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With Honda releasing specs for their new 2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports model at EICMA yesterday, it’s probably a good time to compare it to the previous model Africa Twin launched in 2016.

Before starting any comparison, you first need to decide what you consider adventure biking to be. Do you come from a racing background and prioritise performance above everything else, or maybe having all the bells and whistles and latest technology is important to you? On the other hand your your idea of adventure riding may be prioritising reliability and ease of use to enable you to cover large distances easily. Consequently the best adventure bike is different things to different people.

The range of bikes these days is huge, and the different types of terrain equally diverse. It would be great if one could simply look at the specifications and based on these decide which bike is better, but in reality this is never the case. It is however a lot easier to compare two models of the same bike when upgrades are done to a previous model.

Two years after its release the Africa Twin has covered thousands of miles, and what stands out to me is that there have not been any significant issues with the bike, which is almost unheard of with the release of a completely new model of an adventure bike. One of the issues addressed with the Africa Twin Adventure is the corrosion of spokes, with the new model now being fitted with stainless steel spokes.

Hondas have always been known for their reliability, and the company’s strategy of not getting sucked into a horse power competition with the other manufacturers has resulted in a under stressed motor that has already proved its reliability. The new Africa Twin Adventure essentially has the same motor, adding throttle by wire, which enables additional levels of power, torque and engine braking to be selected. A new instrument cluster is used to display all the additional settings of the new Africa Twin Adventure and a “User” setting allows you to save all your preferred settings.

Being somewhat old school I am not a big fan of huge amounts of electronics on adventure bikes, and feel more comfortable leaving the settings in one position and learning what the bike will do in a situation, rather than hoping the electronics will sort it out. The harsh environment these bikes are designed to be used in, as well as the inevitable fall or dropping of a bike also does not mix well with electronics generally.

Horsepower has been increased marginally on the Africa Twin Adventure by a new intake and exhaust design. The original motor is no way underpowered, and more than enough off road, but unsurprisingly you aren’t going to win a race against your mate on his KTM 1290 on the paved roads. Adventure riding to me is getting off the beaten track and away from civilisation, which means the lack of nearby medical care and safety immediately becomes an issue. This is not where you should be riding even close to your limit. Having loads of power available is always nice, but in my opinion unnecessary on an adventure ride when you are seldom going to use all of it. The advantage of the Africa Twin with its torquey useable power spread is getting to your destination after a long day in the saddle without feeling exhausted.

Suspension is also another important issue for adventure bikes, and another area where the Africa Twin has received some criticism for being too “soft”. My question is too soft for what? If you want to go racing or hit huge jumps or dips at high speed, then yes, it is too soft, but that is not what you should have bought this bike for. After taking my KTM Factory Rally bike on a few long rides I can assure you that it’s racing suspension, while being able to handle anything you throw at it, is seriously uncomfortable after a few hours in the saddle. The new Honda Africa Twin Adventure has slightly longer travel suspension, so if you are consistently bottoming out your suspension on your Africa Twin perhaps the Africa Twin Adventure is the way to go.

The soft and somewhat springy saddle on the Africa Twin also contributes to the soft feel of the suspension, but you should not be sitting over reasonably bumpy terrain, and that your backside will thank you for that springy saddle after a long day. Seating position or saddle height is another aspect important for adventure riders, and usually a compromise between having enough space for your legs while sitting, and being able to touch the ground with your feet. While technical riding is usually a small part of adventure riding the low seat on the Africa Twin means getting your feet down is not a problem, and even being tall I have not struggled with the low sitting position. The look of the one piece saddle on the new Africa Twin Adventure is visually an improvement, however I can honestly say I have never struggled to move around on the current two piece saddle, so comfort levels will be a decider here for me.

Another important consideration around comfort when covering long distances is wind protection. Again this is a very personal issue with one size not fitting all. Torso length as opposed to your overall height, as well as helmet choice and seating position play a role here, and what works for one person will not work for another. The screen of the 2016 Africa Twin works well for me, but it will be interesting to see if the bigger screen and added fairing protection on the Africa Twin Adventure is an improvement.

Fuel tank capacity and range is always a consideration for adventure bikes, and again depends on the type of riding you are doing. Living in South Africa means we have long distances to cover on some of our rides, and this can be an issue with the 18,9 litre tank of the 2016 Africa Twin. When ridden conservatively you can get close to the 400km range advertised by Honda, but typically you would not want to plan a trip based on the limits of your fuel range. The new Africa Twin Adventure definitely has an advantage here with its 24,2 litre tank and claimed 500km range.

Heated grips as a standard option are probably more appealing to riders in colder climates than South Africa, and the deciding factors here will probably be if they work better than the aftermarket options on the 2016 Africa Twin (Not good at all) and the cost, as opposed to adding your own.

Lastly aesthetics are always going to be important, and while both models are clearly very similar, personal preference will again be the decider here.

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Being based in Cape Town South Africa, we are blessed with probably the best and most scenic dirt roads for adventure riding in the world, but we are also fortunate to be situated close to Namibia, a country that offers a completely different type of riding.

 

While in South Africa you can do hundreds of miles on dirt roads, in Namibia you often have to do similar distances just to reach the next town, which might only consist of a fuel station and not much more. While the major dirt roads are generally well maintained, the vast distances often mean the secondary roads are neglected, and being a country of mostly desert, sand is always going to be present somewhere if you choose the roads less travelled. Namibia has system rating roads from A down to F, with  A being paved highways and F small farm tracks, but the condition of the dirt roads always depends on when they were last graded. Carrying a satellite phone as well as comprehensive tool kits is also a prerequisite in remote areas such as Namibia. Daily distances also need to be considered carefully, as punctures or mechanicals can quite easily have you in trouble, and incident free days simply mean your first beer is a bit earlier.

The distances between stops also require careful planning, as fuel range, mechanical issues or accidents can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone reception or passing traffic to rely on. Knowing the riding ability of the group is also important, as on this type of trip everyone has to ride well within their limits to ensure safety. One thing I have learnt from experience is that asking locals about road conditions is not very helpful, as most of them will be used to travelling in 4×4 vehicles, and consider rocky roads difficult and sandy ones easier, which is usually the opposite for adventure motorcycles. On trips like these we always ensure that when turning off from the road we are travelling on, the first rider waits until the next rider acknowledges having seen him, and he then waits for the next rider to acknowledge him. After approximately 50km the leader will always stop to ensure the whole group is okay, to prevent having to backtrack too far if there has been a problem.

While the logistics for a trip through Namibia require careful planning, the knowledge that you can’t afford to make any mistakes only adds to the sense of adventure, and the desolate beauty of the area is simply stunning.

After a number of meetings and a good few beers to plan the trip, we set off for our starting point at the small town of Springbok in northern South Africa, as this would allow us to explore a section of the Richtersveld that we had not yet ridden, and we would then cross the ferry at Sendelingsdrift to Namibia.

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It did not take long before we hit the dirt roads, but being in reasonably good condition it allowed the two less experienced members of our group of six to settle in nicely before things got tricky. After passing through Eksteenfontein and down a steep and rocky mountain pass we made our way onto the sandy planes of the Richtersveld and headed towards the Richtersveld National Park. The roads got steadily sandier with blind rises and a few tricky off camber turns, one of which was particularly nasty. At the next stop the second rider and I waited quite some time, and realising the others should have arrived, decided to back track. One of our group had taken a tumble, but with only a few scratches to the Africa Twin and a bruised ego, we all headed off again, all a little more cautiously.

With the roads getting progressively more sandy and corrugated, the bike tends to move around quite a bit, but a few kilometres further I knew something wasn’t right, and glancing down I saw the reason, a very flat back tyre on my AT. While changing tubes in the heat and dust is never fun, at least the warm tyre is easier to remove, and 30 minutes later we set off for the border post, arriving with half an hour to spare before the last ferry. Border posts are never fun, but after patiently completing all the forms we were on the ferry and could almost taste the cold beers at our overnight spot of Rosh Pinah in Namibia.

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Day two consisted of a loop on D roads from Rosh Pinah up to Aus, and with the distance between fuel stops being 350km we needed to conserve fuel, as this was close to the limits on the Africa Twins. Fortunately the roads were in reasonably good condition, with only a few sandy river crossings to slow down the momentum, and with a few stops to regroup and soak in the views we arrived at our destination at Klein Aus Vista with plenty of time to spare. Renowned for its wild desert horses and beautiful desert setting this has always been a favourite destination of ours. A quick beer at the hotel on arrival and we then made our way to our chalets about 7km away on a nice sandy road. We had organised with the hotel to deliver beers and meat to our chalets, and pretty soon we were sitting round a fire watching a spectacular sunset and recounting a great day’s ride.

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Day three was a loop up to Beta and down to Helmeringhausen, and I had heard from a few people that the road was in bad condition and really sandy, but as mentioned, this can change overnight if the road has recently been graded, so with the knowledge that everybody had handled the sandy patches we had encountered thus far with relative ease, we headed out towards Beta. It didn’t take long to realise the roads had not been graded in quite some time. A fully laden adventure motorcycle is never an easy beast to handle in sand, and having done this type of riding on other motorcycles, I was expecting a bit of a battle. This however was where the Honda Africa Twin really showed what a great adventure bike it is. A combination of the low centre of gravity giving the bike lots of stability as well as the good torque and smooth power delivery made the sand really enjoyable, and pretty soon I found myself simply sitting through most sections where I would have been standing and holding on for dear life on other bikes. Once we were all safely through the sand there were a couple of really corrugated roads just past Beta, and once again the comfortable saddle and plush suspension of the Africa Twin made even these roads enjoyable. While many people have criticised the suspension of The Africa Twin as being soft, on an adventure ride where you are spending hours in the saddle, plush suspension is what you need, and I firmly believe it is a waste having suspension travel that you are not using. After a great meal at the Helmeringhausen Hotel and a chat about the challenges of the day we all retired to our rooms to be up early the next day.

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Day four was to be the longest day in the saddle, with 500km to cover, but knowing that the roads would be in a reasonably good condition I wasn’t too concerned.  After covering the first 100km to Bethanie pretty quickly, we turned off onto a great secondary road which twisted its way through the mountains and brought us out close to the Seeheim Hotel, our next stop for fuel. While we could probably have reached our next stop of Canyon Roadhouse without refuelling, knowing that the roads would allow us to travel faster, I didn’t want to be concerned with saving fuel. Taking the shortest route meant riding on a badly corrugated road, but once again the suspension on the Africa Twins made it easy, and we arrived at Canyon Roadhouse for lunch with plenty of time in the bank. After refuelling both bikes and bodies, and a stroll around to look at all the old cars and other interesting history, we hit the road again.

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When passing through this area, a stop at the Fish River Canyon for a couple of photographs is a must, and with that box ticked, we headed though the mountain pass towards Ais Ais. At our next stop the wait for the next three riders again took longer than usual, and when the fourth rider arrived his news was of a front wheel impact puncture on one of the bikes 20km back. One of the dangers on the sandy stretches is that the sand often hides rocky outcrops, with impact punctures the result. Having enjoyed the last section of road, two of us decided to ride back to make sure everything was okay, and arrived just as the wheel was being replaced. Once we had all regrouped with only 100km to go I decided to make the next stop at an intersection 60km away, as time was now starting to catch up with us. Once again the wait for two of us took longer than usual, but we kept ourselves busy by helping a stranded motorist who had two impact punctures. Not having enough fuel to ride back, and with the sun already starting to set, we set off on the 43km to Noordoewer to refuel and then backtrack to where we had last seen the rest of the group. Riding at night is never a good idea, but in Africa with sandy roads and wild animals it becomes very dangerous, so we were both relieved to receive a call from the rest of the group that they were all safe and making their way to our overnight spot at Felix Unite on the Orange River border. When they finally arrived we heard that the replaced tube from the first puncture had vibrated out of a tool bag and jammed in the back wheel of one of the bikes, derailing the chain which proceeded to jam itself between the front sprocket and casing of the bike. This resulted in having to strip casings from the bike to release the chain, and then a few kilometres further they had a second impact puncture. Apparently the last section of rutted sand road was not fun in the dark, but with everyone safe we settled down to a good meal and a good couple of beers.

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As with most trips the last day is always a bit of an anti-climax, but with a relatively easy border crossing and a lunch stop at Letsatsi Lodge in Van Rhynsdorp we made our way home happy after a great trip, with no serious incidents and more importantly no injuries.

While many motorcycles come equipped with toolkits, these are generally quite basic, requiring anybody intending to do a long trip to assemble their own. The challenge with carrying anything on motorcycles is always space and weight, and this applies to toolkits as well. What to carry in your toolkit depends on a number of factors, including how remote your route is, as well as your ability to repair issues yourself. The terrain you are travelling over, as well as the model of motorcycle will also influence the tools as well as any spares you need to consider including. When travelling in a group we also try not to duplicate certain items, allowing us to carry a bigger range of tools amongst the group.

While this is not a comprehensive list of items that can be carried, and sometimes changes depending on the area we are visiting as well as the length of the trip, below is a list of items generally in my personal toolkit.

Tools

 

  1. Camera film – used to clean leaking fork seals. Not as easy to use as fork seal cleaners or feeler gauges, but still effective and a lot lighter and more compact.
  2. Reversible screwdriver
  3. Spanners – a range to fit the most common sizes on your bike, usually 8 to 14mm.
  4. Sockets – useful for getting to fasteners which can’t be reached with the spanners. Make sure you have the correct driver as well.
  5. Pliers
  6. Chain breaker – Seldom needed, but a necessity if your link less chain does break.
  7. Extra links – needed to repair link less chain.
  8. Patches and solution – Always a last resort, but takes up very little space. While the punctured tube is being replaced with a spare, ask a mate to patch the damaged one, as this saves time in the event of future puncture and gives the solution time to cure properly.
  9. Gas bombs and connector – again a last resort, as these are not very effective in seating the bead of a large tyre, but good as a backup for a compressor.
  10. Three way socket
  11. Three way allen key
  12. Axel remover – useful for removing stuck axels
  13. Spark plug spanner – check that you have the correct size for your bike.
  14. Motion Pro multi-tool – compact and extremely useful.
  15. Leatherman
  16. Duct tape
  17. WD 40
  18. Mini compressor – a good quality and compact one is essential.
  19. Spare tubes– carry these even when running tubeless, as a dented rim or sliced tyre can still be inflated with a tube. At the very least carry a front tube, this can be fitted to the rear if all else fails. Wrap tubes in a durable covering to avoid chaffing.
  20. Spare nots and bolts – things have a way of rattling loose on long adventure trips.
  21. Mechanics gloves – make changing hot tyres and other messy jobs much easier.
  22. Length of fuel pipe – not essential, but doesn’t take up much space, and can be a life saver.
  23. Cable ties
  24. Tyre levers – ones that have axel nut spanners save space.
  25. Tyre fitment tool – Not essential, but makes fitting tyres a lot easier.

5 incredible days riding motorcycles in South Africa

Africa Twin Adventures has just completed another great adventure tour through the Cederberg and Karoo area of South Africa.

After collecting our two guests David and Donna Hicks at the airport in Cape Town, we dropped them off at their lodgings at the Cape Royal Hotel in central Cape Town as they had wisely chosen to spend a few days exploring the city before our trip. After having enjoyed Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robben Island, The Waterfront and Boulders beach to watch the penguins, we collected them again on Friday morning and made our way to Honda Wing Canal Walk for the start of our tour.

Kitting up and setting Go-pro cameras can take longer than expected, but with plenty of time in hand we headed out to Franschhoek, our first stop of the day. After a stop for pictures at the top of the stunning Franschhoek Pass we made our way to our lunch stop in the beautiful Slanghoek valley.

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After lunch it was Mitchel’s Pass and then Ceres, before long we were on unpaved roads twisting through the beautiful sandstone rock formations of the Cederberg. It was a very hot day, and stops for ice cold drinks from the back up vehicle were essential, and the air-conditioned lodgings at Mount Ceder  made for a good night’s sleep.

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Day two and the whole day would be spent off road. After a good breakfast we headed to Stadsaal Caves to marvel at the 1000 year old bushman paintings and incredible cave formations. The sandy road to the caves made Donna a little uncomfortable, so she decided to travel in the back up vehicle for this stretch.

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After the caves, a short ride brought us to Cederberg Winery, where we of course had to sample a glass of their award winning wine before making our way up Uitkyk Pass and on to Clanwilliam for lunch. Pakhuis Pass was next, before we arrived at Bushmans Kloof, a stunning wildlife reserve and resort in the Cederberg. A swim in the pool, a sunset game drive and dinner in the five star restaurant, and another memorable day came to an end.

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Day three was all unpaved road, and time to ride through a completely different ladscape, that of the Great Karoo. This desolateand stark landscape never fails to impress everybody travelling through these vast open plains.

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Unpaved roads and plains that stretch out as far as the eye can see make for adventure motor cycle heaven, with the only frustration being that even wide angle lenses cant capture the spectacular scenes. A brisk ride across the plains and up Gannaga Pass for a traditional South African lunch and we headed to or lodgings in the Tankwa Karoo National Park.

Watching the sun setting over the plains while sitting in a pool with a glass of Champaign, followed by a traditional South African braai (barbeque) is definitely a great way to bring another  fantastic  days riding to an end. Even though I have travelled here many times before, the natural beauty and tranquility of this area still amazes me., and I did not mind being woken by the sound of Gemsbok munching on the bushes outside the cottage window.

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Day four  was all off roff road again, and riding though the Tankwa Park we spotted lots of game, including springbok, Gemsbok, Bontebok, Ostrich, Baboons and Vervet Monkeys. We had planned quick stop at the iconic Tankwa Padstal (a roadside restaurant and bar in the middle of nowhere) but this turned out to be not so quick, as the hospitability of the locals and quirky décor of the place inevitably forces you to stay longer than planned.

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Leaving the plains of the Karoo we made our way up Skittery Pass and headed to our lodgings at Kagga Kamma Private Nature Reserve, with chalets set into the rock formations and views of the sun setting over the rock formations.

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Another swim in the pool,a great meal around the fire at the boma and we were all ready for a good nights sleep.

Day five still had plenty of good riding on our jurney back to Cape Town, and after admiring the views from Katbakkies Pass we headed through Ceres and towards Bainskloof Pass, with 187 bends making this paved road spectacular to ride. A quick stop for lunch at Spice Route and then a leasurely ride back into the Mother City brought a fantastic 5 days to an end.

The following day Dave and Donna planned to visit the beautiful coastal town of Hermanus, so rather than sit in a rental car on such a nice road, they rented an Africa Twin from us, and made the most of the drive and all the attractions along the way.

While our guests thorougly enjoyed themslves and the crew of Africa Twin Adventures did too, hearing comments and being able to see the beauty of our country through the eyes of others, is always a privelage.

While we have done numerous trips through the Karoo in South Africa, there are always new roads and places to ride to and discover. While the internet can be a great source of information, before taking any of our clients to new places it is essential to have ridden the roads and stayed at the accommodation, as the adverts and images can often differ greatly from reality.

With this in mind my wife and I decided to combine our wedding anniversary with a trip through the Karoo. It always helps having a second opinion on the suitability and standard of facilities, and Janine definitely has an eye for detail when it comes to this. Having a wife who has grown up in the area and loves and appreciates the solitude and beauty of this barren but beautiful place also helped make the trip a memorable one for both of us.

Exploring the Karoo

One of Janine’s hobbies is photography, and the Karoo offers some of the most spectacular landscapes and settings to take amazing photographs. Combine this with animals in their natural habitat and spectacular sunsets, and she was in her element.

Exploring the Karoo

Exploring the Karoo

A great thing about being based in Cape Town is that the Karoo is only a two hour drive from home, yet the climate is so different, with the desert like landscapes making you feel as though you are in another country. The main dirt road from Ceres to Calvinia at 256km (159 miles) of which 44km (27 miles) is paved, is the longest road in South Africa with no filling stations or towns. Add to this the lack of cellphone reception for most of the way, high temperatures and tyre eating roads, and this can become a desolate place for a breakdown. If you are on the main road it can be hours before you see another vehicle, and being slightly off the beaten track, it can be days. Walking for help is never an option.

Exploring the Karoo

Having travelled through this area many times without issue, it is easy to become complacent, but midway down the R355 we were given a reality check when our back-up vehicle punctured both back tyres simultaneously. Carrying a spare wheel, or even two, is not sufficient, and having the equipment and ability to repair punctures is essential. Punctures repaired we were on our way again, with our last stop at Kagga Kamma in the Cederberg offering more stunning landscapes and photo opportunities. The natural rock formations and abundant wildlife in this area can only be described as breath-taking.

Exploring the Karoo

We both enjoyed the trip immensely, and it is fantastic to be married to someone that can also appreciate adventure and the beauty of nature as much as I do.

Having really impressed me on asphalt and good dirt roads during my previous review, I thought it time to put the Africa Twin through its paces on some rougher terrain, to see how the motorcycle holds up to a continuous hammering.

Issues that will usually become apparent when working a big adventure motorcycle hard over a long period are suspension fade and brake fade, and fixtures and fittings can also often develop annoying rattles or loosen. To be honest you never really know what might be a problem until you have ridden the bike hard.

The next consideration was where to put the Africa Twin through its paces. Living in the Western Cape we are blessed with some of the best adventure riding terrain in the world, but a road known and loved by probably every adventure rider in South Africa is the one into “The Hell”. This stretch of road is 50km (31 miles) long, and while having stunning scenery, it can be a bike breaker if ridden fast.  While twisting through the valley, there is a good variety of fast and slower sections, with the suspension and brakes being tested over fast whoops and rutted and rocky sections.

It did not take much convincing to get Brian Ellis to accompany me on the ride, and just out of Cape Town we were on the gravel roads and heading for the Swartberg Pass and “The Hell”

Besides fitting crash-bars, both Africa Twin were shod with slightly more aggressive tyres, one with Pirelli Scorpions front and rear, and the other with Continental TKC 80 front and Pirelli Scorpion rear. While the Scorpions are limited when it comes to very sandy or muddy conditions, over the years we have found these to be the best in terms of traction and wear on big adventure bikes when riding hard pack and shale. Tyre choice is always down to personal preference, but we decided on this combination as we have both used these tyres on this route before. Both motorcycles were loaded with about 25kg (55 pounds) of luggage, and suspension settings on standard factory. Suspension settings are another subjective issue, but I personally prefer soft suspension, as I find this more comfortable and less tiring on longer rides.

The other change to both motorcycles was the fitment of wider aftermarket foot pegs, as the standard pegs are on the small side if you intend standing for long periods.

Both motorcycles were the traction control and ABS models, and while both these features undoubtedly work very well, again it is a matter of personal preference when deciding on your settings. Brian had a small amount of traction control dialled in, and no rear ABS (the front does not switch off), while I left the ABS on, and had the traction control off.

As mentioned, the scenery on this route is stunning, so it wasn’t long before we stopped to take a few pictures, and like any true bikers, this had to include the motorcycles. A rutted single track up onto a rocky outcrop seemed like the perfect spot, and while we were both a bit nervous about dropping the bikes, we needn’t have been. With traction control on or off, the bikes climbed the hill with ease, and bouncing over rocks in first gear was a breeze, as getting your feet on the ground if you happen to stall the motor is made easy with the low seat height. While this may not seem like a big deal, who can honestly say they haven’t been embarrassed by stalling at low speed and then dropping their motorcycle?

2016 Honda Africa Twin

Photoshoot done, and time to see whether the whoop section will bottom out the suspension. It’s always fun getting air on an adventure motorcycle, but sometimes the landing can be less than fun. The first few jumps were used as testers, but we held nothing back over the last ones. Neither of us felt the suspension bottom out, but we definitely used all the travel available.

Most of our time was spent riding next to each other, and while this is definitely more fun, on a narrow road like this, it can be difficult to avoid the odd exposed rock, sometimes resulting in a nasty impact through the front end. No problems here either, with the suspension soaking up all we could throw at it.

Half way through the pass Brian dropped back a bit, and with the whole road to myself, I decided to see how aggressively the bike could be ridden and how the ABS would affect the handling. I had tested the ABS previously in a straight line, but the reality is that sometimes if you overcook a corner you do need to touch the brakes when you don’t really want to. I managed to outbreak myself into two corners, and while I could feel the ABS working, it was not intrusive, and didn’t upset the motorcycle at all. After approximately 20km (12 miles) of pushing my limits, the brakes and suspension held up perfectly.

2016 Honda Africa Twin

After photographs at the top of the descent to The Hell, we made our way down to a couple of very welcome ice cold beers and chatted about the ride. Besides all the technical aspects of the motorcycles and how well they handled the terrain, the overriding impression for both of us was that compared to other motorcycles we had ridden on the route, the Africa Twin required less effort, and neither of us felt exhausted. I would put this down to the fact that the ergonomics of the motorcycle are great, as well as the smoothness and usability of the power and brakes.

The ride out of The Hell to our overnight spot in Prince Albert only confirmed our impressions, and we arrived there having covered 650 km (403 miles) over some reasonably testing terrain still feeling fresh.

The following day we both needed to be back in Cape Town, and decided on the shortest fastest route home. The ability to cover big distances easily is very important on an adventure motorcycle, and wind protection plays an important role here. While at first glance the Africa Twin screen seems on the small side, the design that allows some air flow below the screen eliminates buffeting, making hitting long paved sections a pleasure.

Back home safely with the bikes washed and parked in the garage we both agreed it had been a great trip and that the Africa Twins performed faultlessly.

Knysna has always been known as South Africa’s favourite holiday town due to the natural beauty of the area, but lately it has also gained a reputation as being a mecca for classic car collectors and motorsport, with the Simola Hill Climb being a highlight for many fans.

The fantastic dirt and paved roads also make Knysna a motorcycle rider’s heaven, so it is no surprise that owning and riding motorcycles is hugely popular in the area, and nobody is more enthusiastic than my mate Colin Stunden. Colin started riding and racing off road motorcycles at a young age, and his passion for riding has only grown over the years. In addition to his weekly rides through the Knysna forest, when our group arranges an adventure ride, there is never any doubt about whether Colin will be able to make the trip.

Riding motorcycles naturally involves owning them too, and over the years Colin has probably ridden all there is to ride, and bought and sold countless motorcycles. As it happens with many of us, you very often see an old motorcycle that you used to own, and the memories come flooding back, and you regret having sold it. A few years ago Colin managed to buy a couple of motorcycles he had previously owned, and parked these in the garage next to his new motorcycles. The rest is history, and very soon a second garage was needed to store his bikes.

The enjoyment of owning old motorcycles is being able to share the memories with other enthusiasts, and Colin soon had people asking him to show them his motorcycles. With the number having grown considerably, space to store them and work on them soon became a problem.

The solution?

The Motorcycle Room

The Motorcycle Room

It’s never too difficult to find a reason to make a trip from Cape Town to Knysna, and attending the opening of The Motorcycle Room had my wife and myself on the Honda Africa Twin hitting the road in no time.

Having been mates for many years, I know Colin as somebody that likes to do things properly, but even I was surprised at what he has managed to put together. To describe the Motorcycle Room as a museum would not really be accurate, and I would describe it more as a living museum, or simply a meeting place for motorcycle enthusiasts. The older motorcycles are not all restored to showroom condition, with many still being ridden and there are many current models on display too. With plenty of space to walk around each of the 50 plus machines as well as a lounge and workshop area, Colin has created a relaxed atmosphere and what is probably every motorcycle lover’s ultimate “man cave”.

While Colin clearly has a love for two strokes, with his Yamaha RD 500 and Yamaha RZ 500 reflecting this, I feel trying to single out any particular model in the collection is pointless, as different models mean different things to each of us.

If you happen to be visiting Knysna, passing through the area, or are looking for a reason to head that way, The Motorcycle Room is a must see.

Facebook: The Motorcycle Room

www.themotorcycleroom.co.za

First of all I think its important to establish a point of reference for my opinions, as all riders come from differing riding backgrounds with different expectations for a particular bike. While not being brand loyal to the point of excluding any brand, as I believe they each have their strengths and particular place in the market (I own and ride Yamahas, Hondas and KTMs) most of my adventure riding over the last 13 years has been on a KTM 990.

When deciding to start an adventure touring business, the first obvious consideration is which motorcycle to use. After many long discussions, and nearly as many beers with my riding mates, it eventually looked as though the new Africa Twin would tick more boxes than anything else currently on the market. Obviously being a new model there would still be unanswered questions about reliability etc, but I decided to take a gamble on the fact that Honda in general is known as a quality brand. Price was obviously also a consideration and I think Honda got it right to release 3 different models of essentially the same bike. If you don’t want all the features available you buy the cheaper model, without having to spend money to disable ABS and traction control as with some other brands.

Having been fortunate enough to take delivery of five Africa twins in the first consignment to arrive in South Africa in April this year, I set about the “task” of running the new bikes in.

First impressions when collecting the bikes was that the images in the media do not do the Africa Twin justice, and it is a much better looking motorcycle in the flesh. All the models are well finished and nothing catches the eye as being cheap or out of place. All the controls are simple (with exception of the automatic model which takes a bit of getting used to) and the dash is clear and informative. Pressing the integrated kill switch and starter button brings the motor to life with a deep but pleasant exhaust note.

Climbing onto the bike and riding out of the showroom, the first thing that strikes me is the relatively low seat height (871mm on its highest of two settings, compared to 915mm of my KTM 990) and its manoeuvrability at low speeds. Being able to have your feet on the ground and an extremely small turning circle make it a pleasure to park.

Onto the highway and the smoothness of the engine and gear box as well as the good wind protection soon have you underestimating your speed. The stock exhaust system manages a nice balance between not being loud enough to annoy your neighbours while still being loud enough for the rider to hear at any speed through all the gears. Another nice surprise was the stability of the bike at speed, as well as the excellent brakes. Granted I was still on the asphalt, and the stock tires are quite road biased, but I couldn’t help thinking this would be an excellent commuter.

The following morning I couldn’t wait to get the stock rubbers off the footrests and hit a dirt road to test the bike on something a little more challenging. Once again still on the stock tyres, but they are more than adequate for dirt roads, and the 12km stretch to our farm is in good condition. Having ridden this road regularly it was also a good stretch to test the motorcycle. Again the stability of the bike really impressed me, and it felt really planted at speeds over 160kph, which is where things usually start getting a bit sketchy. While stability at speed is obviously a result of a number of factors, I feel the low centre of gravity achieved on this model by Honda is probably the most important. Another nice surprise is the way the small windscreen performs. While not intended to stop all the wind, the design ensures no buffeting, which is something that can really tire you out on a long trip.

The next day I took the motorcycle up into the mountains to see how it would perform on some single tracks, and again the manoeuvrability had me smiling. Low seat, small turning circle and loads of torque make slow riding a pleasure, with the suspension handling the few ditches I needed to cross with ease. While not being a small bike intended for the tight stuff, the handling does give you the confidence that if you do end up in a technical section on an adventure ride you will be glad you chose this bike. One or two short sandy sections later and again the stability had me smiling. Not an exhaustive off road test by any means, but I was more than happy with things so far, and I would anyway choose to fit more off road biased tyres to properly test the bikes capabilities.

Back on the asphalt, and my problem was to get 5 bikes run in before their first service. Surprise surprise, four of my usually busy riding mates suddenly found some free time to help me! While enjoying the company, this also gave me the opportunity to hear other opinions about the bike. My mates are all experienced adventure riders currently riding a mix of different models of bikes, so I was interested in hearing their unbiased opinions on the Africa Twin. All the feedback was positive, with the smoothness and how easy the bike is to ride probably being the most repeated comment.

Surely there must be some negatives? Well yes, the lack of a centre stand as standard (think fixing punctures in the middle of nowhere) is in my opinion an oversight, and you will have to pack your own tool kit, as the one supplied is silly. Other than that, it really is difficult to find faults on the Africa twin.

When getting off one bike onto another, it usually takes me a while to get completely comfortable with the changed ergonomics, power delivery etc, but I can truly say after only a few days on the Africa Twin I was completely at home. The proof of this is when I now walk into my garage to choose a bike to ride, whether it be for a long adventure ride or just down to the shop, the Africa Twin is the one I usually choose.