The CRF1000L is a 998 cc legend in the dual sport community. The new Africa Twin was developed to mimic its predecessors, XRV 750 and XRV 650, which was a four time champ of the Paris-Dakar rally in the late ‘80’s. The new CRF1000L has clearly been upgraded from the later models to contend with all of the bells and whistles on today's off-road focused touring machines.
Justin, an extended team member of OffGrid Moto picked up a shiny new Honda African Twin so it only felt right that he send over a quick initials impressions review. Here is what he had to say…
Folks often ask me what the secret is to getting a new motorcycle as frequently as I do. That is a topic better tackled for another time, however it does allow me to have a number of bikes under my belt to compare. From the Triumph Tiger, to the BMW GS, to the KTM 1190R; these monsters of the dual sport world have all lived in my garage for a period of time in the last five to six years.
The newest addition to the family is the long-awaited Honda Africa Twin. When spy shots started being leaked by the motorsports giant, this dually really grabbed my attention. I have been on a journey to find the best bike that can balance between a daily commuter back and forth to work and a weekend warrior for the trails. I do still ride a KTM 300xc two-stroke dirt bike for true off road experiences, but still enjoy the longer trips bikes like the Africa Twin facilitate. Two track, gravel roads, or even a fine stretch of single track really are the centers of attractions to any ride I may be seeking.
For me it is a balance of weight and power. Too much weight makes the bike a pig on the dirt, however too little makes the ride on the highways frightening at best. Too much power makes the technical terrain a chore to navigate, however too little power makes it impossible to battle it out at highway speeds with traffic. The blend is critical.
My first journey always led me to the 800 class of bikes. The balance seemed reasonable and the bikes actually leaned towards the off road. KTM changed that mentality for me with the 1190R. A lighter weight liter bike with a real pedigree from the off road. The Africa Twin seemed to be a bike that might take that challenge on head to head.
February 60 degree days in Minnesota don’t happen too often. When it did happen this past weekend, I took the weather and to my advantage and went for a ride! The trip was just over an hour so hardly any real time to make deep impressions. First impressions can sometimes leave the biggest mark. Getting on the bike right away noticed how thin it felt in the knee area. I really appreciate the lack of width when handling the bike out of the saddle in technical off road scenarios. I believe this will really shine once I can plant this bike in the dirt. Second I felt the smooth delivery of the power. The windscreen sits higher than my recent 1190R (that I rode 95% in the down position) and helped emphasize how quiet and smooth the motor ran through the gears. At times, I had to back off because the bike had taken me just a little past the speed limit without me noticing. Lastly the suspension left the biggest imprint on my first ride. It felt solid and firm in the bikes stance however not harsh on the highway. Pot holes are not uncommon on the highways after the Minnesota Department of Transportation takes five months to dig the concrete up with their snow plows. No matter, the bike smoothly gobbled them up with ease.
To note, I had TKc’s put on the bike right off the showroom. I have had these tires on each and every one of my dual sport bikes and can’t say enough about the performance. I also purchased the manual transmission Honda. After riding motorcycles for 37 years and counting I could not imagine having a motorcycle that doesn’t have a clutch lever. Being able to work through the power with the dance of the clutch and the throttle is how I survive in those tricky situations.
So far so good. I have high hopes for the Twin to surpass my expectations and become the perfect off road machine… Or maybe I secretly hope it doesn’t so I can continue on my search and ride many more motorcycles.
About Justin Julian: I am lucky enough to be the General Manager of Salsa Cycles. I hail from central Missouri where the hills hide some of the most fascinating treasures. Moonshine being one of them, great singletrack being the second. Bikes have been an important part of my life from the ripe ol’ age of 3. I have raced, rode, crashed and enjoyed motorcycles for going on 36 years now. Live to ride, ride to live!