Some people get all the tough jobs!
In the July 2016 edition of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure, renowned motorcycle travel author Nathan Millward has been putting Honda’s new Africa Twin to the test on the wet and muddy trails of Mid Wales.
Less powerful than it’s big BMW and KTM rivals, but larger than the likes of the Tiger 800, the new Honda has been a big hit and has created it’s own niche within the ADV bike market.
The launch in South Africa was a huge success, with journalists from around the globe coming away impressed with it’s performance in the dirt on the Continental TKC 80 tyres. But how would it fair in the hills around Rhayader? An 800-mile round trip on the DCT version including a trip to Sweet Lamb was the only way to find out.
Honda have taken a brave decision to go with the 21″ front and 18″ rear, which is much better off-road, but can be more difficult to turn in on tarmac, where most of these bikes will spend their time. Despite the blocky rubber, Nathan doesn’t find this to be the case with the Honda – and it is even well geared for motorway riding. Even at 100mph on the TKC 80 tyres, Nathan reports it feels stable and planted. The riding position is good, and the bike feels balanced and nothing like it’s claimed 242kg weight.
The DCT version was favoured on the official launch in dusty South Africa, but conditions in the UK can be very different indeed. Lots of stopping and starting, deep ruts, mud and slow speed manoeuvres call for the kind of control you can only get with a clutch, although Nathan reported traction from the TKC 80s to be excellent in any case. The big advantage of DCT is that it’s not possible to stall the bike, which may appeal to novice riders especially.
The ABS was a little over-intrusive on it’s standard setting on the wet Welsh roads, but Nathan turned it down to level one and instantly found this to be more suitable for his style of riding, still ready to kick in when really needed.
Having owned a BMW R1200 GS, the Honda’s main rival in the market, Nathan doesn’t think the new Africa Twin is the bike to replace it, but he does say:
“If I wasn’t bothered about taking a pillion, and if I was embarking on another solo adventure overseas – or even just something more manageable here in the UK – then I’d have the Africa Twin. It’s an important bike in what will hopefully become the transformation of the adventure market into something more usable for all.”
And of the tyres?
“This test machine had been fitted with off-road friendly Continental TKC 80s, which, on the wider but smaller diameter wheels of the GS (19in front) have a tendency to rumble at low speed and give less confidence in the corners. This isn’t the case on the Africa Twin; it’s narrower profile front wheel giving good levels of grip, confidence, and no noticeable low speed rumble. They also complete the look of the bike, and if you were thinking of fitting them for purely aesthetic reasons, then I wouldn’t dissuade you.”
Pick up the latest copy of the magazine for Nathan’s in-depth 7 page article.
Find out more about the Continental TKC 80 here.