Not A ’Soccer Mom’s SUV’ Equivalent Of An Adventure Bike

Honda’s Africa Twin Adventure Sports makes the jump from concept to production to further expand the CRF1000L lineup. This newest model — dubbed the CRF1000L2 — brings a decidedly more rugged visage to the table along with the same 998 cc powerplant that drives its more street-centric adventure siblings. I submit to you that the importance of this model goes beyond a handful of special features and a clever name; in a way, it fulfills the promise of the capabilities implicit with the “Africa Twin” moniker. The updated engine churns out 94 ponies with street-knobbies to put the power to the pavement and an updated suspension system to keep the rough roads and trails from rattling the fillings out of your head. What else has Honda done to capitalize on the popularity of its original AT models? Plenty, not only on this specific model, but across the whole range.

Continue reading for my look at the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports.

  • 2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Displacement:
    998 cc


2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
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The Adventure Sports isn't another 'soccer mom's SUV' of adventure bikes.

I’ll be honest; I never thought the AT bikes really lived up to their names. Clearly set up for work in entirely civilized areas and upon paved roads, the name just seems a bit pretentious, and the AT more like a soccer mom’s SUV than a globetrotter proper. Credit where it’s due, the factory atoned for those sins with the “Adventure Sports” variant that inspires confidence, especially once you get past the point where black turns to brown.

Honda beefed up the front fairing and stretched the windshield 3.1 inches in order to deliver greater protection from the weather with vents in the windshield to minimize the head-buffet effect. Like to ride in cold weather? The factory has you covered with handguards and heated handgrips as part of the standard equipment package. Like to ride long distances? The Adventure Sports is a fuel camel that will have far more stamina than yourself due to the enlarged, 6.37-gallon fuel tank.

Part of the visual (and quite literal) weight of the fuel-tank hump is offset by the skid plate at the frame’s nadir that provides some protection from terrain strikes; a good thing to have if you plan to do some genuine off-road touring. A digital instrument display provides all the critical metrics on one screen, to include info about the Riding Modes feature, and the designers even chucked on a 12-volt charging point so you can power/charge additional devices on the go.

The lines of the saddle are a bit flatter than the standard AT models, and the handlebars come with another 1.3 inches of rise that make it easier to adopt an upright riding position with room to stand up on the pegs for more technical off-road work. Unfortunately, the stock bike lacks cargo capacity, but the large saddle boxes in the accessories catalog fit the bill nicely and add a nice utilitarian finish to what is already a tough-looking ride.


2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
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Ground clearance and suspension travel shows the Adventure Sports is truly meant for off-road action.

Steel members make up the semi-double cradle frame, and while that’s going to be heavier than an aluminum frame, it’s also going to hold up against the beating it will take when tackling terrain. The steering head comes set for 27.3 degrees of rake with 4.37 inches of trail and a 62.2-inch wheelbase. Although the Adventure Sports models run the same 21-inch wheel up front and 17-inch in back as the standard AT models, ground clearance is boosted up to 10.6 inches off the ground, and seat height can be set at 36.2-inches high or lowered to 35.4-inches. Yeah, that’ll make it harder for vertically-challenged riders, but is to be expected on an off-road machine as it allows for the 9.9 inches of suspension travel up front and 9.4 inches out back.

USD Showa forks support the front end on 45 mm tubes, and amazingly, come non-adjustable. The factory makes up for that somewhat with the full trinity of adjustments at the rear shock — compression/rebound damping and spring preload — so you can at least dial in for conditions and preference at one end of the thing. To haul it down, the factory provides a pair of four-pot anchors and 310 mm discs up front with a 256 mm disc out back and ABS protection all-around that can be switched off in back for those times when you actually need to be able to break the rear wheel loose.


2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
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Available with a six-speed manual or a DCT transmission.

The 998 cc parallel-twin mill saw a number of upgrades this year. It dropped some weight, courtesy of the lithium-ion battery that cuts 5.1 pounds from the total and the lightened balance shaft. Changes were made to increase the mid-range grunt. The intake funnels were stretched by 20 mm and the exhaust was reworked to provide 94-horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 73 pounds o’ grunt at six grand.

In order to help the pilot manage the power, Honda blessed the AT-AS with a Rider Mode function that controls the engine braking levels, power delivery and traction-control intervention, all enabled by the ride-by-wire throttle control. A slipper clutch adds yet another layer of contact-patch protection to the bike.

The head boasts four valves in each combustion chamber with dual spark plugs for improved induction and ignition all around, but the 10-to-1 compression ratio may make it hard to find gas in, shall we say, less-developed areas. Seems short-sighted for an adventure bike. As with the standard AT, the AS comes with a choice between the six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed DCT gearbox that effectively operates like an automatic transmission, or a semi-auto with clutchless, push-button shifts. No matter which you choose, a tough chain-type final drive makes the final connection to the rear wheel.


2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
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MSRP is TBA for the American market, but expect it to top the base Africa Twin price.

Suggested MSRP is to be around $2,000 more than the standard 2018 AT models. The actual number for the U.S. market is still unknown, but the 2017 AT models went for $13,299, and I expect the ’18s won’t stray far from that.


2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
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2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer XCx / XCa
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These two are fairly equal in the electronics department with ABS, TC and Rider Modes as constants across the board.

For this more-capable Africa Twin variant, I wanted to find a competitor that could give it a run for its money, and I think I found it in the Tiger 800 XCx from Triumph. Both look like serious customers, but as a matter of taste, I vastly prefer the snub-nose AT fairing to the bird’s beak that leads the way for the Tiger. In fact, the AT seems to have a more substantial front end altogether, and I suspect it may provide more protection for the rider of the two.

Both sport heated handgrips with handguards to divert the wind away from your hamburger shovels, and that acts as a sort of force-multiplier for the handwarmers. In fact, these two are fairly equal in the electronics department with ABS, TC and Rider Modes as constants across the board.

Honda’s biggest advantage comes in the engine; the Tiger cranks out the same 94-horsepower at a lofty 9,500 rpm, but as it’s a three-cyliner mill, torque falls off to only 58 pound-feet against 73 pound-feet from the AT’s engine. The ’17 Tiger XCx fetches $13,900, a bit more than the ’17 AT, so the ’18 Adventure Sports will be yet another couple of grand. I leave it to you to decide if that extra displacement and power is worth the cheddar.

He Said

“Gotta say my faith in the family is restored. Well, that’s not entirely true; I never had any faith to begin with, so let’s say I finally believe the family has lived up to its potential. Since the original recipe was such a success, I expect this newest effort to propel Honda into new vistas, both within the market and off the beaten track.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I am pleased that Honda got onboard with a real off-road adventure bike in this Africa Twin line. It’s quite apparent in the suspension travel and ground clearance that this bike is intended to go off the pavement. I guess like the term ’tour bike’, the term ’adventure bike’ has different meanings in different places. For me, ’adventure’ means off-road touring and not just hitting a bumpy road once in a while.”




2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer XCx / XCa
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See our review of the Triumph Tiger 800 XCx.

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