The adventure (ADV) segment of motorcycles has been growing at a decent pace in India and in the premium space Triumph presently is the leader with its Tiger range. Honda's CRF1000L Africa Twin has been a much-awaited motorcycle ever since it was showcased at the Auto Expo last year. Sticking to its promise of locally assembling the Africa Twin, Honda has been able to price the motorcycle competitively at Rs 13.67 lakh, ex-showroom, pan India. Considering this is the version with the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission), the deal seems even sweeter. However, taking on the likes of Triumph Tiger is not an easy task. Plus, what good is an adventure motorcycle that can't go off-road? Hence, we just put the Africa Twin to test in city, highway and off-road conditions around Udaipur, where Honda invited us to ride the motorcycle.
Adventure motorcycles aren't exactly pretty looking in most cases but the Africa Twin is different. Unlike most bikes that have a loud design with large dimensions, the Africa Twin has a subtle design. It's typical Honda stuff so it doesn't have a beaky front or an intimidating size. It looks purposeful, elegant and approachable even for people who aren't tall. The LED headlamps with DRLs are designed well and the golden shock absorbers along with the huge gap between the front wheel and the fairing lend the bike with true off-road character. The spoked wheels and underbody shield further add to the tough appeal of the Africa Twin.
The large exhaust can does look a bit out of place but Euro IV emission norms have made most exhaust cans visually unappealing. Apart from that, there hardly any flaw with the Africa Twin's design and I personally feel it's the best looking adventure motorcycle on sale presently.
Engine & Gearbox
The Honda Africa Twin is powered by a 999.11 cc twin-cylinder engine developing about 87 hp and 91 Nm of torque. The engine has a 270 degree phased crankshaft and the lightweight camshaft has been made from the same material used in the Fireblade. Press the starter switch and the engine comes to life with a subdued and smooth sound. I did not expect the sound to get better at high engine speeds but it does and beyond 5,000 rpm the exhaust is actually quite pleasing to the ears. The engine is quite smooth and even around 7,000 rpm there are no unwanted vibrations or sound from the engine. The power itself is sufficient for all purposes and acceleration is impressively quick but linear.
The party piece however in the Africa Twin is the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which makes a helluva difference to the product's capabilities. Getting used to it takes about 10 minutes but after that it's a breeze to use as we realised. With six ratios the transmission infuses a new level of comfort for the rider. The transmission is paired to an impressive bouquet of electronics, giving the rider access to around 80 different riding combinations to choose from. The only downside is that the transmission is a bit hesitant at lower rpm so under 2,500 rpm one can feel some shuddering but beyond that, the gearbox works like a charm. In D mode, the inclination is towards fuel-efficiency so gear shifts take place at around 3,000 rpm. In S mode, one has the option to choose from three sub-modes – S1, S2 and S3, the latter being the most aggressive. In these modes, the gearbox shifts at higher rpm and gears are held onto for a longer period. One can also use the paddle shifter to drop a gear in this mode and the transmission accepts the input without disengaging the mode.
Not having to operate a clutch meant I was able to concentrate better in the damp and tricky off-road conditions. Switching off the traction control and rear wheel ABS along with the use of the G mode meant the Africa Twin easily encountered the marshy terrain. The fact that all electronic aids can be played around with on the move except the switchable ABS adds a lot to the ease of riding this machine.
Watch the Honda Africa Twin video review here:
Ride & Handling
The Africa Twin with all its off-road credentials did not disappoint us a bit on the roads. That means you're going to have loads of fun riding it on the way to an off-road location. High-speed stability is impressive and the windshield saves a lot from wind blast. Even around corners the Africa Twin doesn't mind going in hot and one doesn't have to make a lot of effort to maintain the intended line through the corner. One can feel the limitation of the front tyre at times but one has to keep in mind the off-road purpose it serves.
Off-road, the Africa Twin again impressed us with the way it dispatches steep inclines, rocks, slippery surfaces and slush. In the hands of a capable rider, the Africa Twin can do some serious amount of off-roading, which many other adventure motorcycles might have a tough time coping up with.The fact that the seat can be adjusted from 840 mm to 820 mm makes it easier for short riders as tip toe riding can be unnerving for any. The riding posture itself is relaxed and riders looking at long-distance riding will not have any troubles. The wide seat also makes it possible for people of different sizes to easily find a suitable riding position quickly.
The twin 310 mm brake discs upfront along with 4-piston calipers and a 256 mm disc at the rear with a single caliper provide good initial bite and overall stopping power. Feedback from the pedals too is good and helps build confidence in the machine.
Overall, the Africa Twin turned out to be an impressive motorcycle on almost all aspects we tested it for. It performed way better than expected in the pelting rain for most of the time we rode it. It completely surprised me with it on-road behaviour as I expected more compromise on the handling and high-speed stability bits but I didn't find any. The motorcycle also comes with an impressive set of electronics that enhance its capabilities tremendously. The fact that it does not intimidate a rider in any way, be it weight, size or power is what makes it different from its competitors. At Rs 13.67 lakh, it's extremely well-priced too. If you want to add more zing to it, Honda also has an extensive range of accessories on offer at a good price. The 12 V charging socket, for example, can be bought for about Rs 4,000.
So if I have to sum it up, I can confidently say that the Honda Africa Twin is the best adventure motorcycle on sale today in India and Honda has joined the party at the right time in India.
Length: 2,334 mm
Width: 932 mm
Height: 1,478 mm
Ground Clearance: 250 mm
Kerb Weight: 245 kg
Engine: Liquid-cooled 999.11 cc
Power: 87 hp
Torque: 91 Nm
Transmission: 6-speed DCT
Frame: Semi double cradle
Top Speed: 190 kmph