Adventure Bike Showdown: Honda Africa Twin v. its closest rivals


The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin was unveiled as a prototype on Honda’s expensive and expansive promotional stand at the Milan trade show with very little fanfare in November 2014. We then endured over 12 months of ‘True Adventure’ build-up with video teasers, and full specs before the Africa Twin was finally ready to ride. 

Bike Social’s very own Marc Potter was among the first to test the big traily at the press launch held on a mixture of asphalt and sandy/gravely roads in South Africa, where else, and what a revelation it has been. Already this year its been Honda’s most popular seller.

Available in three colours and with two gearbox options – manual and DCT – the all-new 2016 version has clear DNA of its predecessor, the legendary 650 and 750 twins of the eighties and nineties with its looks, style and even the gold wheels and trim. Honda claim the new incarnation is a proper adventure bike with the comfort of a tourer and agility of a commuter. And with a price tag starting from just £10,499 it undercuts its closest rivals.

It enters a highly competitive class and on first impressions, finds itself standing toe-to-toe and trading blows with the heavyweights of the sector. So we chose the Honda’s nearest road-biased competitors and took them to Wales to find out if Big H have succeeded with their claims.



Step forward three European challengers starting with the reigning King of adventure bikes, BMW’s R1200 GS. From the orange corner and the smallest member of their adventure range, its KTM 1050 Adventure and of the six variants of Tiger 800, updated for 2015, we have Britain’s own Triumph Tiger 800 XRt.

Africa Twin heads GS, is this an omen for the sales charts of 2016?

Why not compare the 1000cc Honda with an 1190 KTM, F800GS/A or a 1200 Explorer I hear you ask? The mix of adventure bike sizes differ wholly with Triumph opting for variations of the 800cc and 1200cc versions of their Tiger’s while BMW have a similar divide with the F800GS and R1200GS. KTM use 1050, 1190 and 1290 capacity models in their on road/off road range though we’re lead to believe a 690cc version will be introduced soon.

This means Honda’s Africa Twin sits right in the middle of that 800-1200 range – fine, it’s not as powerful but do you need 125bhp+ in an on/off road adventure bike? Owners of the larger BMW might argue that they do. What about Ducati’s new Multistrada Enduro and KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure which are packed with 160 horses – is that necessary or more of a statement? 

The Africa Twin Project Leader, Naoshi Iizuka, even confessed to Bike Social back in November that a smaller capacity Africa Twin could be on the cards, since Honda say the adventure trend “has definitely not peaked yet.”

They all do different things well ranging from their sports-touring ability to their off-road prowess. Some are equipped with lots of goodies while others might be more comfortable, frugal or more powerful. We deliberated over which models would be the closest to the Honda on paper but also on the road, since that’s where most buyers will use it.

So that left us opting for an XR Tiger instead of the more off-road bias XC variant and the same goes for the R1200 GS instead of its Adventure sibling. In fact, the KTM, Triumph and Honda all make an identical 94bhp while the BMW has long been seen as the ultimate adventure machine, a claim backed by the sales charts – that is, until the Africa Twin became available. New registration statistics provided by the MCIA (Motorcycle Industry Association) show the Honda outselling the BMW during the first two months of this year. Is the trend shifting? Are the Japanese wrestling the crown from the Germans?

Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

Honda's CRF1000L Africa Twin - available in three colours

Africa Twin's narrow waist makes the riding position very comfortable Raspy rumble from the parallel twin is a pleasure to hear

The new kid on the adventure block. Three and a half years in development and a further 12 months of promotion later, the 998cc, parallel twin with its clever 270 degree crank and uni-cam was ready to roll.

The seamless DCT automatic gearbox version is £800 dearer at £11,299 and works in the same vein as a twist ‘n go. D for Drive then three levels of S for Sport plus a G for off-road use. And then there’s a big ABS button on the dash allowing the rear to be disengaged for some slidey action. Options include heated grips, a taller screen, centre stand and luggage.


BMW R1200 GS - the reigning King

The now traditional BMW cockpit, full of buttons and switches that require a manual to understand 1170cc boxer twin emits a familiar BMW howl

In areas of south-west London, a 4WD vehicle with an off-road CV that extends as far as a gravel driveway is known as a ‘Chelsea Tractor’; the two-wheeled equivalent is the BMW R1200 GS. An incredibly popular motorcycle that carries something of a status symbol. High, wide, powerful and mighty, and with a starting price of £12,185 it is by far the most expensive of our group test machines.

Our bike was the TE Alpine – TE for Touring Edition, which is equipped with even more gadgets, buttons and switches to make the riders life either easier or more complicated (delete as appropriate) including heated grips, electronically adjustable suspension and cruise control. And that extra tech has a price, the TE Alpine model costs over £14,000. The burly German shaft-driven super weapon has dominated sales charts but having been around since 2013 is due an update soon especially with Euro 4 in mind.

KTM 1050 Adventure

KTM 1050 Adventure - the smallest in KTM's adventure range

Adjustable screen requires two hands with a fastening each side 1050cc V-twin provides its maximum power at the lowest revs

Introduced as an A2-licence friendly ‘entry-level’ adventure bike from KTM this time last year at the same time as the more glamorous and headline-grabbing 1290 Super Adventure. It uses a revised engine from the 1190 Adventure but with a shared frame, double-sided swingarm and rather dated clocks and switchgear. It’s 94 bhp is the same claimed power as the Africa Twin and Tiger 800 which in theory makes them all A2-friendly. On paper it resembles the closest match to the Honda.

Three riding modes plus an optional ‘off-road’ fourth mode offer an element of modern motorcycling as does the MSC lean-sensitive cornering system. But as an entry-level adventure bike, its RRP of £10,999 versus the Africa Twin’s £10,499 makes the KTM at least £500 overpriced in my opinion. Other than the KTM image, I’m struggling to find a reason why I’d choose it over the Honda.

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt - one of 6 versions of the Tiger 800

Easy to spot Triumph's additional heated seats, heated grips and fog lights buttons Side exhaust is hidden by standard-fit pannier holders

Introduced as a vastly updated model in 2015, initially with two options for the road-biased XR bike and two more with the off-road-biased XC. Two more top-of-the-range models were added half way through the year, including the XRt, the model we ran in this test.

The XRt has additional heated grips, a heated rider and pillion seat with separate controls plus fog lights and a GPS mounting kit, all look like after markets additions and aren’t integrated. Ride-by-wire throttle, adjustable seat height and three rider modes offer refinement on the latest version of Triumph’s big seller.

The Triumph Tiger 800 range all use the same liquid-cooled, three cylinder 800cc motor and the prices start at £8,600. The XRt is £10,700 and is available in white or orange.


Bike Social Chief Marc Potter and I were joined by two of the most experienced motorcycle journalists in the land, Jon Urry and Phil West, to trek from our head office in Peterborough over to the stunningly picturesque Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales and the famous Black Mountain Road, then back again. As the photographs show, The Brecons are home to a rolling landscape, big skies and a mixed bag of uber motorcycle-friendly roads from nadgery twisty turns to long, open sweepers.

The cold, misty and drizzly morning start at Bike Social HQ meant a fight over the keys to the two bikes with heated grips, BMW and Triumph. Though the Tiger also has a heated rider and pillion seat making it Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket for the first leg of the motorway miles to Leominster and an obligatory coffee stop at OK Diner. Cruise control was also a welcome addition for Phil and Jon on those same two bikes. Potter on the Africa Twin kept the 4-stage traction control (1, 2, 3 and off) set high, operational through the handlebar mounted button behind the left grip. Meanwhile I selected Rain mode on the tall KTM, easy to do on the four-way key pad and a quick close of the throttle as the LCD screen instructs.

First observations included the fact the BMW in its TE Alpine spec had been supplied with a set of knobbly Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres. They’re designed to offer grip on the roughest of surfaces rather than rider comfort on the M6. Noisy but not unbearable yet they still performed on the narrower and more slippery B-roads closer to our destination without bothering any rider – though its safe to say we all rode the GS with a little less gusto because of the rubber.

A GS on knobbly tyres isn't massively conducive to grip on a cool, flat surface

The almighty GS with its 125bhp and Gearshift Assist ‘box is a potent combination for blasting around the more interesting roads. Leave the clutch lever alone and pop the gear lever without any accelerator roll-off to experience one of the joys of modern technology – quick shifters, as they are more commonly known, are one of my favourite additions / options in recent road bikes. That sound of the gearbox changing, the drop in revs, the exhaust continuing changing its note as you bang up through the box, all within a microsecond. There’s no mechanical jerkiness, pitch or roll of the bike. Bliss.

The BMW carries its 238kg weight well, giving a secure feeling thanks to the centralisation of that mass, it feels finely balanced. Grunty acceleration noticeable from nothing and in the mid-range from its boxer twin lump, the BMW complete with all the toys is a tough bike to shift from the top of the tree. Cruising at 70mph in top gear and the GS purrs along at 4000rpm leaving plenty in hand for overtaking without needing to drop down. There seems to be power everywhere.

One option we also had on our test bike, love it or hate it, was the keyless ignition. In the traditional ignition position is a button acting as an on/off switch for the bike so long as the fob is within range. Access to the fuel tank is also keyless; locked until you pull on the release catch.

Refined in a premium kind of way and loved by so many but it won’t pass Euro 4 emissions and therefore the German’s will have to provide an updated/all new version for 2017 and to be honest the current model will just about have run its course by then. A facelift will be welcome and let’s hope the current busy speedo will be easier to read with a quick glance.

In familiar territory with Phil West as its pilot

Before continuing to our next destination of Brecon, a 40-mile dash away from the motorways and now on the A438 via the aptly-named village of Three Cocks, we’d decided on our first swap of bikes. As the roads became more interesting, so did the quality of the weather. The further west we’d ridden the better it had become and there’s very few places in the world better to test motorcycles than the Black Mountain Road in the Brecons on a fine day. Despite the lowly temperatures, plenty of other two-wheeled enthusiasts fortunate to live close to these roads were out on their rides.

But first, a chance to evaluate the Austrian entry.

The KTM 1050 Adventure might make its maximum power earlier in the rev range than the others, rushing up to the 6000rpm mark quickly but despite the strong feeling from the V-twin, it soon runs out of puff leaving you wanting more. In fairness, KTM deliberately didn’t give the bike any more power because of their A2-licence intentions but it does interrupt the regular riding flow. The throttle is not snatchy and the power is delivered in a responsive, flexible manner making the KTM an easy bike to just get and ride.

It turns out I’d drawn the short straw for the motorway-laden first leg. The one-piece seat is particularly hard and uncomfortable and had me shuffling around even more so on the bumpier roads when the soft rear suspension counteracted the tough seat. It’s a shame because the riding position is very good in terms of correlation between high pegs (for good ground clearance), seat and raised bars, plus the wind protection is also one of the best.

Orange battle: Triumph v. KTM

While the handlebar-mounted switchgear appears a little too simple and old-fashioned for todays more modern and complex standards, the LCD dash is dead easy to use. Up, down, back and Set are self-explanatory operating buttons on the left side when it comes to flicking through the two colour menu to switch riding modes or set your favourites screen.

The KTM felt agricultural to ride like its lacking a bit of finesse; hard and mechanical yet strong and direct. You could say it’s a little more farm tractor than Chelsea tractor. A sturdy and direct thump of your left foot to engage another gear lever maybe just what some riders need when they really feel the metal clunk but give me the slicker shifts of the Honda, Triumph and particularly the BMW any day.

Even though the power runs out quite quickly, leaving you shifting up before the red rev light shines, the ride is perhaps the sportiest of the bunch given then KTM’s ability to turn quickly and making use of that slightly narrower front tyre. It’s not a particularly tricky bike to ride either, what you see is what you get, making it a piece of cake to operate.

The massive 23-litre tank will cover at least 200 miles before it needs any more fuel and we managed 48.2mpg on test. The downside is the ineffectual range gauge which is as accurate as opening the fuel tank cover and taking a stab in the dark yourself.

The uncomfortable KTM seat didn't bother Jon Urry that much

Part of the beauty of a group test is the fortune to switch between bikes, making it a whole lot easier to compare but this didn’t do the Triumph many favours. Individually, the Tiger 800 is a lovely thing; its in-line triple cylinder motor is vibrant and energetic. Its howl becomes more of a sweet sounding screamy-burble the further up the rev range you dare to go but away from the motorway, where these four bikes should excel, the more each of us rode the Triumph, the more we were left wanting.

It’s not as refined as the BMW, with clumsy, after-market style handlebar mounted buttons to operate the extras on the XRt model: heated rider and pillion seats plus the fog lights and heated grips. Only when all four us gathered around a stationary bike did we discover a green hue showing the heated grips were on – we could only assume there is a high and low setting as it’s not linked to the dash, same as the buttons for the seats and lights.

More tourer than adventure bike despite fog lights

The Tiger is the physically smallest of the foursome as well as being the lightest at 216kg and with the shortest seat height. As a result, you’d expect it to be the best handling bike of the bunch. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, or at least that’s what some of us thought.  Again it’s exposed having ridden the other sharper handling bikes which then highlights the vague steering and front-end heavy Triumph. There didn’t seem as much feedback through the bars as the Honda, for instance.

The Tiger 800 range starts at £8600 and it’s a popular machine, I can see why because it’s very comfortable and the whole range comes well speced. The riding position, seat angle and plushness plus the Showa suspension quality are well matched and while not class-leading from a tech perspective, it does offer value for money with its gadgets and appeal to its target market. The British bike does a fine job at providing everything you’re likely to need in an adventure-tourer and if you’ve not ridden a GS or aren’t willing to part with the extra cash, then I can certainly understand its appeal.

Honda and Triumph go head-to-head on the Welsh roads

After an emergency call to our friends at Off Road Skills School just down the road from our test location to help us out with a puncture, we got to finally ride the Honda with meaning. The sweet engine provides a gorgeous, non-Honda, noise even with the standard can, it’s refined and elegant, words rarely used with adventure bikes but in the same sentence the Africa Twin is still feels connected. If the GS uses its electronic suspension to float over the bumps and imperfections, then the Honda gives you a hint they’re there without slamming your discs together or jarring your teeth.

Everything works well, it’s a very cohesive package offering the comfort of a tourer thanks to its tall and narrow seat position, ensuring you’re close enough to the bars to encourage a sprightly ride with plenty of front-end feel. Not only has it comfort on its side but the sweet handling doesn’t go unnoticed; he agility and nimbleness of a commuter make for a comprehensive all-round four-way nod among the road testers.

Beautiful detail on the CRF1000L including its Tricolore colour scheme and gold wheels

The upside forks are the widest on test and have the longest travel and even though the Honda is only a few kg lighter than the BMW (232 v 238) it carries the weight well with the engine sitting low in the frame. Add in its long wheelbase and there is a recipe for stability.

The 94bhp, parallel twin motor designed especially for this bike is versatile with a lovely array of useable power. Cruise around in top gear at 70mph while using just half of its 8000rpm range, all relaxed and smooth, and this will still have enough torque to overtake without changing down. However, its worth flicking down a couple to fee the 270 degree crank pulsing beneath and a raucous belch from the exhaust.

The apparently small standard screen isn’t adjustable but with riders in our group ranging from 5’11” to 6’4” we all agreed that it provided ample protection from the elements and their noises. It also means there are no knobs or sliders blocking any view.

Jon’s argument in favour of the GS over the Africa Twin was based on his road-riding bias. As a man who spends as much time as possible on the black stuff, he found the Honda limited by comparison to the BMW in terms of its tech; he wanted an adjustable screen and integrated heated grips (though they are part of the official accessory range).

Post-puncture Honda Africa Twin. Hustling.

We certainly all agreed with the Honda’s Dakar-esque styling akin to its predecessors as well as the neat touches which the design folk over at Honda HQ in Japan must be praised for; the gold wheels, magnesium engine casing and blue bar ends for example.

The glorious rolling Welsh roads were an idyllic location to ride these adventure-tourers. Plenty of twists, turns, elevations and a variety of hazards culminated in a ‘round table discussion about the merits of each bike at a popular cafe for riders at Crossgates. The final question; which bike do you choose to ride the 160 miles home? You’ll have to watch the video review to find out what we thought.

Ultimately, no two bikes are the same, or in this case four. What Honda have achieved is to provide a different proposition to what is already available and that’s part of the reason why we took a while deciding on what to test it against. Like I said, we could have taken an F800GS or a Tiger Explorer for example but the Honda ticks so many boxes for competency we could have ended up with a fleet of 10 bikes to test it against, it then really boils down to how you ride, where and for what purpose.

The GS is still an awesome, all-action, all-purpose machine which is equally at home, well, everywhere. From city streets to tricky mountain climbs, it takes everything in its stride. The KTM is an ‘almost’ bike; almost as good is so many areas while excelling in mid-range punch, accessibility and off-road heritage while the Triumph has a good deal of bells and whistles while providing a comfortable, easy ride, all in a competent chassis with more of a focus on touring than adventure/off-road riding.

Take elements of each rival and you have an Africa Twin - an all-rounder than feels so good to ride. It’s quick, has great build quality, looks very smart, carries its own heritage with badge and model designation alike, and it offers seemingly exceedingly good value. There’s little wonder Honda took so long to build it up before releasing it, they knew they had an ace card up their sleeve and all of us at Bike Social are more than happy to endorse it. 

We’ll be spending a fair amount of time on a DCT version of the Africa Twin this year so stay tuned for updates along the way. If there’s anything specific you’d like to see us do with the bike, or places you’d like to see us visit then get in touch.

Africa Twin aka Honda CRF1000L All-conquering, all-action, BMW R1200GS With adventure in its soul, the KTM 1050 Adventure At home on the roads, the rider-friendly Triumph Tiger 800 XRt


Bike Social reader, Dylan Jones, has covered 12,000 miles on his 2013 Tiger 800 XC and has ridden an Africa Twin with the DCT gearbox. Here are his views:

Bike Social reader, Dylan Jones“I’ve ridden the Honda on rough country lanes and farm track as well as on road. The DCT needs learning as it is in too high a gear going into some corners and runs on a bit but that's easily overridden by using the paddles and it doesn't upset the chassis braking and shifting at the same time.

Manual mode is just like a car PDK/DCT box, drive quickly gets into 6th masking the acceleration a bit but for 94bhp it will hustle back lanes very well. Sport as normal hangs onto gears a bit longer and shifts down earlier. The chassis balance is superb really does feel like a big CRF450 even at 6ft 4in standing on the pegs feels natural.

The Tiger has the best engine at mid to top end, but the low range punch of the Africa Twin and immaculate fuelling trumps it in low speed nadgery stuff. 

The 800XC has poor range and compromised ergonomics and is a top heavy handful off-road when the tank is full. I would say the Africa Twin is the bike KTM's 1050 should have been.”



Honda Africa Twin

BMW R1200 GS

KTM 1050 Adventure

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt


998cc, Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve Parallel Twin with 270° crank and uni-cam.

1170cc, Air/liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder 4- stroke boxer

1050cc, Liquid-cooled, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, 75° V arrangement

800cc, Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder

Max Power

94 bhp @ 7500 rpm

125 bhp @ 7750 rpm

94 bhp @ 6200 rpm

94 bhp @ 9250 rpm

Max Torque

72 ft-lb @ 6000 rpm

92 ft-lb @ 6500 rpm

79 ft-lb

58 ft-lbs @ 7850 rpm



Steel semi-double cradle type with high-tensile strength steel rear subframe

Two-section frame, front- and bolted on rear frame, load-bearing engine 

Tubular space frame made from chrome molybdenum steel, powder-coated

Tubular steel trellisframe with Twin­sided, cast 

aluminium alloy swingarm



Front: Showa 45mm cartridge-type inverted telescopic fork, adjustable, 230mm stroke, 204mm travel


Rear: Monoblock cast aluminium swing arm with Pro-Link with gas-charged damper, adjustable, 220 mm travel, 94 mm stroke

Front: BMW Motorrad Telelever: with hydraulic steering damper, stanchion diameter 37mm. 190mm travel


Rear: BMW Motorrad EVO Paralever: adjustable. 200mm travel

Front: WP Suspension Upside Down, 185mm travel


Rear: WP Suspension monoshock, 190mm travel

Front: Showa 43 mm upside down forks, 180 mm travel


Rear: Showa monoshock with hydraulically adjustable preload, 170 mm rear wheel travel


Front: 2 x 310mm wave floating hydraulic disc with aluminium hub and radial fit 4-piston calipers


Rear: 256mm wave hydraulic disc with 1-piston caliper


Switchable ABS. 

Front: 2 x 305mm disc with four-piston radial brake calipers, diameter 305 mm


Rear: 276mm single brake disc

Front: 2 x 320mm discs. Brembo radially mounted four-piston brake calipers.


Rear: 267mm diameter discs. Brembo fixed mounted two-piston brake calipers.

Front: Twin 308 mm floating discs, Nissin 2-piston sliding calipers, Switchable ABS


Rear: Single 255 mm disc, Nissin single piston sliding caliper, Switchable ABS

Tyres / Wheels

Front: 90/90 x 21 Dunlop Trailmax tyres, with wire wheels

Rear: 150/70 x 18 Dunlop Trailmax tyres with wire wheels

Front: Cast aluminium. 3,00 x 19", 120/70 R19

Rear: Cast aluminium. 4,50 x 17", 170/60 R 17

Front: Metzeler Tourance, 110/80 R19 M/C 59

Rear: Metzeler Tourance, 150/70 R17 M/C 69V

Front: Cast aluminium alloy 10-spoke 19 x 2.5", 100/90-19

Rear: Cast aluminium alloy 10-spoke 17 x 4.25". 150/70 R17








Length: 2335mm

Width: 875mm

Height: 1475mm

L: 2210mm

W: 953mm

H: 1450mm

KTM do not provide these figures

L: 2215mm

W: 795mm

H: 1350mm

Seat height

870mm / 850mm

850mm / 870mm


810mm / 830mm

Weight (wet)





Fuel tank

18.8 litres

20 litres

23 litres

19 litres

PRICE from


£12,185 (model tested TE Alpine £14,640)



An idyllic setting for an important group testAwesome foursome - Honda, BMW, KTM and TriumphAwesome foursome - Honda, BMW, KTM and Triumph


Michael Mann

Helmet: BMW GS One World, £450. Fitted with BMW Communication System, £325 

Suit: BMW Street Guard

Gloves: BMW Two in One

Boots: S-Speed by TCX

Click here for BMW's online store 

Marc Potter

Helmet: Shoei X-Spirit II

Suit: AlpineStars Calama Drystar Suit

Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro

Boots: Alpinestars Monofuse


Here’s the full transcript of our round table conversation which can be seen in the video:

Marc Potter: So we’re here in Wales, we’ve been riding for two days with this bunch here on some of the greatest adventure bikes yet built. We’ve got the new Honda Africa Twin. We’ve got the Triumph Tiger 800 XRt, we’ve got the KTM Adventure 1050 and of course, the King of them all, the BMW R1200 GS. So first of all, the Africa Twin is the bike we’ve been waiting for to do this test, what do we think about that?


Michael Mann: I love it, I think it’s terrific. It’s a great all around package. The engine’s really strong, it’s very sensitive the throttle as well, it makes it a real joy to ride on the roads. I’m a big fan already.

Phil West: Don’t you think it’s a bit bland?

MM: Not at all, no. I was kind of expecting that but actually having ridden it for all the time we have…

MP: …look, the Honda can be a bit bland but it just works, everything works really well. I really like it.

PW: It’s really sort of integrated, really cohesive as a whole bike.

Jon Urry: I like the neat little touches on it. It sounds a bit silly but the blue bar ends, the gold bar, I quite like the fact that they’ve really thought about it, the engine casing in a magnesium colour. It’s nice touches…

MP: And the gold nods to old Africa Twin as well which I really like.

JU: The engine sound, the exhaust note is not Honda. That is really surprising, proper rawty – love it!

MM: There are elements of that bike that perhaps we don’t necessarily look at instantly like the riding position and elements like wind protection, that we take for granted and which really work.

JU: It’s got an off-road focus and I’m more of a road rider. I have no interest in going off-road so there are little things I’d like to see as a road rider like integrated heated grips, it doesn’t have that which is a real shame. And I kind of want the screen to be adjustable as well. There are things as a road rider I want on it but its focused more towards the off-road it seems.

PW: Are you going to buy this bike and go to the desert or do you just want to look good?

MP: Or are you going to ride to Skegness on that kind of adventure?!

JU: I’m the Skeggy rider which is why I kind of like the GS.


JU: It’s heavier and it’s more expensive but it’s got all the bits I want for road use. The extra bit of weight helps it feel more secure. It feels like a road bike, it corners like a road bike. It hasn’t got the feeling you get on the 19” front wheels, they’re a bit skinny and they haven’t got quite the security but the semi-active suspension makes a massive difference. You’ve got variable fuel modes, all these things on a GS that makes it such a good, practical bike. Massive tank range, extra grunt, two-up, loads of grunt.

MP: 14 or so grand in that spec we’ve got compared to 10k-ish of the Honda, 4k is a lot of money in anyone’s wallet.

JU: That is a lot of money.

MP: The BM is the King of all of them, I’ve run plenty of them as long-termers in the past and I absolutely love them but for me, it’s beginning to feel a little old, clunky and heavy so there must be another one coming soon. I still absolutely adore it, you can’t go wrong with it.

JU: It’s a known quantity. You get on it and you go ‘I know what I’ve got here, it’s a GS, let’s just go’.

MM: It’s got that premium feel.

MP: What do you think, Phil?

PW: Even though the BMW costs extra, everything is done so well, they just work. They’re intuitive, they do what you want, where you want. The ESA’s brilliant.


You could say the Tiger’s got a lot of those things but they don’t work as well. The switchgear isn’t as intuitive; the heated grips you can’t tell if they’re on or off.

(On board) The Triumph is actually an interesting proposition, it’s sort of the ¾ size adventure size of this bunch, a little bit smaller all around, about 15% smaller and that makes it easier to get on with. A bit more nimble, generally speaking it handles better, it’s sharper, a bit more of street bike. The chassis on the whole is pretty good too, it looks good and it’s good value really. You get loads of GS-style tools on it too.

(Table) The base bike is brilliant, the engine’s lovely, the chassis is lovely but they’ve just added bits to it without blending it well enough.

(On board) For me and for some of the guys on this test there are quite a few niggles. It’s not really an off-road bike either, the Honda will surely destroy it off-road.

MP: I’m a big fan of the Tiger, I’ve even told my Dad to go and buy one but they’re starting to feel a bit old in this class even though it was only updated last year. Even though it’s an 800 and the others are 1000 or 1200cc it can run in this class, I’m sure they’re looking at the next generation.


JU: You guys aren’t a fan of the KTM, are you?

MM: I have one word; uncomfortable. As strong as that engine might be, I can’t go far on it without wanting to get off again.

PW: I’m a bit hot and cold with the KTM. This is the sports bike of the bunch for me because of that punchy engine and it has arguably the sharper handling than some of them. It’s very tight, very pure and very minimal but you also question is it lacking stuff. Even though it’s the same sort price as the Africa Twin it doesn’t seem as finished, as posh, as many nice bits.

MP: And in some ways it’s the closest rival to the Africa Twin, it is in terms of price and power but for me it feels like it’s not quite finished. It vibrates a bit like a road drill and when you rev it you think oh this is nice mid-range but then you hit the rev limiter at 8,500 or so. The seat’s uncomfortable and the suspension felt a bit soft for me.

JU: Weirdly I kind of liked its handling. It’s a slightly different prospect to the other ones. The front end I preferred on the KTM because of that different width tyre. Talking about the road riding side of things, I definitely prefer the feel especially to the front end of the Triumph whose front end didn’t feel right at all. Only when I got off the Africa Twin and got on the KTM and then I noticed the seat was really uncomfortable and the pegs seem quite high as well and I’d been really enjoying it until then.

MP: And that’s the great thing of being able to do a group test and jump from one to another.

So we’ve got a 160 mile ride home, what do you ride?

PW: For that ride, the GS any day of the week. I’m really impressed by the Africa Twin but they’re different sorts of bikes. The Africa Twin I’d take to Mogadishu while the GS is a Chelsea Tractor with all its stuff on it. Great.

MM: Same sort of thing. I think for this kind of motorway ride, with the heated grips and cruise control, it’s got to be the GS but actually in the long term, I’d love to have that Africa Twin.

JU: I’m fighting for the GS. I want to be practical and put a bag on the back and if it starts to rain then it’s got to be the GS for the journey home.

MP: So for me, I love the GS, as a motorway bike it’s probably the best one here. In lots of ways it’s the best one here but I can’t get over the fact that even in its basic spec it’s about £1800 more than the Africa Twin so I’m going to take the keys to the Africa Twin.

Which would you choose and why?  or