Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
It’s been 30 years since the legendary Honda XRV650 Africa Twin first rolled into Europe and while the motorcycle that now bears its name – launched in 2016 as the CRF1000L Africa Twin – shares no common part with the forerunner it inherits the essence and spirit of what made the original so good.
The balance between power and weight is the Africa Twin’s secret, then and now. The renewed machine has proved itself a modern-day all-rounder, popular with casual tourers and off-road adventurers alike (plus all riders in between) because it offers enjoyable and usable engine performance in a chassis that works as well on-road as it does off.
For 2018 Honda is building on the Africa Twin’s strengths and its success. The base model CRF1000L Africa Twin receives a host of detail upgrades to both manual transmission and Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) options that enhance the riding and owning experience, while the new CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports version extends the platform even further into the long-range off-road ready territory.
Can you spot the difference?
Side-by-side with its sibling, the CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports is obviously taller, with a flatter seat profile and more upright riding position. The fairing and screen offer more wind protection and a large sump guard and side pipe fully protect the machine. An extra 5.4L fuel capacity extends range beyond 500km, while heated grips and an AC charging socket add comfort and convenience.
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports’ comprehensive abilities start with its engine, which has to perform in off-road situations as well as on-road, over long-range tours, short commutes and all points in between. As such, it provides an optimum balance between power, torque, mass and physical dimension.
The four-valve 998cc parallel twin Unicam unit’s tractable and usable all-day performance belies its extremely compact dimensions. They are the result of clever packaging touches such as housing the water pump within the clutch casing and using the engine’s balancer shafts to also drive water and oil pumps. As a result, longitudinally, it is the same length as Honda’s popular 500cc engine, and its short height contributes to the Africa Twin Adventure Sport’s 270mm of ground clearance.
For 2018, a modified airbox improves the power unit’s mid-range response, as does a lighter balancer shaft weight. A revised exhaust serves up an even more evocative howl as revs rise and also contributes to the improved performance.
A significant addition to the Africa Twin platform for 2018 is its new Throttle By Wire (TBW) system, which brings with it 3 riding modes to adjust engine character and output to suit riding conditions. Also new is an extended range of Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) input.
The unique DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) version features the standard manual mode – allowing the rider to operate gearshifts through triggers on the left handlebar – and two automatic modes. D mode offers the best balance of fuel economy and comfort cruising whilst S mode gives three different, sportier shift patterns to choose from. The DCT is also fully equipped to operate in an off-road environment and off-road functionality is enhanced by the G button. Pushing the G button in any riding mode modifies the control of the clutch system to give a more direct drive.
The semi-double-cradle steel frame provides the ideal balance of high-speed stability matched to genuine off-road ability by combining sheer strength with flexibility. The engine is mounted on 6 engine hangers, which keeps vibration to a minimum, avoiding the need for steering dampers. The new lithium-ion battery saves 2.3kg on the 2017 Africa Twin’s lead unit, and the Adventure Sports version shares several detail changes made to improve the platform’s off-road ability and durability.
Fully adjustable 45mm Showa inverted forks, fully-adjustable rear shock, dual radial-mount Nissin four-piston brake callipers and 310mm ‘wave’ style floating discs are unchanged for 2018. The 21-inch front and 18-inch rear spoked wheels are constructed from stainless steel. In addition to the standard dual-purpose 90 front/150 rear rubber, block tyres are also approved for fitment.
Dual LED headlights maintain the original Africa Twin’s presence and the seat height adjusts 20mm from the 900mm to 920mm (both respectively 50mm higher than the standard model). The 24.2L fuel tank – and the engine’s fuel efficiency of 21.8km/l (WMTC in DCT mode) – provides a range of over 500km.
The 2018 CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports will be available in one 30th anniversary Tricolore paint scheme to celebrate the XRV650’s launch in 1988.
- Longer travel suspension, flatter seat and more upright riding position
- Extended fairing protection and taller screen
- Heated grips as standard plus AC charging socket
- Rider’s footpegs/pillion footpeg hangers designed for off-road use
- Stainless steel spokes offer durability and ease of care
- Emergency Stop Signal function for rear indicators
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports’ steel semi-double cradle frame provides nimble on-road manners plus high-speed stability matched to genuine off-road ability, agility and strength. Ground clearance is 270mm (20mm more than the Africa Twin) with a wheelbase of 1575mm and rake and trail of 27.5°/115. Wet weight is 243kg (253kg DCT).
With a stroke length of 252mm (up 22mm on the standard Africa Twin) the 45mm Showa cartridge-type inverted front fork offers excellent long-travel performance and control; rebound and compression damping are fully adjustable. A cast aluminium top yoke and forged bottom yoke – joined by hollow aluminium stem shaft – clamp the fork legs with two bolts each top and bottom.
Matching the supple front suspension the Showa rear shock delivers an extra 20mm travel, at 240mm. Its upper mount is set low for mass centralisation and it features a 46mm cylinder remote reservoir for stable damping control under more extreme off-road riding conditions. Spring preload can be adjusted via a dial on the shock body; rebound and compression damping are also fully adjustable.
There are some other updates shared between both Africa Twins that off-road riders are sure to appreciate: the rider’s footpegs are now wider and feature beefed-up steel mounting plates. The pillion footpeg hangers have also been redesigned to allow more room for the rider’s feet when standing and the instruments are angled at a shallower angle to allow the rider to see them easily from a standing position.
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports’ styling is less minimalist than the Africa Twin; the dual headlights are shared but it has a larger fairing matched with an 80mm taller screen to offer greater wind protection. It also features heated grips as standard plus an AC socket.
A large sump guard is unique to the machine and protects the underside while the front side pipes guard the bodywork. Brushed aluminium cowling panels add tough appeal and class; the rear mudguard and stainless steel rack are also easily removed. Aluminium side cases will be available.
For extended off-road use, the seat features a flatter profile – and is 50mm taller – than the standard CRF1000L Africa Twin. It adjusts 20mm to either 900mm or 920mm (compared to 850mm and 870mm); there’s also a rear side pocket tucked away on the right. To match the raised seat height the handlebar position is 32.5mm higher and pulled back 5mm.
The rear indicators now also offer an Emergency Stop Signal function. At a minimum speed of 53km/h, with either brake working, if the negative acceleration of a minimum of 6.0m/s2 is detected the hazard lights flash, warning other road users a hard stop is in process. At the same speed, the threshold is reduced with ABS in play – for wet conditions – to a negative acceleration of a minimum 2.5m/s2.
The indicators now also auto-cancel. Rather than using a simple timer, the system compares front and rear wheel speed difference and calculates when to cancel the indication relative to the situation.
Compact two-piece radial-mount four-piston callipers work dual 310mm ‘wave’ floating discs through sintered pads and serve up consistent stopping power and feel on-road or off. The rear 256mm ‘wave’ disc features hole punching and shaping to deliver secure braking performance. Lightweight two-channel ABS can be turned off for the rear calliper only.
Like the CRF450R Rally, the CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports uses 21/18-inch front-rear spoked wheels, wearing 90/90-21 and 150/70-18 tyres. The spokes are manufactured in stainless steel, for improved durability and ease of care.
Block pattern tyres (Continental 90/90-21M/C 545 and 150/70 B18M/C 70Q, rated at 180km/h and 160km/h respectively) are now approved by Honda for fitment to take full advantage of the Africa Twin Adventure Sports’ off-road abilities.
Engine Management Electronics
- Throttle By Wire (TBW) brings with it 3 rider modes to tailor engine character and traction
- The riding modes are comprised of different levels of Power (P), Engine Braking (EB) and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC)
- HSTC now has 7 levels and OFF
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports’ 998cc SOHC 8-valve parallel-twin engine’s 2018 upgrade sees it receive Throttle By Wire (TBW) plus riding modes and expanded Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC).
The use of TBW greatly expands the choices available to the rider to manage engine output, feel and rear wheel traction to suit different riding conditions. Whereas the 2017 Africa Twin had 3 Levels of HSTC, plus OFF, the new system features 7 Levels – from Level 1, for aggressive riding off-road on block pattern tyres, to Level 7 for maximum sense of security on slippery, wet tarmac. It remains possible to turn HSTC completely OFF.
There are also 3 levels of Power and Engine Braking available.
In a set-up first used on the RC213V-S – Honda’s street legal version of its MotoGP racer – three riding modes offer pre-set combinations of each parameter, suitable for different riding environments and scenarios:
TOUR employs the maximum Power (1), mid-range Engine Braking (2) and high HSTC (6).
URBAN uses mid-level Power (2) and Engine Braking (2) and high HSTC (6).
GRAVEL mode allows the lowest level of Power (3) and EB (3) with high HSTC (6).
A fourth mode – USER – allows the rider to set and save his or her preferred combination of Power, EB and HSTC levels. Both riding mode and level of HSTC can be changed at any time using the controls on the left-hand switchgear.
- New intake design and exhaust aid mid-range response
- New exhaust also designed to improve engine note
- New lighter balance shaft weight
- New lithium-ion battery saves 2.3 kg and enhances durability
- Power is smooth and consistent, with linear torque delivery
- Assist/slipper clutch helps upshifts and downshifts
Alongside the new engine management electronics for 2018, the airbox now features a 20mm longer funnel length, matched with redesigned exhaust internals to significantly boost mid-range response and sound. The 2-1 downpipe now feeds gas flow through two catalysers (rather than one) into a simplified, smaller volume (4.6L to 4L) muffler that houses two chambers rather three.
Peak power of 70Kw still arrives @ 7,500rpm, with 99Nm torque @ 6,000rpm. Bore and stroke are set at 92 x 75.1mm, with a compression ratio of 10.0:1; the 270° phased crankshaft and uneven firing interval create the engine’s distinctive throb and feel for rear wheel traction.
Good ground clearance – crucial to off-road performance – starts with a compact, short engine. So the crankcases are split vertically; the water pump is housed within the clutch casing with a thermostat integrated into the cylinder head. Manual and DCT versions of the engine share common crankcases with only minor external differences. The water and oil pumps are driven by the engine’s balancer shafts; for 2018 300g has been shaved from the balance weight, reducing inertia by 306g/cm2, further adding to the character and feel of the power delivery.
Four-valve cylinder heads, fed by PGM-FI fuel injection, each employ twin spark plugs and dual and sequential ignition control for even combustion. Honda’s SOHC Unicam valve train is a feature of the CRF450R and the low-set position of the cast camshaft contributes to the compact nature of the cylinder head. The inlet valves are 36.5mm in diameter, the exhaust valves 31mm.
The engine uses a semi-dry sump and in-tank lower crankcase oil storage. This allows a lower pan depth, reducing overall engine height. As the pressure-fed pump is located within the tank where it delivers its oil from, there is no need for a pressure-feed passage; again saving weight and space.
Secondary vibrations are neutralised by the mutually reciprocating motion of the pistons, while primary inertial and coupling vibrations are cancelled by the use of biaxial balance shafts. The front balancer shaft uses two weights, the rear only a single weight in order to save weight.
The aluminium clutch centre and pressure plate use ‘assist’ cams to ease upshift and downshift (with light lever feel) and ‘slipper’ cams for deceleration and downshifting. The six-speed gearbox uses ‘pierced’ shape dogs for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear, allowing the use of a smaller, lighter clutch. Oil gathering ribs on the main journal side of the primary gear ensure consistent lubrication for the gear, damper spring and primary sub-gear.
The lightweight six-speed manual gearbox uses the same shift-cam design as found on the CRF450R to ensure positive changes, and is equipped with an aluminium assist slipper clutch.
New for 2018 a lithium-ion battery is 2.3kg lighter than the lead unit of the 2017 Africa Twin, and offers greater longevity, both in terms of life and the ability to hold onto a charge when left.
A quickshifter is available as an optional extra.
Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)
- Super-fast, seamless gear changes in Manual Transmission (MT) or Automatic D mode
- S mode (with 3 levels) revs higher and downshifts sooner, for aggressive riding
- G switch improves rear wheel traction when off-road
- Incline detection adapts shift pattern depending on road gradient
Honda’s unique DCT delivers consistent, super-fast seamless gear changes, and very quickly becomes second nature in use. It uses two clutches: one for start-up and 1st, 3rd and 5th gears: the other for 2nd, 4th and 6th, with the main shaft for each clutch located inside the other for compact packaging.
Each clutch is independently controlled by its own electro-hydraulic circuit. When a gear change occurs, the system pre-selects the target gear using the clutch not currently in use. The first clutch is then electronically disengaged as, simultaneously, the second clutch engages.
The result is a consistent, fast and seamless gear change. Furthermore, as the twin clutches transfer drive from one gear to the next with minimal interruption of the drive to the rear wheel, any gear change shock and pitching of the machine is minimised, making the change feel direct as well as smooth.
The extra benefits of durability (as the gears cannot be damaged by missing a gear) impossibility of stalling, low-stress urban riding and reduced rider fatigue add to the DCT’s appeal
Three modes of operation are available. MT mode gives full manual control, allowing the rider to shift with the handlebar trigger control buttons. Automatic D mode is ideal for city and highway riding and achieves optimum fuel efficiency. Automatic S mode offers three levels of sportier riding, as the ECU lets the engine rev a little higher before shifting up, and shifts down sooner when decelerating for extra engine braking.
In either D or S mode, DCT offers immediate manual intervention if required – the rider simply selects the required gear using the up and down shift triggers on the left handlebar. At an appropriate time, DCT seamlessly reverts back to automatic mode, depending on throttle angle, vehicle speed and gear position.
DCT for the Africa Twin is also fully equipped to operate in an adventure environment, with off-road functionality enhanced by the G switch positioned on the right side of the instrument panel. Pushing the G switch in any riding mode improves traction and machine control by reducing the amount of clutch slip during gear changes.
Further functionality for the DCT system comes in the form of incline detection, by means of which the gear shift pattern is adapted depending on the grade of an incline to provide optimum control.
For pricing and availability, please contact your local Honda Wing Dealer.