Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
Can you believe it was nearly five years ago that Honda first unveiled the current Africa Twin as the mud-splattered ‘True Adventure’ prototype? First seen in 2014 amid a drawn-out teaser campaign that machine was virtually unchanged when it went on sale in early 2016 under the Africa Twin name.
Now it looks like there’s a mid-life revamp in the offing, with reliable sources in Japan suggesting that Honda’s planning to up its capacity for 2020 in response to an evolving adventure bike market and new emissions rules.
There’s a surprising level of detail in the information, which pivots on an upgraded engine with its capacity punched out from the current 998cc to 1080cc, endowing the next-gen Africa Twin with an extra five horsepower. That might not seem like much of an increase, but it needs to be seen in the context of the new Euro 5 emissions rules that come into play for newly-type-approved models from 1st January 2020. The new regs crank a couple more turns into the emissions thumbscrews, and by upping an engine’s capacity manufacturers will be able to offset any power losses that the emissions restrictions bring.
It’s also worth examining how the adventure bike market has evolved since the Africa Twin went on sale in 2016. Back then, the Honda’s combination of 95hp and a 232kg kerb weight meant it slipped into a slot between machines like BMW’s heavier, 125hp R1200GS and the smaller F800GS with 85hp. Only the short-lived KTM 1050 Adventure was directly comparable to the Honda in terms of power, size and weight.
Now the world has moved on. The R1250GS has stretched its power lead to 134hp, along with a massive torque boost from its ShiftCam engine, and the all-new F850GS matches the Africa Twin’s 95hp output while undercutting its weight. What’s more, newcomers like KTM’s 790 Adventure (also 95hp but far lighter than the Africa Twin) are further encroaching onto the Africa Twin’s patch, as is Triumph’s updated Tiger 800.
By stretching up towards the 1100cc mark – and no doubt adopting the CRF1100L title in the process – the rumoured revamp for the Africa Twin will help push it back into the middle-ground between big adventure bikes and the growing class of middleweight dual-sports.
While the additional capacity is the backbone of the new Africa Twin rumours, it’s far from the only update that they detail. There’s also talk that the DCT (dual-clutch transmission) – a key selling point that the Africa Twin’s rivals can’t lay claim to – is to be improved, and that the standard bike’s fuel capacity will be increased from 18.8 litres to around 20 litres. The wider Adventure Sport version, which already has a 24.2 litre tank, is expected to remain in the range, but also to get the upsized engine.
In line with the latest trends, we’re told that the instrument panel will be a larger screen with a full-colour TFT display. Honda has already tweaked the Africa Twin’s dash once, revising it for the 2018 model year, but it’s a fast-moving area of development at the moment. Keyless ignition is also said to be on the cards, again bringing the bike into line with the developments we’re seeing elsewhere.
Visually, we’re not expecting wholesale changes, as the image above – created by Japanese bike magazine AutoBy – shows. A revised nose and headlights seems a likely bet, along with tweaks to the plastic parts, but the main chassis structure of the bike isn’t expected to be altered.
If the rumours prove true, we can expect to see the updated, 1080cc Africa Twin make its debut later this year as a 2020 model.