When Honda announced that the white/blue/red, gold-rimmed color scheme was going to be available in the U.S. for 2017, we couldn’t resist adding an Africa Twin to our long-term test fleet. We’d already tested a 2016 with the optional automatic DCT (dual-clutch transmission), so we opted for the standard manual transmission version; plus we’ll admit that we’re not completely sold on using the DCT off-road. Call us old-fashioned.
The Africa Twin appeals because of its approachability, Goldilocks size, off-road capability and Honda reliability. It walks a fine line between the 1,200cc-class continent-crossing ADV bikes and smaller machines that are easier to handle off-road but lack long-term freeway comfort. Its 998cc parallel twin has plenty of character, thanks to its 270-degree firing interval, and it makes enough power to carry one or two people plus luggage, while not becoming unwieldy off-road.
Since the first thing we did with the Africa Twin was pit it against its closest competitor, KTM’s dirt-oriented 1090 Adventure R, we swapped the stock 90/10 tires for knobby Continental TKC80s. Most of our riding so far has been on pavement, though, and the TKCs are holding up fairly well after almost 4,000 miles of commuting and touring, with about 1/2-inch left on the large middle tread block.
Since we wanted the AT to be as versatile as possible, in addition to the Honda accessory side cases we mounted a Shad 58X Expandable Top Case, which adjusts from 46 to 52 to 58 liters of capacity—enough to hold two full-face helmets. When collapsed, it’s perfect for carrying a few bags of groceries, and in its 52-liter configuration it held all my camping gear on a three-day trip to Sequoia National Forest. The Africa Twin inspires confidence on long trips, with the rider secure in the knowledge that no matter how gnarly the road gets, the bike can handle it.
We’ve only taken it in for one service, the initial break-in, but we had to access the battery once to wire up a GPS, which required the removal of some plastic but not the seat. We also experienced some engine hesitation issues on a long trip, which was solved by draining the airbox oil overflow hose under the left side of the fuel tank; potential owners will want to keep an eye on this. We’ll follow up with more info as we pile on the miles.