It started innocently enough. At 507 pounds ready to ride, Honda’s CRF1000L Africa Twin is the lightweight among the liter-class ADV machines, and given my short legs and lukewarm off-road riding skills I had little desire to make it any heavier. What goes down must come up in order to carry on, and much beyond 550 pounds or so there’s little chance I’m picking it up by myself.
But before riding off into the sunset, every proper ADV machine should have a centerstand and heated grips, right? Both are Honda accessories and were easily installed. Hard saddlebag mounts were next–Honda’s bags are good-looking and convenient since they drop and lock right onto the bike’s built-in mounts, but aren’t quite sturdy enough for the adventures I have in mind. Wanting to mount either soft waterproof saddlebags to save weight or locking aluminum panniers for riding behind enemy lines, a good option is the Hepco & Becker Fixed Side Carrier ($281.18), distributed in the U.S. by Moto Machines. This adds just 10 pounds and carries my Hepco & Becker Alu-Case Xplorer 30-Liter Panniers ($821) quite securely, providing some tipover protection as well as storage. The bag/carrier combination on the bike is about an inch wider than the handlebars, and asymmetrical since neither the carrier nor right bag wraps around the muffler, but the offset is only two inches (which can be symmetrized by mounting a 40-liter Xplorer on the left).
Now, I swear I was going to stop there, but the Moto Machines website sucked me in and before I could tame the mouse it had clicked on Hepco & Becker Handlebar Protection bars (2.75 pounds, $163.33) and its Tank Guard (8 pounds, $301.68) for the Africa Twin. I like the style and wind protection of the stock plastic hand guards on the AT–the sturdy steel Protection bars beef them up like an exoskeleton and install in about 10 minutes. And Tank Guard is kind of a misnomer–it protects far more than just the tank by mounting the tubular-steel bars solidly to the bike’s frame at top and bottom and wrapping around the front and sides of the AT’s fairing. Should make a good grab point as well.
When I was installing the Tank Guard, I noticed just how exposed and vulnerable the Africa Twin’s radiators are to flying rocks and such, and that the thin plastic grates Honda has installed over them aren’t much better than soft cheese. That led me to Black Dog Cycle Works (BDCW), which offers a pair of well-made aluminum Radiator Guards ($95) that bolt on over the stock ones and don’t impede airflow. Turns out BDCW has lots of nice stuff for the AT, including tubular-steel Lower Engine Bars (6.5 pounds, $285); lightweight aluminum Connector Rods (1.75 pounds, $160) that link its Engine Bars to the Hepco & Becker Tank Guard; an aluminum Rear Rack (3 pounds, $149) extension; and large aluminum Traction Footpegs ($229). All of this stuff somehow found its way onto my bike in about 2.5 hours, helped by good instructions, well thought-out design and an underpaid second pair of hands.
But what really blew me away was BDCW’s Ultimate Skid Plate (11.5 pounds, $349). Not only because it covers so much more of the bike’s tender underbits with tough 3/16-inch-thick aluminum than the stock 3-pound unit, but because its clever design takes less than 10 minutes to install, and it comes off for oil changes and such with just two bolts. The smooth bottom lets the Skid Plate slide over obstacles, and it’s contoured to the frame for maximum ground clearance.
Oh boy, I was on a roll now. More wind protection: National Cycle’s VStream Sport/Tour Windscreen ($159.95) is about 3 inches taller and wider than stock, and quiets wind noise down quite a bit. Protection for that expensive LED headlight: Touratech’s Quick-Release Clear Headlight Guard ($139.95) is like a pair of safety goggles, straps on and can be removed in seconds. It doesn’t seem to affect the headlight beam either. More aggressive DP559 and DP121 Brake Pads from DP Brakes, a Nelson-Rigg Adventure Tank Bag ($101.95) and Sahara Duffel ($112.95), and I was nearly finished except for suitable rubber. We gave Michelin’s new Anakee Adventure Tires (MSRP front $202.95, rear $287.95) a thorough review in the June 2019 issue, and found them to be an exceptional choice for 80/20 ADV work. In addition to greater grip off-road than the Africa Twin’s stock tires, the Anakee Adventures sacrifice very little wet or dry on-road performance, and don’t make any noise riding in a straight line, just a mild hum in faster bends.
All told I ended up adding about 50 pounds to my 2018 Africa Twin (not including the Xplorer bags), but now it’s ready for almost any adventure, and some of that weight should pay for itself the first time it takes a dirt nap….