Come later this year, adventure riders will have three fantastic choices when it comes to truly off-road capable adventure bikes. The leader of the pack is undoubtedly the BMW R1200 GS – BMW’s most successful model and inspiration for many a midlife crisis. The KTM 1190 Adventure R is slightly more focused at the off-road rider but is nevertheless a competent and capable tourer. So what chance does Honda’s reborn Africa Twin, aka the CRF1000L have?
The hype surrounding the all new Honda CRF1000L was huge and started last year with the unveiling of the True Adventure concept. But like so many things that are heavily anticipated, the reality can sometimes disappoint. There were high expectations that reborn Africa Twin would be light, powerful and cheap – but it seems it won’t really be any of those things. But it most certainly shouldn’t be written off due to its spec sheet alone. In fact, a closer analysis of things shows that the 2016 Honda CRF1000L will still be a potent competitor.
The Honda CRF1000L is the most under powered of the three bikes we’re looking at. It’s not only down on horsepower but it’s heavily down on torque. The former we’re not really concerned with as 94 horsepower is more than adequate for off road bikes and in reality is enough for the road too – although we wouldn’t have complained about an extra 10 or 20 horses.
The fact that it’s down on torque compared to the KTM by 21 per cent and the BMW by 19 per cent however is more of an issue. Being able to twist the throttle and get the power you want to maintain momentum – especially when negotiating steep inclines – is a big deal for adventure bikes. That the new Africa Twin is so down on torque may necessitate more gear changes which not only makes riding it more difficult, it also increases fatigue.
Thankfully, the CRF1000L comes with DCT as an option, however that creates problems of its own…
Perhaps the biggest disappointment when the specifications for the CRF1000L were released was its weight which starts from 503 lb. But its an unwarranted criticism as in comparison to not only the KTM 1190 Adventure R and BMW R1200 GS but almost every other big capacity adventure bike out there, it’s quite reasonable.
What people tend to forget is that adventure bikes are not designed like enduro bikes that start their life as a dirtbike. Adventure bikes are made to be extremely tough and resilient – and that generally means thick and sturdy frames which translates to more weight.
Sadly, that 503 lb figure quickly rises if you add ABS and DCT – having both pushes the weight up to 534 lb, making it heaver than the KTM and the BMW but with much less power. That’s a pretty big power to weight disadvantage.
One thing to keep in mind however is the weight distribution of the bike. Honda is very good at disguising the weight of their machines – they often feel a lot lighter than their actual mass. It’s also important that the weight be over the front wheel on an adventure bike which is critical for handling. Just by looking at the new CRF1000L you can see that Honda has got that sorted.
Here is where the Africa Twin shines and shows that it’s more dirt focused than road (and therefore potentially less of an all-rounder than the competition). Up front is a 21 inch wheel – bigger than the 19 inch on the R 1200 GS but matched by the 1190 Adventure R. Ground clearance for both the Japanese and Austrian bikes is 9.8” which again eclipses the BMW’s 8.1”.
But it’s the front and rear suspension that show what Honda’s interest is. Front travel on the Africa Twin is 230mm, and 220mm at the rear. That’s 10mm more at the front and the same on the rear as the KTM. The BMW’s more all round nature is demonstrated by the fact that it’s front/rear travel is 190 mm/200 mm. That means it’s less capable of absorbing hits from potholes and rocks that are common on grueling rides.
From the specifications we’ve seen so far, there are two other areas that have us concerned with the new CRF1000L. The first is the fuel tank capacity. Quoted at 4.96 gallons, that’s down on both of its rivals (and also goes some way to explaining its lighter weight when fully fueled). Honda is claiming that the all new parallel twin will offer great fuel economy which may make its smaller tank irrelevant.
The other head scratching issue is the options available in the US. For the US (and we assume Canadian market) you can either buy the standard model without ABS, or the top of the range model with ABS and DCT. You can’t buy the bike with ABS and not DCT. That’s an extremely dumb decision as we have no doubt that there will be far more people wanting ABS than DCT. Not making the Africa Twin available with ABS on its own is a baffling decision.
The other big question is the price. Only pricing in some European countries has been confirmed which often doesn’t simply translate to the UK, US or Australia so it remains to be seen how much of a value proposition the Africa Twin will be. But in our opinion it will need to come in under the KTM and BMW to stand a chance.
|Honda CRF1000L||KTM 1190 Adventure R||BMW R 1200 GS
|Engine||998cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve Parallel Twin with 270 degree crank and uni-Cam||2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°||Air/liquid-cooled four stroke flat twin engine, double overhead camshaft, one balance shaft
|Capacity||1,000 cc||1,195 cc||1,170 cc
|Power||93.9hp @ 7500 rpm||150hp @ 9500 rpm||125 hp at 7,750 rpm
|Torque||72.3 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm||92.2 @ 7500 rpm||89 @ 6000 rpm
|Gear Box||Constant mesh 6-speed MT / 6-speed DCT with on and off-road riding modes||6 gears||Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
|Front Brakes||310mm dual wave floating hydraulic disc with aluminium hub and radial fit 4-piston calipers||2 x Brembo four piston, radially bolted caliper, brake disc Ø 320 mm||Dual disc brake, floating brake discs, diameter 305 mm, 4-piston radial calipers
|Rear Brakes||Brembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mm||Brembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mm||Single disc brake, diameter 276 mm, double-piston floating caliper
|Front Suspension||256mm wave hydraulic disc with 2-piston caliper||WP-USD Ø 48 mm, 220mm travel||BMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 37 mm, central spring strut, 190mm travel
|Rear Suspension||220mm stroke, hydraulic spring preload adjustor||WP-Monoshock, 220mm travel||Cast aluminium single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable at handwheel, 200mm travel
|Front Tire||90/90-R21 ||90/90 R 21||120/70 R 19
|Rear Tire||150/70-R18||150/70 R 18||170/60 R 17
|Wet Weight||228kg (STD), 232 kg (ABS), 242kg (DCT)||526 lb (238 kg)||525 lbs (238 kg)
|Tank Capacity||18.8 litres||23 liters/3.5 liters reserve||20 litres/4 litre reserve