Honda’s automatic Africa Twin is a commuter’s dream
Honda have fitted an automatic DCT gearbox to its Africa Twin endurance machine. James Baggott reports on life with the 998cc continent crosser
Honda's Africa Twin has gained a cult following – and rightly so. It's a do-it-all enduro bike that's not only comfortable, but incredibly capable too.
We've been riding the firm's latest model with the revolutionary automatic DCT transmission for a few months now and have soon discovered it's a staple commuting tool.
Now, if like me, you're already a fan of enduro style bikes, the seating position and handling characteristics will be very familiar. The relatively small screen does cause a bit of buffeting, but the sit-up-and-beg style riding position works brilliantly in town.
I've ridden the 998cc parallel twin cylinder machine to London and back to the south coast six times now and found that the seat does get a little uncomfortable after an hour or so. At 6'4'' I am just a little too big for the Honda, my legs are slightly too folded on the pegs and the wind buffeting makes my back ache on long motorway schleps.
However, that said, when the stop-start traffic bites, the Africa Twin makes for a brilliant gap-finding tool. The light steering and automatic gearbox in 'sport' setting transforms it into a scooter-like commuter, darting for gaps.
This test bike has the optional hard luggage fitted – both top box and panniers at a cost of £920. Sounds pricey, but they're impressively capacious and able to swallow most of the bike kit you'll need to get into town.
They do make the Africa Twin rather wide though, so you have to be cautious when slipping through gaps in the traffic.
On the road, the Honda handles neutrally. I have noticed some disconcerting feelings when lent over hard, just enough to make you question the available grip for a nanosecond, however that could be down to the tyres.
I've also noticed the standard forks on the front dip considerably under braking – if you're used to BMW's telelever set up on the GS, this bike's main rival, that will definitely take some getting used to.
The engine develops 94bhp and 98Nm of torque which feels perfectly punchy enough. There are times under hard acceleration when a little more grunt could come in handy, but these are rare.
The real talking point is the DCT automatic gearbox though. For those of you unfamiliar with the set-up, the Africa Twin in this guise has no gear pedal and the lever for the clutch isn't for the clutch at all – instead it operates a handbrake, and is positioned sensibly far enough away that you won't end up pulling it unintentionally.
That's handy because you'll certainly be grabbing for the clutch the first few times you slow down. However, once you've got used to the fact the bike does all the 'hard work', you'll soon be enjoying the break your left arm and foot get.
As a hardened biker I never thought it would be something I'd enjoy riding quite as much as I do.
There are a few niggles though. I've found the fuel tank a little on the small side. At just 18.8-litres it's not nearly enough for a bike capable of long distances and frustratingly won't get me the 160-mile round trip to London and back without refueling. I've also found the centre stand a little precarious.
It's hard to get your motorcycle boot-clad foot between the frame and stand to push it down sturdily enough. That might have something to do with my big feet and correspondingly large boots, but it's still annoying.
Those minor gripes aside, I'm finding the Africa Twin to be a brilliant companion. It's combination of solid build quality and capability in a variety of circumstances is making it the perfect bike to tackle our congested roads in pretty much all weathers. And if you're doubting that automatic transmission – give it a try, you might just like it as much as me.
Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT
Engine: 998cc, Parallel twin
Power: 94bhp, 98Nm
Top speed: 115mph
MPG: 48mpg (est)