New bike test: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin Africa

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews' started by Simon, Feb 8, 2017.

  1. Simon

    Simon Professional storyteller
    Staff Member Premium

    Mar 25, 2015
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    The CRF1000L Africa Twin might share the name and its styling DNA with the original 57bhp Honda XRV650 of 1988, but the reality is that the new bike is a completely different animal.

    There are two versions – one with Honda’s DCT automatic gearbox, complete with 80 mode settings controlling everything from traction control and power delivery to levels of gear selection and hill control. The second, the more basic manual version, costs some £1,000 less.

    The bike we’re testing today is the no-frills manual, and initial impressions are positive; it’s a well finished bike. The attention to detail is superb, and Honda has obviously spent a lot of time getting the rugged off-road looks ‘just so’.

    Both bikes use same CRF450 Rally bike inspired frame design and that fluid, linear twin cylinder oversquare, 93.8bhp inline twin cylinder motor, and the first thing to point out is that the 1000cc engine is down on power compared to the competition – a BMW R1200GS pumps out around 125bhp, while the KTM 1190 Adventure makes around 150bhp.

    However, on the move the relative lack of power isn’t immediately obvious. The engine produces so much accessible torque, bottom end and grunt, it’s a joy to ride.

    On the road the engine feels smooth, and it’s an easy bike to ride. The throttle feels direct, there’s always enough torque on tap to allow quick and easy overtakes, and if not, just drop it down a gear, twist the throttle and go. And it’s just as composed at the slower speed stuff. That broad spread of torque makes light work of the low speed stuff such as crawling through town. Impressive then so far.

    Then there’s the riding position. It’s very upright, and the big wide bars make it easy to guide through corners. It's very Honda – it’s very, very ergonomically comfortable and everything falls to hand just how you want it to; nothing feels strained and there’s very little pressure on knees and wrists.

    Yes, that screen may be small but it’s effective at keeping the wind off my 6ft 2in frame, and while the seat isn’t the widest, it is all-day comfortable.

    But this is an adventure bike, and while few owners will be taking their £10,500 pride and joy mud-plugging, I’m glad to report it’s actually pretty capable. The power delivery is linear, thanks mostly to the engine revving so flatly, and this means you always feel like you’re controlling the rear wheel, allowing you to accurately mete out power and judge grip. And if the bike does get sideways, it’s easy to use the torque curve to sort the bike out.

    What stands out from all this riding is that the Honda may well have created the consummate all-rounder – The Africa Twin is just at home grinding out the miles on the daily commute, touring two-up, exploring green lanes or going on a proper adventure. Sometimes less is more.

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