Honda Africa Twin: models, rivals and verdicts
Honda’s CRF1000L Africa Twin was launched in 2015 and has remained a serious contender in the large-capacity adventure bike market ever since.
- Latest news: 2020 Honda Africa Twin review
A re-imagining of Honda’s earlier chunky-trailie sharing the same name, the bike has received one update in its near four-year lifespan in early 2018 - gaining a raft of improvements, including a larger 24.2-litre fuel tank offering a theoretical range of over 300 miles.
- Early life for the Africa Twin
- The 2015-16 re-birth of the Africa Twin
- The 2018 updated Africa Twin
- 2020 Africa Twin: third time lucky?
- Africa Twin rivals
Both models of Africa Twin have also come with the option of a Honda DCT gearbox, too. This removes the need for a clutch and renders the bike a semi-automatic. Although not to everyone's tastes, the lack of clutch is said to make elements of off-road riding easier, due to no fear of stalling.
Despite now going toe-to-toe with the likes of the new BMW R1250GS and KTM’s rocket-propelled 1290 and 1090 Adventure models, the Africa Twin was actually originally a much smaller capacity machine, with the first road-going bike being the middleweight XRV650 Africa Twin appearing in 1988.
The first bike was based on the Honda NXR750 rally bike, which was developed by Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) in 1984 and went onto win the Paris-Dakar rally from 1986 to 1989.
Sold in the firm’s famous red, white and blue team colours, it was one of the few Honda road bikes allowed to be sold with HRC logos and it remained unchanged until 1993, before gaining a bigger 742cc motor, new frame, bodywork, fuel tank and a lower seat - known as the XRV750 Africa Twin.
Other smaller tweaks throughout its life included a trip computer in 1992 and improvements to the seat and clutch in 1996.
This then remained on sale until 2003 and to this day is revered as one of the best adventure bikes ever made, thanks to its robust nature and sporting pedigree.
Although slightly heavier and with less spec than the earlier 650, it was a reliable workhorse with contemporary styling that still holds its value today. During its 14-year life, Honda also produced an XLV750R, which was a higher-spec machine complete with a shaft-drive, produced to compete at the Dakar Rally.
Honda have offered many adventure models since the demise of the XRV750, including the V4-powered VFR1200-derived Crosstourer and VFR800X Crossrunner, alongside the smaller CRF250L trail bike and commuter-friendly NC750X, however none have offered the same iconic presence as the Africa Twin - despite being perfectly competent in their selected field.
2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin specs:
- Engine: 998cc parallel twin
- Max power: 94bhp
- Torque: 68.6ft-lb
- Weight: 232kg
- Seat height: 870mm
When the Africa Twin re-appeared at the back end of 2015 ahead of general release in 2016, it was an instant success. Awarded five stars by MCN (the most prestigious award a bike can get, don’t you know) it inspires confidence on the dirt immediately, regardless of your ability or off-road experience.
Compared to its 1200cc 150bhp+ rivals, it’s a less intimidating package that was aided by its physical size, thanks to the parallel-twin motor that’s both low and narrow.
This off-road capability is also helped by the fuel tank, which allows the rider to get their weight forward over the front wheel while putting pressure through the footpegs, needed for steering and grip on rough terrain.
Away from the mud, the Africa Twin also excelled in the touring department - as any premium adventure machine should. On board, it feels lightweight and is seriously frugal -making it one of the most impressive true adventure bikes you can buy.
2018 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin specs:
- Engine: 998cc Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve Parallel Twin with 270° crank and uni-cam
- Max power: 93.9bhp
- Torque: 72ft-lb
- Weight: 232kg
- Seat height: 870mm
- MPG: 76.5
Now available as both the standard Africa Twin and an Adventure Sports model, the changes at the start of 2018 marked the first major tweaks to the bike since its re-birth. Despite serious sales success in the first variation, the bike underwent alterations in an attempt to keep up with the competition.
This included an increased fuel capacity from 18.8l to 24.2l for the Adventure Sports, giving the bike more presence due to its extra width. It also increases the tank range to a theoretical 300+ miles - placing it firmly among the adventure bike class’s grand tourers.
Despite such impressive long-distance manners and impeccable fuelling and throttle connection, the bike’s 94bhp motor fails to truly inspire. Lacking the bottom-end and mid-range engagement of the 125bhp BMW R1200GS boxer twin (which has since been bumped to a 1250), it also didn’t have anything close to the top end rush from KTM’s ballistic 150bhp 1190 Adventure.
However, that’s not to say it’s a slow bike - far from it! There is a decent torque figure of 68.6ftlb and a confidence-inspiring throttle-to-rear tyre connection means that it’s easy to access every bit of the power on offer.
We've now had a chance to test the 2020 Honda Africa Twin at the press launch, and it's better than ever before.
Get full details in our 2020 Honda Africa Twin review.
During such a long life span, it is unsuprising to note that the Africa Twin name has fanced a raft of stiff opposition.
The obvious comparison is the all-conquering BMW GS range, but there have also been the Ducati Multistrada, Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere, Triumph Tiger, KTM Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom, Kawasaki Versys, Honda Transalp and Aprilia Caponord variants.