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Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT: First ride review

Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT: First ride review

Snapshot: Honda brings in the cutting-edge CRF1000L Africa Twin to our shores, and it will only be available with a DCT gearbox. Now you can off-road with more concentration and in impeccable style. We were invited for a taster of this Dakar-winning pedigree horse around the suburbs of Udaipur.

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Considering the foreseeable road and traffic conditions, the most suitable motorcycles for our country clearly are dual-sport. They handle everyday traffic, don’t even consider what surface you’re on, tarmac, dirt, cobbles, whatever takes you fancy, dual-sport or adventure motorcycles will conquer it all. Honda has decided to take the game one step further by introducing their legendary moniker, CRF1000L Africa Twin, with an advanced DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). So, no clutch lever, no foot gear shifter, and literally a parking brake to hold it in place. Sounds interesting, right! But it is way more than what you can imagine. Honda has infused fun in an automatic gearbox motorcycle. The CRF1000L Africa Twin is a dual-sport that will take you around the country with utmost convenience, comfort and let you ford streams.


The Africa Twin looks magnificent in flesh, especially when it’s covered in mud. The basic design harks back to the legendary NXR-750, the great Dakar rally championship machine. It looks functional, it looks committed to the job in hand, and it makes you look like a hero when you’re on one. It is not a massive bike as most ADVs are; it looks more manageable and docile. Its modern bits include an LED headlight, adjustable suspension front and back, a seat that can be raised by nearly 20mm from a low 820mm, a multi-screen rider information display and a cool looking exhaust. Even the ‘victory red’ colour shade distinctly recognizes it as a Honda. Swing a leg over and you feel it’s much smaller than most ADV bikes. Its slim tank can hold an acceptable 18.8litre fuel; it is lesser than the rest but contributes to its ergonomics. What I absolutely do not accept is why we did not get the ‘tricolour’ option in India, grrrr!

Engine and performance

Sitting at its heart is a 999.1cc parallel twin that delivers a very progressive 87bhp till 7,500rpm, backed up by 92Nm torque peaking at 6,000revs. Yes, aficionados will run around waving their arms in the air, witchcraft, bring out the pitchforks!! The original Africa Twin had a V-Twin, and this one has a DCT gearbox, what mockery is this! Relax riders; this engine comes after a lot of development and careful thinking. Improve centre of gravity, decrease engine size and respond in accordance with the DCT transmission to extract the best out of it. It’s down on outright power, but the smoothness and predictable nature makes up for the power deficit. Acceleration is quick enough to make you grow two tiny horns, and it will go on to a claimed top speed of 190kmph.

Now we come to the DCT, which did in fact come earlier in the VFR, and was then thought a jewel for expensive motorcycle. Bringing it to the Africa Twin is a bold move as it allows you to focus exactly on the terrain as you off adventuring. Clever electronics through a 3-level Traction Control System and a 2-channel ABS (turns of for rear wheel when needed) keep a check on available traction thus keeping you out of harm’s way. The transmission itself has a ‘D’ and ‘S’ mode, the former is regular drive mode and the latter most likely Sport mode with 3 available levels. These 3 levels hinder the ferocity of the gear shifts. And finally there is a Manual mode that allows you to make gear selection yourself, via a thumb and index finger trigger on the left bar control. The regular drive mode is mostly for when you want to leave everything to the computer, easy and quick up-shifts to the tallest gear as soon as possible, and obviously for maximum efficiency. You can expect somewhere close to 400km on a single tank of petrol, and a compression ratio of 10.0:1 enables it to feed on any petrol instead of eating high octane only.

Ride and handling

The entire suspension is set up on the softer side with front travelling a long 230mm and the rear 220mm. It keeps the ride comfortable and increases off-road abilities, especially because of 250mm ground clearance. Also you may dial in some preload as both front and rear are adjustable. High speed bumps though make it wallow like sitting on a marsh mellow, and air time really becomes effortless on this one. Its capable engine means it is fast and if you’re experienced can attack high speed corners with confidence. Your muscle memory will definitely kick-in and you’ll keep hunting for the clutch and gear selector for immediate downshifts, however give it some practise and it’ll all fall in line. But the place you’ll have most fun it off-road. There is a ‘G’ switch that helps the rear find more traction, kind of like how half clutching feels. This gives more control while managing loose surfaces and boosts confidence. Brakes up front are twin 310mm wave discs held by a Nissin 4-pot calliper, and a 256mm single wave at the rear. For off-road riding you may turn of the rear ABS and control it by yourself for sliding when needed. In fact we had a lot of fun sliding and jumping on an off-road surface by the side of a lake.

After a day of clowning around the outskirts of the beautiful city of Udaipur, the Africa Twin has already made a big impression. We faced a lot of traffic while coming back to our hotel, but automatic gearbox in its smooth D mode and the engine dissipating heat away from the rider showed us how docile it had become after all the jumping around. It looks gorgeous yet purpose-built for devouring any surface you present it. My only gripe is the absence of the ‘tricolour‘paint and a slightly hard seat cushioning. Other than that it is a very easy machine to swing your leg over and go off-road for oodles of fun.

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