Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin Test

Riding the Africa Twin | Day Two

By Trevor Hedge

Yesterday’s first 240km introduction to Honda’s new Africa Twin, which I covered here on Tuesday, was backed up today by day two of our four-day adventure traversing New Zealand’s spectacular South Island.

Today’s 300km ride got underway from Hamner Springs and took us through the Lees Valley to Christchurch. The route today was around 50/50 road and off-road. The long off-road section again featuring a  very loose surface but today was much tigher in nature, with countless tight switchback turns and hairpin bends, complete with sheer drops off the side to keep you on your toes. There was also one reasonably sized river crossing, nothing too extreme, but it was quite rocky and a fair degree of caution needed to be exercised.

I also again chose the DCT machine fitted with the road rubber and full luggage. The dirt section today on the stock rubber was hard work and required full concentration, as any momentary lapse was going to hurt. I did keep it together but must admit that my brain was pretty tired from the concentration required today and I was glad to cruise into Christchurch at the end of the day.

Honda Africa Twin - Image by Trevor Hedge
Honda Africa Twin – Image by Trevor Hedge

Yesterday I concentrated on explaining the merits of the DCT system. I continue to be incredibly impressed, but today did find one particular situation where I would have liked a conventional clutch. This was when turning around on very loose off camber gravel, where obviously the road tyres fitted to the bike had no purchase.

Normally in this situation I would have the clutch take-up at friction point and the driveline loaded up on the rear brake and then controlled the bike with the clutch more than the throttle while riding the rear brake as I made the tight and tricky turn, I missed not being able to do this with the drivetrain not loaded up against the brake, and thus felt a bit uncomfortable and put my feet down as I did the turn, not something I normally would have done in this situation.

But that’s my only complaint, I still think I am going to very much miss the DCT bike when I swap it for a machine with a conventional gearbox, which I will probably do tomorrow, but will certainly look forward to getting on a bike with some off-road rubber! An interesting point of note while we are on the subject of tyres is that the Africa Twin does not run tubeless tyres and, unlike most of the competition, it’s spoked rims are not suitable for a tubeless set-up. The grey and red variants of the bike have black rims while the predominantly white tri-colour scheme of my machine for this past two days has gold rims. 

Honda Africa Twin - Image by Trevor Hedge
Honda Africa Twin – Image by Trevor Hedge

So 500km done and dusted so far on the DCT bike with standard tyres and full complement of Honda hard luggage. I’m tired, must be getting old, but bloody impressed.

The ergonomics of the machine feel great, the mirrors are some of the best in motorcycling, the seat is supportive and nicely shaped.

The pegs look to be too short but I have yet to have a foot slip off a peg, and the rubber inserts are removable. Where my knees bend below the upward curve of the tank there is still plenty of room above my knee, suggesting that riders with long legs are still going to find this bike quite comfortable.

The small windscreen works well enough but does not appear to be adjustable. I have experienced no buffeting thus far and the Honda branded luggage has not been too much of an impost.

Honda Africa Twin - Image by Trevor Hedge
Honda Africa Twin – Image by Trevor Hedge

Braking power and control is proving excellent. The Africa Twin runs large 310mm discs and Nissin radial four-piston calipers mount to the fully adjustable forks. The ABS system is proving unobtrusive and up to the task. Off-road the rear ABS can be disengaged to allow the bike to be drifted into a turn but while the front ABS can’t be disengaged, it has so far proved well mapped enough to not cause me to run on while off-road. Like all ABS systems deep corrugations under braking are not dealt with all that well, but that is the only situation where the ABS can struggle a little.

Honda Africa Twin - Image by Trevor Hedge
Honda Africa Twin – Image by Trevor Hedge

That is unfortunately all I have time for today. Internet coverage may be problematic this evening as we get up around the highest navigable trail in New Zealand’s South Island but I will endeavour to fill you in more about the handing and engine delivery of the Africa Twin as our four-day adventure continues. Day Three Report can now be found here.

Honda Africa Twin - Image by Trevor HedgeHonda Africa Twin - Image by Trevor Hedge
Honda Africa Twin – Image by Trevor Hedge

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