Honda Africa Twin: Key Questions Answered

Author: Oli Rushby Posted: 03 Dec 2015

We quiz the bosses about the Africa Twin

Bike Social’s Marc Potter has just arrived in South Africa, where tomorrow he’ll get a first ride on Honda’s long-awaited CRF1000L Africa Twin.

The completely revised model features a brand new parallel twin engine with 93.8bhp (70kW) power and 70.3 ft lbs (98Nm) torque. Other new functionality includes Switchable ABS and multi-mode Traction Control as well as a revised version of Honda’s DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) gearbox with handlebar mounted gear shift, as an option. Prices start at £10,499 for the manual version, £11,299 with DCT both available in dealers early next year.

We caught up with Nick Campolucci, Head of Bikes at Honda UK, and John Hensman, who rode the Africa Twin off-road in Morocco for ten days while filming Honda’s promotional videos, to find out a bit more about the bike… 

Why was it important for Honda to bring back the Africa Twin?

Campolucci: “We’ve been bringing out adventure-type models for the last five or six years now, with the 500s, 750s, 800s etc so we wanted something that actually does off-road properly. The Africa Twin is 70% off-road biased, harking back to some of the core values as to why Honda built the original 650 and 750s to begin with and why they went racing.

“We needed to almost finish the range - the icing on the cake. People are now recognising that Honda has an adventure range and we needed that jewel in the crown to say ‘here is the bike that can really do it’. From 500 to 1200, we’ve now got a full adventure range and this 1000cc bike sits right in there as the model that can do everything anyone wants to do off-road.

“The Fireblade used to be that iconic Halo product, we’ve now seen the sports bike market shrink by 80% in the last decade but adventure bikes have grown. We needed a halo product in this sector to say, ‘here is the full range of bikes’. Just like we have the CBR125, 500, 600 and 1000 we’ve now got X versions of the 500, 750, 800 and now we’ve got this." 

Marc Marquez giving it some on the Africa Twin

Who do you expect will buy the bike?    

Campolucci: “The age profile in the UK market is not great. It’s getting on a bit. You’re looking at 45+ now for a big enough chunk of licence holders with disposable income. We all know what they’re riding! For us, that’s the target market. Those guys are getting older and this bike is 40 odd kilos lighter than some of its rivals. This is a bit lighter, a bit more manoeuvrable. Customers aren’t concerned when they stop and put their foot down on a cambered road. There’s no way they are going to be able to pick up a VFR1200X or a GS if it goes down whereas at least with this they stand a chance.”

Will people actually use it off-road?

Campolucci: “Honestly, we know most people aren’t going to ride the bike off-road, but it’s like having a Range Rover, you might bump it up the kerb at Tescos or Sainsburies but at least you know what it can do.

“Having said that, at our customer pre-event, lots of people were asking about tyre choices so I think there is a genuine interest to stick some knobblies on it and go off road.”

How does it perform off road?

How does it perform off-road?

Hensman: “We rode in really severe conditions, really  deep sand, quite rocky terrain as well. It’s 70% off-road focused. I ride a CRF250R, full motocross bike, and we were riding the Africa Twin just like I’d ride that, launching off sand dunes three metres in the air. The capabilities of the bike are amazing. We were in Morocco for ten days in 50 degrees heat and didn’t have any problems on the technical side. We rode them in completely standard trim and fair play, it’s superb. 

“We rode both models, standard and DCT. I preferred the DCT in that terrain, especially the G mode button. On occasion we had the bikes almost up to the axel in deep sand, and it was quite a challenge using the clutch to get it out but on DCT with G button it puts it into direct drive and all you have to worry about is keeping the bike upright, it just drove itself out. It was a real surprise for me.”


It’s almost 30bhp down on a BMW GS Adventure, is it underpowered?

Hensman: “We’ve got 94bhp, 98Nm of torque. There was no area where I felt it was under powered or under performing. The torque and drive, right from the word go, in real severe terrains was incredible even on quite tough inclines. One feature it’s got is hill detection, and that works really well. On a severe incline it retains the gear, retained the rev range and just drove up. The other good thing, is on the decline it recognises you’re going down hill so automatically drops a gear and gives you some great engine braking.”

Check back tomorrow for our first impressions and full review of the Africa Twin after our first day riding in South Africa. 

Will you be looking at an Africa Twin in 2016?  or ! 

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