Honda Africa Twin - 5,000 km in Central Asia | Review

What I love and what I hate about the Africa Twin after a month ride through the “Stans”

I just got back from an adventurous ride in Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan. My partner in crime - Honda Africa Twin DCT. It’s been a 5,000 km trip with endless off-road days, breathtaking views of the Pamir plateau and some of the worst roads a motorcycle could see. 

What I love

  • The Price. Usually, I keep this part for the end of the review. But this time is an essential thing. At €13,000 (the price for my market), it gives a lot for the money. I had the DCT version, which is more expensive, but don’t go for it if planning off-road rides - it’s heavier, more expensive, and a clutch helps a lot when in off-road. You just have to add a crash-bar, a center-stand, some hand-guards, a luggage system, and you have a fully-equipped adventure bike for about €15,000.  
  • Comfort & On-Road Handling. It’s one of the most comfortable bikes on the market. Yes, it doesn’t come with cruise control, but besides that it has everything. Proper weather protection, comfy seat, great ergonomics for a day-long ride - everything is where it should be, the engine doesn’t vibe, and the suspensions did an excellent job on the broken roads in Central Asia. That’s what impressed me the most — riding at high speed on broken roads without feeling all the bumps in my back. And if there’s good road ahead, you can ride it fast. The front feels planted on the road, and nothing is getting you by surprise. 
  • The Africa Twin seems Tough and Reliable. My bike was all-new and, of course, nothing broke during the first 6,000 kilometers. However, it wasn’t like riding on a smooth highway. The Pamir Highway is not smooth at all. I had mostly off-road, gravel roads, washboard, and broken tarmac - a disaster. I felt for a couple of times my back wheel leaving the ground, I heard the stones hitting the engine shield, but there was nothing wrong. Only the time will tell how reliable and robust the Africa Twin is, but so far I put my trust in it.
  • The Looks. Ok, it doesn’t matter that much, and it’s a matter of taste. But when stopping in the middle of nowhere to have a sandwich and start admiring the bike’s shape, you get that unique feeling a motorcyclist receives when looking at a nice bike, you feel good, and you know you made a right choice. 
  • The Mid-Size Choice. Honda had a brilliant idea: why compete the successful R1200GS when they could come up with a niche product? The Africa Twin feels lighters, smaller and it’s less expensive than a big GS, while offering a bit more comfort and grunt than an 800-850 cc middleweight. 
  • Low fuel consumption, excellent range. I got a 4,6 liters/100 km fuel consumption, which means a 400 km fuel range. It’s enough to reach the remotest places in the world. The engine didn’t seem to suffer from the low octane (80) fuel, poured from an old bucket, in the Pamir.

Mixed feelings

  • Off-Road riding. Ok, I know that Africa Twin looks tough and ready to hit the dirt. And maybe it is. But after riding all the bikes in the middleweight segment, I’d say the Africa Twin is mostly on-road focused. Perhaps it’s just my taste, but it feels harder to maneuver in dirt compared to its rivals. Don’t get me wrong. It can go anywhere an F850GS or a KTM 790 Adventure goes. But you have to work a bit more. I couldn’t tell you the precise reason - I think it’s about the rake and trail, maybe it’s the ergonomics. However, even if it’s not impressive, the Africa Twin is still a good bike for off-road use, as good as a big and heavy adventure bike could be. So if you see a dusty path next to the main road, don’t hesitate: turn off the traction control, turn off the ABS on the rear wheel and start having fun. 
  • DCT. I am a fan of the DCT gearbox as long as it’s meant for touring. For adventure rides, I would go for the standard version: cheaper, lighter, and there’s the clutch that helps a lot in off-road. More than that, I had the DCT version, and I switched to manual mode every time I went off-road. 

What I hate

  • Original Panniers - the worst side-cases I ever have seen. The plastic is cheap, they have lateral loading (it’s tough to fit more than five t-shirts over there), and even the lightest fall will break the holding system. So go for some aftermarket aluminum cases instead. 
  • Traction Control - it feels rudimental. It’s the way it kicks in that’s bothering me. When set on high intervention, it completely cuts off the gas - and it does it for a long time, you can count the seconds. When on low, it has a delayed response, and it feels quite brutal — nothing near a BMW or a KTM. The good part is that the 95 hp engine is not quite a beast, so you can turn it off every time you’re going off-road. 
  • No Tubeless Tires. I know it’s a matter of taste, but I’m on the tubeless side. Just imagine having a tire puncture in the middle of nowhere: you have to remove the wheel, then to take down the tire and to replace the tube. It doesn’t sound very complicated, but the dual-sport tires are notoriously heavy to remove from the rim. A tubeless tire can be fixed in 10 minutes. However, you can transform a tube-type rim into tubeless by using a tubliss system, or similar. 
  • No Cruise Control - hopefully, it would be available on the next generation. Until then, you can fix it with a mechanical part. It works. 

Conclusion

The Africa Twin is not perfect. But there’s no such thing as the ideal bike. After riding it for 5,000 km in Central Asia, the Africa Twin is still one of my favorites. I feel like I could ride it to the end of the world. 

P.S. The films are coming soon. 

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