Over in Portugal right now is MoreBikes editor Ross, astride the new Africa Twin from Honda. Here’s what he’s had to say thus far:
We’re off for a blast on the new Africa Twin Adventure Sports. We’ll get a chance to put both the Manual and DCT versions of the rugged, electronically-assisted adventure bike through its paces on a lovely run through the Portuguese hills (in the sunshine)! **UPDATED! SEE BELOW**
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We’ve now had a good blast on the new Africa Twin Adventure Sports. This morning was spent on the £16299 manual version, while this afternoon we got the chance to see what the £17599 DCT model was made of – including a quick stint along a fire trail.
The big change for the 2024 model is the new smaller 19-inch front wheel. On the surface, it seems like a slightly strange decision. Honda sold plenty of ‘big wheel’ Adventure Sports – but taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, it makes sense for a more road-focused, touring-ready choice in the line-up. Particularly when you take a look at the competition, and then consider what most people want to use their big adventure bikes for…
A bit of town work, before winding our way along a brilliant, tight, twisty stretch of road up into the hills offered the perfect opportunity to see just how well the new bike handles. It’s exceptional. Planted and poised, with far more feeling than the old model.
The Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41’s help the cause, providing reliable grip and allowing for swift, assured progress. The surface is great and the roads are bone dry, though I’ve ridden with these tyres a lot and can testify that they’re just as capable of holding their own on grimy British roads.
The electronic suspension from Showa is top too. It works just as well as it did on the previous generation AT AS (though it’s now available as an extra on the standard Africa Twin too), working to stiffen up the suspension the faster you ride. A lot of fine-tuning is available, with SOFT, MID, HARD, OFF-ROAD and USER settings to choose from. And you can now adjust the preload on the fly. Nice.
The engine’s had some big updates. Honda has managed to up peak torque by 7% – which is the same increase as when they upped the capacity from 1000cc to 1100cc. It kicks out the same 100bhp – but there’s now 83lb-ft of torque to play with. It actually feels much peppier than the previous gen, with a smoother but more direct throttle response too.
To achieve all that, they’ve fitted a longer piston for a higher compression ratio, they’ve reshaped the crankshaft, reshaped the conrod, added a larger air duct, tweaked the exhaust valve timings – and there’s a lighter, more efficient muffler with a shorter, wider and lower tailpipe.
That all combines to create a pretty potent package. Other adventure bikes might get the headlines. They’ve got more cc’s and more outright power – but the Honda is plenty punchy and has bags character. After all, how often can you really exploit 150bhp on the road?
The gearbox is good, the brakes are sharp and the electronics are plentiful – and relatively easy to navigate after a bit of time getting acquainted. There’s more good stuff, like cruise control and Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility.
The riding position’s different than before. That smaller front wheel and shorter, squatter suspension mean that it’s lower (835mm at its lowest standard seat setting and 855mm at its highest, with an additional low seat option if you need it). The centre of gravity’s lower down too, and as a result it feels easier to manage.
The bar, peg, seat space is a little tighter and pushes you marginally further forward over the bars, but it’s still super comfortable for my 6ft 1″ frame. There’s additional padding on the seat to make the long stints it’s designed for even more tolerable. And Honda’s even done some work to improve its aerodynamic abilities, reducing some of the buffeting and front end lightness found at high speeds with the old model.
I had a quick chance to go for a blast on the previous interation – and although I expected it to feel different, I was surprised at just how much the new smaller front wheel, shorter and tauter suspension and more torque rich motor change the ride. It feels far more planted and precise in the corners, and smoother but sharper on the throttle. It might still look like an Africa Twin, but it’s a different proposition entirely…
There are compromises to be made though. We were let loose on a short 5km long gravel track, and as fun as it was, the latest AT AS is not really an off-roader. It’ll do it; and you can whack it in Off-Road or Gravel mode, switch off the ABS and HSTC (traction control) to get it setup just right – but the standing riding position feels far less natural for my lanky frame. Thankfully, if the dirt is where you want to ride, you can snag yourself a ‘standard’ Africa Twin which retains its 21″ front.
The Africa Twin Adventure Sports is a seriously different beast than it was before. The factory’s decided to make a more obvious distinction between the two models, and I reckon it’s all the better for it. The changes make an already great adventure tourer even better. Nice work Honda.
The only potential problem is the price. You can get a lot of bike for £16000; with Yamaha’s brilliant Tracer 9 GT a grand cheaper, Suzuki’s equally-techy GSX-S1000GX a grand and a half cheaper and Honda’s own, comparatively-stripped back NT1100 for around three and a half grand less. They’re slightly different propositions though, and I think there’s something pretty special about the new Africa Twin Adventure Sports…
If you want to know even more about the latest ATAS, snag yourself a copy of Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine. It’ll feature a full technical review that’ll go into far greater detail than this initial riding report tapped up on the side of the road.