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Review: Honda Africa Twin

Driven July 2017

Review: Honda Africa Twin

This is easily the single most awaited large capacity motorcycle of my life. There is a certain aura and legend that it has to live up to and it clearly has the sort of heritage that few can compare to. In fact, it wasn’t just us in India that were waiting to see what Honda did with their latest iteration of the Africa Twin, the whole world was watching. And, although most of the world got a taste of it roughly a year earlier, it is better late than never for us in India. Having been announced and bookings being opened earlier this year, in May, Honda has taken some time to get their assembly lines sorted for the Africa Twin. And so it was, on a rainy morning in July, I was handed the keys to one of these motorcycles in the middle of Rajasthan, which resembled the Konkan coast more than a desert.

There is little doubt about the fact that the Africa Twin is possibly one of the nicest looking adventure motorcycles on sale today. It manages to combine a perfect mix of style and aggression along with a classic dual-sport stance. It actually looks smaller than it is, from a distance. As you do approach the motorcycle, you realise that the rider’s saddle that seemed nice and low, isn’t particularly low at all. The combination of a 21-inch front and an 18-inch rear wheel, gold-finished front forks and wave pattern discs adds to the motorcycle’s cool quotient. Not to forget the functional bits like the knuckle guards and the sump guard that come as standard fitment. There, of course, isn’t a gear lever on the ones that are being offered to us in India as Honda has chosen to retail only the DCT version here.


Once astride and on the move after a simple push of the thumb to move the transmission into ‘D’ the Africa Twin feels like an extension of yourself. Rider ergonomics are spot on whether you choose to sit down in the large saddle to find a comfortable spot or stand up to negotiate some rough stuff. There is the odd feeling of trying to reach for a non-existent clutch lever from time to time, but that is more of a reflex than anything else. Standard drive mode is severely geared for efficiency and before you know it the 6-speed transmission has quietly moved through its paces and is sitting in top gear at 60kph. I quickly moved to ‘S’, which allows for three separate shifting patterns moving from S1 to S3. I chose to sit on the fence and set the transmission to S2.

It did a far better job of holding revs in the first couple of gears, especially with the throttle on before settling into a cruise in a higher gear once you reach cruising speeds. However, do a little blip of the throttle and it donwshifts allowing you to play with the throttle like you would in a manual to get past traffic. There is of course, the option of over-riding it completely by switching to ‘M’ and using the ‘+’ shifter with your forefinger and ‘-‘ with your thumb for complete control over the transmission. It is incredibly easy to use, especially through slow moving situation since there is one less thing to worry about along with the added benefit of not stalling at any point of time.


Out on the highway I wasn’t completely sure about how the Africa Twin would feel with its entire off-road focus. It does surprisingly well even here though, thanks to a wonderfully balanced chassis and just enough electronics to make sure everything stays in order even in fairly wet conditions. And then you have the 1000cc, twin-cylinder motor that builds up power evenly before delivering a smack past 6000rpm to shoot you off toward the redline. With 86bhp on tap, the Africa twin isn’t really intimidating and urges you to push on. You can cycle through three levels of traction control with level 3 cutting off power at the slightest hint of trouble. Level 1 allows for some amount of slip though which gives you the chance of pulling off small slides and looking like star without risking too much as it will still nanny the electronics to come in sooner than later to sort things out.

If you choose to be a bit more adventurous, you can always engage manual and a switch that has ‘G mode’ printed on it to tell the motorcycle that it is off-road and should allow for slightly more sideways movements. I had limited time with the motorcycle off-road and was happy with the way it responded. However, there were plenty of large rocks around to make me want to back off well within the motorcycle’s limits. More time with it in slightly more forgiving terrain should be interesting though.

It has been a pleasant surprise, the DCT ‘box, it is a leap forward from what was fitted to the VFR years ago and is far more intuitive now. I am sure there will still be some who would prefer a proper manual, but that is more a matter habit than anything else. The ABS, which can be turned off, isn’t too intrusive and you can choose how much interference you would like from the traction control system too without having to make too many adjustments. It feels fairly simple to use and although it isn’t too powerful at 86bhp, or as inspiring around corners on the tarmac as some others, it is wonderfully balanced and easy to use. There is enough power for any situation that you can imagine and more than enough to go off-road.


It is finished well, remains smooth through the rev range and has some focussed accessories to choose from. Fully adjustable suspension soaks up everything you throw at it while being damped well enough for the on-road bits. It is heavier than I had expected though and doesn’t have serrated edges on the front pegs, which a lot of riders found to be too small. But, these aren’t really deal breakers and at roughly 13 lakh (ex-showroom, GST), it makes a rather compelling case for itself.

Verdict: This one isn’t just a legendary name, it is every bit an incredible motorcycle that deserves all the respect that it is shown. Competitive price tag and ease of use sure to work in its favour. Not to forget its off-road ability.

Specifications:
Engine: 999cc, twin-cylinder, liquid cooled
Power: 86bhp@7500rpm
Torque: 91.9Nm@6000rom
Transmission: 6A (DCT)
Max speed: 190kph (claimed)
Fuel tank: 18.8 litres
Kerb weight: 245kg
Seat height: 820-840mm (adjustable)
Tyres: front – 90/90 – R21; rear - 150/70 – R18
Brakes: front – 310mm (double disc); rear - 256mm (single disc)



Debabrata Sarkar

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