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Honda Africa Twin Review: BikeWale Off-Road Day 2019

18 November 2019, 06:26 PM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin front three quarters

As far as legendary adventure motorcycles go, the Honda Africa Twin sits alongside the BMW GS series. But, when it comes to off-roading, well the Twin is in a league of its own. 

And this latest one, powered by a near 1000cc parallel-twin engine that sends power to the rear wheel via a dual-clutch automatic, has set a new benchmark as well. It is tall. And on paper, it weighs over 200kg. But start riding it, and it feels so light and so agile, one would be hard-pressed to say it weighs almost a quarter of a ton. However, not everything was rosy when we put it through our Off-Road Day tests...

Test 1: The Walk

Score: 22/30

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

Walking the bike comes in handy in situations when you can’t just lay down the power while sitting on the bike; say on an extremely slippery grassy slope for instance. It also helps give the rider an idea about the motorcycle’s weight distribution and how easy it is to modulate its throttle. 

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action
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Honda Africa Twin [2018-2019]

Honda Africa Twin [2018-2019]

  • Displacement999.11 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)86.04 bhp
  • Kerb Weight245 kg
  • ;

Last known Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 13,50,000

Now, we didn’t have a slippery slope, but we did have to walk the bike through a very tight slalom. And given the Africa Twin doesn’t have a clutch lever to modulate (it being an automatic and all), it was the only motorcycle in the bunch where we had to use the throttle to negotiate the cones. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t smooth. 

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

We had to constantly roll on and off the throttle to keep the bike at walking pace. And that made it difficult to run a tight line through the slalom without actually stopping. But there was a positive - the weight balance on the Africa Twin is spot on. Plus, its footpegs don’t get in the way of walking. And that meant we didn’t have to use a lot of arm strength to keep it balanced. 

Test 2: The Braking

Score: 25/30

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

The braking test might have only been a 60-0kmph one, but on dirt, that’s aplenty. Imagine when riding a fast trail, you spot a gap in the road that’s too big to jump. Or, you come across a log that’s too high. Or maybe an elephant decides to show up in your path. You will naturally need to stop. And stop quickly. And preferably, without drama.

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

The Africa Twin does a superb job in this regard. One can also turn off the rear ABS on the bike. But even then, it doesn’t fishtail or get crossed up under severe braking on gravel. Plus, the brake feel and progression is fantastic. And the tyres too, even though these don’t look all that aggressive, grip and bite into gravel with potency.

Test 3: The Slow Slalom

Score: 25/30

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

The Africa Twin looks all tall and intimidating from far. And it looks just the same when you get close. But, once you swing a leg over and get going, you realise how easy this thing is to ride. And you don’t need to be six foot something with a protein shake addiction to manage it either. 

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

Not surprisingly, it was the motorcycle that garnered the most points through the Slow Slalom test. We didn’t even have to move our bodies around to compensate for the weight when going around the cones. We just stood straight up, looked at the cone we wanted to get around, and got around it. Yes, it was that simple with the Africa Twin.

Test 4: The Log Hop

Score: 23/30

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

The thing with adventure motorcycles with big wheels and long-travel suspension - aka Africa Twin - is that they take away from the drama of negotiating obstacles. Take the log hop for instance. The Africa Twin simply rode over the log as if it were an inconvenient speed-breaker and nothing more. For the other motorcycles in the test however, we literally had to pop the clutch and yank up their handlebars to be able to jump the log to get past.

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

But yes, if it were a thicker log, things wouldn’t have been this easy for the Africa Twin. For one, there’s no clutch. So, one can’t ‘pop it’ to bring the front wheel up to hit the obstacle at a more manageable angle. And that also means there’s a lot of trial and error involved to find the right distance from the log to open the throttle aggressively to actually get the Africa Twin’s front end up. Plus, when you get to an even thicker log, well, the whole trial and error method must be repeated.

Test 5: The Cornering

Score: 23/30

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

With more power comes more responsibility. And on a large capacity, powerful adventure motorcycle, the lack of responsibility - particularly with the throttle - could mean a highside so mean, you might end up nursing broken bones for months on end. That’s why I prefer to keep the traction control on such ADVs especially when riding on dirt. 

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

Not so with the Africa Twin, however. Well, it’s not really as powerful as near litre-class ADV motorcycles, to begin with. But, its throttle response is also linear, predictable and friendly. So, instead of snapping at you and throwing you over the bars every time you decide to use the throttle liberally, it gently pulls you along. It pulls you into using more power at steeper lean angles so that you can sport some heroic slides! 

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin Action

Okay, so you might not be able to lean this Honda as far and as quickly as a proper dirt bike. But, the Africa Twin is still no slouch around corners, especially on the loose stuff. Around fast corners on a trail, you can carry smile-inducing speeds without scaring yourself. And you don’t even have to be a proficient off-road rider to do it. Now, even though it might not carry great speeds around tighter corners, but the exits - with the rear sliding and kicking up dust - can be quite spectacular!

Conclusion

Overall Score: 116/150

Ranking: 1/6

Honda Africa Twin [2019] Honda Africa Twin profile

The Honda Africa Twin finishes the Off-Road Day at the top of the class. But, that’s not really a surprise. It has the right hardware. It is engineered to work on the loose and challenging terrain. And, it doesn’t require a degree in ‘Off-Road Master Class’ to ride it, and ride it a week on dirt.

What’s more, apart from the ‘The Walk’, we found the Honda to be great at all other tests. The automatic transmission never got in the way, nor did its tall stance. And the fact that it was so easy to ride, makes you forget how heavy and big this bike really is. 

So yes, if it’s a big ADV you want, we wholeheartedly recommend the Africa Twin.

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