Best On-Off-Road/Adventure Motorcycle of the Year Winner: Honda Africa Twin

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We had to wait a few years for Honda to get on-board with the current Adventure-Touring trend, but when Big Red finally did, it did with the most iconic of Honda off-roaders. The Africa Twin namesake is a lot to live up to, but the latest edition does so, not by being a hardcore Dakar performer, but by being one the most balanced, all-around big-bore ADV bikes on the market.

The 21-inch front wheel speaks volumes about the Africa Twin’s off-road intentions. This choice of wheel size has the Africa Twin in the company of other OEM’s most off-roady off-road bikes: BMW F800GS Adventure and R1200GS-A, KTM 1190 Adventure R, Triumph Tiger 800XCx. With a curb weight of 525 pounds, the Africa Twin is also in the same wet weight range of these bikes.

The new 270-degree parallel-Twin powering the Africa Twin is amazingly smooth, and handlebar vibes aren’t an issue over long distances on paved two-laners. It’s 270-degree crank emits an amazingly burly exhaust note for a parallel-Twin from Honda. With only 86 hp at 7600 rpm and 67 lb-ft at 5900 rpm, the motor produces enough linear power to keep things exciting in the dirt but can only be considered sufficient for pavement riding – especially if you’re wanting to pile on hard saddlebags with clothing and a significant other.

The 2016 Africa Twin is the first model to feature Honda’s next-gen Dual Clutch Transmission, and the only ADV bike in the world equipped with such technology. This is a significant achievement not for the sake of new technology, but because the technology works very well.

At $12,999 ($13,699 with DCT) the Africa Twin is reasonably priced, while its 525-pound wet weight makes it one of the lightest liter-sized adventure bike on the market. The seating position is comfortable as well as adjustable between 33.46 in. and 34.25 in., with plenty of legroom between the seat and footpeg. The non-adjustable windscreen creates a pocket of still air that seems larger than the windscreen itself. We believe the new Africa Twin will find itself with a loyal following among ADV bike enthusiasts.

For more about the Africa Twin check out our 2016 Honda Africa Twin Review, 2016 Honda Africa Twin Video Review, and Africa Twin Dyno Chart.

MO‘s Editorial Director Sean Alexander attended the launch of the Ducati Multistrada Enduro and claims it to be worthy of winning this category, but the bike remains untested by the staff, and we cannot award it a MOBO based on one man’s opinion.

Honorable Mention: KTM Super Adventure

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Last year’s On-Off-Road/Adventure winner returns this year as runner-up. Reason for the change is simply going with the Honda because of its lighter weight, more affordable pricing, and its less-is-more persona. Another way of looking at it is the Honda is a great weekend warrior that’d make for an okay tourer, while the KTM is an awesome go anywhere tourer that makes for an okay weekender machine. This year we went with the former.

When we tested the Super Adventure last year in our 2015 Ultimate Sports-Adventure-Touring Shootout against eight of its peers in an epic six-day journey that included thousands of miles of street riding as well as numerous hours spent riding off the pavement, I felt vindicated of any questionable reasoning for the SA winning the 2015 award. My opinion of the Super Adventure’s all-around performance from my initial First Ride Review was substantiated by its overall scores in the Scorecard, while it easily bested the others and came out the winner in my Scorecard column.

With the 1290 Super Adventure, Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer is flexing its technological muscle. The few gripes we had with the 1190 Adventure in our Battle Of The Adventures, such as no cruise control, no heated grips or heated seat, needing a more easily adjustable windscreen, have all been addressed with the 1290 model, and then some. The most important technology being the bike’s semi-active suspension, which allows long-travel adventure bikes to be plush or sporty as required in different environments. It also includes Cornering ABS, which is our choice for Best Technology in 2016.

The 1290 Super Adventure clearly straddles both the on- and off-road realms better than a lot of the more streetable ADV bikes. The S-Adventure offers all-day comfort, incredible range, awesome engine power, excellent on- and off-road handling, better-than-most saddlebags, and an electronics package that’s truly beneficial to both rider and passenger. It’s expensive, but it offers the broadest range of features and benefits in its class.

  • JMDonald

    I’d take an Africa Twin no doubt. It is in my top five.

    • ‘Mike Smith

      It’s one of the few Honda street bikes I’d be interested in.

  • Walter

    There was no way the AT wasn’t going to win the category. Seems the “new kid” almost always does. And there’s nothing wrong with a KTM 990 made by Honda lol.

    But the 1290SA as runner-up? The 1190 (either version) would have been a much better/more logical choice; since they are near or better than the AT off pavement, have pretty much the same electronics as the 1290SA (other than hill hold and cruise control), are lighter, etc., etc. etc..

    The characteristics you liked most about the 1290SA “all-day comfort, incredible range, awesome engine power, excellent on- and off-road handling (not as good as the 1190S on road or off), better-than-most saddlebags (similar if not identical to the 1190) are more sports-touring bike than on/off Adv. bike-in which case fans of the GSA would wonder what makes the 1290SA better other than the motor.

    The two bikes you list are opposite ends of the very broad class and not really competitive with each other – iow, I doubt many people would cross shop them.

    There are distinct groupings within the larger sized bike segment that are very natural:

    21 fronts and dirt oriented— 1190R, Africa Twin, 800XCx, GS800 & GSA800

    Big Tankers/heavyweights- 1290SA, 1200 GSA, MS1200 Enduro, Stelvio NTX, Explorer, Super Tenere

    All-rounders, with street leanings- 1190S, 1200 GS, V-Strom, CapoNord Rally,

    Mostly street- 800XRx, MS1200, CapoNord, and a bunch of other 17” tired street bikes that “have the Adv look”

    Cross testing these rather than keep them within their natural groupings does not do your readers any service- unless you count arguing various merits when they are mis-categorized and tested together as a service. lol

    Look, I know you want your lists to reflect a level of controversy and buzz, but some journalistic integrity wouldn’t hurt.

    • Old MOron

      “The two bikes you list are opposite ends of the very broad class and not really competitive with each other – iow, I doubt many people would cross shop them.”

      You make a fair point, but this is not a shootout. The ADV class covers a broad spectrum of bikes. When selecting the “best of” ADV bikes, there’s no need for MO to limit its choices to one end of the spectrum or the other.

      “Cross testing these rather than keep them within their natural groupings does not do your readers any service- unless you count arguing various merits when they are mis-categorized and tested together as a service. lol”

      Sometimes this can be a service. I don’t know how much discretionary income you have lying around, but before I part with $15K or more, I want to know all of the possibilities.

      Let’s say someone is inclined to buy an ADV bike. You point out that there are four subgroups within ADV. I suppose some buyers are just natural Crusty Demons of Dirt, and they’ll shop only the 21/18 dirt-oriented side of the spectrum. Other buyers consider bikes in more than one ADV subgroup. How will they know which subgroup they prefer if nobody helps to compare them?

      • Walter

        You wrote…
        “Other buyers consider bikes in more than one ADV subgroup. How will they know which subgroup they prefer if nobody helps to compare them?”

        You support my point– which is that EVERY reviewing outlet does that; so why not stand out from the crowd and do some definitive comparisons of bikes going after the same slice of the segment? It’s done with pretty much every other category/segment, why are adv bikes treated differently?

        There’s no talent or great insight involved in coming to a conclusion that a lighter 21/18 bike works better in the dirt, or that a 19/17 bike that’s 50 pounds heavier with commodious luggage and cruise control might be a better touring choice. Or that a bike with an 8 gallon fuel tank has, wait for it, outstanding range; but sure gets heavy with 48 pounds of gas sitting up high.

        Just sayin’

  • Gabriel Owens

    KLR650 should win this every year. Sorry. It’s just the most sensible motorcycle in this category.

    • hANNABONE

      Tell me again how much oil do you hafta put back in the case on any romp over 5000 RPM??
      I’ll never own another Killer. Hec, they even have a class action suit against Kawasaki because of that 650 mill.
      There is a plethora of great motorbikes out there — the Kawasaki KLR isn’t one of them.

  • hANNABONE

    You Said : “Reason for the change is simply going with the Honda because of its
    lighter weight, more affordable pricing, and its less-is-more persona.
    Another way of looking at it is the Honda is a great weekend warrior
    that’d make for an okay tourer, while the KTM is an awesome go anywhere
    tourer that makes for an okay weekender machine. This year we went with
    the former.”

    Simply put — MO.com wanted to cash the Honda check…

    (*I also note – NO Yamaha Super Tenere – shame shame…*)