Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin

Africa-Twin-1100L Feature

Ollie Rooke assesses the long-distance capabilities of Honda’s Africa Twin with a view of taking on an Iron Butt Challenge

When Bryn from the ABR team returned triumphantly from his Iron Butt ride having completed 1,000 miles in 24 hours (which you can read about on page 53), I admit I was a little jealous.

As he pointed out, the world is full of ‘almost-did’ riders with tales of big mileage days that just fall short of that hallowed figure, and I’m a little ashamed to be amongst them. You see, while I need both hands to count the number of 700-plus mile days I’ve done in the saddle, I’ve never pushed a journey into four figures. This year, I reckon it’s time to change that.

Unlike Bryn, who’s a glutton for punishment, I’m going to leave my own Iron Butt efforts until the summer months, when long days and pleasant temperatures will make it a far less taxing affair. That self-imposed deadline also gives me time to think about a pretty damn important question: which bike will I be taking on the trip? As of this moment, my gaze is falling firmly on the Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin.

So, what makes the Honda an early favourite as my Iron Butt steed? First up is the amount of technology that comes as standard.

In particular, cruise control will help me tackle the long motorway stints, as will the use of Apple CarPlay (there’s also connectivity for Android phones).

SPECS AT A GLANCE

Price: £13,049
Engine: Liquid-cooled parallel twin
Final drive: Chain
Capacity: 1,084cc
Power: 101bhp at 7,500rpm
Torque: 105Nm at 6,250rpm
Suspension: Front: Showa 45mm USD fork, fully adjustable, 230mm travel. Rear: Showa monoshock, fully adjustable
Brakes: Front: 2x 310mm wave discs with four-piston radial callipers. Rear: 256mm single disc with single-piston calliper
Weight: 226kg (wet)
Tank capacity: 18.8l
Seat height: 850-870mm

By connecting my phone to the bike, I can project Google Maps onto the full-colour, 6.5” TFT screen and control the music playing through my headset with the buttons on the left-hand switchgear.

This is likely to send a shudder down your spine if you’re averse to technology on your motorcycles, but I’ve always found that music is the perfect way of keeping my mind alert in the saddle, so it will be a must for my own Iron Butt efforts.

The Africa Twin’s tractable engine, with bags of torque (105Nm at 6,250rpm), will also make covering big miles a breeze.

It’s smooth, cruises effortlessly at motorway speeds, and offers plenty of power throughout the rev range to propel me past plenty of dawdling lorries. The 18.8l tank will keep that powerplant fed as I’ve found I get around 220 miles between fill-ups, or up to 250 miles if I ride very economically (which I don’t often do).

There are a couple of things on the bike I’ll need to improve ahead of the summer though. That stubby screen which offers very little weather protection needs to go, and in its place, I’ll fit a capable aftermarket option that offers ample shelter from wind blast. On the topic of wind-proofing, the Honda also needs some more substantial handguards, as the current ones are too thin to do the job.

With those additions, I reckon the Africa Twin will be the perfect bike for my Iron Butt efforts later this year. Watch this space, and I’ll let you know how I get on.