All Comparisons – Comparison test Africa Twin Vs Tiger 800 XCX and R1200GS: Honda makes the big difference – The GS pushed to its limits …

Africa Twin vs Tiger 800 XCX and R1200GS comparison test: Honda makes the big difference

All Comparisons - Comparison test Africa Twin Vs Tiger 800 XCX and R1200GS: Honda makes the big difference - The GS pushed to its limits ...

Sleek and smelling the ‘real’ all-terrain, the new Africa Twin would concentrate the qualities of large and medium-displacement trails.. Ideal compromise? To find out, MNC has calibrated it to such references: R1200GS and Tiger 800 XCx. Comparo.

The GS pushed to its limits…

In the saddle, the Africa Twin boasts a more typical all-terrain ergonomics (its handlebars are the highest of the three, in particular), but above all a remarkable finesse between the knees. If the narrowness at the crotch of the R 1200 GS hits the mark when stationary, its more "rounded" tank spreads the legs further once launched.

Lower and compact, the Tiger 800 XCX also offers a small width between the thighs despite its additional cylinder. However, this is not enough to match the slimness of the Honda, because of its tubular steel frame which protrudes slightly under the tank, coming at the same time in contact with the knees..

Perfectly designed, the Africa Twin’s tank cutouts provide the best possible reception for the lower limbs, in addition to refining its general line. A little narrower than that of the BMW (870 mm against 890 according to the measurements carried out by MNC), the handlebars of the Honda are closer to the rider thanks to its short tank. This results in a feeling of direct control of the nose gear higher than that returned by the GS.

Less easy to grasp because it is narrower (840 mm) and lower, the handlebars of the Triumph require a very slight inclination of the bust. Added to its toe clips set a bit higher, this feature gives the Tiger 800 XCX less comfortable overall ergonomics, almost roadster-like compared to the Africa Twin and the R 1200 GS.

On these, the back is perfectly straight and the legs relaxed: the pilot is ready to swallow countless kilometers, whatever the weather conditions! And that’s good: the rain and the cold invite themselves on the start of our journey, forcing the testers of the Journal moto du Net to take the highway to find milder skies….

Stalled at 130 km / h in sixth (at around 4500 rpm on the twin cylinders and 6000 rpm on the "3-legged"), everyone is then perfectly able to appreciate the protection and comfort of the three motorcycles. The occasion also to note that the tachometer of the Honda is of the very optimistic kind since with 130 km / h meter, our GPS indicates 120 km / h against 125 for the BMW and 127 for the Triumph !

Under these conditions, the BMW immediately asserts its qualities as an excellent road bike, starting with the superior protection provided by its adjustable windshield. Equipped as an option with heated grips and cruise control (cruise control as standard on the Triumph), the German cruises on the fast track in lofty comfort. Its well-designed and soft saddle, the best of the three, sublimates this idyllic picture.

Non-adjustable and less enveloping, the windshield of the Honda nevertheless provides a deflection barely less than that of the German: only the top of the helmet and the tips of the shoulders are more exposed. Good surprise also at the level of the knees, a chouia better sheltered behind its fairings. Regarding the lower legs, however, it cannot fight against the Deutsche Flat, a real "mechanical" bulwark against the elements. !

For its part, the Tiger 800 XCX suffers from a bubble – not adjustable – too short, barely sufficient to house half of the helmet of a 1.75 m pilot. It is also on its handlebars that the knees and shins are the most exposed: an aspect quickly criticized by all testers, especially when its ultra-complete and readable on-board computer (except the time, in too small characters) mentioned only 4 ° C in the air! Brr…

The Triumph makes up for it with its comfortable saddle, which is significantly smoother than that of the Honda. Unfortunately, the English padding tends to settle after several hours of driving, further weakening the comfort. In the end, the Africa Twin’s seat is superior to that of the Tiger (but inferior to that of the R 1200 GS) because its support remains constant, even after a whole day of driving..

Its general comfort also benefits from the flexibility at the start of the race of its suspensions, particularly appreciable on urban cobbles and bumpy small roads. Less dry on small impacts than the Triumph and the BMW – even with the optional ESA of the GS set to "Soft" -, the Africa Twin literally absorbs every irregularity, as if placed on a cushion of air. Bluffing !

The Boxer puts on his gloves !

This rapid dive of the Honda suspensions gave rise to fears of a "rocking horse" behavior on the strong constraints, typical of motorcycles with large clearance: it is not! Thanks to a fine management of the hydraulics, the damping of the Africa Twin hardens progressively and above all quickly, thus avoiding excessive mass transfers..

Barely less efficient in this area, the Tiger 800 XCX also enjoys remarkable damping cohesion and excellent responsiveness to shocks. But its WP suspensions do not equal the delicious "padding" achieved by the Honda, which we also appreciate the practical preload adjustment wheel offset at the rear..

In terms of damping, the R 1200 GS offers a very different behavior, mainly because of its front suspension dear to BMW: the Telelever. Thanks to this specific kinematics, capable of dissociating the damping and steering functions, the BMW is practically free of mass transfers during braking..

This results in a particular feeling with its front axle, but above all a formidable efficiency once this characteristic has been assimilated! When its two rivals "take a dip" when entering curves, the "GS" retains almost the same attitude, even by crushing its right lever. The rear is not left out thanks to a transparent cardan transmission, connected to an imperial mono-shock absorber.

In addition to an astonishing insensitivity to braking on the angle, the R 1200 GS gains in directional precision as well as in improvisation capacities. This asset generates a reassuring serenity, as if nothing could take the front end in the absence. On the slippery roads we drove in our test drive, this quality made a huge difference, making the BMW difficult – if not impossible – to follow….

Several other factors explain this finding: the German is the best braking machine – by far -, combining bite and power with an efficiency worthy of a sports bike. Its inflexible frame – stiffened by the carrier engine – and its firmer suspension setting also promote impeccable handling, to the detriment of comfort. The BMW turns in one block, but this rigor is at the origin of a relative general drought.

The R1200GS also benefits from front-to-rear coupled braking which improves its deceleration while containing mass transfers. Without this system, long characteristic of Honda motorcycles (C-ABS), the Africa Twin offers convincing braking in terms of power, but less biting than that of the GS.

The most nervous will also regret its feel of the brake a little soft when taking the lever, a characteristic that risks being amplified in duet with weapons and luggage in the absence of reinforced hoses of the "aviation" type … We console ourselves with its regal stability, aided by its generous wheelbase.

On the Tiger 800 XCX, it’s a bit the opposite: the right lever is firm – almost hard – on its first third, making the dosage tricky. With only two pistons per front caliper (four on the others), summoning its power also requires more grip. Fortunately, the Triumph has, like its rivals, a reactive and not very intrusive ABS, as well as a powerful and easy to adjust rear brake..

Finally, the last area in which the Africa Twin and the Tiger 800XCX cannot compete against the infernal R 1200 GS: the engine. Full as an egg and incredibly quick to take its turns – almost nervous – the "Fleet-twin" makes short work of the Honda parallel twin and the Triumph 3-cylinder. Logical, given its larger displacement (370cc more than the Tiger!).

Whatever the report or the speed displayed on its dashboard – mixing legibly analog and digital, with functions like the pressure of the tires or the instantaneous and average consumption in option -, the Boxer takes the ascendant. Its supremacy is total between 2,500 and 5,000 rpm, where the GS literally leaps forward in an impressive – and a little too pronounced – metallic roar. !

At the top of the tachometer, the gap is stagnating with its rivals … on this test version still limited to 107 hp, for lack of an official position on the retrofit of motorcycles to Euro3 standards to date. In free version, the BMW would benefit from its additional 18 hp to definitely take off…

Behind, the Africa Twin has all the trouble in the world to get rid of the Tiger 800 XCX, despite its additional 198 cc. The lack of trunk felt under 4000 rev / min during our is cruelly verified here: the Honda is quite simply fined by the Triumph from 3000 to 5000 rev / min, that is to say the usual modes…

From 6000 rpm and until its sudden rupture at 8000 rpm (10,000 rpm for the Tiger), the Japanese twin shows a more sporty face and takes the advantage: by leading it "with the whip" , it is therefore possible to watch the "tiger" of 800 cc. But is this really the expected behavior of a big 1000 cc trail? We can legitimately doubt it…

However, the Africa Twin has very attractive mechanical qualities, starting with its muffled sound as melodious and catchy as the deep groan of the "3-legged". In addition to its annoying whistling coming from its primary transmission, the Triumph unit also fishing by excess linearity: its revs are effective but not very sensational: the opposite of the Honda.!

All that is lacking in the English three-cylinder is more energy at high speed, because for the rest no criticism can be addressed to it. Its elasticity is unparalleled (it resumes smoothly in 6th at 50 km / h when its rivals demand the 4th), its gearbox and its clutch are models of smoothness (on par with the Honda) and its ride-by-wire has the progressiveness that is lacking in that of the BMW, whose sensitivity may surprise.

While a little lazy at low revs, the Africa Twin engine shines with its playful character – which is not so common at Honda. Precisely controlled by a good old "cable" accelerator, this lively and sober mechanism (minimum consumption measured at 5.2 l / 100 km against 5.48 l for the Tiger and 6.13 l for the BMW) only fishes on the pure performance plan.

Verdict: Honda shakes up references !

With its Africa Twin, Honda breathes a real breath of fresh air into the trail category, bringing up to date certain forgotten fundamentals such as mechanical and visual simplicity, off-road capabilities and – relative – lightness. Relative, because with its 232 kg it still weighs too much, especially for a chain drive motorcycle without a central stand.

Confronted with the references of "maxi" and "mid-size", the relevance of these choices nevertheless appears in a clear way: to be bothered with an adjustable bubble is useless with an effective windshield of origin, as well as of Electronic suspensions are not essential when the damping is well studied. Beautiful demonstration of the "know-how" on the part of the winged coat of arms !

In this, the Africa Twin hits hard the R 1200 GS, entangled in the vicious circle of "always-more": by dint of demanding more performance, protection and comfort, the German has sacrificed a part of it. its formidable intuitiveness. And it is this aspect that the Honda takes advantage of to shine !

At low speed, the new Africa Twin is thus slightly more manoeuvrable than the German, while the Tiger 800 XCX suffers from its higher center of gravity. The lowering of the masses allowed by the arrangement of the cylinders of the GS is not enough against a brilliant Honda of balance. For the first time, the queen bows during the "urban gymkhana" maneuvers !

More flexible at very low revs than the "Boxer" and endowed with a much smoother selection, the two-cylinder of the Africa Twin greatly facilitates the exercise, just like its ultra-short turning diameter and ironically identical to that of the R1200GS (4.5 m against 5.18 m for the Tiger).

All its qualities favor it all the more in off-road, where the "Daughter of the Desert" takes advantage of its large, hyper-well calibrated suspensions to fly over obstacles. Very dry on intense and rapid shocks (of the walking or rock type), the BMW Telelever is clearly less suited to its business on the roads…

The situation is reversed however as soon as the speed increases on asphalt, due to the inertia created by the 21-inch wheel (19 on the BMW). When the pace becomes sporty, the R1200GS turns without requiring additional effort, unlike the Honda and the Triumph which pay the price for their off-road orientation..

In short, the BMW is more efficient and comfortable on the road, especially on long journeys where it compares with a real GT motorcycle … on condition, however, to "opt" in accordance with the usual policy of the brand to the propeller: for information, our test bike reached a whopping 19,845 € (see conditions and route in the right column)…

But without going to these heights in terms of equipment, the R 1200 GS retains its laurels thanks to its formidable versatility and pure efficiency. Qualities obtained through its original technologies (Boxer engine, Telelever, Paralever, etc.), also at the origin of its high price. Because these unconventional devices are obviously more expensive than the basic split cradle of the Honda.

In addition, the Africa Twin lacks some qualities to overthrow the throne, including punch under 4000 rpm. Compared to the R 1200 GS alone, this shyness at low speeds would have been excused, because it could be justified by the difference in displacement. But in view of its difficulties to win against the Tiger 800, the situation is quite different: hence the relevance of opposing these three motorcycles !

In addition, the shortcomings in standard equipment also participate in depriving the Africa Twin of a victory yet within its reach, just like the mediocrity of its original tires. MNC regretted the lack of feedback from its Dunlop Trailmax D610 in the dry and in 35 ° C in South Africa, well it’s even worse in the wet when the mercury barely reaches 10 ° C !

Its traction on cold and wet asphalt is frankly bad, to the point of requesting its traction control set to 3 (the most intrusive) during a big acceleration … in sixth! No problem of this kind for its two rivals, whose traction control was triggered only on the occasion of excess gas on the lower gears in "fat-wet" turns….

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