After a few KM of climbs and descents, I quickly realised the Africa Twin requires a lot of throttle and prefers to be powered up rather than guided. Not a bad thing. And who doesn’t like the feeling of powering up a dusty trail? But there’s a flaw in this method – the suspension, which was a little hard after setting up to counter the wobble on the road. Once again, I faffed around with the front-end.
Making my way up was done so with some trepidation. The need for constant high throttle from 1st to 2nd on the climbs left me feeling a little out of control over the bike. Not enough in 1st, the bike stuttered in 2nd on some steep sections. Dropping back down into 1st to prevent stalling and dropping the bike was needed.
As I mentioned previously, I adjusted the suspension to suit the conditions, and powering up was met with humps, divots and ruts that didn’t match the capability of the suspension or lack of. The increased force caused by speed and terrain forced the front to near enough max out. Other factors also need to be taken into consideration. Standing on the pegs with your body over the bars going uphill increase the physical difficulties and load of the front. In this configuration, the rear isn’t taking the brunt of the action.
I got through it and made my way to the top safely. When I told the dealer prior where I intended to ride the bike, he was a little surprised. And many I have spoken to thought the bike was too heavy to do those climbs. But having made it so many times on my Versys with ease and confidence, I thought the Africa Twin would have been a doddle. It was the opposite!
After taking in the scenery on the mountaintop, I made the return journey back down which is trickier than the climb as it requires slower, more balanced speeds, sometimes riding over tracks a few inches wide with 1 – 2ft drops either side carved by heavy rains and 4x4 requires some skill on steep sections. Also, tires in this scenario or of utmost importance. If the tires let go, the ABS kicks in and this steed doesn't let you switch the front off.
I made the first couple of steep descents before reaching a point where one can continue on your original course, or take a left-hander which has a smoother descent. I bottled it and took the smoother course, something I wouldn’t have even considered on my modified Versys due to modifying the ABS.
That being said, one can’t fault the CRF1000l on the road. Its upright riding position provides long-term comfort with its adjustable seat. Handling is great and power is ample enough for these roads. An adjustable screen would have been nice to counter the buffeting. Torque control is fine, but far too aggressive with adventure tires.
Spicing up the relationship between rider and machine!
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To get the best out of the Africa Twin requires some confidence and understanding of the bike’s physics. It’s like an overexcited border-collie dog, requiring long brisk runs. It’s certainly no couch-potato but requires a healthy right-wrist to make this machine thrust! Powering through dirt, climbs, rough or smooth is begging to be done with throttle. And when you give it some, this thing eats most terrain up with ease, but certainly not in standard form!
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The Africa Twin CRF1000l out of the box is set up for riders in the 75kg mark. Regardless, the suspension isn’t adequate for speedy off road. The front, while adequate for the tarmac, is dated technology. The rear shock is good, but not great. The foot pegs would barely suite a 3rd grader’s sized feet - narrow and uncomfortable. The right-side peg is cast-made and many have reported broken brackets. The handguards are as useful as a chocolate fireguard offering nothing more than wind protection. The rear brake reservoir is placed in a precarious position. And worst of all, the fender is bordering on dangerous for off road use. A biker friend and I have succumbed to front wheel lockup due to the fender gap between the tire and collected mud. It’s a common issue. And the torque control is fine, but far too aggressive with adventure tires.
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None of the above matters to the street orientated rider that may venture on a dusty trail run while admiring passing flowers. But riders looking for real adventure need to make changes to the Africa Twin CRF1000l from tires to suspension, and a budget between 150k to 200k is required, and something to bare in mind before purchasing this bike based on clever marketing. And the differences in opinions are very apparent between those who actually give it some off road, and those who’d prefer not to get dirty.
Honda have marketed this bike for off road adventure, but for the love of god, why didn’t Honda address the simplest of issues such as the fender, pegs, mount and gaurds that would have added nothing to the budget! Suspension and tires are a personal thing as one manufacturer-make doesn’t suit all. But it seems Honda have penny pinched with the most ridiculous of items that would have otherwise made a near enough perfect machine.
Just wondering now - would you ever buy another one, or is this one good enough.
The new 2020 model has so much more
2020 Africa Twin improvements
1. The water-cooled, overhead-cam, parallel-twin engine receives an 86cc displacement increase, growing from 998cc to 1084cc. Honda says it has improved intake and exhaust systems, resulting in a horsepower boost of approximately six percent. The new bike makes 101 horsepower, up seven horsepower over the previous generation. It also puts out 77 ft/lbs of torque.
2. The 2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin’s frame is updated for optimized for handling. The rear subframe is now aluminum and detachable, plus the CRF450R-style aluminum swingarm is lighter and more rigid.
3. Due to the use of a six-axis IMU, the new CRF1100L Africa Twin has more advanced electronic aids. Functions include wheelie control, cornering ABS, rear-lift control, DCT cornering detection, and cornering lights.
4. The new Adventure Sports ES model now features electronic ride-height suspension. The Adventure Sports ES model is also updated with tubeless wheels, heated grips, accessory socket, larger skid plate, aluminum rear rack, and a larger 6.5-gallon tank over the base model’s five-gallon tank.
5. Although power has increased, the ADV motorcycle weighs less than the outgoing 2019 model. The base CRF1100L weighs 498 pounds, and the DCT model tips the scales at 520 pounds. The weight savings are due to a lighter engine and transmission.
6. The seat also got lower—from 34.3 to 33.4 inches. A low seat is available at 32.5 inches, and a taller one up to 35.2 inches.
7. The standard CRF1100L has a renewed focus on off-road use, with a shorter, fixed windscreen and a 5.0-gallon fuel tank.
8. There are now four versions of the Africa Twin: the base CRF1100L in both standard and DCT; and the CRF1100L Adventure Sports ES in both standard and DCT.
9. The 2020 versions have a new 6.5-inch TFT color touchscreen display that is compatible with Apple CarPlay. The touchscreen display is optimized for ease of use when changing the electronic adjustments.
10. Cruise control is now standard on all Africa Twin versions.
11. Wheel sizes are still dirt-oriented. The 2020 Africa Twin has a 21-inch front and 18-inch rear, both wire-spoked wheels. The Adventure Sports ES uses tubeless tires.
12. Except for the addition of cornering ABS, the braking system remains unchanged. The 2020 CRF1100L arrives with dual 310mm front discs squeezed by four-piston Nissin calipers, and a single 256mm disc out back squeezed by a single-piston caliper.
13. For 2020, two color options are available: Pearl Glare White/Blue, and Matte Metallic Black.
Source: 2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin: 11 Fast Facts (Larger & Lighter)