BY JON URRY
When you buy a bike with the heritage of the Africa Twin, it does need to be able to cut the mustard when the going gets muddy. While the stock Africa Twin certainly has off-road potential, the issue when it came to buying a new Africa Twin was that Honda hadn’t homologated any off-road style chunky tyres for it. Thankfully this wrong has been righted with the arrival of the Adventure Sports.
As well as its longer travel suspension, off-road pegs, flat seat and crash protection, the Adventure Sports (and for 2018 the stock Africa Twin) can be specified to come with chunky Continental TKC 80 Twinduro tyres from your Honda dealer should you wish to take it up trails. There is a catch though, as you will have to pay extra for them as, unlike the GS, on or off-road tyres aren’t a cost-free option, but at least you can now get them fitted. However is this a wise thing to do? Armed with these tyres, we took to some fairly muddy lanes at the launch of the Adventure Sports to give it a shot…
As an off-road novice, the thought of a slippery trail and 243kg (not to mention £13,549) of bike isn’t one that sits that well with me, but even in my nervous hands the Sports was far more capable than rivals such as the Tiger 1200. When selecting the ‘gravel’ power mode the throttle’s pickup is slightly more muted, which is reassuring, and you can then tweak the torque control to allow some degree of slide from the rear. The option is there to deactivate it completely while on the move, but in the lower settings (one or two worked best) you can provoke a bit of slide, while the electronics stop it getting too exciting. The parallel twin’s linear power delivery means you can chug slowly through the slower sections and while there is no hiding the bike’s weight, it isn’t that unwieldy or top heavy. However for me the biggest improvement over the stock bike was the off-road riding position.
As a taller rider (6ft 2in), thanks to its higher bars the Africa Twin Adventure Sports is the only adventure bike I can stand up on and not feel like I am lent forward or needing to bend my knees. It feels natural to be stood up on the pegs and that’s a major plus point while the bike’s narrow waist means your legs aren’t splayed wide.
Despite the fact you can disable the ABS on the rear, there is no option to remove it from the front. While some may find this strange, in all honesty the system was so good I never found myself querying Honda’s decision and more experienced off-road riders were also perfectly happy with the ABS activated. As a novice, I found it very reassuring. And the DCT was also surprisingly good.
As on the road, DCT will split opinions in the off-road world. By selecting the ‘G switch’ the DCT’s clutch activates quicker than in normal road mode, giving better control of the rear according to Honda as the power arrives more directly. For me it was more the fact I could focus on the trail ahead thanks to the DCT selecting the correct gear for me that was its major plus point, but overall I’d still rather have manual control of the gears. It’s a good system, just more a matter of personal taste.
So is the Adventure Sports a potential world-beater? For me large capacity adventure bikes work best on trails that are effectively hard-packed gravel with the occasional muddy section, such as the lesser-used roads in Spain and South Africa. In this environment the Sports is certainly more agile than the Triumph Tiger 1200 and less intimidating than the BMW R1200 GS Adventure due to its lighter weight. That said, the GS does have a lovely low centre of gravity thanks to its boxer motor. I’ve not taken the KTM Adventure R off-road, but previous experience tells me that the bikes from Austria are always very good when it comes to off-road. But for me, it doesn’t matter if the Honda is better than the competition, what matters is that this is an Africa Twin with a lovely big tank and comfortable riding position for commuting and also proper off-road capability when it comes to light trails or fire tracks. It also looks bloody awesome in its tricolor paint!
Honda Adventure Centre
Fancy taking an Africa Twin off road for yourself? Run by off-road legend Dave Thorpe within the grounds of Exmoor National Park, Somerset, the Honda Adventure Centre is reopening its doors later this month.
Priced at £499, the two-day course is a great way to develop your riding skills while enjoying some stunning scenery from the saddle of Honda’s flagship adventure bike.
Dates are available through to the end of September. Visit www.hondaadventurecentre.com for more information.
Price: £12,599 (£13,549 DCT)
Engine: 4-stroke, parallel twin, 8v, l/c, 998cc
Power: 92.4bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque: 73ftlb @ 6000rpm
Wet weight: 243 kg (252kg DCT)
Seat height: 900/920mm
BMW R1200GS Adventure
Price: From £13,400
Engine: 4-stroke, boxer twin, 8v, l/c, 1170cc
Power: 125bhp @ 7750rpm
Torque: 92.2ftlb @ 6500rpm
Wet weight: 263 kg
Seat height: 890/910mm
Triumph Tiger 1200 XCX
Engine: 4-stroke, triple, 12v, l/c, 1215cc
Power: 139bhp @ 9350rpm
Torque: 90ftlb @ 7600rpm
Wet weight: 268 kg (est)
Seat height: 835/855mm
KTM 1090 Adventure R
Engine: 4-stroke, V-twin, 8v, l/c, 1050cc
Power: 125bhp @ 8500rpm
Torque: 80.4ftlb @ 6500rpm
Wet weight: 230 kg (est)
Seat height: 890mm
Ducati Multistrada 950
Price: From £11,395
Engine: 4-stroke, desmo V-twin, 8v, l/c, 973cc
Power: 111bhp @ 9000rpm
Torque: 71ftlb @ 7750rpm
Wet weight: 229 kg (est)
Seat height: 840mm