The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin is the latest entry into a growing adventure touring segment
The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin has turned the adventure touring market on its ear based on enthusiast magazine reviews, providing a head-turning experience with the off-road ride that matches an equally impressive ride while on pavement.
And while the shear number of adventure touring bike sales is still in growth mode, the segment has been the golden child of the motorcycle industry in recent years due its increasing market share. Data from Powersports Business partner CDK Global Recreation shows that of dealers who both use the Lightspeed DMS and sell ADV bikes, they have combined to see the segment grow to 10 percent of the motorcycle sales pie at their dealerships. We’ve all seen the crazy location shots of incredible scenery from far-flung outposts, knowing that a dealer somewhere sold the rider that unit. It might be a BMW R 1200 GS, Yamaha Super Ténéré, KTM 1190 Adventure, Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro, or one of many others.
Now, Honda’s launch of the Africa Twin has certainly created a buzz within the segment, and it’s with that ensuing energy and passion to grow the ADV rider base that Powersports Business editor in chief Dave McMahon discussed all things Africa Twin in a phone conversation with Lee Edmunds, manager of Motorcycle Marketing Communications at American Honda.
Powersports Business: What made you decide that this was a bike that needed to enter the worldwide market?
Lee Edmunds: Just looking at the market, the market for big adventure bikes has been strong. You see a lot of people going to that product, migrating off of other products, from off-road bikes to older sport bike riders going there. You’re seeing the demographic that’s maybe not ready yet for luxury touring, but they want something that’s more athletic and can go anywhere. What we saw in the market was a bit of a hole, in that most of the bikes out there are very good on-road bikes but lacked off-road prowess. So this bike was designed to have really good off-road capabilities. It’s interesting when you ride it, because when you ride it on-road you really like it, but when you ride it off-road it’s an epiphany — it’s really good, well-planted, balanced. It’s a really good motorcycle.
PSB: What kind of time frame are we looking at in terms of when the Africa Twin got back on the radar for the worldwide market?
LE: Around 2013, when we started getting back into Dakar, they started looking at the development of this bike. They started racing in Dakar, getting knowledge from that and applying that into what would become Africa Twin. The Africa Twin used to be the Honda race platform for the Dakar Rally. At that time it was a 650 V-twin, so a completely different engine configuration. They raced it at Dakar as an HRC project. In 1990, it became a 750 V-twin. And prior to the 2016 model year, Africa Twin had only been available in Europe.
PSB: What are some of the key differences, looking at what it was and what it has become today?
LE: Now it has a completely new parallel twin 1,000cc engine. That engine was chosen primarily because it freed up space and offered great power delivery. On a V-twin there’s the cylinder that faces backward. Now, all the space in there is the electronics, the battery — everything is where that cylinder would be. That’s one of the things that allowed this motorcycle to keep its weight balance and makes it such a good off-road bike. It can keep the weight and rider’s seat height really low.
PSB: The adventure touring market volume is no doubt growing. How do you expect this bike to help the dealer who might not have had an ADV bike offering?
LE: It’s definitely going to help dealers. Now they’re going to have something to compete with the BMWs and KTMs. Like you said, the market numbers aren’t huge, although they’re growing, so it is going to be a bigger part of their business. The image of this type of motorcycle and this type of riding is very inspiring to other generations of motorcyclists. They see the travel and the experience and this motorcycle — it doesn’t represent just a motorcycle. What it represents is the ability to go anywhere and see things that you couldn’t see before. Say a younger buyer is not ready for an Africa Twin yet — maybe they can’t afford it. They can afford a 250L, and they can go have smaller adventures locally. I think the impact of the overall adventure segment is what it’s saying about motorcycling and what motorcycling can represent to a lot of people.
PSB: Accessories are so critical to dealer success. I see that Honda Genuine Accessories launched some of the biggest sellers in the adventure segment, like panniers, light bar, grip heaters, windscreen and top bag.
LE: It’s one of the bikes that customers tend to accessorize more than a lot of the other bikes. If they’re going to do any traveling with it, they’re going to get panniers and a top bag. Probably add a light bar. We also offer an adjustable seat that allows for an even lower seat height.And we’ve launched Africa Twin gear. Worldwide we have partnered with Spidi, Arai and Alpinestars to create a line of Honda adventure gear. Additionally, here in the U.S. we are very excited to add Klim as a licensee offering Africa Twin-branded gear.
PSB: The ADV segment has been holding pretty steady growth over the last handful of years. What sets apart Africa Twin?
LE: We think the market is still growing and has a lot of potential to grow. What we think this adds, is that more than any bike available, this bike has a better balance of on-road and off-road. So it has better off-road ability while still maintaining great on-road characteristics. When you ride it on-road, you’re like “Wow.” But when you ride it off-road, it’s really impressive. The other thing that is unique about this bike is the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). Nobody else offers it. When we did our press introduction, it was really well accepted. I would say at the intro, 80 percent of the people that rode it really liked it. They really saw the benefits of the technology. We had a variety of experience within the riders there. They didn’t look at it as you’re losing shifting, but instead you’re adding fun in a different way. For an experienced rider, you rethink the way you ride the motorcycle, and it becomes a new fun factor, a new way of riding. For a beginner to adventure riding it allows you to ride off-road and concentrate on the terrain without worrying about what gear you are in.