Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin long term loan update - Out of Africa

Africa Twin Pboro

Our long term Honda Africa Twin gets a full set of clothes and finds itself in unfamiliar territory…or is it?

Production issues over in Japan caused by an horrific earthquake earlier this year stopped the desired amount of CRF1000L Hondas from making their way to excited owners the world over. Had the Kumamoto factory been able to fulfil its demand then the Africa Twin would have beaten its stable mate, the PCX125, as the most popular model of the year.

Ever since Honda released the first batch of official press photographs I’ve been intrigued with how the overall purpose of the model had changed since the original machine during its 80s heyday. The shots were distinctively set in two very different locations; thrashing around rocky passes with riders standing on the pegs as they mastered the tricky landscape…as you’d expect from a bike with ‘Africa Twin’ emblazoned down each side. But it was the second set of photographs that pointed at a more 21st century machine, showing a chap negotiating traffic in a city setting with panniers and a top box.

In all honesty, it’s been the second of those two settings where I’ve spent most of the last couple of months. The versatile Africa Twin has been my day-to-day workhorse, smashing the miles from home to BikeSocial HQ and back everyday with an assortment of gym kit, laptop and lunch split between the three-piece luggage system.

It’s without shame too. In the reality of real world riding it’s more common to find an adventure bike in a city centre than on a mountain pass. Imposing, sturdy and efficient yet torquey, manageable and striking – a combination that surpasses many if not all others as the key combination to being the complete all-rounder.

Does the Africa Twin do everything we’ve asked of it? Absolutely. And in its current guise of being the DCT gearbox version along with pretty much every available official Honda option, with a price tag of £13,786, offers extreme value for money.

In its most basic spec, the DCT option at £11,689 is £840 more than the manual gearbox version. I’d ridden the manual version earlier this year on our adventure bike road test in Wales as well as at the Dave Thorpe off-road centre, and it made me realise just how good this bike is. By riding the DCT bike, it’s like dating the slightly more refined twin sister - a little less boisterous and a bit more grown up!
Luggage, engine bars, fog lights, heated grips and sticking set button
Africa Twin underground

Carving through traffic jams is easier when the panniers are left at home but with it’s height, narrow chassis, light steering and orange indicators that are permanently on, the Africa Twin seems to earn respect from the other vehicles, more so than noisier sports bikes unsurprisingly. I believe the combination of white fairing and those indicators appearing in rear view mirrors can fool drivers into thinking it’s a police bike coming through – if my passage is made easier then I won’t complain.

Riding at average speeds less than 30mph for the commuting section of the journey has at least given me time to find the optimum setting for the DCT gearbox. Leave it ‘D’ for drive and the bike is forever changing up and down the gears as you accelerate and brake. Flick the ‘box into the ‘S2’ setting is ideal and the bike finds itself at home for all types of road riding. The 93.8bhp parallel twin is quick enough off the line and holds the gears long enough to offer the thrill seeker a little buzz. The exhaust note is an excellent accomplice.

It offers the right recipe for the smooth power delivery, quick off the line and not confusing itself around roundabouts and longer corners.

The digital display offers all the information you’d expect in a simple vertical view. It isn’t as glamorous as some but is simple in its operation using the up/down toggle button to navigate and ‘set’ button on the left handlebar. After resetting some 2,500 miles ago, the economy display reads ‘9.8 miles/litre’ which translates to 44.55mpg.

As well as the top box and panniers the engine bars, fog lights, a tall screen are among the accessories that have been retrospectively added to our long term loan bike which make the bike even more imposing on the road. A low seat option is available but was not selected because the centre of gravity makes for relatively easy accessibility and manoeuvrability. Our 169cm (5’ 6.5”) tall photographer hopped on the Honda and while he could only put one foot down, seemed more than comfortable. He does ride an R1200GS regularly and said, “All you need to ride tall bikes is confidence, technique and experience. Combine those three and you’ll be fine.”

As you’d expect with any bike there are a few niggly bits that are worthy of note. Honda are aware of at least one and offer a dealer-fit, quibble free replacement part for the ‘Set’ button on the handlebar which is susceptible to sticking and becoming unusable.

We’ve also found that the left hand mirror gathers water when the bike is on its side stand in the rain or having been washed. Only when you pick the bike up off its stand does it then dribble all over your glove.

Neither the standard nor optional taller screen are adjustable and the bike is crying out for cruise control. Then there’s the power. Some, including me, wouldn’t say no to an extra 30 bhp which would lift the Africa Twin into BMW GS power range, despite the DCT version weighting 4kg more than the base spec Beemer. The extra grunt would make this award-winning motorcycle truly magnificent.

The list of options added to our long term loan Africa Twin are:

Backrest for 35L Top Box


Rear Carrier


35L Top Box


Pannier Kit


Lock to suit 35L Top Box


Wave Key Components (Cylinder Inner Kit)


Main stand


Cowl Guard Kit


Touring Screen


Heated Grips


12V Socket


Sub-harness (Allows dual fitment of 12V Socket & Fog Lights)


Fog Lights Attachment


Front LED Fog Lights


Photos: Mark ‘Weeble’ Manning.

Our man Michael Mann out of Africa