Torqueing Heads: Talking Motorbikes

EP4 - Review: a year on Honda's 2020 Africa Twin

January 01, 2021 Bennetts BikeSocial Season 1 Episode 4
Torqueing Heads: Talking Motorbikes
EP4 - Review: a year on Honda's 2020 Africa Twin
Chapters
0:00
Introduction
0:58
Main updates for 2020
3:09
Say no to A2
4:01
More power and revs please
4:56
Which model do we have?
5:40
Motorway miles
8:25
Heated grips
9:18
515 miles in a day
11:30
Too many buttons
15:15
Night time riding
19:30
Apple Car Play
21:15
The Africa Twin caché
25:30
Dealership convenience
26:23
Off-road?
27:21
Suspension
30:35
Comfort and weather protection
32:47
Screen
36:50
Wide bars... or not?
38:52
White frame, cleaning and corrosion
43:28
MPH vs MPG
44:19
Side-stand and quick shifter
45:30
Better than an NC750?
Torqueing Heads: Talking Motorbikes
EP4 - Review: a year on Honda's 2020 Africa Twin
Jan 01, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Bennetts BikeSocial

Honda updated their uber popular Africa Twin for 2020 with a raft of improvements including  a larger capacity engine, more power, a 6-axis IMU, loads of electronics plus Apple Car Play. The three models each comes with a standard manual gearbox or DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) and there's a standard and more off-road oriented bike, then two versions of the Adventure Sports. One came with semi-active suspension. 
For the calendar year of 2020 BikeSocial's three brigadiers; Steve Rose, Michael Mann and Luke Brackenbury all put the miles in and so took 48 minutes of their time to discuss the main positive bits and the not-so-brilliant parts. 
This episode is also available on the Bennetts YouTube channel too.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Honda updated their uber popular Africa Twin for 2020 with a raft of improvements including  a larger capacity engine, more power, a 6-axis IMU, loads of electronics plus Apple Car Play. The three models each comes with a standard manual gearbox or DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) and there's a standard and more off-road oriented bike, then two versions of the Adventure Sports. One came with semi-active suspension. 
For the calendar year of 2020 BikeSocial's three brigadiers; Steve Rose, Michael Mann and Luke Brackenbury all put the miles in and so took 48 minutes of their time to discuss the main positive bits and the not-so-brilliant parts. 
This episode is also available on the Bennetts YouTube channel too.

Michael Mann
Hello, I'm Michael Mann for Bennetts BikeSocial, and welcome to the latest episode of Torqueing Heads. And the big news is that we're now a podcast. So if you don't want to look at us, then you can listen to us, or if it's a bit more convenient that way, so be it, so giving you options. Anyway, in this episode, we're going to be talking about this, it's the 2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports, and we've had it as a long-term bike for the last 10, 11 months.

It's been split between Steve Rose, Luke Brackenbury and I. So we're going to talk about the good bits, the not so good bits and everything you need to know.

Gents, cool, thanks so much for coming along. It didn't take you long, steve did it just to move to your sofa, so... 

Luke Brackenbury
You made me come in... 

Michael Mann
...forced into it. So the 2020 model - main updates, well, there's a lot of updates. I think it, while it looks fairly similar to the outgoing bike, you know, more tech, more engine capacity so therefore more performance, lighter weight, it's got the 6-axis IMU. It's got the new computer system. It's got the twin screen. There's a lot going on with this. Do you think that the old version needed the upgrades? 

Luke Brackenbury
You know, as a flagship model for Honda, they've got to keep it updated, keep it out there, you know, with Euro five and you've got to update a bike, it's a good opportunity to, to go through it front to back and was it 2016? It was the Africa Twin was, the brand was relaunched. So they've got a lot of 87,000 models sold or something before this year. Exactly. So they've got a lot of customer feedback so they can start going. Yeah. Okay. We probably could put a lower seat height and actually a detachable sub frame would stop bikes getting written off so easily.

So I think there's a good chance to bring in customer feedback, plus, you know, there's Honda, they'll, they'll go, okay. We can make it better. The thing with making bikes is there's a cut off point. You know, like they can keep developing and developing but someone says you need to stop right now because we need to put them into production.

And as soon as they put that into production, they carry on anyway. It's not like they take a, take a pause so much. Maybe take the afternoon off, but then they're already working on next one. Exactly. Because they know where it can go. 

Steve Rose
I think the other interesting thing with that is that, you know, if you're Honda, this was a, this was a new model in 2016 for them.

And, you know, and they've got a whole load of customers who bought it and loved it, who are now coming to the end of their finance agreements. And, and so I guess, you know, from Honda's point of view, you want them to buy another one. So, but you've got to get into w you know, there's gotta be something about the new one that makes them want to, you know, part-ex and get it.

And also there's a, there's a lot of stuff happening in motorcycling at moment. You think of how many bikes we've seen, you know that were launched two or three years ago that didn't have a TFT display, for example. And TFT seems to just, just now become obligatory. So, you know, so a bike that was launched even a few years ago looks quite old now because everything else has come out since has had, you know, all this tech and all this stuff.

And you've got, they're in this sort of technology war aren't they, where they've got to keep up.

Michael Mann
We take it for granted, for sure. I think one of the, I think one of the most interesting points was that they took, well they increased the capacity. They took horsepower from 94 to 100, which is not a massive increase, but of course it makes a big difference because you can't then A2 it.

But I believe that Honda kind of went well, we don't really need to, because no one was doing that anyway. 

Luke Brackenbury
There was a big wave of people going, right we're  going to A2 lots of, you know, the 1050 Adventure from KTM. You know, how many people bought that as A2? You know, I think it's just, you could do that, but realistically... 

Michael Mann
They were trying to entice a crowd that wasn't there. In which case do you think they should have done more than a hundred brake horsepower?

Luke Brackenbury
It's funny. When you look at the, when you look at the dyno curves on the review that we've got from, from Simon earlier in the year overlaying the previous model and this model, you can see it looks like it's deliberately flattened off on the outgoing one, but riding it this morning, you know, just on the way here, it just revs out too early, you know, you feel like there's so much more to come from the engine really. Is it enough? I think, riding solo, and I'm not a big guy and with a bit of luggage on it's fine, but you know, if I was going during the big miles two-up with a lot of luggage on it, I want a bit more, a bit more power; 120 would be, yeah, be nice.

Michael Mann
You want more revs as well? 

Luke Brackenbury
It's a Honda thing that I've found with non-sporty bikes. I had a CB 1300 S years ago for a year and that, you know, you'd go on an overtake or you you'd be on it. And then you'd be like, Oh, it's pulling, it's pulling. It hits the rev limiter it did that to me this morning. I just drove out this roundabout and it's like putting the brakes on.

It's like, give me another 5000-1,000rpm just over rev. But I think the engine is obviously got loads more potential from it, but I guess that's the sweet spot for them. They feel it's fuel economy, just the feeling from the engine itself, you know, it's not over the top. It's not intimidating. It's friendly. It's predictable. It's a nice, nice engine. It's not an exciting engine though. 

Michael Mann
I just want clarify that it's the Africa Twin Adventure Sports with the electronic suspension. So of the three levels of Africa Twin there's the base model. Don't know whether I'm supposed to call it base model, but there's a base model, which is much lighter and it's much more off-road oriented isn't it? Then there's the Adventure Sports. Then there's the Adventure Sports with the electronic suspension. Each of those three have got manual or DCT gearboxes 

Luke Brackenbury
Six in total. 

Michael Mann
Yep. Yup. 

Luke Brackenbury
And then there's the plus... 

Michael Mann
...and then you get the plus pack, which is a host of accessories for like two and a half grand, something like that

Luke Brackenbury
Yeah. A little bit less than three. So yeah. 

Michael Mann
Yeah. So yeah, just to clarify, it's the Adventure Sports that we've got with the leccy suspension and DCT. No.

Steve Rose
No, ours is just the manual. It's a manual one 

Luke Brackenbury
Manual with semi-auto...

Michael Mann
Brilliant. Steve, you've done a hundred million thousand bazillion motorway miles in about a week on this, back in, the, back in last winter when everything was a little bit freer. How did you find it on the motor? I do. And all those motorway miles. So you're doing one 150, you doing about 300 miles a day? 

Steve Rose
Something like that. So, yeah, My, my house is conveniently 160 miles from the office. So, yeah, a lot of my, I picked the bike up in February.

I think it was, it was early February when we got it. And by the time we were locked down, which was sort of six weeks later, I think I'd done about 2,600 miles on it. Most of those models were motorway and funnily my experience is almost the opposite to Luke's regarding the engine. I never run out revs cause I was just always sitting at motorway speeds and, you know, occasional overtakes, occasionally, you know, getting a bit giddy down a slip road, perhaps there's about 10 miles of my journey that isn't motorway. So, so for me, I, I love the fact that it had enough mid range power. I could sit there in, you know, in either kind of fourth, fifth or sixth gear and overtake really easily on it. I could average kind of 65, 70 miles an hour, even in the heaviest traffic. And I was also averaging somewhere between 60 and 65 to the gallon ocne it was run-in which for me was, you know, I'd much rather have I'd much rather be on average 65 miles an hour and 65 to the gallon than than have 150 horsepower. I never noticed it, you know, but that's, you know, that reflects we're very different riders, we want kind of different things. Do different things with it. For me, the interesting thing about this bike was it's, it's a very functional motorcycle and, and Honda probably won't want me, won't  like us saying that, you know, I, when I think of this bike, I think of words like dependable and comfortable and safe and reassuring, all the things that you want when you've got 150 miles to go and it's blowing 60 mile an hour gale and chucking it down and, and you just want to get home. And for me, I loved it. I love the fact that I get on it in the morning, you know, six o'clock in the morning, knowing that, you know, the pretty horrendous weather for three hours and I was still going to enjoy riding it. I was still going to get to work with a smile on my face with my hands warm and, you know, and it's something about, we shouldn't take those things for granted. You know, if you're, if you're riding in 60 mile an hour cross winds, you know, you put a lot of faith in the fact that the aerodynamics will work and a 21 inch front wheel is probably gives you more stability than a 17 inch front wheel might give you, and all that kind of stuff that we take for granted, but actually, you know, you love it. So yeah, mostly motorway miles... 

Luke Brackenbury
...hey love's a strong word, Steve. Love's a strong word. 

Michael Mann
Did you love the heated grips, how about that?

Steve Rose
Anybody who rode the previous one  I think when I got, when I first got on this bike, my first question was a) how did the heated grips work because it's February, and are there any good because the previous model, heated grips were an option on that and you would have been very disappointed if you paid money for those heated grips because they were never warm enough and Honda's excuses why they were never warm enough were never quite convincing enough, bearing in mind that KTM, Ducati and BMW managed to make heated grips that worked perfectly well and on this bike they do well, this part they're fine. And they're standard kit on certain models 

Luke Brackenbury
From 'love' to 'really enjoy', 

Michael Mann
Downtuning already 

Luke Brackenbury
'Really liked', or, you know

Michael Mann
Averagely happy. Luke, go on, you did a big old journey didn't you, you had a monster journey once, right?

Luke Brackenbury
Yeah. I've you know, I've...this bike... yeah. I wanted to do a really long journey to try and find the things I love about it 'cause I've got a lot of like for it. 

Michael Mann
That's a good point. Because you didn't did you? The first time you got on this, you didn't have a lot of love, right? 

Luke Brackenbury
No. And there's still a lot of things that really irk me about every time I get on it, like Steve says that reliable, dependable, you know, it's going to get you there and you're going to be comfortable and it's always going to work. And the fuel economy is good and it's, you know, it's got that premium feel to it. So there is all that, which is not always the kind of thing that fires you up about a motorycle, but it depends what you bought it for, but yeah, so I did just about 515 miles in a day on it, back in the summer. Cause I was like, right I want to, I need a long day in the saddle just to try and really learn this bike. You know, I was doing sort of hundred mile trips or 50 mile trips or come to the office but I was like come on let's do a big one. And, yeah, really the roads I went up through from Peteborough where we are through, Lincolnshire Wolds up to across the Humber Bridge to Scarborough, all the nice back roads. Then across from Scarborough to across the Yorkshire Moors to a Morecambe to go and see McGuinness. And then it was a, well those roads stunning, so amazing down there. And then I sort of took the, the kind of boring motorway M6 slog back to kind of, you know, it was a bit later that day, but to give it that long bit in the saddle that Steve's done a lot of. So, and in that time, you know, I wasn't uncomfortable at the end, I got off the bike at one o'clock in the morning and I was not aching. My neck didn't hurt. The wind protection was good. My joints didn't hurt. I was just tired from obviously concentrating that long. And I had, I had, I had a right laugh on it, on those, on those roads.

I would have preferred to have been on a lot of other bikes over it and certainly they're some of the best roads in the country, but you know, I didn't think, oh, it's 21 inch front wheel and do I really want that. And this is before we put the Dunlops on it, Steve, you know, it was, but I wasn't out there to try and break lap records, I was just trying to, to get there and have fun. And I did have a real good time on the bike, but I still never got like, the real hang of the switch gear. And that's you think after all that sort of time, and you talk about the heated grip, Steve, but heated grips is a two button operation on both sides of the bars.

And you got this big block on the left and it's, it's just not intuitive. And I'm of the generation where I've come up through, you know, all the technology I'm 40 years old nearly and all the technology would come in, just kind of we're adaptable and we can learn quite quickly and I've found that from the minute that we handed over the bike, Steve, from, from you to me and you leftand I was in that service station car park for half an hour trying to sync up the phone and my Bluetooth audio and to get the CarPlay working. I was there for ages. I'm thinking, why can't I do this, you know? And, and in the end, I quit, but halfway on the journey back, it kicked into life itself and I was like, okay. So when that sort of stuff works, it's beautiful, but it's just not intuitive. We did that test earlier in the year with Si Hargreaves and within half a mile on the, on the Triumph you like, on the Tiger, that's how it should be done. That's one button, one dial on the, on the left switch that you toggle up down backwards and forwards.

And there's just things like that that just get on my nerves, even riding it today where the indicator is, it's just not where, after twenty-five years of riding motorbikes the indicator switch is not where you just expect it to be. So, or the horn. So in those frantic moments where someone's annoyed that I'm stabbing it, then I'll put it on to off road mode and it's, it's just almost like they didn't work together. The development people or people who ride motorbikes towards the end to go, like we've got all this amazing technology when that CarPlay's working, and I love it with my phone. You can send your ETA, you know, through the, the left switch, like, you know, running a bit late or when I was going to McGuinness, it's like, this is when I'm going there, so make sure you're at your house. And just your audio tracks and that when that's all working, it's beautiful. And if it's not a work and you've got the bum basic LCD display that, but...

Michael Mann
Playing devil's advocate and I'm not, I'm not, you know, I've got Honda branding on here, but if you were a customer, if you're going to buy this bike and it would take you a day, half an hour, a week, whatever it took to get used to it, do you think that's...

Luke Brackenbury
I spoke to people and they just go I just leave it in that, I leave in that mode. So, regardless of the fact all the amazing things it can do and how you can spec it up, they go I'll just, I'll just leave it like that. Maybe they're a little bit fearful of trying it, or they just think, well, that feels right for me. And there's no, there's no knocking that, you know, I spoke, I spoke just this last weekend to a guy who's got the previous model and I was sort of, we were talking about this and it's like, you don't need all that stuff, but it was a bit like, you know, it was always the, also, you don't need ABS. I was like, come on, we're not having that chat. Everyone needs ABS. He's like, well, okay, yeah I've used it once. So it's, I don't feel like I need to upgrade to 1100. I don't want that level of technology. And I suppose there are, you know, I think it's Honda put this as the average age of 44. Yeah. For buying this. And it's, I dunno, the tech's there but it just, I'm just still, after all this time, it's not intuitive for me to use. I've got my standard set in now. I've got it plugged in on pretty much in how I've got the touring mode set up for me and I'm fine.

I like the way it displays there and the power mode and that, but then I just, like on that long road, I was on the way back and the switchgear's, not back lit. I'm still trying to look at it cause it's still not, it's just not natural to use it. And like I say, you jump onto like a Tiger 900 or a KTM and you've got it straight away. You've got all that technology, you've got the, the menu function and you just, Oh, that's easy. So I want to explore it because it's easy not going, or I'm a bit fearful. There's I'm not quite sure what I'm doing. 

Michael Mann
Steve, there's 16 buttons on that, across that dash but when you first jumped on it, were you in the same sort of situation as Luke, did it take you a while to get used to it?

Steve Rose
It was worse for me because it was, it was winter and so it was dark. And so, so my first you know, because, the one issue I have really with, with that left-hand switch cluster in particular is there are so many buttons on it and they're not lit. So, so you ride it home and you've got all this new stuff that you want to play with and you can't work out what any of it does, and like you said I did spend some time in the garage and I did sort of have a, have a go through it with a manual and try and work out. But the reality is for, for me, I, again, this is a reflection of the kind of rider I am. I'm not interested in that stuff. I need to know how the heated grips work. I need to know how to switch between the displays that tell me, you know, what my range is and what my trips saying, but I I'm kinda. I, I want ABS to be there. I don't want to have to program it. I don't want to have to decide what level of ABS I want, because I'm not going to take it off road.

You know, likewise with traction control, I want traction control to work. I don't want to have it. I don't want it to be my decision how much traction control I have, but that's me. And I think what Honda have obviously done is they've looked at the competition and they've said the competition are all selling large numbers of bikes and they have all these functions on it, we now have the Bosch IMU, we now have the capability to do all this stuff, so, so let's put it on there and I guess those people who want it can use it and will learn how to use it and love it. Those people who don't just end up with a massive carbuncle left-hand switch gear that they can't operate, but it doesn't really matter, you kind of get used to it.

And it's frustrating in a way, because I think that the interesting thing for me is that., GoldWings aside, Honda have traditionally not, they've not been as bothered about technology as other companys. Honda you know, Honda's philosophy has always been about engineering and let's make the bike work and they don't try and plaster things in electronics. And, and, and this is again, GoldWing aside, this is probably the first bike they've built where they put all this technology on it. And I think somewhere in the, in the rush to get it on there, they haven't spent as much time on the user experience and the functionality and the switch gear as they, as they maybe could have done.

And, and, you know, the next generation will be better in the same way as you know, the latest generations of BMWs, KTMs, and Ducatis and Triumphs are just much more intrusive because they're on version three or version four and it's the Honda, the Honda switch gear to me... I got used to it and in the end I worked out how to use it, but it's not the best switch gear that's out there. And bizarrely, I think it's, it's at odds with the rest of the bike. What we were saying earlier on about, about the Honda being dependable and reliable and well-built and all that kind of stuff that isn't sexy and doesn't sell bikes, if I was buying an adventure bike because I was planning a six month trip into the wilderness, I'd much rather have something that's going to be dependable and reassuring than, than something that's got all the latest tech that's going to break by the time I get to Tunisia. And, and so, so for me, it's sort of at odds, you know, Honda have built this thing, which is, is it genuinely, you feel like it's never going to break, it's never going to let you down. And then they've stuck this great Amstrad hifi on the left-hand handlebar that just worries me.

Luke Brackenbury
Yeah, I'd love to know how many sort of 1100 owners just go, do you know what I'm all right with that, I've got my that's my setting and I'm good. And I know how to turn the heated grips on.

I don't know. We need to sort of do a.. well it'll be interesting to see what comments we get to this, but yeah, I think some people just aren't bothered, but there is a bragging rights, isn't there to say yeah, it can do all that. And with, you know, the six-axis IMU, you got all that functionality, so why not add it? And again, like you say, you can ignore it, can't you, you know, the system defaults in a nice, safe way, traction on, the abs on, away you go.

Michael Mann
Yeah, it's got all those rider modes, so there's all the standard stuff. And then you can, and then you can work on your own setting too. I guess that's the part and parcel. If you're the owner you want to, you want to kind of pre-program that before you buy it, you don't want to have to pay for stuff that you're not using

Luke Brackenbury
You do a questionnaire during the buying process. And actually by the time you get there, you've got, they've dialled in for you. 

Michael Mann
We've already spoken about this on a different video about the amount of accessories and the amount of time it takes to buy a new bike or a new car these days, you could spend hours just going through all the list of options, but it's worth it perhaps if you don't then pay for the stuff that you don't use. 

Apple Play. Let's talk about Apple Play. Steve, did you use that?

Steve Rose
Not at all. you know, I, I I've, I've just about reached the point in technology where I plugged my heatd kit into the, into the 12 volt socket on the left-hand side. And I plugged my ancient iPod into the USB socket on the right-hand side to charge it. And I, and I've got Bluetooth helmet and so I powered, I use my iPod on my Bluetooth helmet rather than using the Apple Play on the bike and I apologise to Honda and their massive development team for that. I just, it was simple and when it's five o'clock and you just want to get home, I did that rather than it  

Luke Brackenbury
I mean, I love it when it's working. I mean, I'm a  big fan of that sort of stuff. I've just retrofitted a CarPlay system to my, to my van. And it's just, I love my iPhone so having that, when it's all work in the kind of Holy Trinity with the Bluetooth headset and the dash, it's amazing with you know how you can use the map functionality, just the calls and obviously your playlist and it really does, you know, when I, when it did kick in, it was really, it's been really intermittent for me when it wants to work. And I don't know if that's, you know, I use genuine Apple connection, a cable, whether  it's shaking at all or whatever,  but on that 515-mile trip, I think I had the CarPlay working for half that time.

But when it did work, it was, a thing of beauty, you know, I was trying to rely on the, on the map so I had my phone on a separate mount on the bars and it was mainly trying to use the, the Car Play for my route because I didn't know where I was going. I'd already planned it but when that wasn't working, then obviously it was back on the phone, which is not quite the same, what you want to be looking at, but it's yeah, I love that sort of technology I really do. And when it is easy and intuitive, it's a joy for me. It adds to that, you know, 

Michael Mann
We, we talked earlier about Steve, you mentioned Ducati and KTM and  BMW, as it's kind of closest rivals, do you reckon there's that kind of caché around around the Honda that, that takes it to that kind of level a Multistrada or a GS?

Steve Rose
I think so, I think that the GS is a separate entity because it's, you know, it's a whole subsection of motorcycling on his own. If I was going to buy a bike like this, I would, I would buy the Honda before I bought KTM and, or the Ducati just because, because the things I like about it, the things I want this bike to do, which as I said before, are more about function than flash.

I think this does well. I've ridden, I've done a lot of miles on a KTM 1290 Adventure, I've done less miles on a Multistrada, and they've all got things that make you smile, they've all got things that as test bikes they're great; you have them for a few weeks and hand them back, the things that appeal to me about those bikes aren't the things that would make me pay my own money for the bike and I liked, I really enjoyed the fact that the Honda has that kind of reassurance. I it's, it's a terrible thing to say, but you know, my experience of Ducati have been  much better recently. My experience of KTMs has recently been ruined by small niggles. I've never had big problems with them, never had big faults, but I've also, you know, I've had kind of niggles with them that made me think if I were going to go on that six month, big life-changing adventure. I, I trust that I was going to come back more readily and with less hassle on a Honda. And that sounds like a cliche. I know that I don't, I'm very aware that that one of the people in this conversation, has, you know, has a deeper history with KTM than the rest of us, that's kind of how I feel about it. And I think if you're going to buy one of these adventure bikes, if that's the fantasy that you're going to go off and do that big trip, then, then for me, that feeling of just kind of dependability makes massive difference. 

Michael Mann
So, we reckon that that stands at about 17 grand don't we, that, that we've got here...

Luke Brackenbury
...with what we've got on it..

With what we've got on it; we've got the centre stand then a couple of other bits on it. But if you so theoretically or hypothetically, if you had £17,000, where's your money going? 

Steve Rose
If I'm honest, if I had £17,000 and it was on an adventure bike, I'd buy a GS because I've because I, for what I want as a road bike, the GS does what I want it to do better and it's got more character and more personality. I, you know, I'm a long-term fan of GS's. The one thing, the ones in the GS doesn't do, that Honda does very, very, very well is when you open the garage door in the morning and you look at GS you kind of think. it's still a bit ugly. When you look at, when you open the garage door and look at the Africa Twin, and in those colors in particular is it's just such a beautiful motorcycle. Every time you see it, every time it catches your eye, you look at it and just think it's just gorgeous. And, and, you know, as sad as that sounds, it's quite important part of it, isn't it, you know, if you open your garage in the morning and look at that, you feel like a better person.

Luke Brackenbury
Looks are a very subjective though, and  I have sort of put that into, into my feeling about it. I think it is, as adventure, bikes go, it's a handsome machine and probably why they've not really changed it between the previous model. So I guess the feedback was that, you know, yeah, it looks all right, cause your GS is pig ugly.

You know, my two doors up neighbour, he he's, he's a GS owner and he's been really sort of looking at this Africa Twin. And he's come over a few times, I need to have is try one of those, you know, so I'm thinking, you know, here's a guy who has gone from a Tracer to a GS and now he's reached the, was it the epitome of adventure bikes, now he's going it's Africa twin looks quite good 

Michael Mann
He's got to a certain age, should we say 

Luke Brackenbury
Well, he's younger than me. He's younger than me and I, not that I'm old, but I guess it's far better looking bike, but getting back to what you said a minute ago, you know, about the big trips and, and one of the other plus points for me was is this badge, you know, Honda and particularly Africa Twin, because thinking about dealerships, you know, the spread of dealerships, you know, okay not just UK, but Europe, there's Honda dealerships everywhere. You know, and if you are going to some of the smaller brands like Ducati or KTM, you're not going to find as many dealers and you're gonna have to really travel for that. You know, it's that sort of thing in the mind when it comes to servicing and purchasing and any sort of issues with warranty, but Africa Twin, you know what you're getting with the bike as well. You know what it stands for, you know, sort of heritage, and I don't know how many people have taken this Adventure Sports version off road, but I suppose that's why they've been a lot more clearer on the two  different models. Some models was from the six this year what you're getting. So would I buy this; 17 grand, I think we spent that time on the Tiger 900 this year, and I really enjoyed that. It's not the same prestige, the same look, but I had a lot of fun on it. I could use it easily. It was... 

Michael Mann
Would you want to take that off road, or the Tiger? 

Luke Brackenbury
To be honest. No, none of them really, anyway, I could maybe like a fire road or gravel road for a bit of bragging rights and something for the Instagram, but, but really, you know, if you want to go off road buy an off-road bike you know, geez, 

Steve Rose
I still don't get the off-road thing on the... I, for me, the, these, these bikes are bikes that you, that they rode bikes, that you accept that in certain parts of your big adventure, you'll be riding on roads that are less than ideal, or maybe potholed, maybe a bit rough, but that's a big difference between that and off-road. I say, if you, an off-road bike for me, and I'm not an off-road rider, but an off-road bike for me is 130 kilograms and 40 horsepower. And, it's a CRF 250, like you've just bought that. That's an off-road bike to me taking something that weighs twice as much as the CRF 250 off road is a bit like taking a GoldWing on a track day, you know, it's, you're, you're taking something which is twice as big and twice as heavy as the things that normally inhabit that environment.

And, and why would you do I, I get it entirely that we haven't talked about suspension yet in all of this. And one of the things, you know, for those kinds of environments for that kind of, you know, when you hit, you know, a European country where the roads aren't as good as, as you know, lot Britain, for example, where the roads are terrible and, and suddenly you're, you're in the, you know, you've come from that lovely tarmac in France into back into Britain and all the potholes and all the crap, and you love the fact that you've got, you know, you've got proper... 

Luke Brackenbury
...long travel suspension and...

Michael Mann
...lots of good damping. 

Luke Brackenbury
Yeah, spoked wheels

Steve Rose
And, and, you know, for someone who's not, you know, I, I. I blow hot and cold with technology, but the latest generation of the, of the electronic suspension, on all, on all models to be fair. I think all manufacturers have got this, so right now, but, but, on the African Twin, in particular, the electronic suspension that's on there, it's just lovely. It's just, you just don't notice it. It does what it does and it sorts out everything that's going on underneath you and you just enjoy it and you never even think about it. You, you know, you can ride on some pretty, pretty nasty rural back roads and it just does it, and, and you're there on a 240 kilogram bike with big  handlebars, sat six feet off the ground and, and it just does everything you expect it to do

Luke Brackenbury
Steve, have you been in the non semi-active version of this bike?

Steve Rose
No. 

Michael Mann
Yeah, with that one we had on tests that was conventional and that was fine, I never thought, well, that's not, that's under-damped or it's too soft, you know? 

Yeah. When you, you, you get onto a bike of that size and you approach those types of corners in that particular mindset, you know, you're on a big, heavy thing that shouldn't necessarily, you know, you shouldn't be getting your knee down, but for a 21" wheeled adventure bike it handles really, really well. Surprisingly, well, I think, did I notice too much difference between the suspension? Perhaps I've not tested it enough with a pillion, with luggage to make, to notice that much of different. Certainly when switching between the modes that you can then know, how did you find it on your...

Luke Brackenbury
The manual suspension was, was fine in The Fens, you know, again, we weren't carrying big loads luggage or pillions so it was fine. So I'm not heavy and you know, it did work  nicely, but, I don't know, just need that 21" tyre? I'd like a 19/17 sort of combination on that, it works, works well. I suppose it is for the looks, it's what it's all about and the heritage. And we just talked about how many people will take it off road and it can do it, and I've seen plenty of videos and know people who've taken it. As soon as I picked it up from you, Steve, I went, Oh, I'm going to go on some of the green lanes near mine and, and managed to get it in some ruts, right up to the exhaust guard there. And I spent, it didn't really feel right standing up on this thing, knees hitting this big old tank there, I was like, don't think I'm going to be doing a lot of off-road riding on this. It's not like you say I was on my own and I got it pretty stuck. And it was like, yeah, what am I doing? This is not. It's not what it's for. 

Michael Mann
This is a 25 litre, well near enough a 25 litre tank, isn't it? So it's, so it's, it's much more of a tourer than an off-road or, which is why the, the base model is the 18 litre tank.

But I said, you know, I took the old version so that Dave Thorpe school and I was astounded, not astounded, I was impressed by what it could do, what it could do, not what I could do. There's no chance of me doing that, but I guess it's horses for courses, isn't it? It can do so many different things. It has got so many different options. It's all about tailoring it to your... but, but then, so are so many different bikes on the market now, you can, you can do the same, you know, there's almost too many options, but in terms of, just kind of taking it back to comfort, overall comfort, the seat technically is slightly lower, slightly slimmer. The, the screen is, adjustable...

I know it's been a bit of a bug bear of yours and while you sit and stew on that, let's talk to Steve about, about, look you, you you've done, you've already done lots and lots of miles on the, on the road, but in terms of comfort, in terms of, wind protection, weather protection, you'd kind of rode it in the worst kind of conditions that that Britain can offer. How was it for you? 

Steve Rose
It was really good. It was better than I expected because again, yeah, it's a narrower seat than, than before and you know, and a lot of kind of adventure bikes don't have, you know, if they go, if they go with that kind of genuine off-road look, they'll sacrifice for sometimes a bit of comfort, but he was really comfy though.

It's it's the whole riding position for me was just right. It's it's a really nice relationship between where the handlebars are, where your feet are and seat, and the kind of weight distribution. And, and the kind of wind pressure that comes off the screen. I never had a problem with comfort for the whole, it, I did a lot of 160-mile journeys.

I never did a journey. I don't think I ever did a journey on it that was longer than 160 miles but, it's in the kind of traffic I'm riding in, it's typically, you know, two and a half, maybe three hours on a bad day. and I just kind of sit there and just, you know, just always absolutely fine. No backaches, no bum aches, you know, no wrist aches.

No, I it's. It's, you know, two things I would say with it. I think the, the seat may be 50 millimeters lower than certainly the Adventure Sport model last year, it's still a very tall seat and, and the bike leans over a long way on a the side stand. So it's sort of, it makes it easier to get your leg over it.

But having got your, your right leg over it, it's still quite a heave to get it off the side stand then because it's lent so far over, particularly when you've got, you know, your thermals and your winter kit and your, you know, all that it's, you know, when you're padded up like a snowman it's, you know, just getting on the thing, take, this is a bit of a knack.

It takes you a while to get used to it. I'll talk about the screen before Luke does, cause I know Luke's got opinions. I found because because of the seat height, I had the seat in the lowest position. And then I had the screen on the lowest position too and what I found was it in daylight, I'm six foot and in daylight where you're, where you're looking a long way into the distance.

Because you can see into the distance, I'm, I was just looking over the top of the screen and I didn't find it a problem, but as soon as it got to, as soon as it got dark and you can't see into the distance anymore, you, your eyes naturally dropped back and you saw you look to where the edge of your headlights are and, and that meant looking through the screen rather than looking over it and with the seat in the lowest position and even the screen in the lowest position. I couldn't see over the screen, I had to look through the screen to look at where my headlights were and in the middle of winter, that screen by the time I get anywhere near home, that screen is usually filthy and covered in, you know. And, and so the last sort of 20, 30 miles when it got dark and, and the screen was dirty, I found myself kind of looking around riding by having to look around the edge of the screen, which is a shame because the headlines are actually really good, the headlights are powerful, and it's got cornering headlights, another benefit of having the, you know, the six axis IMU is that it's now got cornering headlights. Headlights are great but you know, you'd never see it. They don't throw a light as far as daylight. And that was the time I had a problem. The last 20 miles, every journey, I find myself kind of riding like that, trying to see around it. 

Luke Brackenbury
And I'm the same with it, with the screen and say, having to look round at, you know, particularly night time riding, like you said, the cornering lights are great, really good, but you can't, particularly at night, you can't, you have to sort of like really over the top get round it and yeah, also in the rain, he must've had some rain journeys, it's the sort of profile of it doesn't seem to shift the water. So it just kind of sits on that and sticks it to it. But you know, you're on five eight, your six foot, so for me, the seat on the lowest position, I'm the most comfortable when I come to a stop, you know, I try not to stop so much, but if you, you know, take my kids on the back of the Africa Twin, you want to have that kind of flat-footed assurance. But if I had the seat on the lowest and the screen on the lowest again, I was up and over and trying to not look through it, so I'd have to put the seat on the highest position with the screen lower to kind of be the optimum for me, it still wasn't perfect, but that sort of aside, and obviously it's difficult to make something that was going to fit everyone. You know, they bought the seat height lower, which is a great thing and you said about when you all togged up, I'm all winter togged up today, so it is quite hard cocking your leg over and you got these big baggy pants on. 

Michael Mann
Glad you said 'pants'

Luke Brackenbury
... baggy pants, MC hammer, you know, textiles on just, yeah,  flick it off the world's most leaning over side-stand ever. It's a bit of a Plava, but another thing that bothers me about the screen, it's again, you know, you'll know this, Steve, from your day's on Suzuki's GSX 1100 F had an electronic adjustable screen a billion years ago. Right? Why is this thing with its touchscreen dash, it's got a screen system that you have to use two hands with. It's alright if you go, all right, it's really chucking down and I agree with you, the weather protection on the bikers is great, but if you want a bit more, cause it's really chucking down, you have to put it on cruise control and then take your hands off the bars and lift it up or go, I'm going to pull over now and adjust my screen. I'll just. I can't see how that happens when there's so many of the manufacturers that have come up with a solution to do that either mechanically barbarically one handed, pulling it up, shoving it up, or dial adjusters on. Again, it's solid and neat, I guess, and weight saving. But. Oh, it's a bit annoying.

Steve Rose
I think the standard  Africa Twin actually has a shorter screen as well, doesn't it? So, so there is a shorter screen available.

Michael Mann
There's a higher screen available. 

Steve Rose
Oh right. 

Luke Brackenbury
I'd like an inch taken off. 

Michael Mann
Angle grinder. 

Luke Brackenbury
Junior hacksaw will be fine. You talking about comfort? Yeah, I definitely agree on the comfort thing just before we gloss over that, you know, the seat I did that 550 mile all comfortable. Just the bars, just a little bit too wide set for me, the thow's nice, and obviously you can rock them backwards and forwards and adjust them, and the height is great, but it's just, they're bit, bit wide. And, you know, from, from getting out of my gate in the morning, I have to open both sides of that, which I've always forget. I'm like, Oh crap. And you know, I can see it on my CCTV, you can hit the wood with the pegs, I've got to stop and open both gates to get it through. And even this morning coming to the office filtering through traffic, you're like, I can't do that. I really can't do that. It's just too much, you know, I'd love to kind of compare it to everything else, but it feels a lot wider. It looks a lot wider. And it's the difference between being in stationary  traffic going, oh, just going to have to sit behind this, which is not reasons why I ride motorbikes to sit behind cars. 

Steve Rose
It's funny because I didn't have a problem with that again, you know? Well, a lot of my journey is M25 and M11 and A14. And, and the bits of the M25 that are usually really busy are very busy and, and at the time I'm on there, it tends to be trucks rather than cars. So, so I was, I, last winter, I got very, analytical lets say about what can filter and what can't. And I go, I got obsessed with the high of mirrors and how that relates to a Ford transit mirror or, you know, whatever. And I got to the point where as you, as you processing a line of traffic, you can see, yeah, that's a VW van. I know I'm going to hit that mirror. I'm going to do, and you just get ridiculously kind of scientific about it and I didn't have a problem with it at all. There were lots of bikes. I did have a problem with. I didn't have any issue. I, I found that the mirrors on that were higher than your average car mirror, but not quite as high as a typical van mirror, and I didn't really have a problem with the bars. Maybe it's because it's motorways rather than, than kind of, you know, inner city roads. But I found it great. I was really, really, really pleased that we hadn't got a bike with panniers on it. Cause panniers would have, would have had quite a big impact on, I think the quite wide panniers... 

Luke Brackenbury
The top case that we've got for ours, you know, it's, it's nice, it's solid, it's locks great on it. It's gone from your, when you handed over from me from the, the winter to the sort of, spring months, it corroded a little bit, it lost its sort of finish on that. So I guess that needs a good, good sort of a smattering of ACF 50 on or something like that. But talk sort of talking about coroding it's held up you and you rode it through the crapper times that you can, there's no sign of that on their apart from that's the only thing on those on those box, top box, it just shows like salt's got to it really, but everything else, the finish on it is stunning really. Don't know what that white frame is going to look like over, over time but it's, you know, it's well-protected with guards and that on it, 

Steve Rose
Maybe because it had a white frame, but I cleaned it more in winter than I thought now, normally when I'm doing those kind of journey, because you get home and you, you feel you're so knackered when you get home, you often, you don't want to then spend 20 minutes, half an hour cleaning it, but I did clean it probably every week that I had it, partly because I was, I was curious to see what, you know, what was going to happen in the nooks and crannies of that frame and just, you know, just see how it was going to be anywhere that stared, caught a bit of corrosion. But I didn't see any. 

Luke Brackenbury
It's not an easy bike to clean. No, you need all the brushes and that there's a lot of nooks and crannies to get in. And, but it's, it's. Is held up well though, which is what you kind of expect 

Michael Mann
Honda build quality. Yeah, absolutely. I think it's well put together. It looks great. I want to mention a couple of things that we haven't spoken about so far, certainly highlights and lowlights for me; TFT screen six and a half inch screen is lovely and pretty, and it looks great, but it doesn't it take an age that when when you turn the ignition on, you sit in there? 

Luke Brackenbury
Oh yeah. It just take a while. And then it wants you to go for the warning screen to press okay. Yes. That's annoying. 

Michael Mann
It's not exactly a bike for a quick getaway, 

Luke Brackenbury
but that's that screen going up. The little LCD one at the bottoms already doing its thing.

Steve Rose
I do like the fact that they have the difference in corporate culture.

That when you turn on a KTM, it comes up with a screen that says 'we're ready to race'. And, and when you turn on the Honda, it basically comes up with a message from your mum that says, 'motorbikes are a bit dangerous, are you okay with that?'

Michael Mann
I want to highlight the torque of the engine as well, because I felt that that was a really positive point.

I liked the fact that it's got a good spread. I think it's. It's not, it sounds good. 

Luke Brackenbury
Do you like a good spread? 

Michael Mann
I do like a good spread. Yeah. Especially when it's nice and easy. From, from low down to, in the mid range to the top. And I know you said you didn't like the, sort of the revving out part, but I think performance wise for a bike of that size, that's what I like about it. If I want an adventure bike, I want, I want a bit of grunt and a bit of power. And I think that it actually almost defies 100 brake horsepower, but if it feels it's like he's got a bit more 

Luke Brackenbury
Think about the 790 Adventure engine though, compared to that, you know. 

Michael Mann
It's carrying around a lot more in terms of bulk and, and presence was something else I wanted to talk about... 

Luke Brackenbury
the 900, Triumph engine.

Michael Mann
Yeah. Very good. Very, very good. Yeah. Yeah. I'm not comparing it. I'm just saying that I like this engine. 

Luke Brackenbury
It's a nice engine. 

Michael Mann
Yeah. Yeah, 

Luke Brackenbury
It's your opinion. It's a nice engine. 

Michael Mann
I do like the Triumph for sure. I liked the triple, I like the character it's got, and I like the fact that it's got that, that probably that, that bit more energy, and it just gives you a bit more as a rider. It gives you a bit more of a feel. 

Luke Brackenbury
That's a very sportier bike compared to this

Michael Mann
...but I like the torque that it has. And I like the presence on the road. I like the fact that it's, I get your point about the, the width of the handlebars. It's from a practical perspective, it's a bit of a pain. But I like the fact that you sit there and you, you are, you are boss of the road because it's got a big presence.

Luke Brackenbury
Yeah. It's got definitely a commanding presence about it. And you know, even things like the daytime running lights on those lights, you've got the, sort of American style where the indicators are kind of lit all the time. So, you know, you notice that bike in mirrors, you do feel like people are gonna see me on the road.

It's got, yeah, it's got that feel about it. 

Michael Mann
So that was my final two points. I think we've, we've talked quite a lot about this. Is there anything particular Steve, that you want to talk about, that we perhaps we've missed? 

Steve Rose
I like the fact that Honda offer an alternative. I like the fact that, that in a world where everything now has to have the kind of horsepower that a sports bike would have had 10 years ago, that Honda have been bold enough to say, actually, let's just build something which is really easy to use, which is in a very low state of tune and therefore we, you know, we'll be dependable and, and, you know, and we'll do those mileages that we all hope they will do. But you know, but again, it's, it's that focus on probably on economy as much as anything. And, and my most exciting moment on that bike was, was that the night when I got home at an average speed of 65mph and 65mpg and 65 miles an hour never sounded like a lot when you talk about an average speed, but when you consider that, that journey I was doing at that time had 20 miles of 40mph road works one end of it, another 20 miles of 40mph road works at the other end of it. And you know, an averaging just averaging 70 miles an hour on most bikes is, you know, is it pretty challenging. I was, I was thrilled when I got home that night. It was the most, the most excitement I had for a little while, which probably says more about me than anything else.

Luke Brackenbury
I've just found my stats from that 513.3 mile day. It was an average consumption of 47.2 miles to the gallon. An average speed of 58 mile per hour. That's that was the one...

Michael Mann
...doing well. I think you should be proud of that. And you don't need to go and see the osteopath after had you'd done it on an R1.

Luke Brackenbury
No, I didn't. Bugbears for me, we talked about side-stand, it leans over too far. Centre stand should be standard when you've got chain drive and actually you can't put it on a paddock standard, can you because of the big chain fin on there? So really without the centre stand your chain maintenance is quite difficult, but you know, all the bells and whistles, but where's the quick shifter, where's a quick shift. There's nice. I'm not bothered about things like keyless, but when you think about what else is out there, just quick shift would be nice. And again, speaking to different owners and of the current bike and the old bike, they're like, nah, I'm not bothered by that. 

Steve Rose
When this test bike arrived I was hoping we were going to get a DCT version.

I I'm a big fan of DCT. And again, for, for the kind of miles I do and the kind of riding I do, yeah, I, I would've liked DCT. I think the one thing that kind of the one, my kind of conclusion from it, and again, this is probably something I don't know if this is the right thing or the wrong thing to say, really, but for all those miles I did on it and for all the time I spent on it and all the stuff I've talked about that I loved about it, the actual reality for me when I sit and be, and sit down and honestly, and think about it is probably I would have got all those things that I've enjoyed from the Africa Twin, apart from the styling and apart from that feeling when you open the garage door, I would have got pretty much all of that had I been riding an NC750 and I think, I think that that's the point for me. I think if you're, if you're going to do the big adventure and you're going to do a lot riding two-up, and this is, you know, this is the bike that's going to have that big life moment for you. Then I think the Africa Twin is the one you want.

I think if you're like me, if you want in something that is a, is a functional motorcycle that we'll just do that thing and make, make every journey enjoyable, and make you a winner out of every journey, and be cheap to run and dependable and all the stuff that I talked about. Actually, you can buy ab NC750, which is probably about half the price, and then spend the rest of your money on a CBR 650 to go and have fun on the weekend.

Luke Brackenbury
I think you can, you could buy this. And we talked about VFR800s before we  started the call, obviously because of the project bike. I think this is a bike like that. You could have this for 20 years, it'll still look great. It will still ride great. You know, maybe semi-activity, I don't know, maybe you go for the manual one just so you know what you doing with that, god knows how that's going to be in 20 years time, but you'd still feel great being on there you'd have smashing ride every time you went on it. So maybe as a kind of, whereas everything else seems a bit kind of fashion, in probably its rivals. Maybe not the GS so much. If you had this and you kept it and you looked after it and it would be, it would, you know, it would age, well, you'd be still chuffed 15, 20 years open the, the garage door doing that big, big mission every summer, that big trip

Michael Mann
I'm sure in 20 years time, we'll all be on hydrogen-powered hover bikes or something like that. 

Well, we'll, we'll get together in 20 years time. 

Good. Right. We'll wrap it up. Thank you, Luke, for your input and expertise. Thanks Steve, for yours too. Enlightening stuff. I'm sure there are many opinions and comments to be had, so feel free if you're watching on the video to put them on below. And if you're listening to this on the podcast and again, feel free to, to email us [email protected] 

So, for those who are watching video, you've got a Bennetts Rewards advert coming up. just now, and for those who are listening on the podcast, then you've got the opportunity to listen to Luke to talk about Bennetts Rewards mega.

Thanks guys. Thanks for listening. Thanks for watching and see you next time.

Introduction
Main updates for 2020
Say no to A2
More power and revs please
Which model do we have?
Motorway miles
Heated grips
515 miles in a day
Too many buttons
Night time riding
Apple Car Play
The Africa Twin caché
Dealership convenience
Off-road?
Suspension
Comfort and weather protection
Screen
Wide bars... or not?
White frame, cleaning and corrosion
MPH vs MPG
Side-stand and quick shifter
Better than an NC750?