With the popularity of adventure motorcycles going on for more than a decade already, it seemed natural for Honda to bring its discontinued but always popular Africa Twin back to the market. However, for many years already Honda has ignored the pleas of adventure riders and fans worldwide who were asking for the return of the Africa Twin, a true 50/50 (on road and off-pavement) adventure motorcycle from Honda. Instead Honda seemed to go the other way, developing adventure styled motorcycles that were increasingly more road biased.
That was until early in 2013 when rumors of an actual Honda adventure motorcycle appeared, coming from sources with direct connections with Honda. During the 2013 EICMA show in Milan Honda’s head of product planning (Dave Hancock) on an interview with Moto.IT stoked the fire providing a strong hint that something especial would be coming up from Honda in the adventure department.
In the spring of 2014, about a year ago, information was leaked from at least one person who had actually ridden the rumored adventure motorcycle from Honda. “Impressed” was the only word that circulated on forums as a description of the state of mind of this rider after he rode the bike. At about the same time a set of specifications about this bike were leaked to key motorcycle journalists. These specs can be considered impressive for such a large displacement adventure motorcycle:
- 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
During this time, Honda submitted several patents related to what appeared to be an adventure motorcycle. A review of several of these patents indicated Honda was going in, and doing so in with style, with a motorcycle which incorporated several new ideas. More on that later.
In the fall of 2014 an adventure motorcycle from Honda, at a high level of development was presented to the public during the 2014 EICMA show in Milan under the True Adventure banner. The motorcycle was disguised with what seemed to be fake mud, but showed wear and tear on certain components indicating it had actually been ridden. We believe this is the motorcycle that matches the above rumored specs (except for the 18inch real wheel of the displayed bike – instead of the 17 inch wheels on the rumored specs). We also believe this motorcycle is one of the bikes that had been tested in the Winter and Spring of 2014.
One other important item about this “True Adventure” bike presented at the EICMA show, which was noticed from observing the bike itself, was the absence of a clutch lever and gear shift pedal. It was confirmed by Honda officials at that time that this bike would have the option of a Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).
This has been a long but steady road about the development of this bike. Somehow, Honda kept us informed along the way with just the right amount of information for us to picture in our minds what they were planning to do about this bike. A good and probably inexpensive marketing campaign so far.
The story about this bike continues on a series of videos released by Honda as part of its marketing campaign on this motorcycle. Episode 4 video was launched by Honda last week. On this episode, the video depicts a meeting with the True Adventure motorcycle project management, the bike’s engineers, the test riders, and again, there was Dave Hancock, Honda’s head of product planning.
The video shows the team gathered around a table to talk about the bike, a day after the test riders had taken it out for a test ride. Based on their conversation, the bike they are discussing in the video is clearly an evolution of the bike they rode in the Spring of 2014, that is (in our opinion), an evolution of the bike presented at EICMA.
The test riders discuss their impressions when the see the bike again one year later. They describe a few characteristics of the motorcycle, talk about improvements from the previous version, and leave us wondering about what is going to be depicted in the next episode by showing clips of the bike in action as a teaser for the Part 2 of this meeting.
In the video, Dave Hancock states:
Yesterday we tested the adventure bike which is going to change the face of the adventure world forever.
He could be referring to the many innovative items this bike will present as demonstrated by the long list of patents Honda has secured for this motorcycle. One such item is the position of the air cleaner on this bike. By splitting it into two halves and placing them on the sides of the tank, it allows them to be higher and farther from the ground, while the heavier gasoline can be placed lower, directly on top of the motor, and perhaps partially under the seat, allowing for a lower center of gravity.
He could also be referring to the Dual Clutch Transmission. This type of transmission has existed in cars for many years already. And in the last few years Honda has introduced it to motorcycles (NC700 and NC750, and other models as well). Therefore DCTs are nothing new. What is new is an application of a DCT transmission on adventure motorcycles. If it does succeed, this motorcycle will really change the adventure world forever. Although we have already been exposed to something similar for adventure bikes – such as the Rekluse auto-clutch, the DCT offers a new window of opportunities, as it becomes an intrinsic system, core to the operation of the motorcycle.
The DCT is a very important element about this bike, but it is one of many innovations this motorcycle will bring to the adventure world. As we mentioned before, the list of patents submitted by Honda during the development of this bike is large, here we just covered the air cleaners solution Honda proposes with this bike. Dave Hancock may not be exaggerating when he says this bike will change the face of the adventure world forever.
Is the bike ready for prime time?
All we have at this point are assumptions based on what we know about motorcycles in general, a few rumors here and there, and mostly the information Honda has officially provided to the public in these two last years. Among the official set of information from Honda is what we gathered from the Episode 4 video, where Honda officials state the bike has been worked on, improvements have been achieved from the previous iteration, and the head of product planning (Dave Hancock) appears confident about the bike.
We will certainly hear more about the bike on the next video (which will likely be called “Episode 5 – The Meeting Part 2”). The latest time we expect to see this bike in production form is November 19-22 in Milan at the 2015 EICMA. We would not be surprised if this bike shows up before that event, though. It is only a hunch but we believe this bike is almost ready for prime time and at a minimum we will see a pre-production version very soon.