It’s time for Africa

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As promised during the 2016 Auto Expo, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) brought 50 units of the Africa Twin to India, all of which have been booked and many delivered to enthusiasts across the country. We convinced HMSI to give us some saddle time on what they term "the most reliable, versatile and proven adventure touring motorcycle". Here are six reasons why the Africa Twin stands out.

Planning to go off-road? Press 'G' for Gravel mode
Planning to go off-road? Press 'G' for Gravel mode

1. Design
The Honda has an imposing stance and the bright red-white-black colour combination is difficult to ignore. Not intimidating maybe, but surely attractive. The Africa Twin has been conceptualised on the company's current Dakar competition bike — the CRF 450. Many parts are very similar to the rally bike including the frame and the brakes. This gives the 2017 Africa Twin the necessary genes it needs to live up to its iconic predecessors that have conquered the Dakar Rally, the world's toughest raid.

Rally style console shows information including speed, gear position, odometer, trip metre and a clock
Rally style console shows information including speed, gear position, odometer, trip metre and a clock

It's a tall bike with fully adjustable front forks. The dual LED headlights and tall windscreen accentuate the bike's towering figure. The seat's almost triangular shape makes it very comfortable for long rides as well.

2. Engine
This is the largest capacity Africa Twin ever made. Its 999.11-cc twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine produces 88.4 PS and 91.9 Nm of torque. The six-speed gearbox is managed through Honda's Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which changes gears automatically. The way it delivers power isn't too exciting. Instead, it comes in as a steady flow. However, the convenience of having a DCT makes it very friendly off the roads.

These buttons help engage the riding mode - Auto Drive, Manual or selecting Neutral
These buttons help engage the riding mode - Auto Drive, Manual or selecting Neutral

3. Using DCT
We have to admit that not having a clutch lever or gearshift felt quite unusual at first, but one can adapt to this in no time. It's brilliant because while off-roading, one can focus on the tricky sections, or stand on the pegs and ride, while the DCT takes care of the clutch modulation and gear selection on your behalf. All you need to do is select the drive or sport riding mode. If you like, you can select manual gearshift too and there are buttons on the left, that can be used to change gears manually on the go.

The seat narrows down as it meets the slender fuel tank, which makes the bike  manageable
The seat narrows down as it meets the slender fuel tank, which makes the bike  manageable

Since the bike doesn't come with a clutch there are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, on an Africa Twin, one needs to ensure that the bike is in neutral when stationary, else it might pounce forward if one blips the throttle out of habit. Secondly, the DCT equipped bike comes with a handbrake on the left side of the handlebar, which can be mistaken for a clutch lever.

4. Off-Road Features
The bike comes packed with riding aids, which can help setup the bike in dozens of ways. It gets dedicated switches for gravel riding and one for ABS specifically for off-road, which allows the rear to lock and it can be activated by a simple push of a button. For now, it doesn't include Cornering ABS. There's a dedicated toggle lever just above the passing light on the left switchgear that changes the level of HSTC (Honda Selectable Torque Control).

5. Riding Dynamics
The Africa Twin comes with a massive 21-inch front wheel and an 18-inch wheel at the back, shod with dual-purpose Dunlop tyres. These did manage to give versatile grip on tarmac, wet roads, and even on some loose off-road surface. Long distance touring is what most buyers will be doing with it. There are slots to mount panniers on either side, and hooks to harness your saddlebags. Honda is offering accessories to make the bike more touring friendly.

6. Price and Fuel Efficiency
Honda claims that the bike returns 21.5 km/l, which is pretty decent from a bike of this size. The DCT has a big role to play in this. The 18.8 litre fuel tank will give the Africa Twin a range of close to 400 km. Coming to on-road price, depending on which part of country you belong to the Honda Africa Twin will cost you between R15-R16 lakh (on-road) and will compete with the likes of Triumph Tiger and Ducati Multistrada. The biggest advantage Honda has is its goodwill for making reliable products, and the convenience of having a DCT.