The Honda Africa Twin completely changed the middleweight adventure bike segment when it was launched in 2017. For India, only one variant was introduced - the one with the automatic dual clutch transmission - and it exceeded expectations in the way it was received by adventure-hungry enthusiasts. With very good off-road capability and a segment-first automatic transmission, the 2017 Honda Africa Twin impressed us with its easy ride-ability and instantly likeable off-road manners. Now, a year later, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) has introduced an updated version of the same CRF 1000 L Africa Twin. And we're happy to report that the changes make an already capable adventure bike even better.
Also Read: 2017 Honda Africa Twin First Ride Review
The 2018 Honda Africa Twin now gets throttle-by-wire (TBW), the electronic throttle system which in turn enables the introduction of four riding modes - Urban, Tour, Gravel and a fully-customisable User mode. Each mode has individual settings for power, engine braking and traction control, which now gets a seven-level system, compared to the three-level traction control system on the outgoing model. And traction control can be switched off completely as well, for riders with advanced skills. ABS can be switched off too, but only for the rear wheel, to allow experienced riders to lock the rear wheel to slide out of tricky situations while riding off-road. The switchgear is all-new as is the instrument panel. It's still a back-lit LCD unit, but it's now a single panel, said to offer better visibility. A full-colour TFT screen, which seems to be the norm these days in this price segment, is missed though.
Visually, the 2018 Africa Twin doesn't look that different from the outgoing model. In fact, at first glance, there are hardly any visual cues to make out if this is the updated model. One look though, and the Africa Twin promises to take you beyond the horizon, to places few other bikes are capable of taking you to. The silhouette is typical ADV - with the tall and imposing stance, large spoked wheels (21-inch front and 18-inch rear) and ample ground clearance (251 mm) to glide over all kinds of terrain when the going gets tough. The exhaust has been newly designed and the lithium-ion battery is lighter which makes the new Africa Twin 2.3 kg lighter, with a kerb weight of 243 kg.
How does it perform?
The engine is the same 999 cc, parallel-twin unit as the outgoing model, and it makes 87 bhp at 7500 rpm, and marginally more peak torque - 93.1 Nm at 6000 rpm. Acceleration is brisk, and out on the open road, the Africa Twin is capable of covering long distances effortlessly and quickly, as long as you're not really expecting sportbike level performance. It's more than enough really, and for most kinds of touring duties, the Africa Twin will do it without a fuss, and its easy riding manners, and easily accessible seat height will be welcomed by riders of different heights and build.
Within city limits, the Africa Twin is docile and easy to handle, despite its biggish proportions. Even in bumper to bumper traffic the bike is easy to manoeuvre, and the automatic transmission is a boon in such conditions. With the riding mode set to Urban, 2,000 revs will keep you in third gear and 30 kmph, with power dialled down low on the throttle, and traction control at most intrusive. Tour mode has more power on the throttle, for effective overtakes and quicker acceleration. The settings for power, engine braking, and traction control are fully customisable in the User mode. And yes, you can also opt for the manual selection to downshift or upshift through the toggle switches on the left handlebar. Our test bike is even kitted with an aftermarket gear shift lever, and it's a handy addition for riders looking for the traditional toe-shifter, although that will set you back by around ₹ 30,000.
And when it's time to get to sand, slush and gravel, the 2018 Honda Africa Twin comes into its element. With traction control dialled down to level 1, it allows you some amount of wheel slip before the electronics intervene and ensure things don't go horribly out of hand. With the large, 21-inch front wheel and ample ground clearance, the Africa Twin can go over most surfaces you throw at it. The weight is evenly balanced and on the move it feels like a much lighter dual-sport, rather than a 243 kg full-size adventure tourer. The ABS on the rear wheel can be switched off via a large separate button on the fairing, and there's a 'G' switch which is useful for half-clutch operation, especially for aggressive riding, to tackle mountain roads and a variety of off-road terrain.
The final word
The Honda Africa Twin may not have the power, or top end performance to match its competition, like the Triumph Tiger 800 or the Ducati Multistrada 950, but it certainly makes up for it with its easy to ride ability, and superb off-road manners. Experienced riders looking for mainly tarmac use may not find the Africa Twin thrilling enough, after a few long distance rides. However, riders with a laid back and easy going personality will delight in its capabilities, exploring places with relative ease and comfort.
More importantly, when the tarmac ends, and it's time to explore new horizons, the level of the Africa Twin's off-road capability will endear you to its well-rounded personality. Yes, it's still an automatic, and the manual variant is still not offered on sale in India, if a 'real motorcycle' to you should always have a clutch lever and gear shifter. The optional gear shift lever may help add that traditional feel, but getting used to clutchless gearshifts is just a matter of a few minutes on the saddle. Priced at ₹ 13.23 lakh (ex-showroom), the 2018 Honda Africa Twin just got better with the updates it gets, and that's reason enough to give it the once over if you're in the market for an adventure tourer.
(Photography: Pawan Dagia)