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Atop a ridgeline, I stopped to catch my breath. I’d been riding the 2022 Honda Africa Twin for nearly three hours off-road. I’d crossed two saddle-deep rivers, splashed through the mud and dirt, and bounced down some seriously steep grades of silty slick rock faces. But it had brought me here, overlooking this beautiful expansive valley.
It was early fall, and the cooler-than-normal temperatures and snow the week before had caused the aspen leaves to become a vibrant yellow. They fluttered in the wind, giving the forest ahead a shimmering effect. Very few folks had been to where I was standing, apart from those with little mechanical sympathy. Or horses. But with the Africa Twin, I could skirt around most obstacles, ducking and diving the hazards that stopped others in their tracks. Including this overlook.
Honda’s Africa Twin isn’t billed as the best, most hardcore adventure motorcycle on the planet. This particular bike even has the company’s dual-clutch automatic transmission and less-than-optimal dual-sport tires. Yet, after years of refinement and Honda’s penchant for delivering over-engineered everything, the Africa Twin is capable of so much more than what its spec sheet may suggest.
This is a motorcycle that’s comfortable, tall, athletic, and powerful, and it will give you the confidence to ride more. To ride further. And that’s exactly what you want in an adventure motorcycle. Something to push you off the map and find the untouched and peaceful. You want a motorcycle that helps you see a mountain, and the Africa Twin will do just that.
2022 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Specs
- Base price: $15,299
- Type of motorcycle: Adventure
- Powertrain: 1084cc liquid-cooled single-cam four-stroke parallel-twin | 6-speed dual-clutch automatic | chain drive
- Horsepower: 100
- Torque: 76 lb-ft
- Brakes: Two four-piston hydraulic calipers w/ 310mm discs (front) | Single one-piston hydraulic caliper w/ 256mm disk (rear)
- Suspension: 45mm inverted fork; 9.1 inches of travel (front) | Pro-Link® single shock with spring; 8.7 inches of travel (rear)
- Seat height: 33.5-34.3 inches adjustable
- Tires: Dunlop Trailmax Mission
- Curb weight: 529 pounds
- Fuel tank: 5 gallons w/1-gallon reserve
- Quick Take: When you want the backcountry to be comfortable.
- Score: 8/10
I’ve ridden the Africa Twin a few different times since its 2016 debut. From the twisty, turny mountain roads of Los Angeles to logging long-distance mileage, this is a motorcycle that’s always impressed me with its on-road capabilities. That sounds antithetical to something that bears the name “Africa” and conjures images of the Dakar, but a ton of folks are going to use the Africa Twin as a long-distance tourer and for good reason: it’s comfortable.
A height-adjustable seat takes center stage, as it accommodates riders of differing sizes—I’m six-foot-four—and allows them to comfortably plant their feet at a stop. Honda also paid special attention to the Africa Twin’s balance, as at 529 pounds wet, it’s a porker, and a top-heavy bike is the last thing you want. But there’s a sense of groundedness whenever you throw a leg over that can be lacking in other motorcycles of the same breed.
Powering the motorcycle is a 1,084cc parallel-twin engine that puts out 100 horsepower and 76 lb-ft of torque. If I’m being honest, that’s pretty low compared to other full-size competitors, like the 170 hp in Ducati’s Multistrada V4 S. But throughout my travels with the Africa Twin, I’ve never been left wanting more. Power is delivered quickly and efficiently through the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and that DCT has been retooled over the years to be better than it was when first introduced.
It was pretty clunky in those early models, but it’s slick today. There’s still a sense of the bike shifting for you, as you feel the motorcycle’s transmission do the work, but it’s far less bucking bronco through the gears. I also really enjoyed the DCT around town, as all you’re left worrying about is picking your line, your braking point, and the throttle. It feels … easy and I found myself far less tired after normal, everyday-type of rides.
The one option available from Honda that I would’ve liked on this particular bike was heated grips. The Africa Twin got dropped off late in the year and the temperatures dropped precipitously coming into November. While the brush guards kept the wind off my hands, and a set of Dainese and Alpinestars gloves did their best keeping my fingers warm, they couldn’t compete with 15-degree temperatures. Heated grips would’ve gone a long way.
Other than the lack of heated grips, I haven’t found too much to take issue with. But being the picky journalist I am, I’ll call out the dash interface. The bar-mounted controls and how it interacts with the TFT display feels needlessly complex when you first sit down. And if you’re not up on how to use it, it’s super annoying while riding and trying to scroll through the four riding modes—Tour, Urban, Gravel, and Off-road, plus two custom settings. I actually found myself picking a ride mode before I set off and sticking with it until I came to a stop. It could be more intuitive, especially when riding off-road.
Sheep on the Streets, Freak in the Trees
Just after the Honda arrived, I suited up and pointed it at the mountains across our valley. While I started at a trailhead I’d been to before, I veered off onto one of the unknown branches just before a section littered with deep sand. It was a choice, and one I almost regretted.
This particular trail was not built for a full-size ADV, as it was narrow, tree-lined, and on a steep decline. But the Africa Twin actually handled it pretty well. That wasn’t necessarily my own experience, though. I felt a bit squeezed, but I kept chugging along with confidence, at least until I got to the base of the trail. Lying before me was a set of three two-foot-tall steps, and thank you, off-road ABS, for stopping me on a dime in the dirt.
Now, it’s more than likely that pro off-road riders would’ve seen this obstacle and just jumped it. But again, the Africa Twin is 529 pounds. That’s a lot of weight to just yeet off a seven-foot drop, especially when it’s not your motorcycle. I decided to hop off and walk it down which worked. But I wasn’t out of the proverbial woods.
A short distance after the steps, a small 30-foot-wide river welcomed me. Without thinking too hard, I grabbed a heaping, handful of throttle and powered the Africa Twin right through it. It didn’t even stutter and a smile crept onto my face. That elation quickly turned into anxiety as a mile up the trail, a far larger water crossing entered the picture.
This was more of a small pond—you can see it from space—and the water was muddy. I tried the old using-a-stick-to-test-the-depth method, and it was deep enough that I’d be taking a bath had I attempted crossing. That left me with two options: go back the way I came or go around it. I chose the latter.
Along one side of the pond was marshland, while the other offered a trail with a seriously steep decline into a ditch with standing water and mud and a steep incline that reached salvation. There was no path out of the marsh, so the ditch was it. Standing at the top and looking 10 feet down the ravine was intimidating, especially since the mud below looked gooey. But I was committed. I dropped in, kept my throttle steady, and with mud splashing behind me, I exited very dirty. But I exited, which is all that matters.
What I want you to take away from those stories is two-fold. First, the Africa Twin showed up on dual-sport tires. They’re grippy, but they aren’t the off-road spec rubber that either the Ducati or the CRF300L Rally had equipped with. Yet, even with that handicap, it handled everything without issue thanks to a combination of excellent engineering and somewhat idiotic confidence on my part. This is a motorcycle that’s so well-engineered that you’d have to really put it out of its comfort zone to trip it up. Or be a complete moron.
And secondly, I’ve become a massive fan of both electric and automatic motorcycles for off-road adventures. I get that there will be folks who say “They don’t provide the same level of interaction that a manual does!” But when you don’t have to think about shifting gears, especially on inclines or declines, or stalling in mud, through rivers, or whatever, you’re left to just explore and ride. I don’t have to think about my left hand or foot and I’m left to just enjoy the journey. I don’t know about you, but that’s where I get the most enjoyment, not the act of shifting gears. Sorry, purists.
Honda’s Africa Twin is seriously good as both an on-road tourer or far-flung adventurer, and it does little wrong, including how much cash it commands.
Priced at $15,299, it’s a bargain compared to its classmates. Just look at its competition: the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 starts at $17,699, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure sits at $19,499, then you have the $22,500 Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally, followed by the $24,495 Zero DSR/X, the $25,259 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, and finally the $27,195 Ducati Multistrada V4 S. The Honda might not have as much horsepower as some of those other motorcycles, but nothing comes close to its price-to-capability.
Even after all these years, the Africa Twin remains one of the best adventure motorcycles available. It’s a motorcycle that you can just jump onto and ride off into the wilderness, taking you somewhere you’ve never experienced. It’s the platonic ideal of an adventure motorcycle and you’ll love it for years to come.
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