Is the Africa Twin re­ally any good off-road?

Knob­blies on, Michael and the big Honda hit the dirt

Motorcycle News (UK) - - MCN Garage -

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

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