problem’ is too strong a word; more like ‘occasional mild disquiet’... with the previous model when you started properly tramping on, on tarmac (riding in a way I suspect few owners would contemplate, to be fair). Such is the level of development tweakery we’re at these days.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

The solution, which sounds like it was hatched by a Japanese Professor Denzil Dexter in the corner of a darkened test lab at Honda R&D in Asaka while his colleagues were playing cards on the night shift, was to first drill holes in the small cross brace just behind the headstock, then remove it completely (hopefully with an angle grinder). The result was a success, adding extra frame flex to bring more feel at the front tyre. So then Honda removed a brace at the back of the frame as well, to give the rear tyre more feel.

With the added weight saving of a new, detachable aluminium subframe instead of the previously welded steel item, and a new, CRF-inspired aluminium swing arm, a hefty 1.8kg was shaved off the frame package.

[It should be noted that slicing cross members off frames is most definitely not a recommended procedure for existing Africa Twin owners – the new frame retains six engine mounting points and is slimmed, refined in other areas.]

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

However, the result is an astonishing level of feel, augmented and supported, literally, by – on the flagship Adventure Sports – by Showa’s first semi-active suspension system for Honda (they already make one for Kawasaki’s 2018 ZX-10R).

The system uses direct suspension travel sensors (rather than pressure sensors, which require an extra calculation) to feed its own dedicated SCU (Suspension Control Unit). That then draws data from a table (rather than an algorithm) and also considers spatial data from the bike’s IMU as well as dynamic vehicle data from the ECU in its calculations. And they’re super-fast calculations – the first damping adjustment occurs within 0.015s of hitting a bump, or a dip, or whatever road irregularity is detected.

In practice you never notice the suspension change over a bump – it’s effectively instantaneous. And the system is constantly updating the suspension settings anyway – so what you can feel is a plush, even, level ride when upright, and an astonishing level of support and feel delivered through the tubeless rims and Bridgestone A41s on the brakes and under power (rear preload is also electronically adjustable, but it’s not self-levelling; you select the load range).

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Weight transfer and fork dive and is a particular bugbear of most long-travel adventure suspension. I remember (he says) riding the old, old Africa Twin – the XRV750 RD07 – at its launch on Ibiza in December 1992. Yes, I’m that ancient. I remember it especially well because I crashed it, losing the front on the brakes, on the first corner of my first launch, in front of the gathered European press. Back then I must have possessed Ozymandias levels of hubris because I have no recollection of shame. Anyway, 1990s dual purpose tyre, brake and suspension technology didn’t permit an XRV750 to be ridden like a sportsbike. Today, they do – the 2020 Africa Twin can corner with the kind of security, fluidity and composure that would make a late 1990s sportsbike blush. Again, this is asking the bike to operate at the limit of an envelope it’s not necessary to have – but the harder it can ridden without a problem under normal conditions, the safer it’ll be in potentially compromising situations. The new Africa Twin brakes, turns, grips, steers and finds traction with sensational alacrity.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Styling, ergonomics and comfort

There are lots of detail – and some big – changes to the 2020 Africa Twin’s looks and riding position, but for many people the most significant alteration is that all three bikes now use the same seat height. Previously, the Adventure Sport model topped 900mm – which clearly put the bike out of reach (ahem) of a lot of potential customers. All bikes now come with 850-870mm seat height (with 825mm or 890mm low and high options when you buy the bike) – the seat itself is new; narrower than before at the tank, to permit easier access to the ground.

The result is where you sat ‘on’ the Adventure Sport, now – even with the seat on high – you sit ‘in’ it, very much behind the tank and screen. Which is also now five-way adjustable for height, using a pair of side clips to slide it up and down. It’s not as convenient as Ducati’s sash-window style one-handed screen, and even on its lowest setting the screen lip intrudes in my field of view – I’d rather have the short screen option from the base Africa Twin, but it won’t fit the Adventure Sport.

Wind noise and head buffeting is a highly personal thing – even two riders the same height can disagree on the severity. But for me, the touring screen on the previous Adventure Sport was a head-rattling nightmare – it was better with no screen at all. This one is better; fully upright you can get completely behind it to minimize the disturbance. But the bike really needs side wind deflectors too – which are at least available as factory accessories.

The bars – ah, that lovely gold! – are a fraction higher than previously, and can still be rotated in the clamps for fine tuning. On road I’d struggle to think of a more immediately natural riding position – its promise of long distance comfort is immediate. Lots of leg room, the seat feels nicely compliant but supportive, and only a trace of engine vibes finding their way through the pegs (especially if you take out the rubbers for off-road riding).

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

2020 Honda Africa Twin brakes, wheels and tyres

One of the few items left from the previous Africa Twin, the new bike features the same radial four-pot Nissin calipers on 310mm discs – but now braking performance is augmented by a cornering ABS algorithm, made possible by the new IMU’s computing power. Already as strong and powerful as you’d want on the end of forks with 230mm stroke and a 21in, 90/90 dual purpose front tyre, working in combination with the Showa semi-active suspension and Bridgestone A41 tyres, it’s hard to overstate just how much braking force – and feel – can be transmitted back to the rider.

The Adventure Sports’ wire wheels are now tubeless design, with rim-mounted spokes – giving the obvious benefit of being able to plug punctures easily. The standard Africa Twin sticks with standard spokes and so still requires a tubed tyre (more below). Sizes are as before, at 21in front and 18in rear.

All models of Africa Twin are approved for use with Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross Tourer AX41T, Metzeler Karoo Street or, for knobbly off-road used, Continental TKC80s. Sizes are 90/90-21 front and 150/70R 18 rear.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Off-road performance

So does the Africa Twin still work off road? Yes, it does. The launch took in a selection of dry gravel and sandy firetrails, with a few rocks and bumps but nothing an ordinary road rider couldn’t manage without falling over. We could’ve ridden most them on a Fireblade (wouldn’t have been much fun though). The Adventure Sport coped just fine, with excellent control, plenty of electronic help (the front off-road ABS is astonishing), and not too much weight in the wrong places to distract. Is it as ‘good’ as <insert list of adventure bikes>? Depends how good you are. It’s clearly not as agile as Yamaha’s lighter Ténéré 700 or as aggressive as a KTM 790 Adventure R, but for an average off-road rider it’s less intimidating than a fully-loaded 1250GS or a 1290 Super Adventure – and much better suited than a Tiger 1200. So the 2020 AT is pretty much where it was already positioned – but the new electronics and lower seat height (on the Adventure Sport) make a small difference.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

Africa Twin (base) and Adventure Sports (stock suspension)

The base Africa Twin is now aimed at being the off-road biased model – as in, it’s still predominantly a road bike, but is the one you’d prefer for spending more in off-road, and also urban, environments. This is because it’s 12kg lighter than the Adventure Sports, has an 18.8 litre tank instead of 24.8 litres (ie the same size as the previous model), and comes with a short, stubby, non-adjustable screen. It also comes with standard, fully-adjustable 45mm Showa usd forks with 230mm stroke length, and a Showa shock adjustable or preload and rebound damping only – the Adventure Sport’s semi-active system isn’t an option. The stock damping and springing are modified over the previous Africa Twin, running slightly stiffer settings to compensate for the changes to the frame rigidity.

This all makes the base 2020 bike a more agile, active ride, and adds even more pep right across the rev range. It feels like it’s been on a diet and started necking energy drinks. The base AT is more responsive, and quicker to steer with less mass both under and around you. The suspension feels harder and more intense than the Adventure Sport’s semi-active system; it’s not bad, but it’s noticeably choppier. The short screen doesn’t get in the rider’s eyeline, and lets wind blast balance your bonce.

The base AT also has different rear end bodywork, minus the clip-in panniers slots of the Adventure Sport – so aftermarket hard panniers will need a rail system of some sort.

Otherwise, the base AT has all the same good stuff as the Adventure model – same 6.5in TF dash with the same level of connectivity, same IMU system with identical electronic features, same heated grips, cruise control, USB port, 12v socket. It’s top spec stuff.

All apart from the wheel rims; the base AT has centre-spoked tubed rims instead of tubeless, which is an odd decision and one Honda were at a loss to explain. More experienced off-road riders than I say tubeless tyres are, obviously, easier to fix than tubed.

The base model Adventure Sport – without Showa semi-active – runs the same suspension as the base model, with different internal settings to compensate for the bike’s extra weight. In other respects it’s identical; on the road and off it, the ride feels less supple, choppier, by no means harsh but again, noticeably less floaty and expensive.

 

Honda Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports (2020) | REVIEW

 

2020 Africa Twin Adventure Sports Verdict

Honda have clearly had a bit of a rethink about their positioning of the previous model Africa Twins; the idea of making the old Adventure Sport – ostensibly the tourer – harder to access with a taller seat didn’t make a lot of sense. So by labelling the standard bike the more off-road orientated and the new Adventure Sports more road and touring based, the differences suddenly make sense. Bigger tank and taller screen with the option for wafty suspension on the tourer; lighter, sharper, keener base AT for trips off-road.

This also means the Adventure Sport, with its new-found electronics whizz, gets squarely into bed alongside the GS and flagship adventure bikes – at least in terms of spec and price, but albeit deficient to the engine tune of at least 35bhp. And the base AT is still the daddy among its peers; the BMW F850GS and KTM 790 Adventure – both great at their own thing, but neither anywhere near the AT on spec or, in the KTM’s case, looks or build quality. Triumph’s forthcoming Tiger 900 might have something to say about it, though – we’ll have to wait to find out. 

But in the short term (and I wouldn’t bet against the long term either) I can’t see any reason why the Africa Twin’s success won’t continue for at least another four years.

 

Three things I love about Honda’s Africa Twin Adventure Sports

• semi-active suspension – the feel from the front end while cornering is astonishing

• looks – c’mon, it’s the best-looking adventure bike out there

• spec level – cruise, heated grips, USB, 12v, Bluetooth, CarPlay, more settings than a royal banquet... you’ll never get tired of messing about

 

Three things I don’t...

• AS screen – it’s too tall for me, even on its low setting

• tubed tyres – on the base model. Why?

• DCT – it’s a very, very clever system. Just not for me

 

2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports (base in brackets)

New Price

From £13,049

Capacity

1084cc

Bore x Stroke

92.0mm x 81.5mm

Engine layout

parallel twin

Engine details

8v sohc, l/c

Power

100.6bhp @ 7500rpm

Torque

77.4 lb.ft @ 6250rpm

Top speed

135mph (est)

Average fuel consumption

46.2mpg

Tank size

24.8 litres (18.8 litres)

Max range to empty

250-280 miles

Rider aids

absolutely everything (see text)

Frame

steel double cradle

Front suspension

45mm Showa usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

fully adjustable (semi-active option)

Rear suspension

Showa monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

adj. preload and rebound (semi-active option)

Front brake

2 x 310mm discs, four-pot radial calipers, cornering ABS

Rear brake

256mm disc, one-pot caliper, cornering ABS

Front tyre

90/90-R21

Rear tyre

150/70-R18

Rake/Trail

27.5°/113mm

Wheelbase

1575mm

Seat height

850-875mm

Kerb weight (est)

238kg; DCT: 248kg (+2kg for Showa SE) (AT: 226kg, DCT 236kg)

Warranty

unlimited miles/2 years

Website

www.honda.co.uk

 

Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance

 

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