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Honda's Africa Twin in SA: 8 rider questions answered

2015-12-17 09:17

Dries van der Walt

SERIOUS FUN: Wheels24 motorcycle expert, Dries van der Walt, says the the new Honda CRF1000L AfricaTwin is a worthy successor to the iconic original adventure bike. Image: Wheels24/ Dries van der Walt


Motorcycling expert Dries van der Walt rides Honda's new Africa Twin in South Africa. Watch the video!

Update: Comments are open

Cape Town - While researching for my report on the launch of the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, I stumbled across a thread on a Honda Africa Twin forum.

The forum members said they would have liked somebody who attended the launch to answer some of their questions. Members gave me permission to publish their questions and my replies on Wheels24.

The questions below are quoted unedited from the forum.

Africa Twin Q&A:

1 Originally Posted by Don_M: What are your views regarding the on road handling? Does the large front wheel slow the handling or affect the stability?

Dries:  On-road handling is fairly good, although the rear wheel breaks out easily under really hard, weight-forward cornering. Tightening up the rear suspension alleviates it a bit, but the stock Dunlop rubber on the launch bikes seemed to get overwhelmed by the torque when you accelerate hard out of corners.

#AfricaTwin refreshment break.

A photo posted by Dries van der Walt (@driesonbikes) on

The big front wheel doesn't affect stability much – as I said in my report, it is an extremely stable bike. Because of the front wheel's size, the bike is not is sharp in tight corners, but thanks to the stability it really shines in fast sweeping curves.

My overall opinion is that for an off-road focussed bike, it handles extremely well on tar.

2 JustPlainBill0: I have a question Dries: Honda accessories for the AT are quite expensive. Would it be possible to hang a pair of aftermarket soft saddlebags over the pillion without them rubbing on the rear tire? I had to construct a "stand-off" for that purpose on my NC700XD and it works great.

Dries: You might have to go the "stand-off" route on the Twin as well – the high exhaust pipe on the right and the big clearance between the rear wheel and subframe on the left could be a problem with soft luggage.

There are built-in mounting holes for the official luggage, so if your engineering skills allow, you could use these for a removable frame. Also, since the AT is likely to be a volume seller, less expensive after-market luggage will probably be available fairly soon.

3 Paige: Question about the tires, what did Honda fit for the launch? All the press photos feature road focused handling vs launch photos where its clearly wearing more aggressive dirt rubber.

Just wondering if Honda plans to offer knobbies as an upgrade or something...

Or did Honda provide bikes with both road and off-road focused tires?

Dries: Honda provided both. In essence we rode four different bikes each: one pair (DCT and manual) with dual-purpose tyres, and another pair with knobblies.

The tar road mountain passes and dirt road tracking shots were done with the DP-tyre bikes (if I recall the latter was about a 5km stretch of dirt road), but the serious off-road stuff was done on knobblies. We also did a similarly short stretch of tar road on the knobblies to access the off-road area.

A quartet of Twins enjoying the scenery at the #AfricaTwin international media launch.

A photo posted by Dries van der Walt (@driesonbikes) on

4 JustPlainBill0: Dries, are Honda technicians available to help riders with suspension settings when changing venues each day? Or is everyone on their own to deal with setting up their test bikes? While changing tires isn't feasible, I think most owners could perform these adjustments if they knew test riders did so to get the most out of the bikes.

Dries: Honda techs were on hand and very helpful in answering questions and adjusting things when requested, but I adjusted the rebound damping on the rear suspension myself during one of the stops. The adjustment made a marked difference to the handling, so it is something I would advise owners to experiment with.

5 Race7117: Thanks Dries for the great article really enjoyed it and very informative. I look forward to reading more on that site. One question, you mentioned the auto transmission surprised you and seemed like you still felt the auto box was better fur a novice rider. But in the end it seemed like you felt the new transmission made you a better rider. If you were buying the bike which transmission would you buy?

Dries: Glad you enjoyed the article.

That's actually a tough question to answer, because both versions are pretty good. Personally I preferred the control of the manual transmission for sporty riding on tar – I didn't like the slight shift delay of the DCT, which was evident even in manual shift mode. The MT model is also slightly lighter than the DCT, and I could feel the weight difference when swopping it for a manual bike. That said, during normal riding (which, if it were my own bike, would be 80% of the time) the DCT performed well.

Off the road, the DCT worked like a charm. The bike was always in the right gear to make optimal use of the engine's torque. I think for novice or less experienced off-roaders, not having to worry about gears and clutch will help them get technically proficient a lot quicker than on a manual bike.

I guess, despite my criticism, I might go for the DCT version. The DCT only bothered me when riding really hard in tight twisties; at all other times it performed flawlessly – and to be fair, you don't buy a bike like this for twisties.

5 Paige: Dries, how did you find the dark instrument readout in the sunshine? One other review I read said they were difficult to read especially with a layer of dirt covering. How did you find the readout?

Dries: I agree, it is a bit of a problem. I never had a situation in which both panels were totally obscured, but one of the bikes kept forming a patch of dust over the top half of the lower panel, and as a result I couldn't tell which TC level was engaged without wiping the panel first.

6 Anotherbiker: Hi Dries, I have a couple of questions if you don't mind?

1) Do the advantages of the DCT off road make up for the weight penalty from picking that model? Everything I know and read about off road riding tells me that weight is the biggest enemy off road, and the DCT model is significantly heavier.

2) How did the bike compare off road to other big adventure bikes you've ridden? I'm also interested in the Super Tenere, which admittedly weighs a lot more, but most reviews of that bike say that it hides its weight fairly well off road. The Super Ten also has a lot of features that would probably make it a better road bike for me, so I was just wondering how big an advantage the AT has over a bike like this off road?

Thanks for your help!

Dries: To your first question: let me start off by qualifying that I feel that the differences between the DCT and the MT are so slight that it is hard for me to make a definitive recommendation. I rode both on the same off-road route, and while I didn't have difficulty with the manual I appreciated the simplicity of riding the DCT.

I was more aware of the weight difference during the on-road riding – I appreciated the MT's lightness in the tight corners of Bain's Kloof Pass. That said, I don't recall the extra weight of the DCT being problematic on the off-road section.

As to your second question, I'll also throw the BMW R1200 GS Adventure into the comparison, as I have ridden it extensively on a quite technical off-road route. I'd happily take any of the three if I had to do a trip across Africa (or any other continent where roads are often little more than wishful thinking), but given the choice I'd prefer the Africa Twin. It is lighter, simpler, more compact and generally feels more manageable.

I think all three are excellent hard-core off-road bikes. If I were looking for an adventure bike that could double as a heavy-duty tourer, I'd go for the Beemer or the Super Ten. But if I wanted a fun bike that would only need to do the occasional long-distance on-road trip, the lighter and more nimble Honda would be my choice.

7 Anotherbiker: I've thought of another question! The factory skid plate - did it seem heavy duty, or would it need to be replaced?

As someone who is not a hard-core off-roader, I thought it sturdy enough to put up with any bashing my type of riding would dole out. However, I am sure that even sturdier after-market products will become available soon enough for really heavy-duty riding.

User questions

Dries: "Hopefully this will have answered some questions you may have. However, if you have additional questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below, and I will answer them to best of my ability."

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