Trail – Africa Twin 2016 test: Honda takes back from the desert – Off-road test: the Africa Twin goes off the beaten track

Africa Twin 2016 test: Honda takes over from the desert

Trail - Africa Twin 2016 test: Honda picks up from the desert - Off-road test: the Africa Twin goes off the beaten track

Basically, a trail is a motorcycle that is easy to handle and comfortable on all terrains. Honda revives its famous Africa Twin to reconnect with this concept abandoned by (over) powerful and bulky road maxi-trails. 2016 CRF1000L Review.

Off-road test: the Africa Twin goes off the beaten track

After the road, the track: Honda is keen to demonstrate that its promises concerning the off-road capabilities of its Africa Twin go beyond the usual marketing argument and reserve us a fairly sturdy off-road part.

The road profile tires give way to nipple models (the excellent Continental TKC 80), and off we go for several kilometers of rolling track, on a mixture of hard sand and gravel. On the advice of our hosts, the anti-skating is placed on its first level – the least intrusive -, with which it is possible to cause pretty drifts from the rear.

On the notches above, the device immediately cuts the quid with the twin cylinder at the slightest beginning to slide. Out of taste (for risk?), MNC completely prefers to disengage it, confident in its ability to manage the arrival of power as it is perfectly controlled by the accelerator. It is also the advantage of not having to manage a "monster" overflowing with horses….

We also appreciate being able to disconnect the ABS, even if it is only at the rear. In general, the system developed by Honda and Nissin is so fine and efficient that it is possible to strongly apply the brakes before causing the ABS to come into action, even in stones. To tell the truth, in certain critical phases, we even braked harder from the front thanks to him: impressive !

The confidence felt on the road reappears just as quickly on the track: the exercise is swallowed in complete relaxation, aided by the ergonomic details designed for this purpose. The flat saddle makes it easy to move forward to load the 21-inch wheel when entering a turn, then slide naturally back to improve traction.

Relieving the steering gear by leaning backwards to avoid "crashing" the front in sandy parts is fairly easy, although it is advisable to keep a legitimate reserve. Impossible indeed to catch up with a motorcycle of this caliber when the control escapes you !

The handlebars fall perfectly into the hands in a standing position (a little less the levers and the selector, which should be lowered in TT), and the mobility of the body is relatively easy thanks to the contained width of the tank. This is not an enduro bike, however: the Africa Twin has neither the maneuverability nor the response (especially under 3000 rpm), as the second more technical part of the course will corroborate..

Alternating between areas of loose sand, more load-bearing passages and paths covered with stones, this second portion also includes a fairly steep climb in the gravel … Despite its relative ease, the Africa Twin solicits the muscles and it starts to grow feel, especially as the onboard thermometer indicates more than 35 ° C…

Fatigue sets in and the first falls occur, despite the amazing ability of the front axle to absorb all obstacles. If MNC avoids sticking one – narrowly, let’s face it! – we note however that few are those who will manage to straighten the 232 kg (242 with DCT) without external help.

A few short calls can trigger jumps of measured height, during which the bike retains all its balance: the Honda remains in line once in the air and lands with surprising softness. Despite this treatment and some "beating" in rule in the hollows, the suspensions never came to a stop, further proof of their excellent maintenance.

Then comes the time to redo the course with the model equipped with the optional double clutch. On the Africa Twin, this DCT releases a "G" mode to be activated from the dashboard for off-road excursions. Thanks to this function, disc slip is reduced and automatic gear change is smoother and faster. A little less flexible too, therefore…

In this configuration, the Africa Twin shines with its ease: beginners will appreciate having to deal only with the brakes and the trajectory, leaving all the transmission part in charge of the DCT! As during our test on the road, the progress made by the Honda system jumped at the helmet: the electronic control unit is much more responsive and the gear changes are smoother..

Always a bit noisy when locking, this device has two modes where the speed management is automatic: S, the most "tonic", which now has three sub-maps, and D, which is perfect for the very ride. bucolic (the six gears are mounted from 75 km / h!).

In addition, the DCT offers a semi-automatic mode with which gears are raised and lowered from the left stalk, without disengaging, as with a sequential gearbox. The advantage is that even in automatic mode, it is possible to change gear "manually": this is particularly useful for downshifting around a tight bend, especially off-road. !

Capable of measuring the longitudinal inclination of the terrain to adapt its operation, the system has many qualities, starting with its smoothness and speed of operation. On the other hand, it still lacks a lateral angle sensor, which could avoid the downshifts sometimes encountered in the curves approached on the momentum, with little engine speed..

In addition, the greater weight and inertia created by the Dual Clutch System are not clearly allies in off-roading: the additional 10 kg is felt in all phases, causing a tendency to deviate in curves, on the road as on the track.

Last detail: clutch fault on this version, impossible to lift the front wheel with a "cirette" on the left lever in the trialising zones. The lack of clutch is also destabilizing in certain delicate situations (a sharp turn on a slope, for example), where the reflex of "traditional biker" is to make the clutch slip to manage its pace with the micro-hair. Something the DCT does not allow…

Verdict: the return of the desert girl !

Successful and remarkably balanced, the CRF1000L Africa Twin is undoubtedly a success: Honda did not go astray by resuscitating its legendary trail, which brings real added value to the category. On the road as on the track, the first quality of this important 2016 novelty is its ease.

The observation is particularly valid off asphalt: even if many trails would have been able to overcome the difficulties swallowed on the handlebars, very few would have done so with such ease. And MNC speaks knowingly, since we have also tested it on the tracks of South Africa! Clearly, the Honda is much more forgiving, allowing better crossing speeds..

Comfortable on the asphalt thanks to its large suspensions, the Africa Twin also advances the argument of a torquey and exploitable engine, with a small touch of welcome fun. Certainly, it is surpassed in power by the colossi of the category, but what importance? Honda shows that 95hp properly trained is enough in most cases: Certainly, a way forward !

Too bad, however, that the winged crest did not push the approach a little far in terms of weight: 232 kg without a center stand, it is not especially a record in the category. A few pounds less, and maneuverability and mechanical revival at low speeds would have gained. All for the benefit of fun on all types of terrain…

Finally, throughout this first press presentation, Honda did not stop telling us the credo of this new Africa Twin: "Go anywhere" ("go anywhere"), explaining that this search for versatility had led it to favor simplicity in favor of reliability. This is the reason why the frame is made of steel and not aluminum, lighter but much more complex to repair..

The goal would be to be able to go everywhere with this bike, but also to be able to repair a possible breakage without carrying a diagnostic case in the optional luggage and having a doctorate in electronics. On paper, MNC finds the approach relevant … up to a point: the introduction of the complex and cumbersome DCT does not really fit into this approach. !

In addition, if the Honda ignores the ABS in curves, piloted suspensions or driving modes with multiple maps, it does not have less than 80 possible combinations between its different settings of ABS and anti-slip, G mode and DCT configurations (auto, semi-auto, D or S). This makes them parameters to manage during front-end repairs in the middle of the desert !

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