I had an Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT long-term test bike a couple of years back, and since then I’ve had an itch to get back in the saddle of Honda’s flagship adventurer. And now I’ve finally managed to do some wintry miles on
the good old AT.
Now, I know Honda has just updated the CRF1000L Africa Twin, but my test bike was the 2017 model, which many will buy as a second-hand adventurer. My first impressions from our reunion were pretty much as I remember them being when I first climbed on the tall perch of the resurrected king of adventure: despite the height, size and weight, the bike felt surprisingly easy to ride.
Manoeuvring the 242kg machine around the car on my drive was hard work, but once you get going, the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin feels very manageable indeed. And I had almost forgotten that pleasing burble from the two-into-one exhaust. It sounds rich and reassuring even with the standard can.
The real star of the show, however, is the 998cc parallel twin engine. It may be lacking in peak power compared to some of its rivals (the Honda manages 94bhp compared to the 125bhp of the BMW R1200GS), but the low and mid-range torque that it cheerily pumps out more than makes up for that – and let’s be honest, that’s where you want to find the bulk of the performance on a bike like this, unless you’re mad enough to take it to a track day.
Which, incidentally, I was mad enough to do when I had the previous bike. Much to my surprise, I managed to keep up with the other non-sports bikes quite happily, but that’s not what the bike is designed for, really.
My main bugbear with the bike last time round was the screen, and I’m afraid that hasn’t changed – I still can’t get on with the standard screen, so the old Touratech touring screen was bolted on straight ater the first ride. It makes the airlow better, but doesn’t eliminate all the bufeting for me. I know this is a personal issue, and your height, helmet, and riding position will make a big diference, but for me, the screen just isn’t quite right on this one – maybe the 2018 models will suit me better…
I seem to remember having a bit of a mixed opinion of the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) system in the past – sometimes loving it, sometimes cursing it, but now I find it suits my riding 95% of the time. The only time I wish I could stop the auto-box throwing unwanted gears in is when I ride a series of bends and want to stay in one gear, altering my corner entry and exit speed using only the throttle – more often than not the DCT selects a higher gear between the bends and I have to manually drop it down a cog.
The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin now rolls on Dunlop TrailSmart rubber (forget the word ‘Trail’ there – I wouldn’t want to do anything but the lightest of trailing on these, but on tarmac they are great), which is a huge
mprovement from the Dunlop TrailMax tyres that used to be fitted as standard.
Where the old rubber struggled in wet conditions, the new tyre seems to cope with a fairly progressive ride even in wet and grimy winter conditions. Rather than the tyre slipping, the selectable traction control has been taking care of me on the few occasions when I have accelerated particularly hard.
Some riders have complained about the sotness of the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin’s suspension, but even with the factory settings, I feel it’s perfectly good for solo riding on tarmac. Loading the bike high with a pillion and luggage will challenge the suspension, as will aggressive of-roading, but since I did neither this time round, I found it perfectly pleasant and smooth over bumps and potholes.
The Honda panniers that I have now, and had the last time round, are easy to use, swallow up a good amount of kit and it beautifully to the brackets built into the subframe and pillion footpegs. The only issues with them are that they are a little flimsy, and not entirely waterproof, so pannier liners or carrier bags are a must.
Given that the current test bike has only done just over 4000 miles, it’s unsurprising that there are no signs of corrosion or undue wear and tear anywhere. The spokes on this bike seem to be stainless steel, which replaced the original spokes that the first model came with and caused upset among some owners for starting to look shabby pretty quickly. The switches are in good condition too, and look like they’ve been kept clean.
In most respects, my opinion of the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin hasn’t changed much at all over the last couple of years. It still puts a smile on my face as I take on nadgery B-roads, keeps me comfortable on the long boring slogs on motorways, and oozes a spirit of adventure, making me want to ride much further than just to work and back.
It also makes me want to ride the 2018 version rather badly…
Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT Long-Term Review
Cost new: £12,549 (2018 model)
Spec: 998cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin
Kerb weight: 242kg
Tank: 18.8 litres
Miles this month: 550
Miles on clock: 4173
Average mpg: 48
Current tyres: Dunlop TrailSmart
Modifications: Touratech touring screen
General impressions: I still enjoy the dominant riding position, characterful twin engine and the easy handling of the Africa Twin.