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Honda Africa Twin 'little brother' on the way

Published: 05 December 2017

The Honda Africa Twin is a well-balanced adventure bike that’s perfect for two-up travelling and the new Adventure Sports model has opened it up to even more hardcore endeavours.

It does have its drawbacks, however: it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s too powerful for riders with A2 licences and it’s also expensive. All of this is off-putting for younger riders and Honda know this, which is why they’re looking at something new.

If you want to ride an on-road/off-road Honda that’s A2-friendly you can choose from the CRF250L (and Rally), CB500X, NC750X, and NC800X but none of them are really an Africa Twin alternative. Honda have spotted this gap and intend to fill it.

“When we speak about pure adventure, we don’t have such a wide line up, says Kenji Morita, Large Project Large for the Africa Twin.

“And yes, we are thinking of putting a half-way model in to attract younger people. We will develop this bike, but it’s not something we are working on right now.”

Interesting, so what could Honda offer? The obvious engine choice for Honda would be the 750cc parallel twin from the NC750X (and X-ADV) as it’s an existing model with the right sort of power and it keeps Honda’s DCT dreams alive. However it’s unlikely Honda will increase the capacity on the standard model, which would place them very close together, so it’s possible Honda will create a new 650cc twin like the very first XRV650 Africa Twin.

A new 750cc adventure bike would put Honda right in the middle of the emerging middleweight adventure bike segment that includes the BMW F850GS and Tiger 800s but will soon include the Yamaha Ténéré 700 as well as the KTM 790 Adventure. Although the smaller Africa Twin will likely be down on power compared to the other four, it will be easier to ride and better suited to people new to the sport. This could be a shrewd move for Honda, as they’ll be keen to move the big bike out of the firing line of the new KTM 790 Adventure, with the CEO of KTM having expressly targeted the Africa Twin.

Although Honda say they’re not working on the smaller-capacity bike right now, we don’t think they’ll want to be left behind once all the new middleweights are out.

The next Tokyo Motor Show (where Japanese brands unveil their important new bikes) is in October 2019. The new Euro5 emissions targets also come into force in 2020, making it prime time for revealing new models, so we think this is as likely a date as any.

And what about the big Africa Twin?

With a new smaller bike on the horizon, we’d expect a jump in capacity, perhaps to 1200cc and a big boost in horsepower to bring it level will the likes of BMW, KTM and Triumph but Honda say that’s not their intention.

“In terms of pure horsepower, then yes some of our competitors have more, but for us this is not what we have in mind,” adds Morita. “Our intention is to have the right amount of horsepower that customers actually use when in real riding situations. If we just want to increase horsepower it’s easy but when you do that, you lose something – the bike gets heavier, it vibrates more, it’s hotter and you lose the balance we are looking for. We experimented with power delivery at different rpm ranges and the best happened to be 100hp.”

Honda are also odd in that there is just one Africa Twin and it has a 21in front wheel, which limits its on-road performance. Might we see something more road focused? Morita isn’t so sure: “Let’s say we were going to make an S-model with a 19in front wheel, we wouldn’t call it an Africa Twin.”

So what can we expect from the Africa Twin in a few years’ time? Technical enhancements – TFT screens are available on most of the latest adventure bikes as well as Bluetooth and USB connectivity for phones, but the Africa Twin is strangely lacking. For now...

“Yes, bikes are gaining more and more technology all the time. We’re evaluating putting these devices in the next round of Africa Twin development.”

We expect Honda to add a full-colour TFT dash (with associated connectivity) to the Africa Twin’s options list at the next update, which we assume will also come in late 2019.

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