2018 Honda Africa Twin: Three things you'll like and two you won't
The 2018 Honda Africa Twin doesn't have a raft of great changes to boast about. But in that typically understated Honda way, it makes the few changes produce an outsize result. Because the 2018 is clearly a vastly improved motorcycle by all counts. We have a separate story that details the changes to the 2018 Honda Africa Twin but in essence most of the magic lies in the new engine management and the new ride-by-wire system. But it makes the ride experience vastly better.
Between the 15kg extra the DCT model carries over the manual Africa Twin and the mild nature of the power delivery and modest output, the 2017 Africa Twin felt slow. This was made worse in Drive mode which lives for upshifts and fuel economy. I mean tank range, of course. The 2018 model gets a bolstered mid-range as well as a crisper throttle thanks to the new electronics. It doesn't sound very evocative on the stock exhaust but when you nail the gas, it doesn't feel sleepy even in Drive. In S2 or S3 the top two Sport modes, it gathers pace at a rapid clip. Awesome!
Like: Ride quality
When you add enormous amounts of travel to a suspension, you open the door for a pogo stick instead of a controlled ride. The 2017 could feel extra-pitchy reacting easily (but smoothly) to every small braking or throttle input. It made the ride feel plush to the point of squishy and it took a while for you to gather that there's wasn't really a wallow to complain of anywhere. The 2018 feels more controlled. The chassis pitch remains stable through more things now. This makes cornering to the very edge of the skinny tyres confident and Honda's done this without really compromising the Africa Twin's ability to take bigger hits in its stride.
Like: The new switch cluster
The rocker switch on the 2017 model could be confusing. The 2018's cluster is easier to work with. The fact the dash's screen is better organised just makes it easier to ride the bike.
Dislike: Transmission still not perfect
Honda's proved their point with the DCT automatic gearbox. It works and it works rather well in most situations. Being unable to stall the bike, in fact, is a boon for new riders heading off-road for the first time.
But when you're on a twisty road, you'll find the transmission lazy now and again. It'll not change when you think it should and this happens in both up and down changes in the zone from the entry to the apex of a corner. Throttle work is sensitive in this part of a corner and perhaps the small adjustments throw the logic map off its usually good groove. But just the 2017, I found myself downshifting manually into turns to ensure my progress wasn't interrupted.
Dislike: That screen!
It's too tall for Indian conditions! And once it gets dirty, it blocks considerable forward vision too. If you're getting one, locate a smaller screen and if needed, add a lip 'spoiler' if needed for any buffeting.
I love the feel and design of the Honda Africa Twin. It cuts both a striking pose and a distinctive silhouette so easily. The crispness, the response and the sense of control elevates a terrific old Africa into a tremendous one for 2018. I do still want three things, though. First, more colours. Second, the Adventure Sport model. And finally, the manual transmission model. Because the Africa Twin is a great choice for hardcore off-road riders with superb highway ability. But I'd like a bigger choice than take the red automatic or leave it.