Secrets of the new Africa Twin
Still a year away from production, we unearth Honda’s technical plans for the new Africa Twin.
Honda’s all-new Africa Twin adventure bike will be shown in finished form in under a year and will be on sale as a 2016 model, MCN has discovered.
Officially Honda are still sticking to the company line that the ‘True Adventure’ bike shown at the NEC is still nothing more than a concept, and the firm gave no official update about the project, no hint of technical specification, and won’t even confirm that this actually is the new Africa Twin.
The mud-splattered bike first appeared at the Milan motorcycle show in November, and Honda insiders told MCN the bike wasn’t just dressed up for the show, it had actually been part of Honda’s development process and was a working test mule. After being tidied up and stripped of sensors and other testing equipment, it was crated up and sent to Europe for the Milan show, and then Motorcycle Live in Birmingham.
MCN has spoken to the boss of Honda’s Research and Development arm about the bike, and as well as unearthing a whole load of patent information, we have been able to build the most complete picture and technical overview of the bike to date. One thing for certain is that the bike is running late; at least a year behind schedule according to Honda insiders, simply because the firm has so much new bike development work, meaning some bikes have just had to wait.
MCN has previously revealed the bike will be powered by a 1000cc parallel-twin engine and that it was going to be housed in a bike that’s aimed at being more than capable of some proper off-road riding. It is believed that the new machine will have the option for the Honda Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), as fitted to the show bike, along with some advanced electronics developed with off-road riding in mind, which will include traction control and ABS, both of which can be switched off when the rider chooses.
Honda’s Head of New Bike
Development Shinji Aoyama told MCN:
"We have never called this Africa Twin! This is the True Adventure concept (laughs). For sure we will not launch this year but we can expect this bike next season; next season means 2016."
"As you may imagine from the total sales of the adventure bikes around the world, the volume of our sales in this sector are a little less than our expectations so we have been wondering what to do next. Looking at the overall market situation we decided that we have to go there."
"We see this bike as half and half between off-road and on-road. We will be asking lots of people between now and the production of this bike about what they think we should do."
"To make a street legal bike today is pretty difficult to make it look real off-road and still be able to meet homologation regulations. This causes some big problems as it will not meet homologation and this is something that can be caused just by off-road tyres."
In spite of this, we can still expect the final production version of the bike to be heavily influenced by rally style.
MCN’s source close to the Japanese firm previously told MCN:
"This is an all-new bike and the idea is to bring out a bike that combines the newest technology, link it to the Dakar Rally bike but all the while keeping an eye on what the Africa Twin means for Honda and the history of that bike."
Inspired By Motocross
Honda’s ambition is to make the new Africa Twin truly usable as an off-road machine, despite its relatively large engine. And that means making it as compact and light as possible. The parallel twin layout helps, making packaging much easier than a V-twin since there’s no rear cylinder to get in the way of things like the rear shock placement, while also helping to reduce costs – halving the number of cylinder heads and cams all adds up.
But the firm has gone further than that. One innovation is the bike’s patented airbox, whichis split into two parts,one mounted each side of the head stock.That frees up space for the fuel tank where a conventional airbox would be fitted. The result is that the AfricaTwin is slim and able to use a motocross-style seat running right up the tank. The bike’s twin radiators sit just below the airbox halves, allowing more front wheel travel while also keeping them safe from flying stones thrown up by the front tyre.
While Honda are remaining tight-lipped about the Africa Twin’s technical details, they’ve filed several patents for the new 1000cc parallel twin engine that will power it – giving an insight into several of its key design elements.The overall parallel-twin layout is in keeping with the firm’s existing CB500 and NC750 models and shares certain design elements from each of them.
The overall shape is fairly conventional, like that of the CB500 motor, rather than adopting the space-saving, near horizontal cylinder layout of the NC range, and like the CB500 the Africa Twin gets double overhead cams instead of the NC’s single cam. But where the CB500 uses a 180-degree firing interval, the new motor has a 270-degree crankshaft – as does theNC750 – to replicate the power delivery of a 90° V-twin.
The patents also show twin balancer shafts instead of the CB500’s single balancer. The NC range actually switched from single to twin balancer shafts when capacity was upped from 670cc to 745cc for the 2014 models.While every patent relating to the Africa Twin is very clear about the twin balancer layout, the prototype ‘TrueAdventure’ shown this year appeared to be missing the second shaft, mounted low down at the front of the engine. It also lacks another specifically patented element – an internal water bypass channel between the cylinderhead and the water pump – in favour of an external version. These differences could simply be a reflection of the True Adventure’s prototype status.
While performance will largely depend on Honda’s decisions about the engine’s bore and stroke, it’s likely to make something in the region of 110bhp. Torque will be in the region o f75ftlb. Although the True Adventure concept featured Honda’s twin-clutch‘DCT’ gearbox, the patents also showthe production version will be available with a conventional, single-clutch, six speed unit.
It’s highly likely that multiple models will eventually be created using many of the same components. We can expect to see the new 1000cc twin appearing in simple naked roadsters, to the off-road-spec Africa Twin, with everything from full-dressed tourers and sportsbikes in between.
The Previous Model
"One of the first Japanese monster trail / desert rally bikes and remains one of the best"
Whilst anticipation for the new model grows the existing XRV750 is becoming harder to find on the open market and with prices averaging out at around £4000, demand is growing for this modern 'classic'.
Honda XRV750 (1989-2003):
- Power: 61bhp
- Torque: 46ftlb
- Engine: 6v V-twin, 5 gears
- Weight: 202kg
- Fuel capacity: 23 litres
- Seat height: 860mm
- Suspension: Preload, compression
- Front brakes: Twin 276mm discs
- Rear brake: 256mm disc
Current guide price on MCN Bikes for Sale: £4,250
25 years old from Hull
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45 years old from Edinburgh
* Quotes taken from MCNcompare.com. . Comprehensive quote based on no claims or convictions. Guide price only and individual circumstances will affect final quote.