MCN Fleet: Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sport
On route to the TET - let the adventure begin
Twelve months ago I met a guy who was on his way back from riding in Spain. He was on a fully loaded CCM GP450 and he informed me he’d been riding off-road through the mountains for the last ten days.
“How do you know where to go?” I asked. And he went on to tell me about the Trans Euro Trail (TET) – a 38,000km, community inspired off-road route across 30 countries in Europe.
To say I was interested was an understatement. I picked his brains for the next 30 minutes and pretty much decided there and then that it was a trip I had to do.
It’s taken a fair bit of planning but now my time has come – it’s happening.
Bike choice is a difficult one, the ethos of the TET is to explore on lightweight trail or enduro bikes but there are plenty of people riding big adventure bikes so it seemed logical to take my long term test bike the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sport. I’m being accompanied by my brother who is also a photographer and he’ll be on the highly capable KTM Adventure 1090R.
Although I’ve done a lot of reading and followed the adventures of riders via the TET Facebook page, I don’t really know what to expect. We’ve fitted both bikes with Garmin Montana satnavs which have the route loaded, but I honestly don’t know if we’ll be covering 50 miles a day or 300 as it’s all off-road. What I do know is that it promises to be an adventure.
Our plan is to wild camp where possible or stay in campsites as I’m sure an occasional shower won’t go a miss. We’ve got enough food to last a couple of days so we won’t starve, at least in the short term.
Both bikes have been fitted with Mitas E09 tyres courtesy of Matt Wilkinson at the Bike Tyre Store. They are about as nobly as you can get for a heavyweight adventure bike and although I haven’t used them in anger myself, I’ve only heard good things about their performance.
Also a big thanks to Kreiga and SW Motech for the luggage, MSR, Thermarest and Berghaus for the camping equipment plus Alpinestars and Arai for the riding kit.
We leave today on the Brittany Ferries crossing from Portsmouth to Santander (which means we’ll keep our nobblies fresh) and from there within two hours we’ll be riding off-road!
More updates to follow…..
It’s a great feeling when you pick up your bike after it’s had its first service and you can finally let rip and the Africa Twin doesn’t disappoint. While it’s not a particularly fast bike, it’s linear engine character and immaculate throttle connection, thanks to the new ride by wire electronics, means you can make impressively brisk progress in real world conditions. With a claimed 94bhp and 73ft/lb torque you get to use everything it has to offer on a regular basis, instead of having an excess of power that you rarely get to use.
I’ve tried to live with the tall standard screen but it was becoming increasingly annoying. While it gave good wind protection I was forced to run the bike in the higher seat position to enable me to look over and not through the screen. Not a problem once moving, but at 5’9” tall I was on tip toes when stationary, which was a feeling I didn’t enjoy on such a heavy bike. I’ve now fitted a smaller screen from the standard Africa Twin which means I can run the seat in the lower position, put my feet firmly on the ground and comfortably look over the screen. Wind protection has been compromised, but not severely.
All in all this is a good solution, but it’s a solution to a problem that wouldn’t exist if the bike had an adjustable screen, just like the vast majority of its rivals.
Even with its off-road focussed 21” front and 18” rear wheels there are an ever increasing selection of tyres available. The OE Dunlop Trailmax felt uninspiring and wooden. New Metzeler Karroo Streets have made the Africa Twin come alive. Lots of feel, some slight movement from the blocky tread design, but ultimately plenty of grip.
With a clear off-road focus and the new tyres fitted I finally got to ride it on the dirt. Despite weighing in at 243kg it’s incredibly well balanced, with a neutral riding position when stood up. The power delivery, which can be softened for off-road and the seven stage traction control make it easy to ride and very manageable. The ABS on the rear wheel is easily de-activated by simply holding down a single button. The front ABS works ok if your gentle, but becomes overly intrusive the moment you start to ride hard and want to slow down on any loose surface.
I’ve only changed two things on the Africa Twin – screen and tyres but what a difference it has made. Being able to touch the ground comfortably is key on a bike this size, especially off road. The smaller screen has also made the bike feel more compact and manageable making it so much better bike for a rider my size. The 5000 miles completed so far have been both easy and enjoyable. It’s a solid, niggle free bike and I’m expecting the next 5000 miles to be as equally rewarding.
Just over 4000 miles into life with the Africa Twin and it’s ticking plenty of boxes. First of all the looks, which in my opinion have been nailed by designers in Honda Japan. The combination of the tricolour paintwork and the gold wheels pay homage to the original ground breaking Africa Twin and the logo on the tank celebrating the AT’s 30 year anniversary is a nice touch. Adventure bikes aren’t exactly the best looking genre of motorcycles on the market but this has to be arguably the best looking. With the crash bars, additional fog lights and tall screen it certainly looks the part and has good on-road presence.
The ride is impressively plush thanks to the compliant, but soft suspension, comfortable seat and wide bars. It’s a nice place to be no matter if you’re on it for a few minutes or spending hours in the saddle. My biggest mileage day so far has been a 420 mile round trip to Oulton Park. Admittedly I did the majority of the trip on motorways but when I finally got home, I felt fresh enough to go out on my trials bike, which is testament to the Honda’s credentials as a long distance traveller.
The engine, while not especially powerful performs well, but it does need to be revved. The preconception for a 1000cc twin would be that it will have plenty of torque meaning minimal gear changes and impressive top gear roll ons. Unfortunately this is not the case with at least 5000 rpm needing to be showing on the digital rev counter for any brisk acceleration. The issue is that 5,000 RPM in top gear equates to 80mph meaning that if you’re riding at 60mph and want to make a quick overtake one or even two down changes are needed. On the flip side, if you keep the motor buzzing at over 5,000rpm it not only sounds great, it delivers strong acceleration with spot on throttle connection from the new for 2018 ride by wire throttle system
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