Africa Twin Rumors
We’ve been following the rumor trail of a possible new Africa Twin. The idea of Honda bringing the Africa Twin back to the market has generated an extraordinary amount of posts from motorcycle publications and on motorcycle boards. These rumors centered mostly on “leaked” specifications about this bike, a patent from Honda on a dual air cleaner system, Honda’s renewal of U.S. trademark of names of discontinued Honda motorcycles, and an interview with Honda’s head of product planning in Europe. There were also a set of drawings by journalists, all speculating what this motorcycle would look like. And just recently, there was an announcement from Honda about a world premiere of an adventure motorcycle in Germany on September 10th. We believe the Africa Twin name, with its following and tradition would require something larger than a reveal just a few days before Intermot. But the rumors continue so let’s entertain the possibilities.
“Leaked” Specifications of the Rumored 2015 (or 2016) Africa Twin
These are specs that were published by a couple of motorcycle publications in Europe. They claimed the information came from Honda insiders and was associated with a new Africa twin:
- 200kg / 440lbs (fueled) // 180kg / 396lbs (dry)
- 20L / 5.3 gallon fuel capacity
- Parallel twin engine, 1000cc
- 250mm / 9.8in suspension
- 21” front / 17” rear
- Offroad-designed ABS brakes
- Offroad-designed traction control
The main issue was that it was a parallel twin and no longer a V-twin like the original bike. Many speculated the proposed 440lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride was not feasible to be achieved for a 1,000cc motorcycle with a 5 gallon tank, packing latest generation electronics and equipped with off road suspension.
Although there is no consensus of what an ideal dual-purpose motorcycle should look like, most everyone agrees lighter is better, and more power is better. Add to this recipe road worthiness/comfort/cargo capacity for long distance travel and we have the holly grail for a boundary expanding new enduro/adventure/dual purpose motorcycle. The specs on this rumored Africa Twin were spot on for most people, if they are feasible to be achieved, that is.
The Air-Cleaner Patent
This is one of the most interesting part of the rumors – Honda’s patent for a new airbox system. It divides the aircleaner/airbox into two elements, one on each side of the bike, flanking the traditional tank/steering. It places the air cleaner where most motorcycles have the overhanging side of tanks. And it opens up space on top of the motor and under the seat (places where the airbox is traditionally located), allowing the heavy fuel to occupy the space in the center of the bike, just above the motor and under the seat. It helps in lowering the center of gravity of the motorcycle for one thing, and it facilitates air cleaner maintenance for another, an important item for off road vehicles. More on this further down this post.
The Interview with a Honda Executive
Exactly a year ago (at the 2013 EICMA meeting in November, Milan) we heard an interview of Moto.IT with Dave Hancock, Honda’s head of product planning and business development of Honda Motor Europe. When asked about the speculated Africa Twin, Mr. Hancock said:
We’ve heard everybody would like to see a new Africa Twin. The official line is we can’t make any comment about any models that we are bringing in the future. But you can probably see by the look on my face that we probably will be thinking about something maybe… I can’t tell you when. But I think you probably will be happy eventually.
This interview leaves no doubt about Honda bringing a new model, one that is based on what the Honda Africa Twin represented.
Trademark on Motorcycle Names
At some point last year Honda renewed (filed) the United States trademarks of names of Honda motorcycles that have been discontinued, among them Elsinore and Africa Twin. These could be routine trademark renewals, with no intention of doing anything about them on the near future. We and most others speculating about an adventure bike from Honda mostly focused on the Africa Twin name. It makes sense in our opinion that it will be called Africa Twin, since the Africa Twin name carries a much larger tradition and following outside of the United States. The name in itself could be the marketing campaign. But we would not be surprised if Honda brings something else to the market, and based on the Elsinore name.
The Many Illustrations of this speculated Africa Twin
As soon as rumors started, several motorcycle publications illustrated their vision of the new motorcycle. Follow this link to see these illustrations and our poll on five renditions of the new Africa Twin. Let’s just show you our favorite, and it is also the version that got the most votes on our poll so far.
The September 10th Announcement
A couple of days ago Honda’s site in Germany announced the world premiere of a new model. On the site they had an illustration of a magician about to unveil a motorcycle.
The caption on the picture read:
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.
Is this it? Is this the new Africa Twin, we ask? Or is it something else? We will know soon enough. But we believe the Africa Twin would require something larger and with more reveal installments, with some leaked photos and other promotion steps geared to milk more from what the Africa Twin name represents. We are not keeping our hopes up for this reveal. But we will know more soon.
Honda Elsinore 500
Just when we were all set for the count down for what Honda will unveil on September 10th, assuming it could possibly be the Africa Twin, a new rumor hits the webs. This new rumor brings back the Elsinore name as opposed to Africa Twin. It is a name that is more meaningful for us here in the United States, where Africa Twins were never sold. Elsinore is associated with Steve McQueen and the California deserts! Elsinore is associated with smaller displacement, two-stroke Honda motorcycles of 125cc and 250cc from before the CRF line, one of the several motorcycles Steve McQueen used to ride (the list bikes associated with him is large, including Triumph and Ducati Scramblers, Husqvarnas, besides Hondas and Yamahas).
Back in May of this year, when rumors about the Africa Twin specs (1,000 cc parallel twin) and the famous air cleaner patent started circulating in the internet, Motorcycle.Com mentioned the trademark names renewed by Honda, one of them associated with the Elsinore name. This is what Motorcycle.com had to say at that time:
As for the name, some recently filed Honda trademarks may offer up some clues. Two particular names stand out: Elsinore and Africa Twin. Both names carry a long tradition with Honda. The Elsinore was an early Honda dirt bike released in 1973, but they were small displacement motocrossers that preceded today’s CRF models. The name has the right retro-sounding appeal to it, but connecting the name to a 1000cc engine might be too much of a departure from the Elsinore legacy.
“Africa Twin” might be an apt name, and the engine description would fit the bill. A new Africa Twin however would be more of an adventure tourer along the likes of the Yamaha Super Tenere or Triumph’s Explorer and the design in the sketches lacks the same rugged styling.
We focused our attention on the Africa Twin name in our discussions. But are we talking here about the same bike? 1,000 or 500cc? Both? Neither? Here is where another component of the latest rumor comes to play.
The Spanish motorcycle site SOLOMOTO.es is claiming that the adventure/enduro/dual purpose motorcycle Honda will reveal in the upcoming fall motorcycle shows (Intermot and EICMA), and perhaps it is what will be unveiled on September 10th as well, is not the anticipated 1,000cc Africa Twin, but instead a 500cc Elsinore. The 500cc displacement is a better match to the Elsinore name than 1,000cc. And the Motorrad illustration of what this bike could look like (depicted earlier on this post) better matches a 500cc motor than an 1,000cc motor. It makes it much closer to the 450 CRF rally motorcycle Honda uses in the Dakar and which appears to be the inspiration for the Motorrad illustration.
Further on this SOLOMOTO post, they describe this speculated Elsinore to be an all new all-purpose adventure motorcycle with a two-cylinder motor based on the CB500 motor, a parallel twin liquid cooled, 8V DOHC motor with electronic fuel injection.
On our first post about the speculated new Africa Twin we had sited Gizmodo’s Indefinitely Wild post of June 11, 2014, which described how Honda’s new airbox patent would work for a new adventure motorcycle. They quoted a Honda insider describing how the dual airbox design, instead of being on top of the motor and under the seat, was pushed to the outside of the tank, would allow the tank of this new motorcycle to stay on its traditional position, but its volume going deeper, lower on the motorcycle and more centered, by occupying the location traditionally taken by the airbox right above the motor and under the seat. SOLOMOTO indicated the Elsinore radiators will also be located laterally under the pair of air filters. They also mentioned it will be a very light with good power to weight ratio bike. An all-purpose bike with off road trail aesthetics.
Previously “leaked” information indicated it as a brand new motorcycle with the motor nested inside a twin-spar frame and a tank of just less than 5 gallons. If based on a 500cc motor, 5 gallons would give you more than 300 miles between fills.
Africa Twin or Elsinore? Our Preference
The Africa Twin name is larger than anything on the Honda lineup when we talk about adventure/enduro motorcycles. Even beyond Honda, Africa Twin is a symbol for adventure/enduro motorcycles. If this bike is going to be made, I doubt it will be called something else other than Africa Twin. Unless Honda is planning two bikes, one smaller with a smaller displacement motor to be called Elsinore and one with a larger displacement motor to be called Africa Twin, we can’t see anything being called Elsinore in place of Africa Twin. The Africa Twin name is not going to be relegated.
Particularly, we’ve been on a quest for the perfect enduro machine, the holly grail we described in the beginning of this post: the one that reaches the optimum compromise between dirt and road, light weight and suspension for the dirt but with good road manners for long distance travel.
In May 2015 we had brought up the Honda CB500 Rally versions, as developed by the Thai HRC guys, as a possible bike that we would be interested in building to reach that optimum balance. It is inexpensive, it is light weight, has a smooth parallel twin motor, and we could possibly build it to our riding interests. However, radically modifying a motorcycle suspension and wheel sizes affect a bike’s geometry, and we do not know what these changes would entail in terms of handling. And riding a designed-for-the-street bike aggressively off road, even if the suspension can take rough roads, may bring other problems related to components of the bike not designed for that type of use and we would be bringing different sets of stress to an unknown frame strength.
The CB500X is rated at 430lbs wet, which we considered good enough. It makes this speculated Elsinore 500 a more feasible motorcycle to meet the 440lbs specs rumored earlier this year.
Our ideal scenario for the perfect bike sees it with a 750cc motor. However, between a 500cc and a 1,000cc bike, if they weigh the same, we will favor the 1,000cc. That is, between 430lbs for the 500cc machine (CB500X) and 440lbs for the 1,000cc machine (Speculated AT), we will likely go with the speculated Africa Twin.
We favor the Elsinore name to the Africa Twin name for a smaller bike, if this is what Honda will bring. Reserving Africa Twin for a proper larger adventure bike. Elsinore denotes lighter weight and a smaller bike, and it is connected to Steve McQueen, and it speaks of the California desert. Worldwide, however, we know the Africa Twin carries a lot more weight with the public, and Honda’s marketing knows that better than us. So, we are not discounting the possibility of a new Africa Twin. But this new rumor opens the possibility for something else. Not the Africa Twin.
In a few days we will know what we will have from this Honda world premiere motorcycle. An Africa Twin, an Elsinore, maybe both bikes and names in two different engine sizes, wheel sizes, and applications. Or something in between? Or maybe nothing. We think it will be something else.
Meanwhile, let’s bring some perspective on the Elsinore name, here is a video of Steve McQueen riding the Honda Elsinore 250, with the two-stroke motor. The location of the ride is probably California.
And while we wait, let me make Steve McQueen’s words mine:
I ride fast, I ride fast on the dirt. I ride with safety equipment. If you ride on the street, be safety minded. Don’t ride too fast.
That’s how I see it and ride as well. Fast on the dirt, not too fast on the street. And always with protective gear which, thankfully, is much better today than it was at Steve McQueen’s time.