2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin | FIRST LOOK

Honda builds an offroad-ready ADV, with auto-shifting DCT, too.

Adventure bikes have been the hottest thing on two wheels for quite some time, and the lack of any ADV model has been a huge hole in Honda's lineup—until now. The world's largest motorcycle manufacturer has finally unveiled its much-rumored, oft-spied, highly anticipated adventure bike, officially called the CRF1000L Africa Twin. It looks set to fill a unique spot in the ADV category—and not just because it will be available with an optional auto-shifting dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

With a claimed 94 horsepower and 72 pound-feet of torque (in European spec, at least), American Honda press materials don't mention power), the 998cc Africa Twin might seem outgunned by larger-displacement competition like the 125-hp BMW R1200GS and the 150-hp KTM 1190 Adventure. But with a claimed curb weight of just 503 pounds the Africa Twin should be considerably lighter than the competition, and, more importantly, dimensionally smaller, too. A super-compact parallel twin engine design—the water pump is in the clutch case, and both the water and oil pumps are driven by a single shared balance shaft—and careful attention to mass centralization make this bike especially compact and keep the center of gravity quite low. This should greatly enhance off-road agility, a hallmark of the namesake XRV750 Africa Twin platform that won the Paris-Dakar rally 4 times in the 1980s.

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The engine draws heavily from Honda’s off road-racing CRF250R/450R technology, with a version of the same super-compact four-valve Unicam head design complete with a lightweight camshaft and twin plugs for effective combustion. A 270-degree crankshaft—just like Yamaha’s Crossplane-powered Super Ténéré—contributes to strong, linear power delivery and especially improves rear wheel traction off-road, Honda says. Biaxial primary balance shafts cancel vibration and the six-speed manual gearbox is equipped with a slipper clutch.

Buyers who select the optional DCT won’t worry about the clutch, relying instead on two full-auto shift modes (Drive or Sport) or the ability to shift gears on-command using handlebar triggers. This version of the DCT has been optimized for off-road use, Honda says, partially disengaging the clutch during low-speed maneuvers to reduce the effect of quick throttle moves (this mimics a rider slipping the clutch; a “G-switch” can be flipped in any mode at any time to cancel this effect and make the connection between the throttle and rear wheel more direct). Further, an “incline detection” program delays upshifts while ascending, holding a higher rpm for a longer time, and hastens downshifts on descents to enable better engine braking. The DCT option adds 31 pounds (including ABS), but uses a common crankcase so engine width remains the same.

The rest of the Africa Twin package appears to support all-terrain adventuring—and indeed, videos released at the same time suggest considerable off-road capability. Bodywork is minimal while a slim, height-adjustable (between 34.3 and 33.5 inches) saddle and a 5-gallon fuel tank combine to keep the bike feeling slim between the knees (Honda says excellent fuel efficiency extends range). A steel semi-double cradle frame is engineered to promote ground clearance and protect the powertrain at the same time, while the long-travel Showa inverted fork is fully adjustable (the Showa rear shock is also fully adjustable). Dirt-ready spoked wheels are 21-inch front/18- inch rear and Nissin radial-mount brakes and wave-type rotors slow the roll. Switchable ABS is available along with 3-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (traction control).

The CRF1000L Africa Twin will be available in two color options: Rally Red and Digital Metallic Silver. The standard model is priced at $12,999 with a bump to $13,699 for DCT. Honda says it will be in dealer showrooms across the United States in April of 2016.

TECH  
PRICE $12,999 ($13,699 w/DCT)
ENGINE 998cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual / Optional 6-speed DCT with on- and off-road riding modes
FINAL DRIVE Chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 94 hp @ 7,500 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 72 lb.-ft. @ 6,000 rpm
FRAME Steel double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 45mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 8.6-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin four-piston calipers, 310mm discs, ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissan two-piston caliper, 256mm disc, ABS
RAKE/TRAIL n/a
WHEELBASE 62.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT STD/LOW 34.3/33.5 in.
CLAIMED FUEL CAPACITY 4.9 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT STD/DCT 503/534 lb. wet
AVAILABLE April 2016
CONTACT [powersports.honda.com][]