Is the Africa Twin really any good off-road?
Knobblies on, Michael and the big Honda hit the dirt
Ever since the rumours of a new Africa Twin began gathering pace well over a year ago, Honda’s global PR machine has majored on the bike’s off-road capabilities as much as its on-road prowess. Its slogan of ‘True Adventure’ has been a consistent message, and before the bike was even launched it was given additional off-road kudos in a number of teaser videos that included Motogp champ Marc Marquez blasting across the desert alongside factory Honda Dakar contender Joan Barreda.
Back in the real world of muddy UK trails and green lanes I wanted to know if the big Honda’s off-road credentials were anything more than PR spin. So is it really a go-anywhere adventure bike? On paper, its technical specification gives out mixed messages. While its 21in front and 18in rear wheel sizes scream off-road – its 232kg kerb weight does not.
Heading off through a network of local green lanes it’s time for me to stand up for the first time. Having moved the handlebars slightly forward prior to the ride the standing riding position feels aggressive and
‘Impressive throttle connection allows you to feel for grip or spin it up as you need it’
purposeful. Elbows up, I have good leverage and can feel the Continental TKC80S digging into the mud below. The fork, that feels overly soft on the road, comes into its own. Working well into its stroke gives a steeper head angle, which means the bike turns well while generating good grip and feel at speed. For more technical riding the poise and balance of the bike is impressive, full-lock feet-up turns are relatively easy thanks to the throttle and clutch connection.
The Twin’s motor can leave you a little bit wanting on road, but its linear 93bhp is an absolute joy to use off-road. The parallel-twin motor and chassis set-up generates good mechanical grip and the impressive throttle connection allows you to feel for grip or spin it up as you need it.
Its only downsides are the tall gearing, which means that nearly all my off-road riding was done in first or second gear, and the brakes. While it has a button that disables the ABS from working on the rear wheel to enable the rider to slide the back end, the front ABS works to the same parameters in road or off-road use. As a result it’s crude in a slippery off-road environment compared to the off-road-specific kit used by KTM and BMW with the system cutting in early and taking vital milliseconds to re-activate.
But to answer the question of whether the Africa Twin’s off-road credentials are genuine, it a big yes. Having ridden all the flagship adventure bikes from BMW, KTM, Yamaha and Triumph the Africa Twin is highly capable and by far the most user friendly.
Ôfor more technical riding the poise and balance of the bike is impressiveõ
Who needs Joan Barreda when you’ve got MCN’S Michael Guy?
Fitted with Continental TKC80 knobblies, the Africa Twin rips it up off-road