Twin challenge

The Africa Twin is tall, but also light and well-balanced.
The Africa Twin is tall, but also light and well-balanced.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Honda's latest Africa Twin is a tall order of a dual-purpose bike

There are two challenges facing any rider who decides to straddle Honda's new Africa Twin.

The first is to do justice to this true-blue adventure bike. Built on a "go anywhere" motto, with Paris- Dakar DNA flowing through its tubes, this bike is created with enough verve to conquer towering sand dunes, narrow rock-strewn trails and knee-deep water with mushy mud below.

Also, most riders in Singapore will tackle only numerous speed bumps, rippled tarmac that is getting more common here and occasional stretches of "water ponding".

The second challenge is to plant both feet flat on the ground when seated squarely in the saddle. I am 1.75m tall and this bike keeps me on my toes.

At traffic lights, any attempt to plant a foot squarely on the tarmac will see me doing the dirt bike tilt, where my hips slide to the side of the seat.

  • SPECS/HONDA CRF1000 AFRICA TWIN

    Price: From $21,000 without COE and insurance

    Engine: 998cc 8-valve inline-2

    Transmission: Six-speed manual, chain-drive

    Power: 95bhp at 7,500rpm

    Torque: 98Nm at 6,000rpm

    0-100kmh: Under five seconds (estimated)

    Top speed: 222kmh

    Fuel consumption: 4.6 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Boon Siew Singapore

Honda will justify this lofty ride height by highlighting the generous ground clearance (250mm) required by adventure bikes and even point to the adjustable seat height it has provided. But, at 850mm, I am already at the lower of the two settings. Twisting the dial on the hydraulic preload adjuster will lift the seat by another 20mm.

Thankfully, the ungainly posture at the traffic lights is forgotten as soon as the lights turn green and you let out the clutch. The tall bike immediately becomes light and well-balanced as you settle into the comfortable saddle and enjoy the camel's view ahead.

The Africa Twin's slim waist, thanks to a petrol tank that tapers nicely into the seat, gives your thighs a secure grip; and balance becomes effortless.

Twist the throttle and the liquid- cooled, four-stroke parallel-twin engine thrums effortlessly to pull the big bike away from traffic. It may not do so with the ferocity of a superbike, but then it is not engineered to break 0-100kmh records. After all, this bike is Honda's long-awaited successor to the XRV750, the road-going sibling of the rally-bred NXR750, which won the Paris-Dakar rally four times in the 1980s.

The Africa Twin is geared more for energetic torque that gets you out of trouble over unpredictable terrain than for outright speed that gets you into trouble with the law. Just in case your right wrist gets a little too ambitious, the bike is equipped with anti-lock braking system to provide stability.

Its six-speed constant mesh manual transmission is very accommodating in city traffic. Prefer to stay in third in anticipation of the fast-approaching red light? No problem. Twist the throttle in sixth to overtake? No problem.

Honda also has a dual-clutch transmission version, where the gear changes are handled by the bike's electronic brain, much like an automatic gearbox in cars. This version was not available for a test ride.

Both versions are priced similarly from $21,000 (without COE), with 24 months extended warranty or 30,000km, whichever comes first, for bikes purchased from Boon Siew Singapore or authorised dealers this year.

In fact, Boon Siew has done its homework. Recognising that most riders of such bikes in Singapore use them mainly for comfortable touring, it has a wide range of equipment on offer: side panniers, top boxes, main stand, crash guards and even spotlights. It even has a low-seat option for customers, where some sacrifice on the padding lowers the seat to 820mm.

That said, it is still the wild that calls to this motorcycle. Put on knobbly tyres, slip on some hardcore riding gear, turn off the traction control and head into the dirt. Now that would be a challenge the Africa Twin will be up for. Are you?

•The writer is an occasional contributor to Life Motoring.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'Twin challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe