They say age is just a number, but tell that to my hip, which decided that my “active lifestyle” was too much and has packed it in. As I struggle to throw my leg over the 34.3-inch seat height of the 2022 Honda Africa Twin, I question my unquenchable thirst for adventure and the motorcycles that will take me there.
Realistically, most of my adventure riding these days consists of long-distance road touring with dirt roads and trail riding at my destination. I realized a while ago that 500+ pound adventure bikes loaded with gear are not so much fun in very challenging off-road conditions. Don’t get me wrong. Having the flexibility to go down any road I find with the confidence that my bike can handle it is fantastic, and I love having that option even when I don’t exercise it.
The Honda Africa Twin is a perennial favorite and on any short list when considering the purchase of an adventure motorcycle. The AT sits in a bit of a unique spot. With a 1084cc engine and weighing in at 529 pounds with the DCT, it has the dimensions of an open-class adventure bike. However, with 100 horsepower on tap and more of a dirt bike look and feel, it has more in common with middleweights than the 1200-and-larger ADV motorcycles.
As an avid adventure bike tourer, I have ridden or owned many kinds of adventure touring bikes over the years. I gravitate towards the upright stance, and I love the versatility that comes with them. While the Africa Twin has been on my list for a long time, it has never made its way into my garage.
Despite its good looks, reputation, and reliability, the numbers never added up for me. A 529-pound motorcycle with only 100 horsepower and a seat that didn’t look super comfortable, the Africa Twin didn’t seem competitive with other bikes in the category for my needs. I knew there was probably more to the AT, so I was anxious to get to know the Honda better.
My first impressions when picking it up? The Africa Twin is good-looking. The front lights look serious and ready for business. The proportions and appearance of the AT make it look like an overgrown dirt bike that was ready for some fun, though the seat still didn’t look comfortable. The high stance and 21-inch front wheel made me think it wouldn’t be as fun in the twisty canyons around LA. However, once I threw my leg over the seat, it felt well-built and proportional.
Starting up the engine was a huge surprise for me. The reputation of Honda powerplants precedes it, so I was expecting some buttery smooth Japanese mill to fire up. Instead, I got a loud clattering engine more like a single-pot dirt bike than a buttery smooth adventure tourer. It didn’t sit right with me initially.
The next impression wasn’t much better than the engine sound. Looking at the cockpit, all the switches and buttons on various parts of the handlebar, and the Africa Twin’s two screens, I immediately felt that it is too cluttered. I was certain I would find uses for all the controls, but there had to be a cleaner way to execute it. As I pulled out, searching for the turn signal, I immediately hit the horn, something I would do again and again as I rode the Africa Twin.
Out on the street and then accelerating onto the highway ramp, the Africa Twin’s engine started to show its character. The initial clattering sound gave way to a much smoother sound, providing linear power with much more thrust than I expected. Although there were still some vibes in the grips, the engine started to hum along in a very nice way. I wouldn’t say it is the fastest 1000+ cc adventure bike I’ve ever ridden, but I never felt it was underpowered.
Weaving through LA traffic, I got a feel for the AT’s nimbleness and maneuverability. Those feelings continued throughout the test, regardless of conditions. When it came time for sport riding, the Africa Twin provided very spirited canyon riding and high-speed passes on Angeles Crest Highway.
The standard model I tested has adjustable Showa suspension, though not the semi-active electronic suspension of the Adventure Sports ES edition. Fortunately, the suspension as it comes is terrific, providing a firm ride and well-planted feel.
The Africa Twin’s soaked up the various imperfections of the tarmac but never felt too soft or washy like some adventure bikes can. I did not make any adjustments to the suspension, though I would probably soften up the settings a little if I were to do long-distance touring and off-road. For the canyon riding and traffic dodging I did in Southern California, it was set up perfectly.
Like most adventure bikes, the Honda Africa Twin is not for the vertically challenged. At 6-foot with a 31-inch inseam, the balls of my feet were on the ground at stops, but the seat still felt high.
Most of my personal bikes are taller scramblers or adventure bikes, as I prefer the leverage of that height in the turns. The Africa Twin, with its 21-inch front wheel and long travel suspension, isn’t quick in transitions, but it never feels ponderous. On a day dedicated to photography in the Angeles National Forest, I was chasing Ultimate Motorcycling Editor Don Williams on a much faster BMW S 1000 XR. I kept up, though it’s possible Don was just being nice. Editor’s Note: He wasn’t.
Keeping up with a motorcycle like the XR requires setting up the Africa Twin in the right way to get the most performance for how I ride. Luckily the AT offers quite a bit of adjustability and customization.
Like many motorbikes today, the 2022 Honda Africa Twin has a variety of dash-controlled ride modes that allow you to adjust power, engine braking, traction control, wheelie control, and ABS (as well as suspension, if you have the Adventure Sports ES and its semi-active suspension). The AT comes with four preset riding modes, plus two fully customizable modes.
The four preset modes are Tour, Urban, Gravel, and Off-road. Each mode has appropriate levels of electronic intervention, and allows for easy switching in different riding conditions. Oddly, there was no designated Sport mode, though the two User modes means you can customize a sport mode (or two) to your taste.
The Africa Twin I tested has the dual clutch transmission (DCT, an $800 option). Love it or not, it works very well. I will admit I am not a fan of automatic transmissions, as there is something about using a clutch and picking the shift points that appeals to me. That being said, I enjoy using a quickshifter on standard transmissions in certain circumstances, and I like the shiftless power delivery of electric motorcycles.
My biggest issue with DCT is that it tends to shift up too quickly and down too slowly, and I often found myself in 5th or 6th gear at much slower speeds than I would like. This made trying to keep up with Don challenging regardless of how much “power” I dialed in the User mode.
Luckily, the Honda has given the Africa Twin customizable power, ABS, traction control, engine braking, and shifting aggressiveness to tailor the experience to exactly what a rider wants. The AT also provides for manually changing gears with paddle shifters around the left grip, though they won’t allow you to upshift too soon or downshift too aggressively.
After experimenting with the various drive modes, I dialed in the User mode for more power and aggressive engine braking. DCT Sport level 2 executes sporty shift points without being too aggressive.
I like the three display modes the Africa Twin offers for its console. Each mode provides increasing levels of information on the display. I like a lot of information in front of me, so I settled on the highest level.
Honda throws quite a bit of technical wizardry at you, along with a cockpit that has a corresponding complexity. I was initially overwhelmed by it all. However, the more I rode the motorcycle, the more I got used to it. Once I adjusted everything to my liking, I truly enjoyed riding the Africa Twin. The 2022 Honda Africa Twin DCT is sporty and comfortable for road riding, yet it still feels like a big, fun dirt bike.
While I didn’t put it to the test in aggressive off-road riding, the times I did get into the dirt, the Africa Twin felt composed and confidence-inspiring despite riding on road-biased Metzeler Karoo Street tires. As mentioned above, the AT sits in a bit of an odd spot between the middleweight and heavyweight ADV segments.
The standard 2022 Honda Africa Twin with DCT is priced at $15,299, which compares to other middleweight ADV motorcycles. While the power-to-weight ratio may not appear favorable, the seat of the pants feel tells a different story. The Africa Twin should be on the shortlist for anyone wavering between the middleweights and heavyweights of the class.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai XD4
- Communications: Cardo Packtalk Bold
- Jacket: Alpinestars Valparaiso 2 Drystar
- Gloves: Racer Gloves USA Kansas
- Jeans: Alpinestars Pro Denim
- Boots: The Executive by Cortech
2022 Honda Africa Twin DCT Specs
- Type: Parallel-twin w/ 270-degree crankshaft
- Displacement: 1084cc
- Bore x stroke: 92.0 x 81.5mm
- Compression ratio: 10.1:1
- Valvetrain: SOHC, 4vpc
- Fueling: Two 46mm throttle bodies
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Fully and semi-automatic DCT w/ slipper function
- Final drive: 525 chain
- Frame: Steel, semi-double-cradle
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa 45mm inverted fork: 9.1 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable Showa shock; 8.7 inches
- Wheels: Wire-spoke tubeless
- Tires: Metzeler Karoo Street
- Front tire: 90/90 x 21
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 18
- Front brakes: 310mm floating discs w/ radially mounted 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 256mm disc w/ single-piston caliper
- Parking brake: Cable-actuated single-piston caliper on rear disc
- ABS: Standard (adjustable)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 62.0 inches
- Rake: 27 degrees
- Trail: 4.4 inches
- Seat heights: 34.3 or 33.5 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.8 inches
- Fuel capacity: 5.0 gallons
- Curb weight: 529 pounds
- Color: Grand Prix Red
2022 Honda Africa Twin DCT Price: $15,299 MSRP