The Honda Africa Twin is back!

[Note: This post was originally published on May 13th 2014. Check the updates added to the end of this post as new information about this bike has become available – Including the most important update, a year later on May 12th, 2015, when Honda finally and officially announces the new Africa Twin – follow the link to see Honda’s confirmation, the Africa Twin is back]

Background [as posted on May 13, 2014]

Produced between 1988 and 2003, the Honda Africa Twin acquired fame as a version of the bike that won the Paris-Dakar four times (1986-89). Four consecutive times, that is. No small feat. For some reason this bike was never sold in the United States. But perhaps now, if the rumored new Africa Twin becomes a reality, it will.

For a couple of months already there has been a wave of rumors about Honda bringing this bike back to the market. Mainstream motorcycle sites have been feeding these rumors, covering stories based on a set of specs they claim to have been sourced from Honda insiders.  And these journalists have sketched their view of these bikes.  Some depict a bike based on Honda’s entries in the Paris-Dakar from the past (1980’s), others from bikes from the present entries (2014).  And these journalists consider the new Africa Twin a done deal.  The Africa Twin is back, they say.

One of the three types of images that have been  sketched by motorcycle journalists for the new Africa Twin

One of the images that have been sketched by motorcycle magazines for the new Africa Twin

They also say it is imminent, that this bike will be revealed as soon as the 2104 Intermot (Cologne) and 2014 EICMA (Milan) shows this coming fall! And it would hit the market as early as the Spring of 2015.  If this is true, this bike must be in an advanced stage of design at this point, with prototypes being ridden many miles in many conditions to collect data on its various systems, and it should be very close to production at this point.  No spy photos have been displayed yet, as far as I know.

Rumor or reality? I cautiously ponder. I will entertain the possibility that these rumors have some truth to them given the amount of information circulating on online publications.  If it turns out that this is only a rumor, well, then this post will serve as a review of the adventure market.

The Original! Honda Africa Twin XRV650

The Original! Honda Africa Twin XRV650

Background

The origins of the Africa Twin motorcycle are in its name. Honda is not a company that takes racing lightly – when they decide to enter a race you expect them to produce a competitive machine, be it for Formula 1, motocross or motorcycle GP.  The story of the Africa Twin followed this pattern when 26 years ago Honda produced a machine for the Paris-Dakar race.

The Paris-Dakar was the race where a win would put a motorcycle model in great position in the growing Enduro market of the 80’s. It was the win on Sunday and sell on Monday deal, except that it was a once a year race, and in its first years it carried on its back the creation of a new market segment in the motorcycle industry. Winning it during those days probably meant more than today, when now bikes in the Dakar race have a 450cc size limitation for motors. These 450cc bikes of today are not in a popular or growing segment of the market.

Along the years, while the Dakar race has been downsizing motor displacement from 700-800ccs to 450cc for the race bikes, consumers have been going the other direction, buying bikes with larger motors, effectively moving away from the original enduro idea and targeting the adventure portion of this segment. Aside from KTM and Suzuki, no manufacturer sells a 400-450cc street legal adventure bike in the U.S. market. But there are eight manufacturers selling 1200cc motorcycles, almost all of them claiming some direct ancestry with the original Paris-Dakar winners.  And only few multi-cylinder bikes are available in the 650-800cc range today.

Honda’s official entry for the Paris-Dakar race in those days was the NXR750.  This machine won the 1986, 1987, and then with the NXR800, Honda won the 1988 and 1989 races. Four consecutive wins!

The Honda NXR 750

The Honda NXR 750

The Africa Twin, the bike sold to the public, was a derivative of the NXR750.  It was tuned down to a 650 motor, but still a V-Twin, the XRV650 Africa Twin.

Is there a gap in the adventure motorcycle market today?

The adventure market is a growing segment of the motorcycle industry. And twin and triple cylinder bikes are what sells the most. There are plenty of single-cylinder adventure motorcycles out there. People talk about Suzuki’s DR650 as the perfect machine – still air cooled, it is simple, strong but light enough to do the job. And there are others, including BMW’s G650GS line, and the ubiquitous Kawasaki KLR 650.

But many riders want a multi-cylinder bike. It seems most want large displacement bikes, hence the 1200 cc portion of this segment being where most manufacturers have a product. There is no gap at that larger level of the adventure market: from the KTM 1190 Adventure R to the Ducati Multistrada and Aprilia Caponord, you run a complete gradient of bikes from dirt to street, or from enduro to sport/touring, under the adventure umbrella.

But there are riders who wish there would be smaller bikes, bikes as light as single cylinder bikes, but bikes that would do a better job than single cylinder bikes for adventure riding and round-the-world dreamed rides. From my riding experience, twin cylinder bikes are simply more fun to ride than single cylinder bikes, so in my humble view yes, that would be a good idea if such a multi-cylinder machine can be made without too much added weight when compared to middle-weight (650cc)  single cylinders.

Is it possible to build such a bike? We have a few mid-size multi-cylinder adventure bikes in the market: the BMW F800GS, the Triumph 800XC, the Suzuki V-Strom DL650, and until recently the KTM 990 Adventure, and there are others.  But they are definitely heavier than a single cylinder bike, and they are also more complicated and more problem prone than those tried and true thumpers (single cylinder bikes).

When the rumored specs about the new Africa Twin started circulating, they indicated this new Honda would possibly be that light weight, mid-size, multi-cylinder machine with good dirt manners, capable of 200+ miles with one tank, and with enough frame strength to carry camping gear. The perfect formula that would fill this gap in the adventure market.

Except that these rumored specs point to a bigger motor and more power than one could have imagined possible for the 440lbs package being rumored for this bike. And that’s where one could start doubting the story. Is it wishful thinking from these journalists and enthusiasts what is actually shaping this wave of rumors?

On the other hand, there is the group of riders who likes larger and more street oriented bikes and wants a bike that will travel some 300 miles on one tank of gas. They can’t complain if their machine weighs about 600lbs. This group envisions this new Honda as yet another “GS killer”. Something Yamaha’s 1200 Super-Ténéré failed to accomplish, for example. Something KTM is after with their 1190 Adventure series.

I doubt this new Honda will be in this group of larger bikes. First because Honda already has a bike for that portion of the market (the Honda Cross-tourer, although it is not sold in the US). And second because, if the rumor of 440 lbs is correct, this new bike will be about 100lbs lighter than those large bikes.

Time will tell whether this bike will be made or not and what will it be about. But for now, let’s talk some more about these rumors.

The specs being rumored for this bike

Journalists claim the rumor mill started when in the Summer of 2013 a journalist got a hold of Honda’s renewal of the patent and trademark for the “Africa Twin” name in the United States market.  Honda never sold this bike here, but it holds a patent and trademark on this bike’s name. So it may mean nothing special to renew its trademark.

But could it had been a real move? It triggered journalists to investigate it and apparently someone (or more than one person) from Honda leaked information. Remember, this is a legendary bike, rumors about its revival and related stories are worth the ink spilled on magazines’ pages. It sells magazines when an imagined Africa Twin is sketched and displayed on the cover of a publication headlined with visionary specs and technology that most of us dream to ride one day.

From the perspective of the manufacturer, such rumors are often done on purpose, as a strategy for certain products where leaking just enough information will trigger an informal marketing of or research for a product. It seems to be working for this bike, if that is the case.  Based on what was leaked, journalists are speculating two different possible looks for the bike, I will discuss those two version next.  But first, here are the rumored Specs for the New Africa Twin:

  • 200kg / 440lbs (fueled) // 180kg / 396lbs (dry)
  • 20L / 5.3 gallon fuel capacity
  • Parallel twin engine, 1000cc
  • 100hp
  • 250mm / 9.8in suspension
  • 21” front / 17” rear
  • Offroad-designed ABS brakes
  • Offroad-designed traction control

In my view these specs look more like wishful thinking.  Is this possible? As an example, the 471 cc Honda CBX500 is rated at 430lbs ready to ride. This 1,000cc bike is rumored to weight only 10lbs more than the CB500X. This new bike would be some 85 lbs lighter than BMW’s R1200GS, 32 lbs lighter than the F800GS.  I’m skeptical about these values, but I admit, I wish it to be true. Who wouldn’t?

chart of technical data for comparisonMotorcycle weight is a funny thing. All manufacturers, and the bike owners (go figure), claim their bike is lighter than it actually is.  So please read these weights knowing they are likely approximations of the true weight for these bikes.

Two Visions

Given these specs, two groups of speculations have described this bike in two different ways: a) Motorrad (and Moto.It) have sketched the more dirt-looking bike, which looks like a scaled up version of the CRF450 Rally machine of present Dakar races and to be called the CRF1000 Africa Twin; and b) MCN, claiming more recent and more “official” information, depicts a bike looking very similar to the original machine, including the dual round headlights and the gold rims, trademarks of the Africa Twin.

In both cases the motor is a parallel twin of 1,000cc’s or thereabouts, a departure from the V-twin of the original bike.  The parallel twin being suggested is not a motor currently in production, by the way. And if it is an all new motor, this bike is likely to be part of a family of motorcycles, as is usually the case for such investment.  I can see at least three bikes from this motor: a dirt/enduro version, an adventure/road version, and perhaps a naked bike to go head to head with Yamaha’s MT-o7 (Fz-07) and MT-09/(FZ-09), for example.  Plenty of excitement to be brought to this market, uh? Let’s hope so.

The Dirt Version (scaled up version of the CRF450 Rally)

At some point last year an interview with Katsumi Yamazaki, Honda’s project leader of Team HRC (funny, his last time seems to be a hybrid between Yamaha and Kawasaki, connected by the “Z” of Suzuki, all while working for Honda), surfaced on the internet.  On that interview Mr. Yamazaki hinted at the development of a version of Honda’s rally bike to be built for consumers. People fixated on this statement from his interview:

It may be expensive, but riders with more money to spend will be able to purchase a bike with the same specs as our rally machine. That is why we have designed each part to be replaceable. My idea is to offer a cheaper base machine and optional high performance parts for riders who want high performance.

2014 Honda CRF 450 Rally

2014 Honda CRF 450 Rally

The reality of his statement was that this 450 cc race bike, besides Honda Team riders, was also meant for privateers, the racers who buy production versions of a team bike.  It was, after all, not meant to be a street legal bike for you and me to enjoy on our dirt adventures. Again, this is one difference between Paris-Dakar races of the past and present. In the past, the public in general would have access to a machine similar (albeit de-tuned) to the one being raced, such were the Africa Twin and the BMW Paris-Dakar bikes. Today there are no street legal versions of the Honda CRF 450 Rally machines.

When Africa Twin rumors started, it was not too difficult for someone at Moto.It to imagine it as a CRF 1000 with the Africa Twin name.  Motorrad also claiming inside information, and the idea of a scaled up version from the CRF450 Rally bike, sketched this vision for the Africa twin on a Motorrad magazine.

Will this be the 2015 CRF1000 Africa Twin?

Will this be the 2015 CRF1000 Africa Twin?

On the graph below, generated by Motorrad Magazine, Motorrad journalists place this new bike with a primary aptitude for the dirt, perhaps filling the void left by KTM’s departure of this corner of the adventure gradient, when it ended production of its 990 Adventure and replaced it with the 1190 Adventure and Adventure R models, a more street oriented motorcycle even in its R version.

This is Motorrad's interpretation of the Adventure Market gradient between dirt and street. And where they situate the speculated Africa Twin

This is Motorrad’s interpretation of the Adventure Market gradient between dirt (Gelande) and street (Strasse). And where they place the speculated Africa Twin

Motorrad sees this bike as better geared for the dirt than all the large bikes but also better on dirt in comparison to smaller displacement bikes such as the BMW F800GS and the Triumph Tiger 800XC, and even the Yamaha XTZ 660 Tenere.  But not as hard core as the KTM 690 Enduro R, which would be expected, considering the KTM is not quite an adventure bike.  Exactly where I envision the gap in the market.

“In Moto”, an Italian publication believes this is the route for this bike as well. They also envision a bike looking similar to the CRF450 Rally, with a clear dirt vocation if based on these looks (below), and with the HRC colors.  Their sketch shows a set of lights behind a glass area similar in shape to the lights of the CB500X and NC750X bikes, but with a more vertical, rally-like screen.

In Moto Version

In Moto Version

“In Moto” complements this rendering by saying: “Here it is! Light, powerful but without exaggeration. After so many rumors, finally it is real. It’s a bike of dreams.”

In my opinion, these drawings look great, but they look great for a thumper. I would prefer a more sedate look for a 1000cc bike that will cost north of $13K.  But I won’t complain too much about it, if this is what it will look like.

The Nostalgia Version

On the other camp, MCN projects a very different bike. MCN claims their rendering of the bike includes more updated information from Honda and it was “computer generated.”  MCN’s computer must have a touch of nostalgia, because the resulting rendering makes it difficult to distinguish the new bike from the original bike, including the HRC colors.

MCN's rendition of the New Africa Twin. Can you spot the differences?

MCN’s rendition of the New Africa Twin. Can you spot the differences from this to the original?

Below is the original, posted again for comparison purposes.

The Original! Honda Africa Twin XRV650

The Original Honda Africa Twin XRV650

MCN claims their view is not from guess work, but based on actual information they received from Honda insiders, where they claim a more realistic play of the name Africa Twin on the bike, including the styling based on the original bike.

MCN also mentioned this bike will come in two versions. A 21 inch front wheel version aimed at more serious dirt riding and a 19 in front wheel version for road oriented riding, but still capable of dirt riding.  The dirt version would come with a raised fender or beak, to better traverse muddy terrains while the road version would come with a low fender,  styled more similarly to the original bike.  These two types of versions mimic what we have seen on the F800GS (with the F700GS for road), the Tiger 800XC (with the Tiger 800 “roadie”), and the KTM 1190 Adventure R (with the 1190 Adventure “standard”). It makes sense, and corroborates with creating a family of bikes as discussed earlier.

MCN claims Honda insiders indicated the new bike would have the dual round headlights similar to the original.  MCN believes it will have the HRC color scheme without the HRC logos. And that the bike would come with the gold rims of the original bike and a twin-spar aluminum frame, similar to that on the 450 Rally machine.  Such a frame would be light and strong.

MCN generated their own graph to depict where this bike would be placed in the adventure market.  By the way, where is BMW’s F800GS on this graph?

MCN's view of the bike and the adventure market

MCN’s view of the bike and the adventure market

MCN’s perspective places this bike in the middle of the road, less dirt biased than the KTM 1190 R, the BMW R1200GS Adventure and the Yamaha Ténéré. Really? And the BMW Adventure, the tanker bike at well north of 500 lbs, is it a better off road machine than the regular, lighter BMW GS? Really? Considering MCN did not include the F800GS and that they named the KTM 1190R as a KTM 1290R, this graph was possibly published without a revision. At least that is what I think, otherwise I have no idea what they are talking about when they refer to “off road”.

Bottom line, MCN envisions a heavier bike, less dirt ready, even on their anticipated dirty, 21-inch front wheel version, perhaps. Or were they thinking about the road version of the Africa twin when they drafted the graph? But since they claim to have the insider information, let’s wait and see.

My Own Vision and Projections

I wish Honda would release a new Africa Twin with the V-twin motor. But a parallel twin is a more efficient motor, a 270 degree crank will make it feel and ride similar to a V-win. A parallel twin will provide a more compact package, lighter and easier to place in the design, with easier cooling systems to organize. I will go with the compromise, if the overall package is good.

If the specs being discussed on the internet are anything to go by, I do believe this bike will be interesting: about 30 lbs lighter than both the F800GS and the Triumph Tiger 800XC, and with better character for off road, it will be just what I’ve been looking for. I would go for the more dirt oriented version of this bike.

But why would Honda try to build bikes with a serious off-road bias? This is a very small portion of the market.  I know I’m a potential buyer. But who are the others? Will it be worth making this bike even if it is only one of a family of three other bikes?

I decided to generate my own graph (see below) to describe my vision of the adventure market. I depict KTM motorcycles always on the dirt side of the equation when compared to similar motorcycles.  KTM’s are endeared by  moto journalists but KTM’s do not sell as well as BMW’s.  Although it seems the new KTM 1190 Adventure has been selling well, and has become a point of entry for motorcyclists into the orange “coolaid” program.  In that case it proves KTM right for moving to a more “civilian” portion of the market, the 1200 cc Holly Grail, and moving away from the niche market where the 990 adventure resided. Therefore, my skepticism about Honda building such a bike. Perhaps MCN is right, after all, it is a more street oriented bike.  But one can wish for that light bike, with proper dirt manners, right?

adventure bikes chartIn my vision, at 440lbs wet, this bike in its 21 inch front wheel version, the more dirt oriented version, will fit the gap in the market. It will be a better off road bike than all the 1200cc bikes, and better than the 800cc bikes.  Based on the technology/specs being rumored for this bike, only bikes lighter than this new Honda will do a better job off road, when taking in consideration the suspension travel speculated for this new machine.  Considering the criteria below, my view is not too far from that of Motorrad.  But differs from how MCN interprets off-road motorcycles.

criteria for chart

Another Gap in the Market

If the new Africa Twin turns out to be just another street bike in adventure clothing, as predicted by MCN, then the gap remains. Without other options in the multi-cylinder market, there’s the CB500X, in a rally version.  There are no multi-cylinder bikes around 500cc in the adventure market here in the United States. Except if you build one yourself, such as what Honda’s Thai chapter of the HRC has done.

Hnda CB500X modified for off road

Honda CB500X modified for off road

This Rally bike was built out of a CB500X bike and entered in a cross-challenge rally in Thailand, about this time last year.  It has generated a flurry of inquiries from riders. Even the technician who made these changes in these bikes graced the ADVRider CB500X thread with his presence, explaining the changes to the bike in about 8 or 9 posts.  Yes, a few riders see this gap on the adventure market and would like to have a lighter multi-cylinder adventure bike.

Why haven’t others thought about a small displacement twin cylinder bike before? For the same reason the 1,200 cc adventure market is crowded today. Most people are interested in a road mannered bike with adventure styling. And it is likely where the manufacturers get the most return per unit produced.

Thai HRC team's CB500X Rally, with 19 and 21 in front wheel versions

Thai HRC team’s CB500X Rally, with 19 and 21 in front wheel versions

If the modified Honda CB500X retains anything close to the 430 lbs of the original CB500X then they are great adventure motorcycles: Light, hopefully Honda durable, smooth, just enough power (less than 50HP) to go the distance. With radical changes to suspension they should be good for loads of fun on dirt roads. With less than 50 HP it doesn’t need traction control. And there is the extra fun one gets from building their own bike.

At about 60-70 mpg and a 4.2 gallon tank this bike will go 250-300 miles with one tank of gas.  This travel distance between refills comes without the penalty of the weight and bulk of a large gas tank or gasoline jugs strapped to the bike. And further more, these bikes would be the under-dog on the adventure world, when compared to other multi-cylinder bikes. I would rather be riding a smaller bike than larger and heavier machines when going off road.

Final Thoughts

Let’s see what Honda will bring (or not) to the market under its Africa Twin trade mark.  Will it be as light as the CB500X Rally bikes?  Will it be a paradigm shift in the moto-world? Will it be a new motor and frame technology for a new batch of light weight motorcycles? Will Honda bring a KTM-like bike, but one that starts and runs well at all times?

On the other hand, will Yamaha build an adventure bike out of its MT-07 parallel twin motor? Rumors about an XTZ700 Ténéré have surfaced. That sure would be a light and fun motorcycle with the aptitude to go off road.  Overall, it would be good if manufacturers concentrated more attention to the mid-size portion of this market, and that such bikes become viable offers.

Time will tell, and this story telling time should arrive soon. Since you’ve read this post all the way to this point here, let me reward you with something more reassuring about the Africa Twin:  a video from an interview with Dave Hancock.  Who is Dave Hancock?  On the words of a Canada MotoGuide article signed by this is Dave Hancock:

[Dave Hancock] is an unassuming English chap of diminutive stature, with a slender build and closely cropped grey hair. He’s an engaging conversationalist and speaks with a smile, and could easily pass for your high school shop teacher.

But a shop teacher he’s not; Hancock is the head of product planning and business development at Honda Motor Europe. If you ride a late-model Honda, you owe him a debt of gratitude. Simply put, if he doesn’t sign off on a new design, it won’t go into production.

That is, if an Africa Twin is to ever come to production, Dave Hancock is the one to sign the deal.  I’m no Honda whisperer, as my writing on the Africa Twin clearly denotes, but Mr. Hancock’s reaction when the Moto.It journalist asked about the Africa Twin (at minute 10:30 of the video below) tells the story (this video is from EICMA 2013).

You should notice that Mr. Hancock brings up his notion of the new VFR80, how and why they designed the new bike as an evolution of the old one, because of its strong following. The passion of the old owners for the bike, as demonstrated by how old owners have maintained their old bikes. This provides merit to MCN’s view that the new Africa Twin will be based on the old Africa Twin.  If for anything, the Africa Twin has as much if not more of a passionate following than the VFR.

Anyway, you reach your own conclusions. I’ve reached mine and for me it is just a question of what it looks like: will it have  more of a dirt focus, a street focus or two versions? And when will we see it for the first time?  And will Honda let me test ride it?

5/17/2014 UPDATE

On 5/16/2014, VisorDown published updates on Honda’s patent application. Their text reads:

A BIG-capacity retro-style adventure bike has been revealed in Honda patent applications. The drawings appear to show a road-biased adventure bike, with a round headlight, hand guards and traditional mirrors and clocks. The wheels are wire-spoke while the exhaust is set high, suggesting off-road pretensions. The application points to the engine being a 1000cc parallel twin.

Read more in this VisorDown link, it includes two drawings indicating the location of key components of the motorcycle, such as air box, exhaust position, and what appears to be a parallel twin motor.

VisorDown refers to it as a Retro-Style adventure bike. Which could corroborate with MCN’s view as shown by their drawing of the bike, which looks very much like the original. Which may reflect the road/travel version of the bike, while the Moto.it and Motorrad version reflect the dirt version of the bike, with the 21 inch front wheel.

5/18/2014 UPDATE

A motorcycle forum participant reported a chance encounter with a journalist on a recent motorcycle trip to Morocco.  The Journalist claims to have been part of a group of few journalists who have ridden a prototype of the new Africa Twin. This journalist is claimed to have said he was impressed with the motorcycle’s performance.

5/21/2014 UPDATE
Indefinitely Wild (Gizmodo) had a post by Wes Siler filed to “Two Wheels Bad” about the new Africa Twin.  It includes bits of communication claimed to be from a Honda insider with updated information on the Africa Twin.  Some quotes from this claimed to be Honda insider indicates he is not working on the New Africa Twin project:

The first round of prototype bikes are built and the second iteration are being put together now. By the looks of it, it won’t be released as a 2015 model.

The above information agrees with the circumstances provided in the 5/18/2014 update, where a journalist claims to have ridden a prototype.

It’s aimed squarely at the KTM 990 Adventure […] Rim sizes are 21-inch (front) and 17-inch (rear). Spoked wheels and no-[fooling]-around tires as stock.

This goes together with the information and the images Moto.It, In Moto, and Motorrad have put forth about this bike and the information they claim to have received from their Honda insider.  It goes together with Motorrad’s Graph (and my own graph) where this bike is assumed to be a dirt biased adventure motorcycle, a more “rally” less “touring” adventure bike.  Not after the R1200GS as MCN claims. Although in my opinion a more street version will also be offered.

That is, this bike will probably bridge the 650 singles and the large 1200’s better than the F800GS and Tiger 800XC managed to do in terms of a dirt orientation. Which was the KTM990’s appeal. And that’s how Motorrad has described this bike. And that’s what I would personally like to see.  Imagine a KTM with a world wide dealership network and Honda-like reliability.

ABS, Traction Control, Supermoto Mode, the works.

This Honda insider also claims the bike will come with an electronics package. Supermoto mode? Probably meaning you can also push it hard on the streets? Perhaps it is aimed at a younger crowd? Or is it that this package will actually offer the three versions I described earlier: a naked, a rally/adventure, and a touring/adventure version.

Based on the last quote of the article this Honda insider appears not only not to be on the New Africa Twin project, but perhaps he is not a Honda employee at all.  But he/she has had exposure to the project.

Based on what I’ve seen, it’ll look like a cross between the CRF250L and a Tiger 800. I’ll be honest, this Africa Twin is probably the first bike from Honda I’ll seriously consider buying.

Something in between my WR250R and my Tiger 800XC is exactly what I’ve been looking for in the adventure market. Something that does not exist, and I was thinking the CB500X Rally version would be it for me.  But this new bike may be it, especially if the weight is really the 440lbs being claimed. Still, this seems to be the twin-cylinder bike that is designed to first tackle dirt roads, but also does well on paved roads, not the other way around, like the F800GS, the 800XC, and I don’t need to mention the 1200 class of bikes. Something that I and many others have been waiting to see.

6/11/2014 UPDATE

Our friends at Indefinitely Wild/Gizmodo continue to bring interesting information about this bike. Now it is being rumored as a 2016 model.

The key issue on this update is about the airbox design that was recently patented by Honda. What this new design does is that the airbox can sit outside of the frame. Usually a motorcycle air box is in the middle of the frame, just below the tank and above the throttle bodies.  What Honda is proposing is a set of two air boxes one on each side of the bike at tank height and a bit forward.  Air goes to the motor via tubes from the bottom of the boxes to the top of the two throttle bodies (parallel twin motor).

This may streamline the motorcycle if it reduces the width of the tank and it may also lower the center of gravity.  It allows the tank to occupy the space where traditionally the airbox sits.

One more thing to consider about the speculated location of the air: ease of maintenance. If you are serious about riding off road, you know the drill, there are about 20-30 fasteners to be removed to get to the filter, including removing the tank on most bikes.  This Honda would make such maintenance easy.

This last update also indicates the tank is not going to be larger than 5 gallons. And that this bike is really being designed for dirt. If so, kudos to Honda! It just may revolutionize this market of street bikes disguised as adventure bikes.  Honda seems to be designing an actual rally bike!

6/16/2014 UPDATE

Yet, another rendition of the speculated Honda.

Yet, another rendition of the speculated Honda.

French Magazine Moto Journal also joined the speculation front on the new Africa Twin, and have come up with their own rendition on this speculated bike.

Their version seems like a copy of the Moto.It’s version, except the French plastered the headlight, windscreen and the bash plate from the KTM Adventure 1190 on it.

It wins the prize for which is the ugliest version so far, in my opinion.

But other than that, it is one more publication building on the rumors being spread.  I did not have access to the content of the article.

7/14/2014 Update

After the Germans and Italians, and the British and the French, now is the time of the Spaniards to come up with their own concept of the new Africa Twin.

EnduroPro Magazine's rendition of the New Africa Twin

EnduroPro Magazine’s rendition of the New Africa Twin

The EnduroPro article did not add anything to what we already covered in this post. They hold more of the MCN’s view which states this bike  will compete with the BMW R1200GS. Their rendering is strange.  Although their text reflects the notion of the parallel twin (and they say the decision to move to a parallel twin instead of a V-2 is a cost issue, while we say it is a weight, and design/application issue), their rendering depicts a wide motor, that is not quite a VFR motor (Honda’s V-4), but it is definitely not a parallel twin. The plastics on their rendering are a mix of the Italian take (Moto.It) of the New Africa Twin and the English’s (MCN) view.

Our view remains that Honda will produce this bike, perhaps it will be later than expected, and that it will have at least a version that will be more dirt oriented, meaning, it will not necessarily be a BMWR1200GS look-a-like such as was the case for the Super Ténéré, but more of a rally bike.  Perhaps it will be an improvement to what the BMW HP2 and KTM 950SE bikes represented. Or what the F800GS and Tiger 800XC never were. We are waiting.

If you want to vote in which rendition of the new Africa Twin you like best (or you think is more realistic or likely to be the real thing), go here.

 9/5/2014 Update

Will it finally be unveiled, and will this reveal take place five days from today? A tease on Honda’s German site, the home country of Intermot (2014 Intermot starts on October 1st in Cologne), shows an illustration of a magician in the process of revealing a motorcycle.

Magician reveals the...

The caption on the illustration says:

World Premiere on September 10th! We show a new form of adventure.
Whoever you are, wherever you are: Get ready for a motorcycle that will allow you a whole new experience. The experience of being able at any time to break out of the everyday. Do not miss out when the curtain falls.

Well, this is just a drawing, and it is not a real motorcycle on the illustration. That is: it’s not it, even if it’s meant to be it.  We will wait another five days to know what this new motorcycle is. Will it be the new Africa Twin or something else? And if so, will it be the Africa Twin we hope it to be? We offer more questions than answers for now…

In terms of it being something else, one of the possibilities is that Honda could be bringing back its Elsinore name, and it could be of 500cc instead of 1,000cc. For more information on a possible Elsinore variation to the Africa Twin, check our Elsinore or Africa Twin post.

 4/30/2015 Update

On the Episode 4 of the series of videos of Honda’s marketing campaign for the True Adventure motorcycle, Honda’s head of product development, Dave Hancock, describe his take after testing the motorcycle.  He said:

Yesterday we tested the adventure bike that is going to change the face of the adventure world forever.

We believe he is referring to Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) on this bike among the many other patents files by Honda for the specific motorcycle. Patents for changes to traditional designs, such as the air filters divided into two components, flanking the tank. The list is long.  The DCT application to an Adventure bike, however, could be on top of the list.

5/2/2015 Update

We believe this much anticipated Honda Adventure motorcycle will be displayed to the public again very soon, as an updated version from the one presented at the 2014 EICMA show. It will have incorporated the improvements noted on the Episode 4 video.  It is getting closer to the final production model!

5/12/2015 Update

Here it is, the official announcement from Honda on the new Africa Twin.

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42 Responses to The Honda Africa Twin is back!

  1. bob skoot says:

    Cesar:

    very interesting observations and you must have done lots of reading and research.

    I feel that it is too late. I mean they won the P-D 4 years in a row and did nothing for us in North American while other companies brought out adventure bikes all these years since 1989. The African Twin was sold in Canada for 2 years. and they also have a cult following all over the world. So now Honda wants to capture the market when they should have done so around 1990, instead of 25 years later (2015). BMW brought out their P-D models and they have become collector’s items.

    bob
    A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

    • cesardagord says:

      Hey Bob
      You are right. It probably is too late in a certain way. But at the same time, this is one of the few growing segments of the motorcycle industry. If Honda has done their homework well, they could just turn that page and have a fresh start with the old name to carry it forward. I do think it is possible, if they approach it right. They may know about this better than I do. Now, the question remains, will it ever be brought to the American market?
      And yes, BMW did a much better job than Honda, with their PD bikes and the GS line based on the Paris-Dakar success. And also much better than KTM when the other opportunity knocked with Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor. Anyway, I’m curious to see if this new Africa Twin is true and if so, what bike this will be.
      Cesar

  2. enduro10 says:

    Is the 2013 KTM ADventure 990 wet weight = 588 lbs ? Shouldn’t be 488 lbs ?

  3. Brent says:

    While the 2014 KTM 690 Enduro R is a single (with nearly 70 HP), it is right in the gap area.

    • cesardagord says:

      It is. Besides being a single, it requires modifications to become an “adventure” bike. People have taken this bike on long journeys, it is possible, but it is not ideal.

  4. Pep Comas says:

    Cesar, your analysis is absolutely brilliant, congratulations!. As an Africa Twin and XR650L owner I could not agree more with you. Yo have describerd the two gaps in the adventure bike market perfectly. I don’t know why we can’t find this kind of articles in a motorbike magazine, perhaps because they can’t tell the truth at 100% to maintain good relationship with builders, anyway, congratulations one more time

    Pep from Barcelona ( Europe )

    • cesardagord says:

      Thank you Pep.
      Well… many of us have been seduced by 1,200 cc adventure bikes. I have one of these bikes. I just got back from a 240 mile ride on my Multistrada. While it is an awkward bike to take on an enduro ride, my ride today was all on paved mountain roads and the Multi does that so well and makes it so much fun. But yes, the point is, there is plenty of options on this 1,200 cc size, not enough in the middle, and no 1,200cc bike is a serious enduro motorcycle – not even the KTMs. Hopefully Honda’s Africa Twin will bring a new perspective by bringing an old concept back to the future. That is, a bike that reminds us from where this type of riding started, a true enduro/adventure bike but with the new technology that will allow it to perform better than in the past, including it being lighter weight than current bikes. Maybe that is possible. Maybe not.
      Let’s see. You guys in Europe will get to see it before we do here, if they make it and if this bike ever comes to this side of the pond.
      Thanks again Pep.
      Cesar

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  8. iLondoner says:

    Great article and some quality research. In recent years I’ve seen the light and have downsized from a 1200GSA to the 800GS, then Tenere and now a 2013 KTM 690 Enduro R. I’ve heard from two trade sources that KTM is to introduce (or should that be reintroduce?) a new midrange model at EICMA, though personally I’d prefer a 690 Adventure model.

    • cesardagord says:

      Thanks! This information makes sense to me in light of the move from the 950/990 to the 1190. If this is true, and looking in retrospective, the 1190 was perhaps a way for KTM to clean their marketing strategy by keeping a product at the 1200 level and now bringing something more clearly in the mid-range side of things (considering the 990 was not one thing or the other). In 2013 there was a lot of excitement when the 1200 level of this market got a lot of press with the introduction of the KTM 1190, the BMW water-cooled, the semi-active suspension on several bikes (BMW, KTM, Ducati), the Aprilia Caponord, The Tiger Explorer, etc. Maybe we will next see some action in the midrange, with a new KTM, the Africa Twin, and who knows what other manufacturers should be doing. We hear riders asking Yamaha to build a smaller Tenere based on the parallel twin of the MT-07 or the triple of the MT-09, for example. And what will BMW do to the now veteran 800GS? And where is that 900cc 270 degree crank motor developed for the Nuda? The 690 Adventure in my opinion will continue to be a niche in the market. These mid-range bikes being talked about will likely not be as light as the 690 is, and I would think by a substantial enough margin. But let’s see what is next! Thanks again Timothy!

  9. george F says:

    Great article and as an owner of a Super Tenere I would like a lighter bike. I bought mine to make a trip to Alaska from NJ, wanted reliability and long distance comfort, I don’t trust BMW bikes, too expensive and not as reliable. I was hoping to get the Triumph 800 but the Tenere was announced before the 800XC. A twin in the 800 to 1000cc with Honda reliability would be perfect, a light weight would make it even better. Lets hope Honda makes it.

    • cesardagord says:

      Thanks George. Yes, let’s see what Honda will make out of the Africa Twin name. A nice adventure tourer or a nice dirt bike that will travel long distance in comfort? Or both.

    • Robert says:

      Had a 2010 BMW F800GS and treated it like a baby. After two years of ownership and ten days before a planned one week trip I started having problems starting the bike. I took it in and they found several things wrong. This included having to replace the fuel pump and injectors, some gasket, and some bolt. The bolt had to be ordered from Germany as there wasn’t any stock located in the US. I was told it would take a few days to get it repaired. They had my bike in the shop for two and a half weeks. My vacation was pretty much ruined and I ended up sitting at home waiting for the repairs. What really pissed me off was that BMW denied the warranty claim for replacing the fuel injectors and pump. Luckily the dealer stepped up and took care of it but by that time I was done with BMW. Once my warranty ran out, I sold the bike. That was almost two years ago. Now I’m looking at a CRF250L just to get back on two wheels but not to spend a lot of money. I want something that is reliable this time! A 250 for messing around town and a 1000 for longer trips might just be a good goal to set.
      I think that the 1200GS and 800GS models are incredible but I’m not ready to spend another $15000 plus on a bike if I don’t trust the manufacturer to live up to my standards.

  10. SpyShots says:

    Still cant believe no spy shots have been taken…

  11. Greg says:

    I had to wait11 minutes into Dave’s interview before he said; ((let me translate between his words))
    ” Hell Yeah! Your going to get your African Twin! It’s coming soon. And it’s going to be bad ass too!!! ” ((End of translation))
    Great article Cesar. You’ve definitely been added to my computers favorite links.
    Cheers!
    Greg from So Cal.

  12. Reblogged this on ride2adventure and commented:
    More details are emerging about the rumored Honda 2015 Twin. Here is an excellent post with details from many different sources. Enjoy!

  13. Patiently Waiting says:

    We Canadians have been patiently waiting for a REAL DS entry from you Honda!
    The Varadero is too heavy and too much street and the XR650L is too tall and too much dirt……..shouldn’t be that hard to come up with a workable compromise?
    Less than 430lbs, 80 – 90HP, 21″ front tire, 400km range, component protection and good old Honda reliability. I promise you, I would buy one today!

  14. Carlos says:

    This is my bike: An africanized 1989 Honda Transalp. [url=http://www.servimg.com/image_preview.php?i=356&u=13019616][img]http://i39.servimg.com/u/f39/13/01/96/16/totd210.jpg[/img][/url]

  15. Scott says:

    Wow, that’s a very comprehensive report. You should work for Honda. Based upon their recent history, they will put auto transmission on it or find some other way to screw it up.

    Scott

    • cesardagord says:

      Thanks Scott. A few people are banking on Honda making a somewhat serious “enduro” or rally bike. Their recent patent on the high up, outside the tank, dual air filter system could be an indicative of that. We will know sooner or later. I’m keeping my hopes up, but yes, there is that recent Honda history in the back of my mind…. Cesar

  16. Heddles says:

    Living in South Africa, we have amazing routes and trail options. So I have a 950SE, a 950 Adventure and a DRZ 400 for the lighter stuff… The bigger bikes are amazing for covering long distances between trails or the SE particularly, on the odd Sunday when we do a 600 km trip, with loads of gravel stretches in between the trails. The Adventure is a couch for long tar/gravel and the odd trail on long trips. The DRZee… Well, that’s just heaps of fun anywhere except on the road… Both of my fat cows make 100 ponies. Both are very capable offroad but you are fooling yourself if you think you are going to finish a motorcross ten lapper with one of them, unless your name is Graham Jarvis or you are one of his riding mates. Me..? I am just a fifty year old codger, with 40 years of offroad riding experience, who knows a motorcycle inside and out and who knows my way around a trail. My belief is that if you cannot ride it, then hike it. So I choose my routes well and I ride a lot of technical stuff and I take the appropriate weapon on the outing.

    This Africa Twin has been amusing me for a few months now. The first claims were. 100hp and 180 kilos.. Okay cool. So that is the KTM 950 Super Enduro spec. But the bike is fitted with nothing that an Adventure bike will be fitted with.. For this bike to be equipped with everything that Adventure spec requires, I think it will have to be a bit of a lightweight… This would mean exotic materials and design, along with the electronics that are demanded in our day and age to create creature comforts.

    But just so that you all know, having had my beginner’s experience brushed with the golden wings of Honda and having had the best riding years of my life on their products, I look forward to seeing the product of their work and dedication and sincerely hope they don’t let their devoted fans down with something that looks like it belongs in the ark…

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  19. Peter Harris says:

    A bike based on the 500cc twin would be great as it’s a fantastic and lively engine. The mods would see fairly easy , although Honda is thorough in their engineering, so development wouldn’t take too long. As an alternative – I’d think someone would offer a conversion package for the cb500x that – at around $2,500 US would sell pretty well.

  20. Mikas says:

    When she looks like shown above from the MCNs picture, I will go and buy it just like this. While it is assumed she has a bit more power than my current RD07. However, it would not mean I ever need to sell this wonderful bike.

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  22. I love Honda – I have spent more money with them through the years than any other manufacturer of anything (3 cars, 2 bikes). However, lately, whether attributed to global recessions, natural disasters or anything else, they really seem to have lost their way… the sparkle that made Hondas a bit different and a bit special has waned… I hope they find their innovative spirit again, and soon, as it seems like they’ve only been putting out (well engineered and built) tangible apathy recently, particularly in the adventure bike category. The brand new VFR800X, NC700/750X, CB500X and 285kg VFR1200X Crosstourer (25kg more than a fully fuelled R1200GSA?!?!) just feel like ‘oh well’ responses, platform sharing with the equivalent road bikes trying to get in on a slice of adventure pie, now that they’ve killed off the Africa Twin, Varadero and Transalp, which were purpose-built adventure bikes.

    If they do reincarnate the Africa Twin I’ll be at their doorstep in a heartbeat.

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  24. Bryan Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing this great article

  25. john harmsworth says:

    Should of been built like the motor cycle news picture I think that looks more likehow it should of been, then I would of been interested, would go well next to my rd04 model

  26. Thomas Wuyts says:

    Link provided for your information 🙂

  27. ssebunya isaac kaluusi says:

    Light and versatile as ever with a 21 at the front……adv at its best! We dont wanna wait any longer!

  28. Matt Evans says:

    This is the best article ever written disecting the anatomy of an adventure bike. It’s a shame to me the cc’s keep going up. The true go around the world bikes should be in the centre of the graph, slightly dirt oriented. Halfway between road and off road with enough but not excessive performance that isn’t required offroad. Above about 50HP all the bike can do more of is throw more stones. If I had $20,000 of bike to go around the world on I’d start with something between 400 and 750 cc and build on that. Because there really is only one bike in my neck of the woods that fits that criteria I’d start with a DR650 and make it more comfortable and give it better fuel range.

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