When Troy was assigned the 2020 Africa Twin to review, I think we were both a bit perplexed. But I had a packed schedule and Troy is a professional. So, I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it. I did however, pry the AT out of Troy’s normally gauntlet-clad hands as soon as I was able. The V-Strom/Africa Twin comparison was the first time I had the chance to get out from behind the computer for an actual ride up into the mountains to get a little dust on the tires. Not long into that shoot, I knew I would want to get back out as soon as I could to spend some more time on the new AT. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun to explore with.
When I asked Honda to keep the bike a bit longer for more thorough off-road testing, they encouraged me to do so but only after I brought the bike back to Honda HQ to be retrofitted with some extra off-road protection and footpegs. Huh, not sure why, but okay.
The 2020 Africa Twin feels almost like a different motorcycle on both the street and the dirt compared to its predecessor. Major changes to the motor and chassis work incredibly well together to give the new AT more off-road prowess than ever before. There’s no need to go into the technical details here as they’ve been covered thoroughly by both Dennis in our First Look and Troy in his First Ride. Instead, we’ll focus on the bike’s characteristics off-road.
The 86cc bump in displacement, which Honda says adds 6% more power, definitely doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to the new power plant. On the throttle, power quickly, but progressively, spools up to deliver a connection with your right wrist that makes it easy to dial in traction, with or without one of Honda’s seven levels of TC engaged. The fueling is spot on too. The smoothness of the new engine – and clutch, for that matter – cannot be overstated. Both are really helpful during long days off-road at minimizing fatigue.
Although the 270-degree crank remains unchanged, it now delivers a more raucous bark than before while still retaining the same Twin-cylinder character. Its torquier bottom end makes the bike easier to ride in technical areas and at low speed around obstacles. What’s more is Honda has done all of this while reducing the size and weight of the engine, which is said to be 5.5 pounds lighter.
The chassis is just as important as the engine to the bike’s improved capability. The lighter, more compact frame has been tuned for rigidity in what seems to be all of the right places. Even the swing-arm lost a pound and gained rigidity thanks to its CRF450R-derived design. The narrower frame at the seat rails helps make the AT feel even lower than its 33.7-inch seat height (in its lowest position) would suggest. This should help newer or shorter riders feel more confident with what is still a big machine.
I feel Honda struck a great balance in terms of suspension and chassis adjustments for the 2020 AT, not just in general, but in terms of the types of riders the Africa Twin can cater to. At speed, the more rigid chassis and revised suspension keep the bike impressively stable. Knocks from big hits, g-outs, and rocks do nothing to waver the path of the Africa Twin. Both the fork and shock are decidedly soft, but with better damping and bottoming resistance than before. Both ends swallow bumps like they were never there while still delivering better feedback than before. That said, even with the revisions to the steering stem angle and fork, I still can’t say it delivers the same amount of feedback as other large adventure bikes on the market.
The softness of the suspension should also help riders who just want to explore some fire roads or trails more casually to be comfortable with the machine. For riders/racers looking to fully flog the AT, suspension work will need to be done. For the rest of us, it makes for a comfortable ride both on-road and off.
No, that’s not a podium sweep for Honda, rather the names of the three screen layouts for its 6.5-inch TFT touchscreen display which define the amount of information shown. Gold showcasing all there is to see while Bronze is more basic. The electronics package on the 2020 Africa Twin is, to say the least, substantial. Not only for its effect on the bike’s actual performance, but also for riders to tweak what kind of information they’re given when in a certain mode. There is so much to learn and customize, Honda actually built a digital simulator for its website, allowing curious (or confused) parties to navigate their way through the settings with some advice and instruction.
Again, what we’re focusing on here is the off-road performance of the machine, and like the chassis, the electronics allow the latest AT to become a very versatile machine that can be tuned to suit a wide swath of riders and their preferences.
With four power modes, three settings for engine braking, seven levels of traction control, wheelie control, rear lift control, and cornering ABS, the amount of adjustability borders on infinite. Okay, not infinite, but there’s a lot of adjustability. And we’re not even talking about ride modes yet! Six ride modes (Tour, Urban, Off-Road, Gravel, and two user-adjustable Rider Modes) allow you to switch between modes that have preset rider aid parameters, but most importantly for riders looking for maximum tunability for their machine, the two User modes let the rider tweak all of the settings.
Switch the display mode to Gold for both User modes and have at tweaking the TC, engine braking, wheelie control etc. It’s a really great option to have while riding off-road, especially if you have an idea of what the terrain might be. Perhaps the terra is looser or rocky, you can adjust for that with power modes and traction control as you see fit. And of course, for all of the folks who think they know better, you can turn most everything off, aside from the front wheel’s ABS. It does take a long press and hold on the TC down button and a couple of clicks to shut off rear ABS entirely, but it can be done (although it becomes a tad annoying if you find yourself stopping often). The thing is though, Honda did such a good job with the motor and chassis that even if you turn everything off, it’s managed to make a 1084cc 495-pound motorcycle manageable to those who have an idea of what they’re doing.
If it’s not clear already, I’m pretty stoked about the new Africa Twin. The previous iteration was good but lacking in a handful of ways. This 2020 model is a substantial upgrade in terms of performance and technology across the board. Having the chance to spend more time off-road with the AT after fitting some Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41s, as well as Honda’s off-road footpegs and extra protection, really drilled the point home regarding the versatility of this machine. Regardless of what your idea of adventure is, the 2020 Honda Africa Twin can probably get you there and then some, it all depends on you.
|2020 Honda Africa Twin Specifications|
|Engine Type||1,084cc liquid-cooled Unicam four-stroke 22.5° parallel-twin|
|Valve Train||SOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||92.0mm x 81.5mm|
|Induction||PGM-FI electronic fuel injection w/ 46mm throttle bodies (Throttle By Wire)|
|Ignition||Full transistorized ignition|
|Transmission||6 speed manual|
|Final Drive||525 Chain|
|Front Suspension||45mm inverted Showa telescopic fork; 9.1 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension||Pro-Link system w/ single Showa shock; 9.4 inches travel|
|Front Brakes||Two four-piston hydraulic calipers w/ 310mm disks; ABS|
|Rear Brakes||Single one-piston hydraulic caliper w/ 256mm disk; ABS|
|Trail||113mm (4.4 inches)|
|Seat Height||34.3 inches / 33.7 inches|
|Ground Clearance||9.8 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||5.0 gallons|
|Color||Matte Black Metallic|
|Curb Weight||495 lbs. (measured)|