At long last, my chance to ride the new Africa Twin had come. Moreover, I’d be riding both the manual (MT) and Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) versions. Judging from my earlier experience riding Honda’s other DCT-equipped models, I was particularly interested in finding out if an Adventure Tourer like the Africa Twin, designed as it is to enable riders to enjoy both on-road and off-road riding, might successfully utilize the unique features that DCT offers. The development engineer with whom I shared this concern confidently told me, “You’ll understand completely once you actually ride it, since we built it to perfection.”
The international test ride was held in South Africa, and most of the riding on the first day was done over paved roads. I started out on the manual shift MT version of the Africa Twin, which exhibited remarkably easy handling as its parallel-twin engine, which was developed exclusively for this model, conveyed a noticeable yet comfortable thrumming of power pulses. Its power delivery came on strong, propelling the machine forward with loads of torque the instant I cracked open the throttle. Shifting through its 6-speed transmission, the engine combined both remarkable flexibility and a highly satisfying sense of power and control as it smoothly responded to my throttle inputs.
The Africa Twin’s long-stroke suspension and body layout provide ample ground clearance, while tire sizes front and rear were selected in consideration of the requirements of off-road excursions. Despite this, its handling on paved roads was exceptionally stable, and actually better than I initially expected. The feeling of contact with the road surface was also excellent, eliciting no fearful hesitation when powering through the corners. Confident handling on paved roads is particularly important in the Adventure Tourer segment — where the Africa Twin belongs and where the competition is some of the keenest in the world.
Even travelling across continents, the vast majority of the world’s roads are paved, and on such trips, long-term pleasure and comfort are definite requirements. The Africa Twin turned out to be altogether top class in terms of performance.
I found its handling to be really enjoyable when turning corners and powering away from intersections, as one would on a daily commute. Even venturing onto zigzagging mountain trails, I found I could ride comfortably any way I liked. It soon dawned on me that the Africa Twin not only delivers top performance as a road bike, it also allowed me to ride on unfamiliar roads with relaxing peace-of-mind in terms of both handling control and braking performance.
After lunch, I switched over to the DCT-equipped Africa Twin. The outstanding impression I had of the MT version’s handling, suspension and braking remained the same. However, one interesting difference was that the DCT model made the big Africa Twin feel like it was smaller and more compact than I had imagined. One reason was that once I’d started the engine and selected the drive mode, riding thereafter became as easy as simply turning the throttle.
Once I began riding the DCT version, I found I no longer needed to concern myself about possible engine stalls or missed shifts, and I soon realized that I’d been more nervous about gear-shift operation than I’d imagined. After being relieved of that concern, I began to notice that I could see the scenery better than before, and could concentrate my attention more on my riding line and acceleration, leaving me more room in both heart and mind for simply enjoying the ride. This was a reprise of one of those startling surprises I always feel whenever I ride a DCT-equipped model.
On the second day of the test ride we took the Africa Twin off road. This test course was located in the middle of the African wilderness, and seemed more like a special stage set up for a rally competition. Since this was just after having experienced an entire day enjoying the pleasures of this new machine on paved roads, I found myself subconsciously flinching at the vast differences in both scenery and road conditions.
As before, I started out on the MT version, riding down a straight, flat dirt road punctuated by occasional rises and gentle curves. As the Africa Twin zipped along that road, it gave me the feeling that I was travelling on a paved highway with complete peace-of-mind. What a pleasant feeling this was! Everything seemed to be exactly the same on the dirt road, including suspension that grips the road surface to almost the same degree I felt on the paved roads, and the feeling of oneness with the bike, free of any uneasiness during acceleration or deceleration.
As for engine characteristics, it exhibited no sudden unexpected lurches, and its feeling of power was remarkably easy to control, making it very easy to ride. This new Africa Twin is truly exceptional!
The road gradually got rougher as I proceeded. The bike frequently pitched over the undulating terrain, but these fluctuations in road conditions were perfectly absorbed by the suspension, and it never behaved strangely. This excellent chassis performance further revealed the pleasure to be found in the Africa Twin’s handling.
The MT version’s engine differs in appearance in such areas as the design of its clutch cover and the arrangement of its hydraulic lines. With its basic design shared by both MT and DCT versions, it has the potential to be installed in a number of models.
The right-side controls provide thumb switch selection of 'N’ (Neutral), ‘D’ (Drive) or ‘S’ (Sport) riding modes.
Manual shift selector switches are located on the left-side controls, allowing one to shift up (+) or down (–) through the gears with ease. A convenient parking brake lever is also provided.
The DCT version of the African Twin is also equipped with a G Switch, which responds to the unique needs of off-road riding by providing half-clutch control that responds directly to throttle operation. This feature really comes into its own when negotiating big rifts in the road surface.
Honda has developed a motorcycle transmission with automated clutch and shift operation that delivers the same riding enjoyment as a manual transmission.
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