2020 Honda Africa Twin
The New 1,084 cc Engine Has Seven Percent More Powerby TJ Hinton, on
Honda’s globetrotting Africa Twin line has always represented a lot of bike for your buck, but the factory buffed that reputation ahead of MY2020 with a series of improvements that go far beyond the cursory “Bold New Graphics” that frequently makes up Honda’s upgrades. I’m talking about a new engine and updated transmission that deliver more power and control over a frame that drew from Honda’s not-inconsiderable experience with off-road machines. Top-shelf rider-aid electronics and finely-tuned comfort features round out the package to make the new Africa Twin an all-around winner on the global stage.
2020 Honda Africa Twin
2020 Honda Africa Twin Design
Though there are plenty of tweaks to the overall design, the new base-model Africa Twin and Africa Twin DCT still maintain that striking Africa Twin look that defined the line.
Though there are plenty of tweaks to the overall design, the new base-model Africa Twin and Africa Twin DCT still maintain that striking Africa Twin look that defined the line. It starts with a fork foot-mount front fender that comes complete with tall uprights to protect the inner fork tubes and seals. The fender style precludes the need for a big, ugly bird’s beak fairing, so it leaves the front fairing with a distinctive snub-nose profile that sets it apart from most of the rest of the adventure-bike field.
Dual headlights make the transition from previous versions, but the slightly reworked fairing carries them a tad higher than before, possibly to make room for the cornering lights that grace the front of the Adventure Sports model but don’t make it onto the base model.
Short turn-signal standoffs support LED lightbars for high visibility, and they’re positioned high and tight so as to not be at risk the first time you drop the thing. The clear windscreen is chopped down to a mere vestige of its former self to serve as little more than a vented flyscreen that protects the instrumentation but little else.
As for the instrumentation itself, it’s mostly handled by a 6.5-inch color TFT display to crunch most of the pertinent metrics and act as an interface for the higher electronics, and it’s backed up by an LCD screen down below that rocks a whole bevy of indicator lights. The icing on the cake here lies with the Apple CarPlay feature that networks the bike’s computer with your smartphone to unlock wireless phone operation, music, weather, and navigation services.
Tapered aluminum handlebars ride a whopping 22.5 mm higher than previous versions in a bid to relax the rider’s triangle a bit and make the Africa Twin easier to stay in the saddle for prolonged rides, plus it comes stock with handguards to protect your meathooks. The five-gallon fuel tank makes its customary hump in the flyline ahead of the skinnier seat that dropped 20 mm from its overall width to make it easier to access the ground. An adjustable saddle comes set at 34.3 inches off the ground, and it can be lowered to 33.5 inches high, but that’s still fairly tall, especially for shorter inseams.
Out back, the subframe also looks like it just got back from fat camp as it’s 40 mm narrower than the previous gen, and it contributes to the general overall skinnier look and feel of this next-gen Africa Twin. The p-pad comes with a very slight shoulder to segregate pilot from pillion, and that’s no doubt a move to allow for weight shifts fore-and-aft for technical work. It comes with a grab strap and fold-up footpegs for the passenger’s other points of contact, but truthfully, the p-pad seems like more of an afterthought than something someone is going to want to spend any amount of time riding on.
A tucked-under taillight takes care of business with the turn signals mounted down of the short mudguard that doubles as a tag holder. At a glance, the base 2020 Africa Twin is built with a clear off-road bias that’s entirely in keeping with its purpose in life.
2020 Honda Africa Twin Chassis
Lock-to-lock, the Africa Twin delivers 43 degrees of travel for slow-speed agility and good parking-lot manners.
The main structure on the Africa Twin is a new semi-double-cradle frame made of steel for the strength it provides, and the steering head area was buttressed to cut down on flexion at this critical point. Don’t let the steel structure fool you; the factory took steps to keep weight down with a new aluminum swingarm, both of which are based on the CRF450R motocross machine, and they drop over a pound from the overall weight. It seems like the measures worked as the new Africa Twin rolls with a 501-pound curb weight.
Inverted Showa forks float the front end on 45 mm inner fork tubes with a generous 9.1 inches of travel that’ll soak up some serious abuse. A rising-rate Pro-Link rear shock supports the rear with 8.7 inches of travel and an easy-to-reach, electrically-operated remote preload adjuster that makes it easy to compensate for changes in passenger/cargo loads. Laced wheels round out the rolling chassis in typical off-road style, and they mount dual-surface hoops in a 90/90-21 up front opposite a 150/70-18.
In another bid to limit unsprung weight, the factory opted to use hollow front and rear axles, and that pays off in suspension responsiveness on choppy surfaces. Lock-to-lock, the Africa Twin delivers 43 degrees of travel for slow-speed agility and good parking lot manners. Dual four-pot calipers bite 310 mm front discs with a single-pot anchor and 256 mm disc out back, and here we find the first of many safety features in the stock ABS feature, but it’s far from the last.
2020 Honda Africa Twin Drivetrain
The new CRF1100L parallel-twin engine brings a seven percent increase in horsepower to bear.
The electronical fandanglery on the Africa Twin continues well into the engine controls with a couple of systems to help you keep it all under control. First, there’s the Honda Selectable Torque Control that monitors for wheel spin and intervenes to prevent loss of traction due to the rear wheel breaking loose. It comes with no less than seven profiles for a wide range of protected slip, plus an “Off” setting so you can peel out to your heart’s content. This enables a second feature, the Wheelie Control that also comes with a trio of profiles for varying levels of intervention plus an “Off” setting so you can pick the front end up as much as you like. Last but not least is the Riding Modes feature that comes with a quartet of power-deliver profiles plus two rider-programmable profiles that let you dial right in for your personal riding style.
Of course, the new CRF1100L parallel-twin engine itself is pretty big news. The stroke was stretched by 6.4 mm up to 81.5 mm to increase the overall displacement by 86 cc. This works with a 92 mm bore to add up to a total displacement of 1,084 cc with a 10.1-to-1 compression ratio that’ll require top-hook gas, but that’s part of the price you pay for a 7-percent increase in horsepower. That’s right, the new mill churns out 101 ponies for your riding enjoyment, and that’s plenty to handle proper off-road adventuring.
Honda’s Unicam valvetrain reduces bulk up top and allows for a narrower top end and lower overall weight, plus it simplifies the valvetrain. Power flows through an updated six-speed manual transmission and heads to the rear wheel via a tough, O-ring chain that is much more appropriate for far-flung adventures than a relatively vulnerable belt drive.
Honda offers a second choice in gearboxes with its Dual Clutch Transmission that uses a pair of automatic clutches and a dual-mainshaft internal setup for the gear clusters to allow seamless twist-and-go operation sans clutch- and shift-lever action.
2020 Honda Africa Twin Pricing
MSRP is $14.4k for the manual transmission and $15.2k for the DCT.
The base 2020 Africa Twin rolls in Matte Black Metallic for $14,399. If you want that DCT model, you can expect to shell out another 8 Benjamins in the same black-with-red-trim livery.
2020 Honda Africa Twin Competitors
The Tiger has a higher price, but falls behind in the fandanglery with only a Riding Mode feature against Honda's more robust electronics suite.
Honda’s Africa Twin is a proven globetrotter with serious off-road chops, so I needed another capable machine for my head-to-head and Triumph’s Tiger 1200 XCx looks like a good fit. There are two schools of design for ADV bikes – bird’s beak fairings and snub nosed – and the Trumpet product follows the former with a broad bill perched on the front of its fairing that comes with backup from a fork foot-mount, close-fit fender. The Tiger also departs from the Honda’s design with a full-size, vented windscreen to punch a hole in the weather for the rider, but matches it with stock handguards.
In profile, the Tiger carries a much more dramatic flyline with a rather large fuel-tank hump and a steep drop to the saddle, and the pillion area seems to be a bit more passenger-friendly with thicker padding and large J.C. handles.
A tubular-steel frame supports the Tiger with a single-side aluminum swingarm, but suspension travel takes a dive at 7.48 inches and 7.6 inches on the front and rear respectively to cede the terrain-tackling advantage to Honda, even though Triumph gets points for its fully-adjustable suspension, so it’s a trade off.
The Tiger gets some back with its 1,215 cc powerplant that generates a generous 141 horsepower against 101 ponies from the Honda, though it falls behind again in the fandanglery with only a Riding Mode feature against Honda’s more robust electronics suite. To compound the pain for the British marque, it asks a starting price of $19,700, and that leaves the Africa Twin in an excellent position in the market, especially considering that the Triumph’s extra power isn’t liable to convert to a real advantage when running over hill and dale.
“The new Africa Twin doesn’t disappoint, and credit where it’s due, I love that Honda offers it with an automatic transmission. Not only does this help keep riders with physical issues on the road, but it opens up the two-wheel lifestyle to people who might otherwise be put off by trying to learn how to ride a standard manual shift drivetrain. Some would disagree with me, but they can take their opinions and shove it, because I think that everybody who wants to ride, should be able to ride, regardless of physical abilities, and experience.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Between the base Africa Twin and the new Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES, this model could be considered the more on-road-oriented bike where the Adventure Sports ES is definitely skewed toward off-road. Don’t take that to mean the Africa Twin isn’t off-road capable – it certainly is – but if your plans include spending more time on the terrain than on the pavement, the ES may be more suited to your purposes. The weight-saving changes contribute to better handling, and with more power and torque, it’s just a better ride than it’s ever been.”
2020 Honda Africa Twin Specifications
|Engine & Drivetrain:|
|Engine:||Liquid-cooled Unicam® four-stroke 22.5º parallel-twin|
|Bore x Stroke:||92 mm x 81.5 mm|
|Induction:||PGM-FI electronic fuel injection (Throttle By Wire)|
|Ignition:||Full transistorized ignition|
|Transmission:||6-speed Manual (DCT: 6-speed Automatic DCT)|
|Final Drive:||#525 Chain; 16T/42T|
|Front Suspension/Travel:||45 mm inverted telescopic fork/ 9.1 inches|
|Rear Suspension/ Travel:||Pro-Link® system w/ single shock/ 8.7 inches|
|Front Brakes:||Two four-piston hydraulic calipers w/ 310 mm disks; ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Single one-piston hydraulic caliper w/ 256 mm disk; ABS|
|Dimensions & Capacities:|
|Seat Height:||Standard position: 34.3 inches/Low position: 33.5 inches|
|Curb Weight:||501 lbs (DCT: 524 lbs)|
|Fuel Capacity:||5 gallons including 1.0-gallon reserve|
|Warranty:||One Year Included, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty|
|Color:||Matt Black Metallic|
|Price:||$14,399 (DCT: $15,199)|
Triumph Tiger 1200 XCx
See our review of the Triumph Tiger 1200 XCx.
Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES
See our review of the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES.
Read more Honda news.