Honda Africa Twin is the second best-selling motorcycle in the adventure segment after… you guessed, BMW R1200GS. Yes, it’s lovely to ride, but why not KTM? Or Triumph’s Tiger? The Africa Twin is comfortable, easy to ride and the gearbox works flawlessly.
I remember how happy I was riding it on some pot-hole roads in Serbia. It was the best bike I could choose. But take it to a faster pace on curvy roads: it wobbles, the fork dives in quickly, and the engine is ok, but you can’t compare it to a BMW Boxer or ta KTM V-Twin. Remember that “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” phrase. That’s the thing. And it sells very well due to its “complete” package, a priceless legacy and smart market positioning.
Africa Twin is a big name. It has that indestructible Japanese motorcycle aura that makes the old units to keep a high price on the market – for example, a 1994 Africa Twin having 100.000 km on dash costs about 2.000 euro. Once it was relaunched and the XRV became CRF1000L, receiving a parallel twin instead of the V-Twin, it entered the market as a star, not as a newcomer.
I remember how disappointed I was when I saw the tech specs: 95 hp, 240 kg, tube tires, no electronics, no cruise control. It came with that DCT gearbox that made no sense for me. I was waiting for a muscular Africa Twin, ready to fight the R1200GS and KTM Adventure using the same weapons. But, no. Honda used the #TrueAdventure thing ("you don't really need electronics to do it") and came up with an alternative. Honda chose the role of David fighting Goliath. And it was a smart move.
Honda came up with a smart market positioning. It avoided the “arms race” on the European market and built a different bike. You can’t compare the Africa Twin to the R1200GS because the Japanese bike has 30 hp less, lower-spec components and it’s cheaper. Smart move.
On the other side, you can put it against the brand new F850GS – same price and same performance. Or against the new Tiger 800XCX – we’ll have a great battle and this time we’ll come up with a clear verdict. Honda saw it coming and forgot about the #TrueAdventure no electronic think – now the Africa Twin has the same electronic package as BMW and Triumph. Still, they are not the same: Africa Twin looks bigger, more serious, with a big-bike feeling and better weather protection. Judging by the looks, it’s more similar to the R1200GS than to F850 – maybe because the F850 must be R1200GS’ little brother and to cover a specific segment, without biting from the big GS’s pie.
However, Africa Twin doesn’t have a big brother or even a younger one to share the market. So the CRF1000L is the single child and he gets the best.