Buy the new Africa Twin! Or don’t!

Discussion in 'Japanese polycylindered adventure bikes' started by hollywood996, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. hollywood996

    hollywood996 Adventurer

    May 23, 2007
    San Francisco
    I will divulge my bias from the get go. I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Japanese motorcycles. Ok, I said it. Let loose the torrent of blaters (blogging haters), trolls and aficionados. I don’t care. Maybe it’s my semi-European upbringing or the perhaps unjustified ‘soul’ of European bikes but the last Japanese bike I owned was a Yamaha YZF600 in LA back in 1997. When it was stolen in 1998, a Triumph Daytona filled its place and that was that. So glad we got that behind us.

    My primary baseline for comparison are the 1050 and 1200 GS’s I’ve been riding as my daily rides/adventure steeds for the last 15 years. Both are big & reliable (the latter got me around the world) but nimble is not a word that would find its way into the GS lexicon. I’ve seen lots of videos of two wheeled titans thrashing the monster 1250 GS Adventure through swamps and over dunes. Nice little marketing snippets, perhaps, but for all of us who have not competed in Paris – Dakar, I call bullshit. I got my Husky motorcrosser stuck in a mud bog in the middle of the California wilderness once and it took me an hour and several heart attacks to set it free. If I was on my GS (weighing more than double the Husky), I would have been, how do you say?…Oh yes, fucked.

    To the Honda!

    Let’s start where we all do, looks. If it were a Tinder girl, you’d swipe right. If it were a Hinge guy, you’d definitely give it a like. And if you were on Match, a wink would be in order. (yes, I’m single and available). Even if I had never hit the start button, I would have been satisfied just to have the image of her in my mind’s eye forever and ever. The dripping lusciousness of the blue/red/white sparking paint scheme, the sparkle of the gold-finished spoke wheels, the clean lines of the water-cooled parallel twin engine, the freshly bronzed crankcase, the sharp edges of the body work. Get excited. It is truly the most beautiful dualsport I have even laid my lovely blue irises upon. (god, I hope some women are reading this article.)

    Now with every action there must be an equal and opposing reaction so here’s my ding and believe me, it’s me, not you. It’s bloody tall! Yes, I am short – maybe 5’7” after an hour on an inverter – but I have always had a thing for the tall ones. My Triumph Tiger, my two GS’s and my KTM 450 EXC all had towering seat heights but I got used to them. If you suffer vertigo, you may want to rethink. Or lower the suspension. Or opt for the lower seat. Or wear stilettos, if that’s your thing. The only time I found it…troubling, was trying to back it up with two tiptoes on the ground, ballerina style. Not a great look but it worked.

    Hit the starter and holy crap, what a snarl! And that’s with the stock can. The juices now flowing, the big iPad on the handlebar lights up. Apparently the computer does a lot of things. I ignore it and set off for the Surrey Hills south of London. After 60 seconds I am obsessed. The bike is so tall but as lithe as a supermodel and feels as light as a feather. The narrow geometry gives immediate confidence and just screams ‘take me to the dirt!’ Sat on the new GS Adventure recently? Where the Africa Twin is like being on the back of a young camel (I have), the GSA is like sitting on a male rhino (I have not). Ever try picking a rhino up out of a mud bog? Didn’t think so.

    The engine is grunt galore and the snorting exhaust note completely dominates the whirly whine coming out of the engine case. Torque comes by the bucket full and power-wheelies and a mere quarter twist of Mr. Righty away. There were no trails offering their dirt and mud to us so I made due with an urban motocross track. Tearing down narrow residential roads (not advised) mowing over speed bumps did not unsettle the suspension one little bit although, being only 167 lbs/76kg, I maybe should have dialed down rear shock rebound a bit to offset that bucking bronco effect. Likewise jumping over and off curbs presented no gripes at all. It may weigh twice as much but it handles a lot like my KTM 450 with suspension travel to match. Obviously, my spate of hooliganism does not vet the bike’s off-road credentials but I can vouch for its unparalleled ability to raise hell in any city of your choosing.

    I spent 6 hours on my sexy gazelle crisscrossing the urban / suburban environment of South London and, with the exception of the seat height and the utterly crap hand guards (I mean like plastic plates from an office picnic crap), this bike is totally hype-worthy. Will I buy one? Probably not. My next purchase is already in the chamber…the KTM 790 Adventure. Euro bias? Maybe. But mainly because of the type of riding I tend to do, Two Wheeled Expeditions style. But I am a profoundly and irrevocably changed human. This Honda, this sexy beast of a bike is without peer. It slots beautifully between the GSA 1250 panzer and the crossy KTM 790 and for many people I am sure, the perfect match.

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