Overall updates and an increased engine size make the new Africa Twin a desirable bike by anybody’s standards.
Honda’s CRF1000, when it was originally launched six years ago, was a bit of a rebel. Powered by what was then unique (as in no one else dared produce a big-bore engine in the supposedly lesser parallel-twin format) it was a poke in the eye to the then Boxer and V-twin orthodoxy that dominated big-bore adventure touring. Completely ordinary in concept — that’s me trying to say “bland” politely — it was also modest on the spec sheet: the 2016 Africa Twin boasted but 94 hp, not exactly class-leading even six years ago.
Fast forward seven short years and Honda’s once pilloried parallel-twin is now mainstream, BMW’s mid-sized GS is starting to sell in numbers, KTM’s high-powered twins are gaining much respect and Suzuki has just launch its first all-new engine in some two decades — you guessed it: a 776-cc parallel-twin. What was once disparaged has, in a world now dominated by cost-cutting and ever more stringent emissions standards, become the go-to internal combustion configuration of the future.
A Modest Boost in Power
What has not changed is that the Africa Twin remains, on paper at least, modestly powered. Despite a boost in displacement — thanks to a longer stroke — to 1,084-cc, a 2022 CRF1100 boasts but 101 hp, the seven horsepower gain a modest improvement by any measure and positively overwhelmed by the 170-plus hp some of the ruling adventure touring behemoths now claim. And yet…
In real life, Honda’s Unicam parallel-twin doesn’t feel underpowered. Oh sure, if you were — for some strange reason — on a racetrack or lived in a country without speed limits, the lack of top-end power might be a thing. But here in the real world where radar cops are enthusiastic and the speed at which you can be charged with “stunting” moving ever downwards, there’s more than enough power. It is an adventure touring bike, after all.
Besides, as a result of a 86 cubic centimetre bump in displacement, the CRF is actually on a more equal footing with its competitors despite only gaining seven horses. Yes, a good KTM 890 pumps out more horsepower, but thanks to that 6.5-mm longer stroke, bottom-end torque is decidedly beefier. Hammer the CRF’s throttle at 2,500 rpm and it fairly leaps ahead. It does sign off by about 7,000 rpm — when some of the more monster motored of ADVs are just getting started — but until you get to superbike-like revs, Honda’s single-cam parallel-twin is plenty powerful enough. Loaded up like a pack mule or hustling over a twisty road, I never…