Honda today revealed a web link to register interest in a new adventure model coming in 2020. It's accompanied by a video that doesn't expressly show which bike they're talking about, but uses the tagline 'True Adventure' along with the distinctive font, both used by Honda on the popular Africa Twin adventure bike.
Given what we've heard through rumours from Japan and quotes from conversations with Honda's Large Project Leader for Africa Twin indicating a possible little brother for younger riders, MCN believes this is the first indication we'll see, and ride, a new one in 2020.
Read on for everything we've heard so far on the next Honda Africa Twin...
New Africa Twin to evolve for 2020
First published February 7, 2019, by Richard Newland
Rumours emanating from Japan suggest that Honda are planning a raft of incremental changes for the popular Honda Africa Twin, with a new Euro5 version set to arrive for 2020 boasting a bigger engine, more power, and more tech.
The battle for sales in the adventure bike market has never been more ferocious, while the division lines between rivals are getting increasingly blurred as traditional capacity boundaries evaporate, and the battle for tech-laden supremacy hots up.
While Honda have officially denied that there’s a new model under development – as you would expect them to – the level of detail leaking out of Japan about the changes has a sincere whiff of credibility, and ties in rather neatly with the areas of criticism Honda have faced over the Africa Twin’s skill set.
They also logically address the challenges that all manufacturers are facing with creeping legislative controls over emissions – which is forcing development to keep upping engine capacity to combat the power losses of enforced cleaner combustion.
The current Africa Twin packs 94bhp into its 998cc parallel-twin, which delivers pleasing road performance and more than enough for most off-road forays, but when fully loaded with luggage and/or a pillion its performance suffers a tangible dip.
As the even tighter Euro5 regs arrive, Honda will have to increase capacity to net the same output, while they realistically need to give riders a little more mumbo to add some sparkle to its delivery.
To that end, the rumoured increase to 1080cc, with a 6.7bhp (5kW) resultant boost in power seems entirely believable, both in terms of what’s achievable and Honda’s typically incremental development of existing models. There’s a suggestion that the fuel tank will grow by a litre, to just shy of 20, at the same time.
Whether this is to combat increased fuel consumption, or simply to give riders a little more range than current, is unclear. There’s no hint of how the torque curve will be affected, but there’s likely to be a similar boost at peak torque.
Whether such a small boost will be felt from the rider's seat is debateable, and with no suggestion that the manual gearbox ratios will be fettled we’d suggest it’s unlikely to feel like a revolution when you open the throttle.
DCT makes the changes
There is, however, rumoured to be an update to evolve the clever Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) version. No details have emerged about the nature or goal of the changes, but we would hope Honda are chasing better pick-up from standstill (it’s quite aggressive in stop/start situations), smoother transitions under load, and more intuitive gearchanges that support the rider like a manual gearbox would. For casual touring the current system works well, but ask for more control and it falls short.
Adventure bikes are as much at the cutting edge of tech progress as superbikes, and Honda have been slow to pick up on this with the Africa Twin. This looks set to be rectified with the 2020 model, which will apparently gain keyless ignition – hopefully with a keyless fuel cap, like BMW – and a new full TFT dash tower to replace the outdated, hard to read, and function-light current LCD unit.
To drag the AT into the current battle, it’ll have to boast Bluetooth connectivity for multimedia support, support at least turn-by-turn navigation, and multiple device connections – and a suite of rider modes and aids. Wouldn’t it be great if they simply dragged the Gold Wing’s Apple CarPlay functionality across?
What about the Adventure Sports?
The only specific hint of change for the big-tanked, more off-road-ready Adventure Sports version is the addition of a new rear rack, but we’d obviously expect all of the stock model changes to percolate through to the AS version, not least because Euro5 will demand the powertrain updates, and customers will demand the tech advances.
When can I order a 2020 Honda Africa Twin?
Honda rarely step outside of their routine for favouring the big pre-season EICMA show in Milan as their world unveil for new and revised models, which means we’re unlikely to see anything official until November 2019, with the bike arriving as a 2020 model.
If true, these changes will certainly boost the appeal of the Africa Twin, but it seems unlikely that they’ll materially change the character of this loveable adventure middleweight – and with good deals on the current model only likely to continue, there could be just as much wise money being spent now as in 2020.
Honda Africa Twin 'little brother' on the way
First reported December 5, 2017 by Jordan Gibbons
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 Leader 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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