Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT vs.
KTM 1190 Adventure
As a remote staff member based in Texas, whenever I get a chance to ride with Ultimate Motorcycling Editor Don Williams out in California, I quickly clear my calendar (with my spouse’s blessing), meet up with him wherever he has deemed necessary, and look forward to an epic mystery ride.
All I knew before this ride was that the motorcycle models were adventure-style, which is what I prefer, no matter what brand. After I arrived at Ultimate Motorcycling headquarters, I was like a kid on Christmas morning when I found the 2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT and 2016 KTM 1190 Adventure.
After quickly donning my Alpinestars riding gear, we fired up the engines and set out on an all-day, 440-mile journey. Waypoints included the Los Padres National Forest, Carrizo Plain National Monument, the Loading Chute restaurant in Creston, San Luis Obispo Bay, and Cuyama Valley. Unforgettable byways included Hudson Ranch Road, Soda Lake Road, Lockwood Valley Road, and California Highways 33, 58, and 166.
This route’s range of riding conditions from urban highways with heavy traffic, two-lane roads twisting through canyons and valleys, and on beat up tarmac and moderately rough dirt road surfaces was perfect for comparing each motorcycle’s strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, the ambient temperatures ranged from the low 100s in California’s Central Valley to 60s along the coast, which also allowed evaluating how well the Alpinestars gear could handle the change in weather (watch for reviews soon).
It’s an interesting comparison—the dirt-worthy Honda, with its 21/18 wheel combination and mellower motor, against the more street-oriented hot-rod KTM, sporting 19″ and 17″ wheels, though dirt-oriented non-stock Continental TKC 70 Twinduro rubber.
I found both motorcycles comfortable, but the KTM 1190 Adventure’s ergonomics fit my 6’ 1” frame a bit better than the Honda Africa Twin. An example of the incremental difference is I felt I could ride the KTM all day due to the seat design, whereas the Honda’s seat tended to push me a little too far forward for my height and leg length. I also felt more comfortable standing on the KTM’s footpegs, as the Honda’s gas tank and fairing seemed a bit wider, forcing my knees out more than the KTM gas tank and fairing arrangement.
However, I found handling the Honda Africa Twin easier through sharp canyon turns than the KTM 1190. Not that I am highly skilled in this area, but this was more an issue of feeling confident of each motorcycle’s feel. One design item to note for the Africa Twin contributing to a more solid cornering feel is the weight distribution—Honda places the battery behind the engine cylinders, which helps keep the center of gravity closer to the ground.
The suspension settings for each motorcycle could not be more different. The KTM 1190 Adventure has a fairly sophisticated, electronically controlled system versus the Honda’s manual adjustments (it is a CRF, after all). KTM’s WP active adaptive suspension and built-in steering stabilizer gives the rider solid confidence for rapidly riding over choppy roads composed of gravel, dirt, and roughed up tarmac surfaces.
A good example of the adaptation was when I inadvertently hit a pothole and did not feel the usual jolt on the pothole’s backside that I had been expecting. Additionally, the KTM’s damper settings can be quickly toggled through three settings—Sport, Street, and Comfort—and there is a noticeable difference in feel between these settings. The KTM also allows for electronically setting four spring-preload presets—Solo, Solo with Luggage, Two-up, and Two-up with Luggage. For this ride, the Solo setting was used and felt comfortable for my 200-plus pounds.
Even though the Africa Twin’s suspension settings are manually set, the motorcycle does have a fairly straightforward and easily accessible spring-preload adjustment knob. Because previous riders’ weights were close enough to mine, I did not adjust the preload and still felt comfortable through the varying surfaces.
Like any dirt motorcycle with adjustable suspension settings, adjusting the CRF1000L’s rebound and compression damping response requires a flat-blade screwdriver and patience to dial in a setting for both rider weight and luggage. As with the pre-load setting for this ride, both damping settings were already dialed in for my weight and skill level so I left them alone.
As for throttle response, the KTM is rather lively and edgy, adhering to KTM’s Ready to Race approach. In contrast, the Honda’s power delivery was more refined, akin to a sports sedan—quiet and subtly powerful. One trait both motorcycles clearly exhibited was easily reaching extra-legal speeds, and then maintaining those speeds no matter what type of road surface was encountered.
Both motorcycles are equipped with four engine-power modes. The KTM 1190 Adventure shows a choice of Sport, Street, Rain (which limits power to 100 horsepower) and Offroad, with the latter setting turning off the ABS. Honda however, changes the power in combination with the operation of the DCT. This means a standard Drive mode plus a Sport mode, with three levels of aggression in each. For the day’s ride, though, the modes were kept in the sport-oriented setting for highway speeds. The KTM was switched to Offroad and the Honda to Drive mode when traversing various unpaved Carrizo Plain roads.
My comparison ride also allowed me the opportunity to compare Honda’s DTC transmission to KTM’s six-speed manual transmission. Because I come from an off-road motorcycle racing background, I inherently favor manual shifting. Unsurprisingly, the KTM 1190 Adventure’s hydraulic clutch met my expectations with easy, smooth shifting and enough gear ratios to run from low-speed to very fast highway speeds. Unlike other hydraulic clutch setups I have used, this KTM 1190’s clutch was not grabby.
As for Honda’s DCT transmission, shifting between gears is very smooth with moderate acceleration and deceleration, and a bit more noticeable feel with hard acceleration. I did toggle between the Sports and Drive modes depending on the road and riding conditions and noted that the Drive mode was definitely for open highway use.
As Arthur Coldwells noted in his review of the 2016 Honda VFR1200X with the DCT transmission, a rider can quickly become comfortable with this clutch lever-free approach, which I found myself doing except for one riding habit—I kept grabbing for the clutch lever when I wanted to downshift while braking. Using my thumb to downshift will take some getting used to.
My only significant criticism of both motorcycles pertains to the windscreen, specifically the angle and height. At a little over six-foot and in my neutral sitting position, I discovered the fairing angle directed the wind right into my helmet’s face shield and generated an excessive amount of wind noise. I initially thought the HJC SY-Max III had a design flaw. However, after standing on the footpegs where I was well above the windscreen, the wind noise quickly abated down to an almost non-existent level. I verified this issue when I sat back down and moved my left hand over the windscreen top to disrupt the flow, which resulted in the wind noise also fading off to a more normal level.
If I had to choose which motorcycle to purchase, my selection would be the 2016 KTM 1190 Adventure ever so slightly over the 2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT. The main two reasons—I felt like I fit on the KTM 1190’s seat more comfortably than the Honda Africa Twin’s seat, and I could ride standing on the KTM more relaxed than standing up on the Honda. Certainly, both motorcycles admirably handled the differing ride conditions and paces and clearly show their strength as long-haul adventure touring machines.
|2016 Adventure Comparison Specs||Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT||KTM 1190 Adventure|
|Motor||Parallel twin||75-degree V-twin|
|Bore x stroke||92 x 75mm||105 x 69mm|
|Maximum power||94 horsepower||148 horsepower|
|Valve train||Unicam 8-valve||DOHC 8-valve|
|Clutch||Automatic/semi-automatic dual clutch||Manual slipper|
|Frame||Stell semi-double cradle type||Chromoly steel trellis|
|Front suspension/travel||Fully adjustable inverted 45mm Showa cartridge forks/9.1″||Semi-active WP EDS inverted 48mm forks/7.5″|
|Rear suspension/travel||Linkage-assisted, spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable Showa shock/8.7″||Linkage assisted Semi-active WP EDS shock/7.5″|
|Front brakes||310mm floating discs w/ 4-piston calipers||320mm discs with Brembo 4-piston calipers|
|Rear brake||256mm disc w/ single-piston caliper||267mm disc w/ Brembo 2-piston caliper|
|ABS||Standard||Standard Bosch 9ME|
|Front tire||90/90-21; Dunlop Trailmax tube-type||120/70-19; Continental TKC 70 Twinduro (not stock)|
|Rear tire||150/70-18; Dunlop Trailmax tube-type||170/70-17; Continental TKC 70 Twinduro (not stock)|
|Wheels||Wire spoked||Wire spoked|
|DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES|
|Wheelbase||62.0 inches||61.4 inches|
|Rake||27.5 degrees||26 degrees|
|Seat height||34.25 (standard)/33.0 (low position)||33.9 inches|
|Ground clearance||9.8 inches||8.7 inches|
|Dry weight||533 pounds||463 pounds|
|Colors||Red/white/black; silver||Orange; gray|
|Price/MSRP||From $13,699||From $16,999|
2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT vs. 2016 KTM 1190 Adventure Gallery