Review: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports

In 2016 I tested the Africa Twin and I wasn’t exactly wild about it. Three years later I have to revise my opinion. But first, let’s look at the bigger picture.

In the late 1980s the Honda XRV650 started the Africa Twin story. The discontinuation of the XRV750 production in 2003 interrupted that story, but Honda breathed new life into the Africa Twin: in 2016 the CRF1000L saw the light of day, after a few years of rumors and speculation.

First update

In 2018, the CRF1000L Africa Twin got its first update and an adventure-oriented variant was revealed: the CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports.

That update made the Africa Twin 2 kg lighter. It got a ride-by-wire throttle and a new, more extensive LCD display. The engine gained mid-range torque thanks to a lighter balance shaft and a revised inlet and exhaust system. The DCT (automatic gearbox in normal human language) also got an update.

Even more than the Africa Twin, the Adventure Sports is built for long, adventurous journeys. It has a larger tank (24.2 liters compared to 18.8 on the Africa Twin), a higher windshield, a taller fairing, tough-looking crash bars, slightly higher positioned handlebars and 2 cm more ground clearance than the Africa Twin. The adjustable seat can be set at 900 or 920 mm (on the Africa Twin: 850 or 870 mm). There’s also a lower seat available (60 mm lower).

Oh no, DCT!

I spent a few days with the Africa Twin Adventure Sports in Germany’s Black Forest to find out if Honda’s big adventure bike really improved. I hoped to get one with a manual gearbox, because in 2016 my first experience with Honda’s DCT absolutely hadn’t convinced me. So I was slightly disappointed when I discovered that the Adventure Sports I got to test was one with automatic transmission.

I knew that I had to skip the D-mode of the gearbox (due to its sleep-inducing slow shift pattern) and immediately chose the S3 mode, the most extreme of the three sportive shift modes. Very quickly my initial disappointment Continue reading

Review: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT

Very few motorcycles have such a legendary ring to them as the Honda Africa Twin. The first model dates from 1988 and was derived from the NXR-750 which took eight Dakar Rally podiums in the 80’s. In 2003 the Africa Twin story came to an end, but on the second-hand market the model remained popular.

In 2014 rumors said the Africa Twin legend would be revived, and the expectations were set high. Maybe too high? Time to find out. Here’s our review of the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin.

The Africa Twin’s slender built and high nose refer to its famed predecessors. If you pick the tricolor paintjob, the reference is even more highlighted. The classic double round headlights had to make room for a more aggressive design though, quite a bummer.

With its 1000 cc 95 hp engine, it’s clear the Africa Twin doesn’t want to compete against stronger and heavier adventure bikes like the BMW 1200 GS or the KTM 1190 Adventure. The electronics package is also on the light side: as a standard the 2017 model has ABS which can be switched off on the rear wheel. A three-level, disengageable traction control is also standard. And that’s it.

For a bike that appears to be designed as a world traveller, you would at least expect a centerstand and 12v socket. Yet you have to go to the option list for those. Ditto for heated grips. Cruise control is even missing on the option list.

Its manoeuvrability is something that stands out as soon as you start riding the CRF1000L. Honda’s clever placement of the heavier parts enhances the weight distribution, making it simple to get the Africa Twin in the desired lean angle and facilitating difficult off-road sections.

The long saddle offers two heights (33.5 and 34.3 inches) and plenty of room to move around during long journeys. Combined with the well-placed handlebars, this ensures good ergonomics. The standard setting of the suspension is comfortable, although you’ll lack some feedback and stability when riding faster. Luckily it’s fully adjustable.

The high front gives a good protection against wind and weather. Which was much needed during my week’s test in early November: I barely saw a mile of dry asphalt. Too bad that the windshield isn’t adjustable.

The finishing lacks some refinement although the design is well taken care of. Just have a look at the LED direction indicators that also act as daytime running lights, or the anchor points for the optional panniers that are nicely integrated.

Automatic

My testbike was equipped with the (optional) Dual Clutch Transmission, or “automatic” as most humans call it. The Africa Twin is not the first model Honda equips with a DCT. You won’t find a clutch lever nor will your left foot find a gear shift lever. Yet I got used to this very quickly. Only in more difficult situations, for example when emergency braking, my reflexes Continue reading