Honda just unveiled one of its most anticipated bikes of the last decade—the all-new 2016 Honda Africa Twin. The name “Africa Twin” is borrowed from the '90s Honda XRV750, which carried the same moniker and a reputation for being one of the best “big adventure bikes” to ever hit the dirt.
Giving this new take on an adventure bike the same name is sort of like crowning someone the next LeBron James. Such a bold claim brings a hell of a lot more scrutiny to the bike’s off-road chops. Honda came to the table prepared though, with more than just one trick up its sleeve.
Instead of re-tuning the motor from their 1,000 cc naked bike like most brands do, Honda built this new engine from the ground up. It’s built around a 998 cc parallel-twin motor, which features a 270-degree phased crankshaft. Basically, its power is a little lower in the rev range, thus making it better for using the engine’s torque when in the soft stuff. The engine uses a four-valve Unicam head design, a design element taken from the Honda CRF450R dirt bikes the guys in Supercross and Motocross use. That, paired with making 93 horsepower and 72 foot-pounds of torque, means you’ll have plenty of usable power no matter where you take it.
Honda has also included a new feature they’re calling (HSTC) on the Africa Twin. HSTC will allow the rider to select between three different riding modes, differentiating between varied amounts of torque applied to the rear wheel. New to riding big bikes off-road? Choose a muted option to keep the rear wheel from putting all that power down at once and spinning out of control. Consider yourself a pro off-road and heading into Baja? Pump the throttle response to the max. HSTC will also allow riders to turn the anti-lock braking system off on the rear wheel, so you can slide the back end just like you would a dirt bike.
But that's not all — Honda has another nifty feature that will make or break the bike’s success. The Honda Africa Twin will be the first adventure bike to come with a Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT). Basically, a DCT acts like an automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the handlebars. Honda has put this technology in bikes before, but only commuter bikes, which aren’t as focused on performance. DCT on an off-road bike could be a game changer, since it will allow the rider to shift while standing easier because they wont have to operate a shift lever with their foot. Most off-road riders might be intimidated without having a clutch to feather, but Honda claim they’ve compensated for that too. They claim the transmission detects when the bike is moving up or down a hill. It then moves the shifting points higher when you’re going up hill, so the engine holds a higher rpm, or lower when traveling downhill, to optimize engine braking.
The one number people keep pointing at as evidence that the Africa Twin might not be all it’s cracked up to be is the weight. One of the major rumors flying around is that Honda had managed to find a way to get the bike’s weight under 450 pounds. But, with a wet weight of 533 pounds for the version with ABS and DCT, the Africa Twin is far from svelte.
After spending the past several years chasing new riders with bikes like the Honda CB300, CB500, and NC700 — the Honda Africa Twin is massively important for Honda to capture the hearts of true enthusiasts. Will the Africa Twin be too portly? Will the DCT work well in the dirt, or get in the way of the control dirt riders have come to rely on?
Only time will tell, so check back this fall when we get our hands on one to ride.