Honda’s big adventure bike, the CRF1000L Africa Twin, has been brought back to life after a 13-year hiatus to again give the Japanese firm a rival to dual-purpose machines from the likes of BMW, KTM and Triumph.
Now grown to 998cc (it was previously a 750), the bike’s available in a standard model, a derivative with ABS and multiple mode Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) – the version on test here – and the third equipped with Honda’s unique Dual Clutch automatic transmission.
Modern big adventure bikes are like two-wheeled SUVs and the Africa Twin’s no exception. It’s a very large motorcycle and at 232kg it’s a heavy thing to push around a parking area - and you’ll definitely need help picking it up should you be silly enough to drop it.
Shorter riders will struggle to straddle this Honda with its tall 870mm seat height too.
But it’s a confidence-inspiring bike once you’re riding and lightens right up. Venturing off-road is child’s play with the bike’s generous 250mm ground clearance - this thanks to its large 21 inch front wheel and dry-sump lubrication, making for a shorter engine. The rear wheel is an 18 incher and both wheels are spoked to suit rugged off-road riding.
I didn’t attempt any hardcore enduro stuff with the test bike but the big Honda’s ride height, yielding suspension and sturdy bash plate make it seem well suited to rock-crossing adventures.
I did try out some dirt roads and rough gravel, where I found the Africa Twin has good ergonomics for the required standing-up position. I felt the bars could have been a little higher as I had to hunch slightly when standing, but I do have longish legs.
Stopping ability is very effective too, with dual 310mm front discs and a single 256mm rear. A major advantage for off-road riding is that the ABS can be switched off at the back (but not in front), giving riders the freedom to lock up the rear wheel in dirt riding.
The HSTC gives three levels of traction control, allowing increased amounts of rear-wheel spin under power, or you can switch it off altogether and powerslide through the dirt to your heart’s content.
After testing it through a number or gravelly corners I declare HSTC to be very effective, and it really caters well to riders of different dirt-riding abilities whether you’re a speedway star or a novice.
Level 3 (maximum traction assistance) is a very safe setting that prevents wheelspin even under merciless throttle abuse.
At 70kW and 98Nm the parallel-twin 998cc engine is not a blow-your-hair-back performer by any means (compared to, for instance, the BMW GS 1200 with its 92kW and 125Nm and the KTM 1290 Super Adventure with 118kW/140Nm), but more of a relaxed cruiser that’s capable of quick overtaking bursts when necessary.
It makes good low-down power and doesn’t require frantic revving, and the six-speed manual snicks very smoothly. The engine makes a bit of a twin-cylinder growl without sounding too predatory.
A drawback for some riders might be that the Honda is chain-driven, where some prefer a maintenance-free shaft drive as found on the BMW R1200 GS and Triumph Tiger 1200 Explorer.
My favourite feature of the Africa Twin is its very comfy ride, which really smoothes out the ripples and makes for a bike that should be a great long-distance tourer. Both the front and rear Showa suspension can be manually adjusted to suit the turf.
The test bike’s fuel consumption of 5.1 litres per 100km was very economical; the 18.8-litre fuel tank should give a range of more than 350km.
Real-time fuel consumption is one of the readings shown on the all-digital instrument panel which also shows ambient temperature, fuel level, and the level of traction control.
The Dakar-style vertically stacked arrangement of the instrument panel is easy to read. The bike’s not overcomplicated with buttons and settings and it’s all quite quick and straightforward to figure out; I had it waxed within the first few kilometres.
Honda’s reborn icon doesn’t disappoint. There are gutsier adventure bikes available for adrenaline-hungry riders who have more money to spend, but the Africa Twin makes a great all-surface machine with power that, while not spine-tinglingly exciting, is more than sufficient for adventure touring.
Africa Twin base model (no traction control or ABS) - R159 999
Africa Twin with traction control and ABS - R169 999
Africa Twin DCT with traction control and ABS - R189 999
Prices include a two-year unlimited distance warranty and one-year roadside assistance.
Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin
Engine: 998cc liquid-cooled four-stroke parallel twin.
Bore x stroke: 92 x 675.1mm
Valvegear: Unicam SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 70kW at 7500rpm.
Torque: 98Nm at 6000rpm.
Induction: PGM-FI digital electronic fuel-injection throttle body.
Ignition: Digital electronic with dual spark plugs.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: Showa inverted cartridge forks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear Suspension: Showa monoshock adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Dual 310mm petal discs with Nissin four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers and two-channel Bosch ABS.
Rear brake: 265mm petal disc with Nissin twin-pot opposed-piston calliper and two-channel Bosch ABS.
Front tyre: 90/90 - 21 tube type.
Rear tyre: 150/70 - 18 tube type.
Seat height: 850/870mm.
Kerb weight: 232kg.
Fuel tank: 18.8 litres.