2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin
Having won four successive Dakar Rallys with its NXR-750, Honda launched the original XRV650 Africa Twin in 1989. It was a lighter, higher-spec version that preceded the XRV750 Africa Twin — a dual-sport bike more closely modeled on the NXR-750 — which Honda produced until 2003. With the renewed and growing interest in the adventure-bike market, Honda is back with the CRF1000L Africa Twin.
In order to carry the legacy of the "Africa Twin" name, the designers focused hard on what made the original XRV750 Africa Twin such a great bike: off-road performance, on-road touring comfort, and the nimbleness and agility to be an all-purpose, everyday bike.
Released in the UK in late 2015 and slated for its U.S. debut in early 2016, the CRF1000L Africa Twin pays homage to its predecessors as well as embraces modern technology by offering Honda’s exclusive automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) technology, specifically developed and programmed to provide the off-road ability the Africa Twin legacy demands.
Continue reading for my look at the 2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin.
2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin
Built for off-road capability and on-road comfort, the CRF1000L Africa Twin features things you’d expect, such as tube tires, aluminum wire-spoke wheels, hollow axles, wave-design brake rotors. It also features an easy-access air-intake design that lets you get to the air filters without removing the fuel tank.
Back in 2014. Honda filed for a patent for a redesigned airbox configuration that allows for a more slender fuel tank and lowered center of gravity that would let riders slide more forward in turns. If that was a lead-up to the new Africa Twin, that will be a boon to off-road handling above what is already an agile design.
Far from simply adopting an adventurous look that runs only skin deep, the Africa Twin is built to be as practical and capable as its name suggests. The factory started out with a semi double-cradle frame and subframe, both built with high-strength steel. While this doesn’t exactly lighten the bike any — quite the contrary in fact — it does make the chassis tough enough for truly rugged off-road terrain. The first time you drop it and have to stand it back up, you’ll appreciate the frame, engine and battery layout designed to lower the center of gravity.
The big, 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear come laced for that extra little bit of off-road comfort, dirt-bike style. Showa provides the suspension front and rear with a 45 mm, usd front fork that stabilizes the front wheel and provides 9.1 inches of travel. A monoshock tucked away below the subframe floats the rear on 8.7 inches of travel.
Both the forks and the monoshock come with compression and rebound damping adjustments, as well as adjustable spring preload. With this kind of suspension travel and 9.8 inches of ground clearance, it’s no wonder the seat is a bit tall. While adjustable, it only varies between a tall, 34.3-inch seat height, and a slightly less-tall 33.5-inch position. Both are up there, but I’m not surprised given the off-road nature of this bike.
Radial, four-pot calipers bind the dual, 310 mm, wave-cut brake discs to control the front wheel, and a twin-piston caliper pinches the 256 mm disc in back. The Africa Twin also comes standard with a two-channel ABS with the option of disengaging the rear ABS entirely. DCT models with ABS also come with a lever-operated parking brake for safer parking on inclines.
The beating heart of this baby consists of a 998 cc parallel-twin engine that runs the same weight-saving unicam design as Honda’s race bike. The unicam operates all eight valves all by its onesies.
So far, Honda is being quiet about the power output from this over-square powerplant, but we do know it has a 270-degree, firing-order offset that gives the rear wheel a chance to get a bite between power pulses, similar to a Harley and the hill-climbing engines of old. But don’t worry, a balance shaft within the engine tames the vibration inherent with such a setup. Dual-plug heads top off the engine, and provide positive flame-front propagation for max efficiency from each air-fuel charge.
Info from the ABS wheel-speed sensors drives another traction-related function, Honda’s Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). The system monitors wheel speeds and intervenes to prevent loss of traction due to acceleration based on the rider’s choice of three levels, or it can be disabled for off-road conditions where slippage may be desirable.
Buyers get a couple of choices on the transmixxer; you can go with the old-fashioned, constant-mesh, six-speed gearbox with a not-so-old-fashioned slipper clutch, or you can opt for Honda’s Dual-Clutch Transmission (DTC) that functions like an automatic tranny in a semi- or fully-automatic mode.
The fully automatic mode is just that, twist it and forget it, but the manual shift mode allows you to switch gears via push-buttons on the left switch housing, and there is even an accessory that lets you add a foot shifter to use instead of the buttons. Additionally, you can set the DCT for on- or off-road conditions with variable shift points to balance performance against fuel consumption. An O-ring chain makes the final connection, and serves as a tough and durable final drive that will survive rough terrain much better than a belt, and is much lighter and simpler than a shaft drive.
MSRP on the African Twin is $12,999 and the DCT model is $13,699. You can score one in Dakar Rally — which is a red, black and white colorway — or in Silver. Honda covers your purchase with a one-year transferable, unlimited-mileage, limited warranty and gives you the option to pick up an extended coverage warranty with a Honda Protection Plan.
As with many purpose-built bikes, function defines form and both bikes meet their design obligations in similar fashion. The most obvious aesthetic difference lies in the V-Strom’s bird-beak protrusion up front that rather reminds me of the old dolphin fairings, just without the ugly factor.
Honda clearly comes out on top with its 9.8 inches of ground clearance versus Suzuki’s 6.5 inches. This difference suggests a much greater capability with the Honda, at least in the most extreme terrain. Same with the frame. The V-Strom has an aluminum frame, and while it is certainly lighter than the steel Africa-Twin frame, I doubt it will take the same amount of abuse. That said, most potential buyers really aren’t going to push that envelope, so the frame difference is a non-issue to them.
Suzuki comes out swinging with an edge in the displacement category at 1,037 cc over the Honda’s 998 cc mill, but alas, it falls behind for lack of electronic gadgetry such as traction control and variable torque maps. Since Honda’s DCT gearbox is a rare thing, I can’t begrudge Suzuki for not offering an automatic of its own, but there is certainly something to be said for shift-free operation.
Prices are very comparable, with the V-Strom eking out a win at $12,699, just under the Africa Twin with manual transmission at $12,999. The convenience of the DCT will cost you, but at 700 bucks more than the manual, and $1,000 more than the V-Strom, that should be negligible for those interested in an automatic bike.
Honestly, for some riders, there isn’t much to choose between the two. Others will appreciate the Honda’s traction control, and a small portion will really rely on that tough frame and ground clearance. The harder you plan to use it, the better the Africa Twin is for you, but if you ride like a soccer mom drives in a big SUV, either bike could fill your needs.
My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “For me, the Africa Twin is the most-anticipated bike from Honda this year. Some of that is due to all the press hype, but part is because I am starting to really dig the adventure-bike scene, and this looks like a great bike. I may have to write a head-to-head and see how it stacks up against some of the European dual sports and the other Japanese manufacturers. Until then, I will tentatively say this may be the best dual sport to come out of Japan this year.”
"When Honda first revealed the CRF1000 prototype at the 2014 EICMA international motorcycle show in Italy, it was heavily disguised and you couldn’t see much other than it was a parallel twin engine with dual front disk brake and laced wheels. The lack of a shift lever suggested that it would feature the DCT. I really like this growing adventure bike market and I look forward to checking out the CRF1000L Africa Twin."
|Engine:||liquid-cooled Four-stroke Eight-valve Parallel Twin with 270- degree crank and Unicam|
|Clutch:||Wet, multi-plate with coil springs, aluminum cam assist and slipper clutch|
|Transmission:||Constant mesh Six-speed manual or six-speed DCT with on and off-road riding modes|
|Final Drive:||O-ring sealed chain|
|Torque Control System:||(HSTC) HSTC three levels + switch-off|
|Frame:||Steel semi-double cradle type with high-tensile strength steel rear sub-frame|
|Suspension, Front:||45 mm Showa inverted fork, Adjustable compression/rebound damping, hydraulic adjustable spring preload - 9.1-inch travel|
|Suspension, Rear:||Showa rear shock, Adjustable compression/rebound damping, hydraulic adjustable spring preload - 8.7-inch travel|
|ABS System:||ABS two-channel with rear ABS off switch|
|Brake, Front:||310 mm dual wave floating hydraulic disc with aluminum hub and radial fit Nissin four-piston calipers and sintered metal pads|
|Brake, Rear:||256 mm wave hydraulic disc with two-piston caliper and sintered metal pads. Also Lever-Lock Type Parking Brake System on DCT model|
|Wheel, Front:||Wire spoke with aluminum rim, 21M/C x MT2.15|
|Wheel, Rear:||Wire spoke with aluminum rim, 18M/C x MT4.00|
|Tire, Front:||90/90-R21 tube type|
|Tire, Rear:||150/70-R18 tube type|
|Width:||34.4 inches, DCT/ABS - 36.6 inches|
|Seat Height:||Standard - 34.3, Low - 33.5 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||9.8 inches|
|Turning Radius:||98 inches|
|Curb Weight:||511 Pounds, DCT - 534 Pounds|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.96 gallons|
|Warranty:||One-Year Transferable, Unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan|
|Colors:||Dakar Rally, Digital Metallic Silver|
|Price:||$12,999 - DCT: $13,699|