Next year, Honda will take the wraps off its new, large-capacity adventure motorcycle. Will it be any good? To find out, we talked top-secret details with a company insider.
"The first round of prototype bikes are built and the second iteration are being put together now," our insider tells us. "By the looks of it, it won't be released as a 2015 model."
The bike he's speaking about is, of course, the heavily-rumored new Honda Africa Twin. Apparently, it wears that name "right on the side" and will be called that in the US market too, although it could also wear the CRF1000L moniker.
That name gives away the capacity, that 1,000cc, liquid-cooled motor will be a parallel-twin, designed to provide good torque and a front wheel-biased weight distribution that's ideal for off-road performance.
And this thing will go off-road. "It's aimed squarely at the KTM 990 Adventure," says our guy. "Rim sizes are 21-inch (front) and 17-inch (rear). Spoked wheels and no-fucking-around tires as stock."
What our insider was unable to confirm was the rumored weight, said by German magazine Motorrad to be around 200kg or 440lbs (wet). If true, that will give the bike a huge unique selling point. Even mid-capacity ADV bikes now tip the scales north of 500lbs when carrying fuel and the big, 1,200cc touring-oriented ADV bikes can weigh much more; the 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere, for example, weighs 636lbs (wet, with its standard-fit boxes)!
Such a bike would neatly split the difference between most ADV bikes (which aren't terribly good off-road) and the 650cc, single-cylinder dual sports that are very good off-road, but are now left far behind on it.
That's not to say the Africa Twin will be a spartan dirt bike. "ABS, Traction Control, Supermoto Mode, the works," says our guy, describing its electronic rider aid package. "Supermoto Mode" sounds the most intriguing, likely giving the rider an easy ability to optimize performance between dirt and street riding.
What Honda seems to be doing here is building a bike that actually lives up to the promise of the ADV class — genuine dirt performance in a package that's still civilized and comfortable on the street. It could be the first bike to manage that that isn't made in Austria. What Honda can offer over KTM is a more affordable price tag, greater long-term quality and reliability and a much, much larger dealer network. Don't under estimate the power of that last advantage, no matter where you live, there's likely a Honda dealer within striking distance. That not only makes the initial purchase easier, but also subsequent servicing and repairs. Those qualities will be a boon to world travelers too.
"Based on what I've seen, it'll look like a cross between the CRF250L and a Tiger 800," says our guy. "I'll be honest, this Africa Twin is probably the first bike from Honda I'll seriously consider buying."
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.