Why the New Honda Africa Twin Might Not Be THE Answer

Until the all-new Africa Twin machine hits the dirt and riders put the first tens of thousands of miles on the clock, we are in the purely speculative territory. Talks about reliability, mileage, comfort are only valid after hundreds of bikes are out there in the fields, struggling in river beds and along muddy trails.
Still, there are more than a few people who, even though they are equally happy to see Honda back in the adventure game, are not overly enthusiastic about it.

While I am one of these guys, I took the liberty to write down some of the reasons for the lack of consummate enthusiasm in our camp. Please bear in mind that this piece doesn't come with any of the "absolute truth" vibe others' opinions are, at times, full of.

First of all, displacement

The CRF1000L name says it all, the Africa Twin packs one liter of displaced space dedicated to wreaking havoc on any terrain. This is definitely a good thing, especially for those in search of solid grunt to play with. Still, there is a huge crowd of riders out there who were expecting a middleweight machine.

If I am to consider only the Honda fans, I would refer only to the Transalp and old Africa Twin riders, both categories left without a proper fun-machine for quite a long time. While the old Africana went out of production in 2003, the Transalp fans were a bit luckier, as the last adventure XLV was produced in 2008.

Its bigger-engine replacement had a short life, and from the point of view of the adventure rider, was more or less unworthy of a comparison with the prior models.

I happen to know a lot of Transalp and AT riders who hoped Honda would remain in the middleweight segment with its new adventure machine and were utterly disappointed with the new Africana.

Adventure riding requires an agile bike that is easy to flip, and putting 100 horsepower to the ground is a thing that will never happen. A smaller, torquey engine is more suitable when the going gets tough, but Honda seemed to ignore this fact.

The market literally cries for a tough-as-nails middleweight adventure bike packing decent power, a weight under 200 kg (400 lb) wet and offered at a good price. But it looks like we still have to wait.

The height factor

I know, short riders have a problem when it comes to choosing their machines. It's not uncommon to see a rider with a shorter inseam going for a cruiser just because of the height factor. A firm foothold on the ground was more than once the deciding factor for riders being forced to choose another type of motorcycle than what they had in mind.

The same goes for the adventure segment, because not every rider can be a tall muscular guy that can manhandle a big and heavy bike. It's enough to go off-road once to understand how valuable that foot on the ground is.

Truth is that the Africa Twin is far from being the only machine with this problem. Still, if Honda plans to get a piece of the cake BMW and KTM are enjoying, we guess they also have to offer something to more customers. For what is worth, Yamaha's XT1200Z is probably the tallest of them all, and this introduces solid restrictions when it comes to customers, and in this respect, not the best way to go.

Some still dream about yet another, smaller adventure bike, in the vein of the KTM 690 Enduro R, but whether Honda will make one or not is still undecided.

Prices are always going up

It's not the first and definitely not the last time when you hear the "bikes are way too expensive" line. I know, a lot of money goes in high-tech research, it's true. Even though I suspect that even more money just goes... All in all, the new Africa Twin is an expensive bike.

Bigger displacement brings a bigger bike altogether, a heavier one and a more expensive one, too. These adventure fellows I mentioned, and more like them, not necessarily Honda enthusiasts, we left once more staring into the sun.

Only a few of them will make the move to the new liter-class Africa Twin, being left without a viable choice (as far as their expectations go) or because of financial reasons. A €12,500 bike in stock trim needs at least three grand more to become adventure-ready, and this is only scraping the surface. We are not tapping into new suspensions and other really expensive high-tech things...

The jump from a middleweight adv bike in the €7,000 zone to double this figure is not an easy one. And spending big bucks to prepare the bike, then start dropping it is certainly going to produce much heartache.

I am still waiting the day when I meet the owner of a souped-up KTM 1190 or BMR R1200GS that's insensitive to the sound of his or her bike scraping against the rocks.

Simply because off-roading sometimes involves a little bit of thrashing, a bike destined to tackle the roughest areas should not leave a burning hole in the budget. Likewise, for an adv machine to be really worthy, repairing the damage should not be crazy-expensive.

Too much high-tech?

Last on this ad-hoc list comes the high-end technology. I have already published a piece on the "too much electronics" issue in late 2013, but it is still as actual as it gets.

The fact that everything is slightly going high-tech is obvious, and only a fool would deny this. However, when it comes to becoming stranded in the wilderness because of a sensor malfunction or software corruption or other complex electronic system, things can no longer be ignored.

Sure, the percentage of modern bikes whose electronic fails is not that alarming, and this is why I am not breaking too much of a sweat over this. But I just had to mention this because going "very electronic" IS a real trend and it will not be too long until even cross bikes are "oozing" electronics.

In the end, the Africa Twin has a lot of time to prove its worthiness and, why not, its financial prowess for Honda. I am completely fine with that and genuinely happy to see such a machine in Tokyo's roster.

It is an answer, though not THE answer. But bear with me, when I say that it could have been better. Smaller, less high-tech, lighter, nimbler, cheaper, and more Africa Twin, if you get it. Better.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories