Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L review: Big bike, bigger adventure


  • The easy handling characteristics of that big bike in city traffic was a great surprise
  • The new DCT features multiple modes to suit different situations
  • The new 1000cc parallel-twin serves the purpose well with the impressive amount of torque

The Honda Africa Twin (CRF1000L) was launched a couple of months agoThe Honda Africa Twin (CRF1000L) was launched a couple of months ago

Dual sport or adventure motorcycles are essential part of the evolving Indian superbike market. Now more people are leaning towards these machines which are capable of taking multiple terrains instead of just going mainstream. That’s the reason more bikemakers are taking interest in bringing their multitaskers to the subcontinent.

One of the latest entrants in the market is the Honda Africa Twin (CRF1000L) which was launched a couple of months ago. And we recently got to ride the bikeon good roads, on bad roads and even where there was no road. So, let’s see what the package offers.

A rally bike like design:

Taking roots from the four-time Paris-Dakar rally champion NXR 750 (called the Africa Twin), the new Africa Twin from the CRF family looks close to a modern day rally racing motorcycle.

Bolted on a semi-double cradle frame, the bike seems built for the purpose. The front appears to be aggressive with the dominating twin LED headlamp design which also gets interesting daytime running lights. There is a large windscreen at the top of the fairing to aid with the wind protection, while a taller one is also available as optional extra.

A robust feel comes from its partial bare-boned bottom styling that perfectly gels with the sculpted fuel tank and the half-body fairing. The big 18.8-litre fuel tank looks masculine but has been narrowed from the rear to fit perfectly between the rider’s thighs.

The Honda Africa Twin is a big motorcycle with a kerb weight of 245kg, however, it is easily manageable with a mass-centered design. Thanks to the new parallel-twin engine configuration, most of the heavy components have been placed near the centre of the bike.

The rear gets set-up to mount luggage panniers and a top box (with recommended weight of just 10kg). The tail lamp and the turn indicators are also LED and look decent with the overall styling while completing the adventure feel is the high-mounted dual-port exhaust muffler.

The quality of the materials used is fine, however, the perfect fit and finish is still a step ahead. The hand guards, radiator grills and the engine sump guard have much scope for improvement, while there are more bike protection accessories on offer as optional extras.

Instrument cluster and switchgear:

The instrument cluster has been placed a bit more vertical as compared to the conventional set-ups. It helps to reduce the riders to check the data easily while on-the-go. The full-digital cluster has been segmented in two screens with the upper one featuring the speedo, tacho and the fuel gauge.

The lower screen is multi-functional displaying gear position, time, traction control status, riding mode, elapsed time, average and instantaneous fuel consumption, odo and multi trip meters and engine temperature. There is a host of telltale lights as well to indicate the other warnings and status.

All the operating switches have been placed right and are accessible while riding the bike. However, you need to take the right hand off the accelerator for ABS and ‘G’ switches.

Torquey parallel-twin motor:

The 1,000cc parallel-twin engine of the Africa Twin has been claimed to deliver 88PS of power at 7,500rpm and a peak torque of 91.9Nm at just 6,000rpm. The initial torque of the engine is quite impressive that helps in both fast acceleration and off roading. The bike goes to its top speed (190kmph) quickly and one can easily cruise at three digit speeds on it.

Despite a clear feel of the vibrations at points, the engine feels refined considering its long stroke geometry. The thumping parallel twin further makes a grunty exhaust note that enhances the feel to push it more and take it off the road.

The digital fuel injection works excellent and you get an instant throttle response with the twist of your wrist. The effective amount of torque helps to keep the bike rolling on varying terrain conditions and you won’t see yourself stuck in any situation.

The high mounted air-duct and the muffler provides a high water wanding capacity that is another advantage while going on unexpected off-road trails.

In India, the Africa Twin is available with a six-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) automatic gearbox. The term is quite familiar when it comes to the four-wheelers, while sounds new to the two-wheeler riders. While the feature was available with the VFR1200F sport tourer, the CRF1000L gets a new version of the technology.

While the previous DCT was featuring only one sport (S) mode besides the drive (D) mode, the new one gets 3-sport modes. The upper modes shift gears at relatively higher speeds for an aggressive delivery at the rear wheel, while the lower modes keep it sophisticated for easy city riding.

While the higher S-mode (S-3) helps with more torque at the rear wheel while riding uphill, the same makes descending easily with more engine braking.

Those who want to shift the gears manually have an option of the manual mode as well and the gears can be changes electronically using the buttons on the left switchgear box. One might feel it confusing but anyone can get used to it after spending a few kilometres on it. The best part is the system automatically downshifts when it feels the reducing speed, preventing the engine from stalling out of any confusion.

Moreover, Honda also offers an optional foot-pedal shifter with the bike, so you can opt for a conventional shifting method as well.

There is also a switchable ‘G’ mode that provides half-clutch like operation, increasing the direct response at the rear wheel. The feature proved helpful while ascending a steep road or off-roading.

Riding dynamics, handling and comfort:

The adjustable suspension system of the Africa Twin comes from Showa, comprising of 45mm front inverted telescopic forks and a rear monoshock. The front cartridge type forks are fully adjustable with a range of rebound and compression settings and offer a class-leading travel up to 230mm. The Pro-link rear unit is also adjustable with easily accessible knob and provides a travel of 220mm.

The adjustable characteristics of the set-up allow setting the suspension according to the requirements. On the softer side, it’s plush enough for a satisfying ride experience and excellent off-road handling.

The large seat is well cushioned and shaped to provide a comfortable seating along with enough room to move around. The seat height is adjustable at two positions — 820mm and 840mm — with the help of bike’s key only. Even at the lowest seat height, shorter riders may have to struggle a bit to reach the ground, and it could result in an unsafe condition when such riders if one is prepared to stop the bike.

The on-/off-road type foot pegs are small but are positioned right for easy accessibility. One can easily stand on the pegs while going off-road and the brake lever also gets an anti-slip, zig-zag pattern rear brake lever.

The chassis of the bike is so adaptive that one can ride the bike easily at any speed starting from under-10kmph to over-150kmph. Thanks to the well-designed geometry give excellent handling and manoeuvrability in varying conditions and the increased steering angle further provides reduced turning radius. The speed can be controlled easily as compared to the other big bikes courtesy to the DCT transmission and one won’t feel hectic to ride the bike in traffic.

While most of the litre-class adventure bikes in this price range come with alloy wheels, the Africa Twin offers durable wire-spoke wheels. The bike runs on an 18-inch rear while a bigger 21-inch front wheel, both shod with Dunlop Trailmax dual-sport tyres.

The soft compound and block tread pattern are providing a nice grip on both good and bad roads, while one may lack confidence while cornering at high speeds. Also, the need of more nobby tyres can be felt while going for some serious off-roading. But the condition is same with all the standard adventure motorcycles.

The three mode traction control further helps to maintain the grip and it actually works well on slippery roads and slushy terrains. But don’t worry one can also turn to slide the tyres voluntarily.

As there is no clutch lever on the bike, Honda has placed a parking brake at the same place but not accessible while riding the bike. The reason is to prevent the rider from applying brake mistakenly if one feels a need of disassembling the clutch.

Braking duties are handled well by dual front wave discs which are bitten by Nissin 4-pot radial calipers. The combined unit gives nice feedback, while the rear one with a 2-pot caliper lacks bite a bit. The braking is safe on any surface with dual channel ABS which can be turned off for the rear wheel purposely.

Overall experience:

Honda has bought the Africa Twin in India as CKD (Completely Knocked Down) units and that is the reason it is available at a very competitive price of Rs 13.07 lakh (ex-showroom). The cost increases if one wants to get the bike retrofitted with optional accessories.

While there are some small issues with the fit and finish, it is a fun bike to ride and offers much more than the other ADVs coming in the above-mentioned price range, especially the DCT transmission, reducing the fatigue and making rides more enjoyable. The system also helps to stand on the pegs without much effort while taking it off-road and the feature is not available with any motorcycle in the market as of now.

The engine is quite well refined and you can enjoy riding this bike all day long making it a great companion for your long trips. It can take you to the places you always desired to go even if there is no road and the same bike you can use for your daily commute as well. Isn’t it an interesting package? Of course, it is!