Honda’s 2016 CRF1000 pioneered the concept that a big-bore parallel-twin, suitably crafted, could be an answer to the V-twins and Boxers that powered adventure touring stalwarts, from the lowly Suzuki V-Strom to the top-end BMW GS. Ordinary in concept — except for its novel 270-degree crank — it was modest on the spec sheet, but impressive where it counted, in the real world of potholed pavement and gnarly trails.

The Africa Twin also heralded — finally, someone has to say — the arrival of the dual-clutch transmission to mainstream motorcycling. Common in the auto world, no one had tried it on a motorcycle, mainly because every attempt in the motorcycle world at an automatic transmission — from CVTs to automatic clutches — had been a dismal failure.

Fast-forward the ensuing six years, and somewhere near half of the Africa Twins ever sold come with a DCT transmission. More often than not, that’s accompanied by some pretty fancy electronically adjustable suspension. Wrapping it all up, in 2020, the biggest CRF got a longer stroke and now displaces 1,084 cubic centimetres, up from 998 cc.

The engine is even sweeter

As a result of this injection of displacement, the revised parallel-twin is on a more equal footing with its competitors. Not necessarily in top-end power — the Africa Twin only gains seven hp for its 6.5-mm increase in stroke — but the low-end muscle is decidedly beefier. Hammer the throttle at 2,500 rpm, and it fairly leaps ahead. Yes, it signs off by about 7,000 rpm — when some of the more monster-motored of ADVs are just getting started — but until you get to superbike-like revs, Honda’s single-cam parallel-twin is plenty powerful enough. Loaded up like a pack mule or hustling over a twisty road, I never once wished for more power.

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

Oh, it does vibrate a little more than the original, however. At idle, there’s a quake that wasn’t present in the original, and as it gets close to its 8,000-rpm red line, there a buzz through the ‘bars I don’t remember in the CRF1000. Otherwise, though, it’s all counterbalanced sweetness.

The electronic suspension is a must-have

I’m not normally a fan of the electronically adjustable suspensions that almost seem mandatory these days if you’re going to compete the high-end motorcycling segment. At best, once I find the spring preload/damping combination that best suits my riding, I never again futz with the damper controls, making the grand or two most manufacturers want for the upgrade seem, well, redundant. In the worst-case scenarios, the actual dampers sometimes use inferior hardware (masked by all the fancy-Dan software, of course) so I find no advantage at all. In either case, I typically find them an unnecessary — and costly — alternative to a high-quality set of mechanically-adjustable dampers.

Not the Africa Twin’s. The original CRF1000, like the new 1100 version, boasted oodles of suspension travel. But, because Honda had committed so much to the adventure — that should be read “dirt-bike” — portion of the touring equation, the original 1000’s suspension was super-soft. Set up to bash off berms, it was all dip and dive on the street. Hitting the front brake hard was to know what it’s like to be aboard an overloaded whaler diving beneath a wave; you weren’t always entirely sure if the front end was ever going to come back up.

Not the 2022 Adventure Sport. Some 230 millimetres of front fork travel it may have — there’s a corresponding 220 mm in the rear — and plush it may be, but slide the mode button to Touring and the damping is firm enough to minimize the dive when really clamping on the Nissan monoblock front brakes. Simply put, Showa’s Electronically Equipped Ride Adjustment (EERA) has a wider range of damping orifices than virtually any of the other electronically adjustable systems I have tested. The end result is the new model retains the same excellent off-road abilities as the original but…

The new CRF1100 handles a bunch better than its predecessor

When it comes to motorcycle handling — which is more of a black art than engineering an automobile — it is often hard to attribute an improvement to one specific component. So, I can’t tell you whether it’s the aforementioned suspension, the revised frame geometry, or simply that the new Metzeler Karoo tires are better suited to the CRF. What I can tell you is the 1100 handles a whole bunch better than the old CRF1000 used to.

In fact, the original CRF was anything but a road rocket. Designed, again, to offer uncompromised off-roading, it sported a 21-inch front tire. A skinny, little 90/90 profile front tire. That’s about as far as you can get from the 120/70-17 radials that adorn the front of pretty much every sportbike extant.

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

And it showed. The original CRF was not only slow of steering, but also lacked confidence in turning directions at high speed. Those of us growing up on dirt bikes knew what to expect. Anyone fed a steady diet of streetbikes would find it hauntingly vague.

No more. In fact, while the 2022 retains that 21-inch front rim, it now steers as linearly as anything with adventure touring bona fides. Rather than managing hairpins, you can now attack them with something approaching elan. Indeed, if you’re riding the new Africa Twin, you now stand a chance to keep up — if the straights aren’t too long — with all your sportbike-riding buddies. Occasionally you might even catch them. 

The windscreen does a much better job of protecting the rider

Riding the original Africa Twin was like sitting in a wind tunnel, all turbulence and faceshield-rattling eddies. A slightly wider base, a little more thoughtful design, and a turbulence-reducing duct in its lower half has rendered one of the best windscreens in the segment. A solid 130 kilometres an hour is perfectly comfortable now, and even my testing Ontario’s cuff-‘em-and-take-away-the-keys 150 km/h didn’t trouble its aerodynamic goodness. It’d be the perfect windscreen if only it didn’t have…

Another diabolical Honda windscreen adjuster

In my recent road test of a European-spec NT1100 — an excellent bike which we don’t get here — I noted that it had a Rube Goldberg-like mechanism to adjust the height of its windscreen. I also said that it wasn’t like Honda to make hard-to-manipulate mechanisms.

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

Well, it looks like I was wrong about that. It appears that, like cam chains in the ‘80s, Honda actually does have a hard time engineering windscreen-adjusters. Not quite as difficult to use at the NT’s, the Africa Twin’s nonetheless takes some wiggling — and cursing! — to move the clear plastic higher or lower. And, since it’s a two-handed affair, there’s no way you alter the screen height while riding, something I could accomplish on my supposedly out-of-date 2018 Suzuki V-Strom with just one finger. Were it more easily altered for different conditions and rider heights, the 2022 CRF1100’s windscreen would be one of the best in the segment. As it is, its aerodynamics are excellent, its adjusting hardware, not so much.

The throttle is kinda touchy

As much as I lauded the parallel-twin engine/ DCT transmission, it does have one fault. At very low speeds — as in the walking speeds common to slowly scrambling through woody terrain — the throttle response can be quite touchy, the fuel injection feeling like it’s hunting for the right throttle position.

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2022 Honda Africa Twin Photo by David Booth

That’s because it might be. In adding sophistication to its powertrain — namely the addition of powertrain modes — Honda switched the Africa Twin from old-fashioned throttle cables to much more ‘modern’ throttle-by-wire. Where previously you controlled where the throttle plates are, now the computer does. And, as it turns out, at low speeds your right hand and the computer might disagree with exactly how much gas you need.

The effect is worse on the DCT-equipped model because, of course, that same computer is also controlling the clutch engagement. A manual clutch — available on Africa Twins with the ordinary six-speed — would alleviate much of the herky-jerky. The original DCT-equipped Africa Twin didn’t suffer nearly as badly, because only the clutch was electronically-controlled; your right hand was still coupled directly with its throttle body. The first thing I’d do to a DCT-equipped 2022 Africa Twin would be a Woolich Racing ECU reflash, which lets you write out some of the EPA-mandated leanness, as well as remap of the electronic throttle valve. At least a little of that off-throttle jerkiness can be conquered.

That’s it for complaints. More good stuff is an excellent seat, easily Bluetoothed Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, and an easily legible 6.5-in TFT screened digital gauge set. Throw in a price tag that starts at a comparatively cheap $20,799 (for the manual version) and $21,799 for the DCT version, as well as a long list of Honda-branded accessories — heated grips, luggage sets, and engine guards — and the CRF1100 should be near the top of anyone’s adventure touring shopping list. It’s certainly on mine.

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