On the market of dual-purpose motorcycles, we are not spoiled with special choice. Especially in the class “up to a liter”. The Honda Africa Twin was and still is the most sought-after touring enduro and, now and then appearing again, the Africa has been warming the soul of extreme travelers for more than 30 years. On May 20, 1988, the first production Honda Africa Twin was released, hot on the heels of the bike that won the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Honda Africa Twin XRV650 (1988-1989) RD03
The 1988 Honda Africa Twin XRV650 was the brand’s first major entry into the dual-purpose motorcycle market. The bike was officially released on May 20 of that year and was painted red, blue and white. The paint job was tailored to make it look like the motorcycles that won the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Engineering team chief Tomonori Mogi used the technical basis of the NXR750, which won the race, as the basis for the design of the new commercial motorcycle. With his design heavily influenced by the NXR750, the commercial XRV650 was built to perform just as cool as its racing prototype.
The engine was a 52° four-stroke water-cooled, 647cc, 6-valve SOHC V-twin, slightly reconfigured from the racing prototype because Honda wanted to retain its well-deserved reputation for bulletproof reliability.
The engine produced 56 hp. The gearbox had a five-speed, chain-driven transmission, and the front suspension had Showa 43-millimeter forks with 230-millimeter travel, while the rear was fitted with Pro-Link mono shocks with 210-millimeter stroke.
The front brake disc was 296 mm in diameter and the rear disc was 240 mm. The saddle height was 880mm. The fuel tank was not as monstrous as the Paris-Dakar sport version, but had an ample capacity of 24 liters. The dry weight of the XRV650 was 193 kg. The Honda Africa Twin of this generation is extremely rare in our country, but live copies are very highly valued.
Honda Africa Twin XRV750 (1990-1992) RD04
The successor to the XRV650 was the Honda Africa Twin XRV750, which debuted in 1990. The engine volume of the new model was increased to 742 cc, but otherwise the engine was the same 52° SOHC V-twin with six valves and two spark plugs, 62 hp at 7,500 rpm and 62 Nm of torque at 6,000 rpm.
This is the most widespread version of the old Africa in Europe, and what’s there in Europe, all over the world it is considered an icon of a dual-purpose tourist bike.
The clutch was the same multi-disc, but the suspension and brakes were changed. The front brakes were twin 276-millimeter discs with dual-piston calipers, and the rear brakes were a single 256-millimeter disc with a single-piston caliper.
The front suspension consisted of a 43mm pneumatic telescopic fork with 220mm of range, and at the rear, Pro-Link with adjustable spring preload and compression damping for 214mm of range. The 21-inch wheels have D21 90/90 tires in the front and R17 140/80 in the rear. The fuel tank capacity was 24 liters. Seat height was the same, 880mm. The dry weight went up to 209 kg.
The last version of this motorcycle was equipped with a “Tripmaster” digital trip computer starting in 1992. “Tripmaster” is essentially a series of digital clocks made in the form of a Paris-Dakar route computer, and they have since been fitted to the later RD07 and RD07A models.
The Tripmaster is the kind of thing that has been known to fail on older used motorcycles and owners often replace the dashboard with something more rugged and reliable. Thank goodness, such gadgets are a dime a dozen today.
Honda Africa Twin XRV750 (1993-1995) RD07
In 1993, the Africa Twin XRV750 was thoroughly redesigned for the bike, with an emphasis on lowering the center of gravity and the added benefit of reducing the seat height to 860 mm. The upgrade also slightly reduced the bike’s dry weight to 205 kg. The new chassis and lower center of gravity have significantly improved the bike’s handling, especially when maneuvering at low speeds in off-road conditions.
The fairings of the Honda Africa Twin were also redesigned so that the bike looked like a successor to the previous generation, but was more stylish. Although the engine displacement remained unchanged, power was slightly reduced to 59 hp, but the torque remained the same as the previous model.
The fuel tank capacity has been slightly reduced to 23 liters. All variants of the Africa Twin XRV750 are known for their docility and handling, and they are also considered unkillable. Thus the engine willingly accepts though 92, though 80th gasoline, that was appreciated by our bikers at the end of 90s.
Africa Twin XRV750 (1996-2003) RD07A
The Africa Twin XRV750 from 1996 until the end of production in 2003 was not a truly redesigned version, as the changes were mostly cosmetic. The seat was redesigned to improve driver comfort, but the seat height was again increased to 870 mm.
With the discontinuation of the XRV750 in 2003, it would be another twelve long years before Honda would release the new Africa Twin, and this new bike would be a new masterpiece, very different from its predecessors.
Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L from 2015
The new Honda Africa Twin was reborn in 2015 as a new motorcycle and the embodiment of the concept “Everything new is well forgotten old. The new CRF1000L Africa Twin was created to compete with a new generation of heavy-duty long-distance bikes such as the BMW R1200GS, Ducati Multistrada and Triumph Tiger Explorer. All of them are basically built for long-distance riding without overstepping the quality of the roads. But not for desert racing or the Paris-Beijing or Paris-Dakar rallies.
While Honda decided to build a new Africa Twin to compete with those big cruiser range bikes, they also decided that their new Africa Twin would be lighter and more off-road adaptable than their competitors. So they stuck to very similar dimensions and specifications to the older models.
The wheelbase of the new Africa Twin CRF1000L is almost the same as the old XRV750, 1570 mm, compared to the XRV750’s 1560 mm. The engine, however, is completely different. The old 52° V-twin has been replaced by a British-style parallel twin with 998cc displacement of the crank by 270°, 94 hp at 7,500 rpm and 98 Nm of torque at 6,000 rpm. The parallel twin makes more sense simply because it’s shorter, which helps reduce the length of the bike. With the larger engine, the bike’s dry weight has increased to 212 kg.
Despite the increased engine power, the fuel tank capacity has been reduced to 18.9 liters. The engine is designed to provide uniform linear power, so it may feel less powerful than it actually is.
The engine seems to pull the bike effortlessly in all conditions, making it light and predictable without any obvious dips or power surges. Ground clearance is crucial on a bike like this, and the CRF1000L received a generous 250mm, much like its legendary predecessors.
For this new model, Honda has provided two transmission options: a six-speed manual transmission that features crisp shifts and finely tuned ratios, or a patented dual-clutch robotized transmission (DCT).
For the CRF1000L, the transmission was specifically designed for both off-road and on-road use. The CRF1000L is built on a steel duplex frame with front suspension that is 45 mm Showa inverted forks with 229 mm of travel and Pro-Link mono-shock at the rear with 221 mm of travel.
The brakes are dual 310-millimeter cooled discs in the front with four-piston Nissin radial calipers and one 256-millimeter rotor in the rear with a single-piston caliper, and the system is equipped with dual-channel ABS.
This means the ABS in the rear of the bike can be deactivated, allowing the rider to deliberately lock the rear wheel to make a sharp cornering turn without steering the front wheel away.
In addition to dual-channel ABS, the bike has three levels of traction control, making it not only easy and comfortable for the experienced rider, but also ensures control of the road and safe handling on slippery, snowy, icy and wet surfaces, especially predictable for the inexperienced rider.
The wheel size of the new CRF1000L is almost the same as the older XRV750 models. The XRV750 was equipped with 21″ front and 17″ rear alloy wheels with steel hubs, while the CRF1000L has 21″ front and 18″ rear alloy wheels also with steel hubs.
The tires for the CRF1000L are 90/90-R21 in the front and 150/70-R18 in the rear. The instrument panel on the new Honda Africa Twin is a fully digital unit with the speedometer and tachometer located at the top and bottom with additional technical information such as engine temperature, fuel level, odometer, daily mileage and fuel consumption.
The lower part also displays the traction control activation indicator lights. In general, the new Africa Twin CRF1000L is a motorcycle of the twenty-first century, a worthy successor to its legendary ancestors. It is likely that the new Africa will become something of a legend in its own right.
«The different versions of the Honda Africa Twin are some of the best options if you are looking for a motorcycle not only for long rides, but also for daytrips, as well as for everyday use. In city conditions, it is not particularly inferior to thoroughbred asphalt bikes».
Older motorcycles will have some maintenance issues, as you might expect, simply because they’ve seen a lot in their lifetime. But that’s no reason to deny yourself the pleasure of poking around in your favorite motorcycle. It’s hard to complain about the new Honda Africa Twin. It’s a big bike, but it’s a bike that even the less experienced rider can use and enjoy. It’s a motorcycle that swallows continents as easily as it swallows city blocks.