- Aug 20, 2013
Africa Twin CRF1000l – A User’s Gripe
There is no doubt the Africa Twin CRF1000l is an excellent machine with a strong heritage and the name Honda, synonymous with reliability. World Wide sales have been impressive and an award for Bike of the Year in some places. But as good as the bike is, like any other machine, it has flaws making you ask, “For the love of god, why Honda?”
How Very Dare you!
Blood is thicker than water, so they say. And brand loyalty can be a serious sore point for some when it comes to criticism. For the large majority, the Africa Twin is their perfect machine, and they’ll have it no other way. But let’s be serious for a second here, there is no perfect steed. Marketing, like any other brand, does have a strong influence on our purchasing decision.
I own an Africa Twin CRF1000l, so this review or rant, call it what you will, comes from a rider who waited three years in anticipation. I fended off my other options for a GS and KTM in favour of the AT due to its price, and one has to admit, those clever Honda ads riding through the desert sands and hilly climbs, waiting longingly for the next adventure ad to wet my buds! I have to point out here, 'My Site' is not supported by Honda, so that you get my drift.
If you’re one of the very few like me that ride this bike for its designed/marketed purpose, there are plenty of gripes that’ll have you effin’ and jeffin’ after a couple of 1000km or so. But let’s distinguish the riders’ view of a perfect machine from those who have a few complaints.
We’ve all fallen for reviews on various channels, but it’s worth remembering reviews based on short time possession will not discover niggles. Manufacturers tend to lend their test vehicles for a few days to a week. Hardly enough time to get to know the bike. Personal ownership reviews tend to be the best, and of course, vary in great detail.
Most riders it has to be said, will never take their perfect machine off road. Many have also worked their way up the ranks from a lesser bike or ordered a different menu from their previous crotch rocket. The Africa Twin has attracted many bikers who have never considered an adventure bike before and have always stayed on the black stuff. And in Thailand, but not limited to, a breed of Africa Twin owners riding with empty hard touring cases!
Many of these riders have little to no piloting hours on the dirt and have not pushed their bike hard enough to discover little quirks. To those riders who never intend to take their machine off the road, you may well feel it is a near perfect machine, but in reality, it is far from the perfect adventure bike.
As my riding is more dirt orientated, I bought the Africa Twin due to its history and price here in Thailand which is half the cost of a BMW or KTM. I made the purchase knowing that if I needed to repair fairing etc. due to off road riding, repairing it wouldn’t be extortionate. It was right for me, and many others that I’ve spoken to. So without hesitation, I kitted the bike up with crash protection and 50/50 tires to suit my riding preference.
On Road Riding, Running In
On the road the bike felt great with its mediocre Dunlop rubber. Light, agile and almost mountain bike manoeuvrability. The power was smooth and ample enough for me not wanting anything more on Thai roads. The front wheel soaked up bumps and the odd pot-hole with ease, and despite the front diving under braking, I was sure an adjustment on the front suspension would counter this. I was running the bike in, so I didn’t push it too far on the road. After only 400km, I changed the tires to Mitas e07 to scuff them up ready for its 1000km service, and my first trip off road.
Eager to get on the dirt, I didn’t hang around after its 1st service.
Khao Krajom, Here I come!
I’d ridden to this place many times before on my modified Kawasaki Versys which did an excellent job and was astonishingly reliable and robust.
Ridding to Ratchaburi was fun at 5 am with little to no cars. It felt comfortable compared to my Versys which often left me with a delicate derriere after 30 mins or so. Taking the opportunity to do so, I gave it some throttle - and compared to my previous comfortable speed of 125km on my Versys with Heidenau K60s before the buzz became too much, this thing was silky smooth.
I looked down, and the clock displayed 130kph. “Let’s give it some more”, I thought. As I reached a clean stretch of road, I hit 150kph where things started to change with a front wheel wobble. I carried tools with me, and after a little fettling and experimenting with the front suspension settings, I managed to iron most of the wobble out which was no doubt caused by the 50/50 knobblies.
After a few hours on the tarmac and a stop at a coffee shop, I reached the starting point of Khoa Krajom. As I made the first climb of broken tarmac that transformed into dusty humps, carved channels and a loose stones but steep, I noticed I was switching from 1st and 2nd gear more often than I’d expected (perhaps a 15 toothed front sprocket might help). I was a little surprised compared to the effortless throttle control of my modified Versys, a 90% street bike!