Honda Africa Twin

Cel­e­brat­ing the ADV’s first an­niver­sary

Auto Today - - Dashboard - PIC­TURES Gur­deep Bhalla

Honda knows how to cel­e­brate in style. I'm not stat­ing this be­cause we were in­vited for the Africa Twin's first an­niver­sary gala but only be­cause I also had an ab­so­lute ball rid­ing the mo­tor­cy­cle for three days. It's ex­actly what a mo­to­journo would want to ex­pe­ri­ence when in­vited to a mo­tor­cy­cle's birth­day bash. The Africa Twin is a leg­endary name that dates back to XRV750 which it­self was based on the NXR750 that won the erst­while Paris-Dakar rally, four times in the late 80s. Its pro­duc­tion run went on till 2003 be­fore the plug was pulled on the mo­tor­cy­cle as the genre died. The re­vival then came 13 years later in 2016 when the world re­dis­cov­ered cross-coun­try mo­tor­cy­cling as a leisure ac­tiv­ity. The Africa Twin brand was thereby launched. From a V-twin en­gine in the 80s to now sport­ing a par­al­lel-twin, 999cc thumper de­vel­op­ing 88bhp and 93Nm but more im­por­tantly, in­stead of the man­ual gear­box, a 6-speed dual-clutch unit han­dles gear shift­ing du­ties. Yes, you read that

right and as I was cring­ing at the idea just as much as you are right now. The lat­est Africa Twin de­buted Honda's Dual Clutch Tech­nol­ogy (DCT) that uses a clutch each for even and odd set of gears. It goes with­out say­ing that the thought of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion on a mo­tor­cy­cle isn't the most ap­peal­ing to many rid­ers. I was no dif­fer­ent but how wrong was I? You see, the prob­lem with big ADVs is their sheer size and weight. Com­bine that with the re­duced tractabil­ity of a big en­gine op­er­at­ing at min­i­mal revs and the fol­low­ing set of events shall un­fold. Rider meets big bike. Big bike meets gnarly ter­rain. Gnarly ter­rain throws a curve ball with a tight cor­ner. Rider and big bike kiss mother earth. And that is the mak­ing of an epic #fail­fri­day video

for In­sta­gram. Even a mod­er­ately skilled rider would find them­selves out of their depth hav­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a tight, slow-speed hair­pin or a U-turn with a big ADV. The drop­ping revs re­sult in the en­gine stalling and the front-end tucks in due to the sheer weight and size of the mo­tor­cy­cle. This fun­da­men­tal prob­lem can be ad­dressed with an au­to­matic op­er­a­tion of the clutch. The DCT with the help of its com­plex elec­tron­ics pre­vents the en­gine from stalling thus help­ing the rider con­cen­trate on turn­ing the mo­tor­cy­cle and not man­ag­ing the clutch. Be­sides, there are other ben­e­fits of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and specif­i­cally a DCT. Tour­ing, for in­stance is one. Our ride took us from the bustling city of Ban­ga­lore that sees rapidly in­creas­ing traf-

AS THE ROAD OPENED UP TO THE WIDE NH275 TO­WARDS MADIKERI, A QUICK FLICK OF THE RIGHT SWITCHGEAR TO S (SPORT) MODE, LIVENS THINGS UP AGAIN AND FOR ADDED PRECISENESS TO THE SHIFTS

fic as the morn­ing hours pass by. The low seat height makes tip-toe­ing in traf­fic easy while the gen­tle D mode (or drive) man­ages the shifts. The re­sul­tant ease of ne­go­ti­at­ing heavy traf­fic is un­par­al­leled to a heavy clutch and man­ual gear­box equipped mo­tor­cy­cle. As the road opened up to the wide NH275 to­wards Madikeri, the D mode soon be­came a tad lack­ing. The gear­box's quick shifts to a higher gear in search for bet­ter fuel ef­fi­ciency drowns the torquey en­gine's en­thu­si­asm. A quick flick of the right switchgear to S (Sport) mode, livens

WE HIT THE TWISTIES ON THE SEC­OND DAY. A WET START MEANT TRICKY CON­DI­TIONS FOR THE AFRICA TWIN BUT THE ELEC­TRON­ICS KEPT THE GRIP IN CHECK, NEVER THREATENING A LOSS OF IT

things up again and for added preciseness to the shifts, there are three sub modes to choose from. S2 and S3 are the modes to be in where the shifts are quicker, more pre­cise while hold­ing revs and more in­tu­itive to de­tect the need for down­shifts. In fact, more of­ten than not, my pre­ferred au­to­matic mode was S2. The beauty of this ex­cel­lent gear­box is that there is, of course, the man­ual mode. Shifter tabs on the switchgear and an ac­ces­sory toe shifter make up a setup that's just like a man­ual gear­box. We hit the twisties on the sec­ond day. A wet start meant tricky con­di­tions for the Africa Twin but the elec­tron­ics kept the grip in check, never threatening a loss of it. Al­though, the Africa Twin's cor­ner­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are neu­tral and friendly, I didn't quite have the con­fi­dence to push it given the low trac­tion con­di­tions. The tall 21-inch front wheel and 90/90 pro­file didn't pack enough af­fir­ma­tions on pa­per at least, for me to try my luck while the same char­ac­ter­is­tics also rob a bit of feel from the front end to know the ex­act grip be­ing of­fered from the sur­face un­der­neath. The 27.5 de­grees of rake also meant that the turn-in is slower than a sport naked and the likes so squar­ing off a cor­ner with a late and quick coun­ter­steer turn-in seemed like the best tech­nique for nar­row, twisty state high­ways. The fi­nal test lay in the form of the 36 hair­pins that lead you from the Mudu­malai Na­tional Park to Ooty. Great tar­mac but the tight­est of hair­pins one can encounter on a big ADV. With the clum­si­est of throt­tle work, the Twin never threat­ened to stall while in­still­ing a lit­tle con­fi­dence in the mo­tor­cy­cle's han­dling abil­ity, in­fused with a smooth, flow­ing rid­ing style re­warded me with an im­mensely en­joy­able rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The 2018 Africa Twin comes across as a very, very lik­able pack­age that quickly be­friends its rider de­spite the di­men­sions and 1,000cc of power. While it packs all the req­ui­site equip­ments for off-road­ing, I'd much like to see a more road fo­cused ver­sion with a 17-inch front to fur­ther heighten its friend­li­ness.

Mi­noru Kato, pres­i­dent & CEO, HMSI, flags off the Honda Africa Twin first an­niver­sary ride from Ban­ga­lore

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1. Forks sports a new colour, their func­tion­ing re­mains sub­lime in all rid­ing con­di­tions. 2. Re­designed switchgears for ease of op­er­a­tion. 3. New ex­haust tip is an­other dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing el­e­ment from the 2017 model. 4. Op­tional toe shifter, a must have. 5. Wider foot­pegs now of­fer bet­ter an­chor­age 5 4

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