2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports | Road Test Review

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
For 2018 Honda has updated its Africa Twin adventure bike platform and added a new model, the Africa Twin Adventure Sports, shown above. (Photos by Steve Cox)

Honda’s reboot of the Africa Twin, a 998cc parallel twin-powered adventure bike that carries the dirt-worthy CRF1000L model designation, has been a hit. Introduced just two years ago, there are now more than 50,000 of them roaming back roads and trails around the world, with 8,000 in the U.S. alone, where the Africa Twin accounted for 20 percent of open-class ADV sales in 2017.

Read our 2016 Honda Africa Twin DCT touring review

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
The new Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports gets all of the same updates as the standard model, as well as more suspension travel, a larger gas tank and other upgrades. (Photo by the author)

To maintain that momentum, for 2018 Honda has updated the Africa Twin and added the Africa Twin Adventure Sports, a taller, longer-range, farkle-heavy model. Updates to the Africa Twin platform include a larger airbox with a longer intake funnel and a new exhaust for better midrange and richer sound, lighter balancer-shaft weights for smoother engine feel and a lithium-ion battery that saves 5.1 pounds. Thanks to a new throttle-by-wire system, there are now four riding modes (Tour, Urban and Gravel, plus a customizable User mode) that adjust throttle response, engine braking and traction control. Other changes include a redesigned instrument panel, wider footpegs with stronger steel mounts and lower-profile passenger footpeg brackets.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
Our Africa Twin Adventure Sports test bike was equipped with the optional $700 Dual Clutch Transmission, which offers four automatic modes and a pushbutton manual mode.

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: Arai XD4
Jacket: Joe Rocket Alter Ego 4.1
Pants: Joe Rocket Ballistic Ultra
Boots: Sidi Crossfire 3

Geared toward long-distance touring, the new Adventure Sports model gets all of these changes and more, including nearly an inch of extra suspension travel (9.9/9.5 inches front/rear) and ground clearance (10.6 inches), a 1.4-gallon larger fuel tank (6.37 gallons) and, due to the wider tank, a larger fairing. It also has a 3.1-inch taller windscreen, a 1.3-inch taller handlebar that’s positioned closer to the rider, a taller and flatter dual-height seat (35.4/36.2 inches), brushed-aluminum fairing accents, a 1.3-liter storage pocket in the left tail section and a removable rear fender (the license plate attaches to the rear fender, so this is useful in off-road-only situations). Accessories fitted as standard include heated grips, a 12V socket in the cockpit, a larger skid plate, crash bars and a steel luggage rack. The cherry on top is a 30th anniversary paint scheme with a white frame and gold rims.

Read our 2017 Honda Africa Twin vs KTM 1090 Adventure R comparison review

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
The Africa Twin’s redesigned LCD instrument panel now has one screen instead of two and it’s positioned at a shallower angle with a larger sun shroud. There’s too much information on the screen to read easily and sun glare often renders it unreadable.

Our test of the new Adventure Sports model began in Prescott, Arizona, where Honda hosted a press launch with a 150-mile route split 60/40 between curvy pavement and graded dirt/gravel. All of the test bikes were equipped with Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), a $700 option that eliminates the clutch and shift levers and offers the convenience of automatic shifting or pushbutton manual shifting. There are four automatic modes—Drive, which upshifts early for fuel efficiency, and three Sport modes that hold gears progressively longer to maximize power delivery. Because the Africa Twin is designed to be ridden off-road, its DCT has incline detection, which delays upshifts during ascents to maintain higher rpm and downshifts earlier during descents for more engine braking, as well as a “G” switch, which eliminates clutch slip during gear changes.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports has a larger skid plate, a light bar that protects the fairing, a storage pocket in the tail section and a 30th anniversary paint scheme with a white frame. The liquid-cooled, 998cc parallel twin received intake and exhaust updates and throttle-by-wire with multiple riding modes.

In addition to fast, nearly seamless gear changes, a major advantage of the DCT is that, since it always shifts into neutral when coming to a stop, the bike never stalls. On the other hand, in the automatic modes gear changes can occur unexpectedly and, in technical situations, not having a clutch lever to feather can limit one’s sense of control. On the street, even during aggressive riding, the DCT works like a charm. I logged more than 200 miles off-road during this test, but very little of it was tip-toeing over tricky terrain, so the lack of a clutch lever was rarely a problem and I used the manual mode to control the timing of gear changes.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
Off-road-friendly features include ABS that can be turned off at the rear wheel, a “Gravel” riding mode and, on the optional DCT, incline detection and a “G” switch that reduces clutch slip.

Changes to the intake/exhaust and balancer-shaft weights are subtle, adding a touch of refinement to the tractable, character-rich engine, which has a 270-degree crank with irregular firing intervals. The parallel twin configuration, Unicam SOHC head and various space-saving tricks (like putting the water pump inside the clutch case) keep the engine light and compact. When we tested a standard Africa Twin with a manual transmission last year, it made 79 horsepower at 7,300 rpm and 62 lb-ft of torque at 5,700 rpm at the rear wheel on Jett Tuning’s dyno, though these numbers are about 5 percent too low because the bike was run with knobby tires. With the Africa Twin’s horizon-flat torque curve and linear increase in horsepower, there’s always grunt when you need it and more power comes with more revs. The differences in throttle response and engine braking (there are three levels for each) between the riding modes are not dramatic, but they do allow the rider to tailor engine behavior to conditions, and traction control can be quickly changed among seven levels on the fly with a trigger on the left handlebar.

Read our 2017 Honda Africa Twin long-term review

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
More weight, a long wheelbase and a large 21-inch front wheel make the Africa Twin Adventure Sports slow to respond in tight corners, but with some effort it carves through the canyons confidently.

With its larger tank, taller suspension, standard accessories and optional DCT (which adds 23 pounds), the Adventure Sports is a big machine, weighing 556 pounds wet. Factor in the 21-inch front wheel and long wheelbase, and it’s no surprise that handling favors stability over agility, but push that wide handlebar with authority and the Honda will go where you point it. The steel semi-cradle frame is strong and the triple-disc brakes are powerful and easy to modulate, with standard ABS that can be turned off at the rear wheel for off-road riding.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
The flatter seat on the Africa Twin Adventure Sports is all-day comfortable, though at 35.4/36.2 inches its height can be a challenge. The steel luggage rack is ideal for securing gear to the back. An Allen wrench located under the seat can be used to open the 1.3-liter storage compartment in the tail section (the word “SPORTS” is on the cover of the compartment).

For a 6-footer like me, extra suspension travel, ground clearance and legroom are always welcome, but even I had a tough time throwing my leg over the tall seat. Once aboard, I found the Adventure Sports to be satisfyingly comfortable, with a supportive seat, spacious ergonomics and plenty of wind protection. During stand-up riding, I appreciated the taller handlebar and wider footpegs, but I had trouble reading the new instrument panel even though it’s positioned at a shallower angle and has a large sun shroud. The screen is overly busy with information and, as before, sun glare on the reflective face can make the screen unreadable.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
Dual, radial-mount, 4-piston calipers with ABS make it easy to slow down Africa Twin Adventure Sports on- or off-road. Those stylish gold rims require tubes, and 90/10 adventure tires are standard.

The day after the press ride, I strapped a duffel and a tent to the luggage rack and headed north, taking a counterclockwise route around the Grand Canyon, from the South Rim to the North Rim, riding 60 miles down a dirt road to Toroweap Overlook. The last couple of miles to Toroweap are tricky, but the Adventure Sport’s big front wheel and generous ground clearance made it easy to crawl over the embedded rock and negotiate loose stones and sand. I put the kickstand down and walked to the edge of the abyss, where I stood 3,000 vertical feet above the Colorado River with no one else around as the sun began to set. That’s exactly what an adventure bike should do—have the comfort, the range and the capability to take you wherever you want to go.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
At the end of a 60-mile dirt road is Toroweap Overlook, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Photo by the author)

Honda’s Africa Twin has as much or more off-road can-do as any other adventure bike on the market. But, since most owners spend the majority of their time on pavement, its high seat, tube-type tires and lack of cruise control are major drawbacks. The Adventure Sports is an even more formidable tourer on- and off-road, and, at just $1,500 over the standard model, it’s a great value.

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
Sunrise at the Tuweep Campground, near Toroweap Overlook in Grand Canyon National Park. A backcountry permit is required to camp there. (Photo by the author)

Check out more new bikes in Rider’s guide to new/updated 2018 motorcycles

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2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Specs
Base Price: $14,999
Price as Tested: $15,699 (DCT)
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: powersports.honda.com

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports North Rim Grand Canyon
From Prescott, Arizona, I rode due north to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. At Grand Canyon National Park’s Backcountry Information Center, I got the required permit for camping at Tuweep Campground on the North Rim. (Photo by the author)
Horseshoe Bend Arizona Colorado River
After riding east on Arizona Route 64 along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I turned north on U.S. Route 89, where I took a short side trip to see Horseshoe Bend, a dramatic part of the Colorado River just south of Glen Canyon Dam. (Photo by the author)

ENGINE

Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x Stroke: 92.0 x 75.1mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Valve Train: Unicam SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 16,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI w/ 44mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Semi-dry sump, 4.4-qt. cap.
Transmission: Dual Clutch Transmission w/ fully automatic modes & 6-speed manual mode (as tested)
Final Drive: O-ring chain

 

2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Vermillion Cliffs
From Horsehoe Bend, I backtracked to the U.S. 89/89A junction and rode north and then west, over the Colorado River on the majestic Navajo Bridge. Then I rode along the southern reef of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. (Photo by the author)
2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports road to Toroweap Overlook
After cresting the Kaibab Plateau at Jacob Lake (7,925 ft), I descended to the town of Fredonia, turned west on Arizona Route 389 for a few miles, then turned due south and rode 60 miles to Toroweap Overlook. (Photo by the author)

ELECTRICAL

Ignition: Fully transistorized
Charging Output: 490 watts max.
Battery: 12V 11.2AH

CHASSIS
Frame: Steel semi-double cradle w/ cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 62.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 27.3 degrees/4.4 in.
Seat Height: 35.4/36.2 in.
Suspension, Front: 45mm USD fork, fully adj., 9.9-in. travel
Rear: Single reservoir shock w/ Pro-Link, fully adj., 9.4-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 310mm floating discs w/ 4-piston opposed radial calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 256mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper & ABS plus parking brake (as tested)
Wheels, Front: Spoked aluminum, 2.15 x 21 in.
Rear: Spoked aluminum, 4.00 x 18 in.
Tires, Front: 90/90-21, tube-type
Rear: 150/70-18, tube-type
Wet Weight: 556 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 399 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 955 lbs.

Colorado River Grand Canyon Toroweap Overlook
The road to Toroweap Overlook is mostly graded dirt/gravel, but the last couple of miles are challenging and require a high-clearance vehicle. This view of the Grand Canyon makes the effort worthwhile. (Photo by the author)
2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports
Leaving the Tuweep area of Grand Canyon National Park, I took a 90-mile dirt road that went up and over 8,028-ft Mount Trumbull and through the Grand Canyon-Pashant National Monument to St. George, Utah. (Photo by the author)

PERFORMANCE

Fuel Capacity: 6.37 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 86 PON min. (low/avg/high) 35.9/41.7/51.0
Estimated Range: 266 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,500

17 COMMENTS

  1. Very nice Honda very Honda Honda! But against a KTM? Dynamically no, durability and dependablelity most definitely.

  2. Never cease to amaze me at this point in time to build such a capable machine and eliminate a large percent of the market with the taller is better idea, and leave off cruise control and shaft drive and tires which are hard to plug when you pick up a nail it just makes me realize that BMW will always be the high water mark and maintenance being high enough on my bMW at least I know it will get me where I wan’t to go and keep me entertained the whole way . Honda no doubt makes this Adventure a dirt bike devil of a bike and more power to them, but once again , I have to pass . Bad fit not the right amenities for real Adventure on real roads for us older guys . Comfort reins supreme and I don’t have to flat foot a bike to ride it but the taller the bikes the less fun they are especially when they weight over 700 pounds with rider and an overnight load of amenities

    Good luck with that Honda. Young guys will love it , us older folk will stick with our Beemers .

    • Disagree. After 30 years of various beemers, Dakars, RT’s, etc., Iwent with the 2017 ST with DVD with no regrets. It’s a great bike. Oh yea, I just turned 67.

    • And just which one of those bulletproof bimmers do you ride? I’ve owned 3 and all were a maintenance nightmare plus the cost of consumable parts were ridiculous. I’m just glad I’m man enough I don’t have to trash a bike just cause my nose is high in the air and think an adventure ride is across a Starbucks parking lot. Keep your bimmer dude, no one with a pair wants it.

      • Ive got 153k miles on my GS. I ride the crap out of it. I regularly go on 2k mi camping trips.
        Man your nose is high up chute, dude.
        IMHO all bikes are worthy. Your’s obviously just sense your crappy vibs.

  3. Too often in the comments sections I read about people complaining about this bike, or that bike being too tall. Well at 6′ 4″ I have had to modify my bike (if possible) to fit my height. Most bikes I ride make me feel cramped. I can’t comfortably stand up while off road riding and my legs are quite bent while sitting. Kudos to Honda for making a bike for the taller rider. My current ride is a V-Strom 1000. I have tried handlebar risers. Doesn’t work. The cables are too short. My CRF450X has 30mm bar risers, and a taller than stock handle bar and I still have to reach down a little while standing. I’m excited to throw a leg over the new ATAS to see how it feels and hope to put one in my garage this summer. Thanks Honda.

  4. With today’s tire technology, I can live with the tube type tires. Also, having a 36″ inseam, the seat height isn’t an issue. No cruise control? That’s a deal breaker for me. Some 3k-4k mile adventures just beg for cruise. Sorry Honda..

  5. Sounds like a great bike if you do a lot of off road riding. But my Super Tenere is decent on dirt roads and has cruise control and shaft drive….and never breaks down. I am 66 and do a lot of 400 plus mile days….so cruise control is a must.

    • Hope the New 700 Tenere’ comes with shaft drive and cruise control > with a 32″ seat height. I’m pushing 64 Years and need a comfortable dualsport these days. Motocross/ Cross Country Racing left me in 1983 at 28 Years old. The 2013 KLR 650 is ok but it needs more horsepower and better suspension. Show us something soon Yamaha > Honda is working on a new Africa Twin 650/750. They might beat you to it!

  6. As a current KTM 1190 Adventure owner, this bike really has me thinking of a change. I love the KTM, does everything great. But it will burn you out of it on a warm day. Yes, it has technical features the Honda does not, but the KTM is HOT! I have 24K in 2 years of ownership, and 34 years of riding. On a warm day, the KTM is just not fun in any type of riding, so I am ready to try something else. I hear a lot of talk about no cruise control on the Honda, well, I have never had cruise control on a bike, so It wont be a deal breaker for me. The great thing about motorcycles is that there is one for everybody. Doesn’t matter how tall/short you are or your financial status, we can each figure out what works for us and go ride.

  7. This is such a great bike I went out and bought one. I’ve owned every GS going back to the R-100 GS Bumble Bee and they are great bikes but over the years have become prohibitively expensive and all the techno doo dads mean more stuff to go wrong. Keyless ignition, really? That’s like the answer to the question nobody asked. KTM’s? I’ve also owned every KTM Adventure Bike starting with the 990. They are an absolute blast to ride but 130 rear wheel horsepower means lots of electronic intervention to keep you from killing yourself. Did I mention engine heat? If the 130 hp doesn’t kill you you’ll be roasted alive by that rear cylinder and exhaust pipe.
    Nope, the Honda is the current bike for me and what it lacks in ridiculous horsepower and keyless ignition it more than makes up for with Honda Reliability, a fun package, and a reasonable purchase price.
    Now the KTM 1090 Adventure R? Hmmmm … I wonder if it would cook me?

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