Common Tread

An adventure-tourer with an automatic transmission?

May 13, 2015

The popular Africa Twin name is returning to the Honda lineup in the form of a liter-class adventure bike, Honda has confirmed. Honda is dribbling out few details in an attempt to tease, but so far the most interesting fact about the CRF1000L is the confirmation that it will be available with Honda's automatic DCT transmission.

The Africa Twin was not ready for the EICMA show last fall, so what we got instead was a "True Adventure" prototype. The lack of a clutch lever hinted at things to come, but you never know — prototypes can be anything someone dreams up and production models often differ greatly. Now, Honda has at least dropped a couple of shadowy photos on us to show the bike really does exist and the DCT is an option.

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L
The Africa Twin returns to the Honda lineup next year. Honda photo.

Though I'm not convinced that many adventure-touring riders are going to want an automatic transmission, the very fact that DCT is offered will make the Africa Twin unique in the class as it takes on the tough and deeply entrenched competition from BMW and KTM.

"This latest evolution of DCT has been specifically developed and programmed to provide the off-road ability with which the Africa Twin is synonymous," Honda promised in the announcement of the Africa Twin.

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L
Africa Twin CRF1000L. Honda photo.

In the unrevealing photos Honda has doled out so far, the Africa Twin looks a lot like the True Adventure prototype. The frame and the presumably 1,000 cc parallel twin engine look the same. The questions are: Will it have the off-road prowess to compete head-on with KTM's dirtier models for the slice of the adventure-touring riders who really do use their bikes off pavement? Will the residual value of the Africa Twin name be a significant tailwind for the Honda? Can anything topple the BMW R 1200 GS and Adventure models from the top of the adventure-touring heap? And what's it going to be like, exactly, to ride off-road without a clutch?

Fortunately, we'll get some answers next year.