Honda Africa Twin Ad­ven­ture

It’s the most re­fined au­to­matic bike ever made. But who’s ask­ing for an au­to­matic?

BIKE (UK) - - BIKE OF THE YEAR 2018 -

AS A SPOTTY youth I har­boured the de­sire to ride a big bike. I just never dreamed it would be this big. I am 5ft 10in and the top of the screen on the Africa Twin Su­per Ad­ven­ture comes a third of the way up my head. The 24-litre tank (which packs a 220+ mile range) is wider than my shoul­ders. The 920mm seat height is four inches higher than my legs. And it weighs a full quar­ter of a tonne. This is Ja­pan’s an­swer to BMW’S R1200GS Ad­ven­ture, and to KTM’S 1290 equiv­a­lent. They are both be­he­moths, but Honda’s new-for-2018 vari­ant of the Africa Twin takes the bis­cuit. Of course, enor­mous­ness has much to rec­om­mend it. You get a big, flat seat with lots of fore-and-aft room for rider and pas­sen­ger. The gi­raffe-like forks and shock soak up vir­tu­ally any anom­aly. And your for­ward vi­sion is al­most as good as a truck driver’s. But what’s it all for? Honda would have you be­lieve it’s for ex­plor­ing deserts. Hm­mmm. The Twin comes with dirt adap­ta­tions such as hill start (that’s what the ‘clutch’ lever is), Gravel mode, switch­able rear ABS and vari­able en­gine brak­ing. Which is fine if all you’re rid­ing is hard-packed trails, such as you might find all over Spain or Portugal. But add even a sniff of rain or Bri­tish mud, and you will go down like a sack of spuds. I’m a mid­field club en­duro rider and I have not the slight­est in­ter­est in tak­ing a 253kg bike off road. Even the ridicu­lously tal­ented Chris Northover (that’s him in the pics) found it, ‘re­ally big... and a lit­tle ner­vous on the slippy stuff.’ Fully dirt-ca­pa­ble? Come off it. That still leaves an im­pe­ri­ous rid­ing po­si­tion, and a softly-tuned par­al­lel twin mo­tor that fires like a 90 de­gree V. It has nei­ther the low-rpm purr of a BMW GS, nor the ex­plo­sive en­ergy of a big KTM. In­stead it’s got the kind of lazy, long-legged beat that suits empty ru­ral A-roads. As in, 5000rpm in top is 90mph. So once you’re mov­ing, on those huge springs and gi­ant seat, it feels like a magic car­pet doff-doff­ing across the land­scape. 100mph is easy: noth­ing more than a lit­tle buf­fet­ing and wind roar. If you crouch be­hind the non-ad­justable screen, it can do the same trick at 110 or even 120mph. It would cer­tainly de­mol­ish dis­tance in North­ern France. Now of course this is the Dual Clutch Trans­mis­sion ver­sion, which means it’s a six-speed auto with su­per-smooth gear shifts. You can use it in daw­dle mode (hor­ri­ble – you can’t con­trol what gear you’re in), three sportier modes and (by far the best) a man­ual op­tion where you shift gear with pad­dles on the left bar. Think of your smoothest-ever gearchange. The DCT is smoother than that. Down­shifts are ac­com­pa­nied by a throt­tle blip if the com­puter de­cides it’ll help. As long as you’re mov­ing above 10mph or so it’s demon­stra­bly slicker than a nor­mal mo­tor­bike. You can bar­rel out of a round­about hold­ing a fixed throt­tle po­si­tion, and chuck three or four gears at it. The speed in­creases, but the en­gine note and seam­less thrust barely change. Pil­lions love it. Chris loved it too. But it’s still an auto, and you pay in tricky first-gear sit­u­a­tions where it’s not as ac­cu­rate or safe as a con­ven­tional clutch. Fil­ter­ing, U-turns, even junc­tions bring on an anx­i­ety I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced since I was a learner. And that’s be­fore I dis­cov­ered that DCT adds 10kg and £950 to the ‘stan­dard’ Africa Twin Su­per Ad­ven­ture. I got a brief go on the man­ual ver­sion, on and off road. It’s more con­trol­lable. The Twin’s kerb­side pres­ence is sump­tu­ous. The paint is thick, and the fas­ten­ers and sus­pen­sion are redo­lent of Honda in their mid 1990s pomp. There’s a cubby hole on the right that you get to by un­screw­ing two shoul­dered 5mm Allen screws. Inside is a space just big enough to hold a ba­nana. The LCD dash packs a lot of info into a small space, but you can’t read it in bright sun­light, and the trac­tion con­trol is weird: set­ting six leaves the com­puter so trau­ma­tised af­ter a spin it takes sev­eral sec­onds to re­cover. Dur­ing this time the bike won’t ac­cel­er­ate. Imag­ine fil­ter­ing be­tween two vans and hit­ting a slip­pery patch. Set­tings one and two are fine. It’s hard to see what other bike com­bines the Twin’s floaty, tall feel­ing and lan­guid power. The big ques­tion is its size – in the garage, round town, get­ting on and off, it’s all about the size. Side sad­dle starts and dis­mounts are pretty much the only way to do it. And it feels rather teetery in cor­ners. The GS and Tiger are a lot more planted. I have a hunch the Twin Su­per Ad­ven­ture be­longs with other Honda mas­ter­pieces like the RC30, CB1300 and NSR250. But I think the stan­dard ver­sion is a bet­ter bike to own.

‘Enor­mous­ness has much to rec­om­mend it. But what’s it all for?’

(Above) Sim­plic­ity and qual­ity, it’s a Honda thing (Be­low) LCD dash: lots of in­for­ma­tionbut hard to read in bright sun­light

Qual­ity build, but it’s big, heavy and there are ques­tions over the DCT…

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