At Motorcyclist, we’ve been huge fans of the Honda Africa Twin since it first came out in 2016. And with rumors of an upcoming, larger-displacement AT swirling around the Internet, we’ve been thinking about what could make it even better.
For the last several months, I’ve been borrowing my buddy’s 2016 model and it’s been a great all-weather companion thanks to its utility, character, and build quality. Best of all, it’s kept me riding while my fancy Italian sportbikes—divas that they are—have been holding out for Tuscan-esque sunshine.
There’s a lot to love about the AT, but I can’t help but consider what I hope Honda brings out for the new model—always a fun exercise when you get wind of something new in the moto world.
What We Love
The AT feels like a wrecking ball.
The first time I rode the Africa Twin, I felt like I could run through a brick wall. Between the tall in the saddle stance and the thumper-esque engine note, it gives the impression of being a big dirt bike. And since handling is super stable, the rider feels a bit unconquerable on the thing.
The motor is one of the recent greats from Honda.
The Africa Twin is kind of gnarly for a Honda, kind of unrefined. But in a good way. The parallel-twin engine has honest-to-goodness character, and the exhaust note snaps and burbles under deceleration, encouraging gratuitous revving at stoplights. More importantly, the power delivery is great off road and is exceptionally usable on the street. With 65 pound-feet of torque available at 5,500 rpm—and not too much less than that delivered at the bottom-end of the rev range—it’s easy to slide the rear end around on the loose stuff. And mated with a peak output of 82.4 hp that hits at 7,500 rpm it’s easy to use every last bit of it all the time.
It’s utilitarian and hard wearing.
The red, black, and white paint looks best splattered in mud and road spray. What’s great about the AT—and ADV bikes in general—is that they’re meant to be ridden hard. They aren’t pretty or fussy and they don’t mind getting their feet wet. As a cold-weather companion, the AT has been a stalwart for me. It fires right up on frigid days, its nuts and bolts haven’t started looking fuzzy after blasting through salt-caked roads, and it’s made me feel secure and in control on sketchy road surfaces.
After coming indoors from a satisfying 30-degree ride and wrapping my hands around a hot cup of coffee, it seems a natural posture from which to ruminate on what I love about the bike that just delivered me safely home. And at the same time, I wonder what Honda’s got up its sleeve next. Here’s what I’ve come up with and what I’m hoping for myself—in case, you know, I get to borrow the new one for a while too.
Changes That Could Broaden The AT’s Appeal
Improved road handling.
Off-road, the AT comes into its own. But on the road, the 21-inch front feels vague—not unexpected, but it’s not all down to the 21-inch front/knobby double whammy. There are other bikes with that combo that are easy to scrape the pegs on all day. And even running OEM rubber, the AT’s front end doesn’t communicate what it’s doing on pavement.
I’m cool with Honda pursuing the more off-road crowd, but when it built the Adventure Sports and delved deeper into the off-road realm, it ignored the fact that the base model was already pretty off-road biased. What’s made bikes like BMW’s GS models so successful is that they can be whatever the rider wants them to be. The point of a big ADV—for many riders, anyway—is that it can go off road but it’s first and foremost a great road bike.
To satisfy a broader range of customers, maybe Honda could take a page from the Euro manufacturers and build multiple specs. Keep the Adventure Sports as the more off-road-focused model, and then massage the base AT so it’s better on the road. Giving it a 19-inch front wheel would be a start. As it is, Honda doesn’t offer a bike that really competes with a Ducati Multistrada 950, Kawasaki Versys 1000, or the slew of larger-displacement road warrior ADVs, like the BMW R1200GS or KTM 1290 Super Adventure. The Africa Twin should be the Honda to do it. But it isn’t.
A new TFT dash.
With a base price of $13,599, the Africa Twin should have a TFT dash. It’s 2019.
Updated electronics package.
For 2018, Honda gave the Africa Twin a revised electronics suite with a ride-by-wire throttle and seven-level traction control, but we’d like to see more changes. We’d expect cornering ABS to be included on the new model. Also, standard heated grips across the model range would be very welcome. And a heated seat.
Even though DCT, Honda’s automatic transmission, works well, I’d rather save the additional weight and have a sweet-working quickshifter. And at the price point, a good quickshifter should be a no-brainer.
The Africa Twin’s motor is a gem and a very usable package on the street. It has great torque throughout the rev range, and since it only revs to around 8,000 rpm, you can take it into the red all the time. It’s good fun and very addicting. So why not capitalize on its best feature? More is almost always better.
A centerstand that’s easier to use.
It’s not as though the Africa Twin is unusually heavy for the breed, so it shouldn’t be so hard to put up on the centerstand. It’s like Honda mounted it in the wrong spot or something. It takes more muscle than my tethered-to-a-screen dad bod can reliably muster, and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s the motorcycle’s deficiency, not mine (I’d like to think).
Are you an Africa Twin owner? What would you like to see on the next-generation model? Comment below.