Review: 2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
Honda’s newest adventure bike
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Committing to adventure touring with a quick response to customer feedback, since its launch two years ago, Africa Twin improvements and the new Adventure Sports version offer real touring potential.
- What’s Worst: Needs a centre stand, adjustable windshield, cruise control and more lockable small storage.
- What’s Interesting: The market is shifting away from cruisers to adventure motorcycles and naked bikes. And look for the DCT automatics to make major inroads the same way they have in Europe.
“So-o-o,” I replied. “It’s not a DCT model then?”
Kim from Honda turned towards me.
Her years as a PR wrangler extraordinaire had attuned her to early signs of journalistic whining.
“Hey, you’re the first journo in Canada to ride it”, she countered.
Okay. Point taken.
The bike we were referring to was the revised-for-2018 Africa Twin, or more specifically in this case, the 2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports model, a brand new, specially tweaked version with upgrades tailored towards those who take adventure touring seriously.
Yes, the tester did come with the standard six-speed manual, but I’d ridden the DCT automatic model (+$1,000) at the original Canadian debut two years ago.
And the new Africa Twin lineup has plenty of other tweaks and totally new changes to take note of.
Across the lineup, all 2018 Africa Twin models carry over the 998cc SOHC parallel-twin engine, updated with a new air box and a lighter balance shaft, improving both midrange response and exhaust resonance.
A new Throttle-By-Wire system allows for three riding modes (Tour, Urban, Gravel) that coordinate with an expanded Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) system (now with seven settings and “off”, instead of three).
This is a strong and steady power mill.
The engine spins at an almost car-like, low 3,700 rpm at 100 km/h, with plenty of passing oomph left over before an early 7,500 rpm redline. No shortage of power for any situation.
All models also include a new lightweight Lithium-ion battery instead of the previous lead-acid unit (saving 2.3 kg), new stainless steel spokes, new auto-canceling indicators and wider, stouter foot pegs, along with redesigned passenger foot pegs that allow more room for the rider’s feet when standing.
Following that off-road emphasis, other adjustments were also made for that kind of hard core riding like, for example, a new shallow-angled instrument display, repositioned to be seen more easily from the standing position.
Our as-tested 2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports bike adds more model-specific changes. It’s bigger and taller than a regular Africa Twin. The wheelbase is five mm longer (1,580 mm) and the bike stands 20 mm higher (240 mm), due to an updated, fully-adjustable Showa suspension system with longer suspension travel – 226 mm up front (+22 mm) and 240 mm in rear (+20 mm).
All this extra lift off the ground boosts the two-setting adjustable seat height 50 mm higher to 900/920 mm, putting your vision point way up there, higher than most pickup trucks and SUVs.
It’s taller than just about every other motorcycle in Honda’s lineup except for a few competition dirt bikes. And it’s also taller than competitors like the BMW GS (895 mm), KTM Super Adventure R (890 mm) and Triumph’s Tiger XCx lineup (840-860 mm).
I don’t want to belabour the point but, even at six-foot, three-inches and with a 36-inch inseam, this was a rare occasion when I could barely put my feet flat on the ground and get enough purchase to duck walk the bike backwards into my usual upslope parking spot.
Hard to imagine some short-butt trying to climb this Everest when I could barely goose-step off or onto it. It might be time to sign up for my wife’s yoga classes.
The seat itself is flatter and smoother, allowing for riding position shifting, as well as an easier tie down of extra luggage items, the versatility complemented by the added steel rack.
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports mounts a larger fairing and an 80 mm taller windscreen. Not quite tall enough for riders my size, putting my head right into the buffeting wind stream – sort of like strapping an orbital sander to your helmet.
With all that rattling around, I sometimes wonder if I’ll wind up a shaky senior in the old riders’ home, like some punch-drunk ex-pugilist. In other words, yeah, it needs an adjustable windscreen.
The off-road-style, tapered aluminum handlebars have been pulled up 32.5 mm and back 6.5 mm, again to benefit standup riding on loose surfaces. And a bigger 24.2 litre fuel tank (compared to the regular Africa Twin’s 18.8 litres) promises over 500 km of range according to Honda, maybe even up to 600 km considering my fuel economy average of 4.0L/100km (comb).
Which was pretty impressive considering this was essentially a break-in ride on this brand new bike. Heavy off-road use would, of course, impact those numbers.
Other Adventure Sports additions include standard heated grips, an AC socket, a rear-right storage compartment, a solid aluminum sump guard, brushed aluminum cowling panels and crash bars.
Which makes the Africa Twin Adventure Sports model a pretty complete package for a $1,600 premium over its regular Africa Twin sibling.
And wrapped in 30th anniversary tricolour livery, with optional touring accessories available, it looks, feels and rides like a bike ready for long-haul global challenges.
2018 Honda CRF1000L2 Africa Twin Adventure Sports
ENGINE: 998 cc eight-valve Parallel Twin with 270-degree crank and unicam (94 hp, 73 lb/ft)
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed constant mesh manual or six-speed DCT model. “O”-ring sealed chain final.
FUEL ECONOMY: As tested 4.0L/100km (comb) at more than 700 km.
SUSPENSION: Front 45 mm Showa fork (226 mm travel); Rear Showa shock (240 mm travel)
WHEELS & TIRES: 90/90-R21 tube type; Rear: 150/70-R18 tube type.
BRAKES: Front 310 mm dual wave, four-piston calipers; Rear 256 mm wave disc, two-piston caliper.
SEAT HEIGHT: 900-920 mm
WHEELBASE: 1,580 mm
CURB WEIGHT: 6MT 242 kg
COLOUR: Red, white and blue HRC tricolour
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