If you had unlimited funds, all the time in the world, and your pick of any bike to ride, what trip would you go on and what would you take?
It’s the kind of question that’s regularly debated at Adventure Bike Rider, which means I can recite my answer without hesitation. I’d travel around the world in a near-perfect loop, roughly following the Long Way Round trip made famous back in 2004, with slight diversions to ride the length of Japan, America’s West Coast, and Morocco. And I’d do it all on the Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports.
For regular ABR readers who’ve kept an eye on our long-term garage updates, my answer is hardly a surprise. After nearly two years and well over 10,000 miles around the UK on both variants of the Africa Twin, the tour-ready Adventure Sports and the standard model, it’s proved itself a supremely capable adventure bike.
But, more than that, the Honda has tapped into the subconscious urge that drives me to load up my panniers and explore the world on two wheels. I’ve loved having both versions of the bike in my garage one after the other, and the day the Japanese manufacturer comes to finally take the keys off me will be a very sad one indeed.
So, before that day comes, I thought I’d share the five reasons why I reckon either Africa Twin would be a great bike to take on your next adventure.
With overseas travel taken swiftly off the cards a month after I first got the keys to the Adventure Sports, I’m yet to realise my dream of riding it to Romania’s Transfăgărășan or the desert roads of Morocco. Instead, I made an effort to explore the UK, and was lucky enough to turn my wheels north and travel to Scotland’s NC500 in 2020, where I discovered that the bike excelled as a road tourer.
At motorway speeds it sits planted on the road like a barnacle on a ship, undeterred by crosswinds or the turbulent air off lorries, cruising happily at speeds up to, and even beyond, 70mph. The huge 25l fuel tank means it can keep it up all day too, allowing for a 300-mile range if I take care to ride efficiently.
Life in the saddle is comfortable too, offering a relaxed sitting position for a six-footer and ample weather protection. If I was regularly putting in big days, I’d be eying up a comfort seat in the accessories catalogue, but overall, the Africa Twin is a extremely capable and comfortable mile-muncher.
In terms of pillion comfort, the luggage on the standard model bike I’m riding at the moment seems to be mounted half an inch or so too far forward, which has resulted in my better half knocking her legs uncomfortably against it while we’re riding. So, if you’re planning a two-up tour, take your partner with your on the test ride to make sure they don’t have the same issue.
Fun in the twisties
Of course, long-distance riding is all well and good, but once I’m done with stints on toll roads and motorways, I like to hit the bends. In this case, I want a bike that is capable of putting a smile on my face. Luckily, the Africa Twin duly delivers.
From riding Cheddar Gorge in Somerset (pictured above) to the tight curves of Scotland’s magnificent Quiraing, and even during Sunday morning blasts in the Cotswolds, the bike has always entertained when the going gets wiggly.
With highways in the wing mirrors, it takes on the twisties in an agile and spirited manner that seems at odds with its size and weight. The performance is doubly impressive given the big 21-inch front wheel, a feature that typically compromises on-road performance in favour of off-road capability, and credit has to go to Honda’s engineering team for managing to strike the balance.
When I first started riding the Africa Twin, I have to admit I was a bit of an off-road novice. And, while experienced trail riders would probably turn their noses up at the idea, I mostly developed my new-found skills and confidence on the two big Hondas, which says something about the capability of the bike.
From learning the basics at the Honda Adventure Centre under the watchful eye of Dave Thorpe, to greenlaning trips on gnarly, rutted trails, the Africa Twin has excelled, particularly the lighter standard model, which would be my pick of the two if riding off-road is regular hobby.
The standing position is natural, comfortable, and I’ve spent hours at a time trail riding with no complaints from my knees or arms. Despite being a big, 1100cc adventure bike, it also holds its weight relatively low down, making low speed manoeuvres and paddling through ruts easier than you’d expect.
A particular mention must go to Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) too, which came into its own during my first foray into off-roading at the Honda Adventure Centre. Those new to trail riding will know how disconcerting the practice of shifting gear while riding standing up can be, but DCT allowed me to fully focus on shifting my weight through the pegs and picking the right line, while I could still override it with the paddles located on the left-hand switchgear if I wanted more control.
Technology on the Africa Twin
Technology on an adventure bike may be a controversial subject in some quarters, and I’m quick to notice when it hasn’t been well integrated, but I’ve been hugely impressed by the suite of electronic aids on the Africa Twin.
As an iPhone fan I’ve particularly enjoyed the Apple CarPlay integration, which has been something of a revelation (there’s also Android Connect for other smartphone users). By syncing the bike with my phone and a Bluetooth headset, I can control the songs that I’m listening to on Spotify, my route on Google Maps (helpfully projected onto the large TFT in front of me), and even answer calls, all from the left hand switchgear.
There are also six rider modes, including two fully customisable ones, seven-stage traction control, wheelie control, the ability to alter engine braking, and cruise control, all as standard. While that may seem like a lot, the biggest compliment I can give is that they do little to detract from the experience of riding, until called upon when things get a little out of shape.
Finally, there’s an unquantifiable quality that I want to touch on. It’s an X-factor that every bike owner looks for, and I think the Africa Twin has it in spades. Whenever I swing my leg over the saddle it seems to speak to that deep-seated part of my mind, body, or soul that’s responsible for my love of two wheels.
Whether it’s the aggressive styling that looks ready to take on the world, or the throaty exhaust reverberating off the red-stone walls of Cotswold villages, I’ve felt pretty darn lucky to be able to call the Africa Twin ‘mine’ for the last two years.
Test ride the Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin for yourself
ABR founder Alun has long talked about how motorcycling is a passion of the heart, not the head, and there’s no doubt that Honda’s Africa Twin has a direct line into my own. Whether it does for you too is a question that only a visit to your local dealership and an afternoon in the saddle can answer.
Find one close to you and discover a range of summer savings available now on the Africa Twin over on Honda’s website today.