Discovery – Joe Bar One: a speed championship where (almost) anything goes! –

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19th Pictures

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With the “Rallye” GS, BMW underscores the “enduro” behind the “journey”. Honda did this from the start with the Africa Twin. But when two do the same thing, it’s far from the same.

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Powerful: The GS is also a great motorcycle in rally trim. It weighs more and is wider than the Africa Twin.

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Wiry: The Honda looks almost filigree for such a large motorcycle. Narrower, more airy, seat height not quite as high.

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Honda CRF 1000 L Africa Twin.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test
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BMW R 1200 GS rally.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test.

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The GS storms faster on asphalt, the CRF 1000 L on gravel. Great travel enduro bikes, although they are both completely different in character.

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I gimbal: low-maintenance final drive, from now on with torsion damper the Adventure.

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Du Chain: Final drive by chain, requires more maintenance, but has advantages off-road.

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Tidy and extensive: the cockpit of the GS with on-board computer Pro.

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Also tidy, but less info: The readability of the LCD is okay.

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19 inches, 305 millimeters: the GS decelerates superbly and with great ABS.

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21 inches, 310 millimeters: the CRF’s brakes don’t quite keep up with those of the GS.

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According to classic test standards, the Rallye GS is clearly superior, offers more of everything: power, chassis, electronics, equipment. But also more weight and more financial difficulties. It remains to be seen whether the majority of drivers need the off-road sports suspension. The GS is again THE all-purpose tool in 2017. The Africa Twin is less designed for points and we have to thank Honda for that. Less power, less weight and less that can break. But a lot of balanced harmony and more off-road.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test.

BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test

Travel enduro duel

With the “Rallye” GS, BMW underscores the “enduro” behind the “journey”. Honda did this from the start with the Africa Twin. But when two do the same thing, it’s far from the same. Can the BMW R 1200 GS Rally and Honda Africa Twin be compared at all??

You have probably already asked yourself why those at MOTORRAD have so far avoided the GS and the AT.to let frica Twin run against each other. After all, it would make sense to compare these two successful travel enduros. Strictly speaking, however, this is prohibited or at least has to be provided with the warning “apples and pears”. Because formally, when looking at the key data, there is a lot separating these two adventure motorcycles: almost 200 cubic capacity difference, 30 hp output, chain against cardan shaft, 21/18 inch against 19/17 inch wheelsets. At least half a class difference. And last but not least, both stand for two fundamentally different philosophies: Honda’s CRF 1000 L cultivates asceticism, preaches abstinence from equipment, while the GS has pushed itself up over the years to the “all in, all in” technology flagship. Which of course is reflected in the price of both machines. More on that later.

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BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Honda Africa Twin in comparison test
Travel enduro duel

As is well known, the R 1200 GS was, and with the latest update even more, an excellent travel enduro. Mighty lard exactly where it needs lard, namely in the lower middle, with this pound the fat Bayern boxer grows, on top of that dosability close to perfection and fine running culture. The Telelever at the front conveys sublime stability and irons stoically, although the harder sport springs with their longer spring travel (plus 20 to 210/220 millimeters) bring even more freedom of lean angle, but eat up a little of the gentle GS comfort. A semi-active chassis called ESA II has been around since 2009, the latest expansion stage with automatic level control (replaces the manual selection of the load status) works perfectly, covers an unheard of bandwidth. From sporty and firm in “Dynamic” to “Enduro” – appropriately soft, and “Road” for everything in between. ABS and traction control are linked to the driving modes and networked with the semi-active chassis. Everything thought out down to the smallest detail, without any real weaknesses, perhaps apart from the better but still not perfect gearbox after the revision and the only satisfactory automatic gearshift. R 1200 GS Rally: Better made even better. Cold Teutonic perfection with hair on the chest. No surprise, and yet a revelation every time, every meter.

The CRF 1000 L sits at the other end of the complexity spectrum and is a completely different motorcycle in terms of the subjective driving experience. But not necessarily worse as a travel enduro. Driving modes and electronic chassis, cruise control, GPS, tire pressure monitoring, semi-dies and pro-das are not available for money and good words. And yet, no, that’s why the Africa Twin is so impressive. Like ABS, traction control is a simple system, but reliable and easy to switch off. The rear preload can be adjusted with a handwheel, the damping if necessary (we didn’t see it) with adjusting screws. To change gears, you have to pull a lever on the left end of the handlebar (a so-called clutch), and the ignition key can be found in a practical connector near the steering head.

Seriously: In direct comparison with the Bavarian Über-Technokrad, the Africa Twin almost shocks with its simple, Zen-like style. Your engine accelerates even more gently than the boxer, so that the shirt-sleeved TC is only required in the worst conditions. The braking system does not slow down with the vehemence of the GS for a long time, which means that the ABS is less of a problem and is completely sufficient on its own (and especially for a travel enduro).

Softly sprung and adequately cushioned, the good, conventional chassis uses its eternal commute (230/220 millimeters) transparently, almost creates the feeling of a magic carpet, although the somewhat bony seat cannot serve the comfort of its great rally counterpart. Much more decisive, however, is how calmly, how smoothly the Honda rolls behind its large 21-inch model and how calmly it consumes even the worst cobblers and potholes of third and fourth category. Everything about an Africa Twin is soft and flowing. With its Telelever, the BMW also floats very well, but the Honda does this, also because it communicates more of what is happening up front, more pleasantly. In a nutshell: A GS subdues the road, the Africa Twin makes it an ally. Unfortunately, we have to complain at this point, too, that the Honda suffers from its first tires: The Dunlop Trail Max bends uncomfortably in a proper lean angle, which costs trust. And in adverse conditions there are also better tires. Like the Metzeler Tourance Next, on which we put the GS instead of the standard Karoo 3 for the sake of comparability. With it, the GS drives well-known, neutral and stable, and for those who like it, inevitably much more sporty on the road than an Africa Twin. It is almost 20 kilos lighter and wonderfully slim, but Bavaria clearly has more pressure, more grip, more brakes and more chassis. Everyone should decide for themselves whether these things are absolutely necessary in a travel enduro.

Of course, we moved both machines over easy terrain for test purposes. This is where the CRF 1000 L comes into play: The large front wheel is worlds more stable and does not bend as easily as the 19-inch GS. The longer suspension travel, but especially the soft tuning, are extremely calming, and the chain also beats the cardan here. The Africa Twin just feels more like Enduro. That would not mean that a rally did not cut a good figure here as well, the gravel qualities of the GS are well known: torque, low center of gravity, excellent balance. Above all, however, the electronics package helps the BMW driver (in addition to the sports suspension with extreme reserves): The ABS works incredibly precisely in enduro mode, the traction control allows wheelspin, but not too much, the ESA opens the damping wide , the spring preload goes up automatically at the rear. All of this adds up to a really capable package together with the very good off-road ergonomics (higher, wider handlebars). But the simple fact remains: the GS is more at home on asphalt, its mass can not only intimidate inexperienced off-road athletes. And something else is scary: the purchase price. On the basis of 15,740 euros plus ancillary costs, the goodies listed at the beginning (ESA is definitely recommended, much of the rest is a matter of taste) add up to almost 7,000 euros for a total value of, take a deep breath, 22,506 euros. The slightly specified CRF 1000 L costs around 9,000 euros less, which corresponds to a Kawasaki Z 900 tested in this issue.

MOTORCYCLE conclusion

According to classic test standards, the Rallye GS is clearly superior, offers more of everything: power, chassis, electronics, equipment. But also more weight and more financial difficulties. It remains to be seen whether the majority of drivers need the off-road sports suspension. The GS is again THE all-purpose tool in 2017. The Africa Twin is less designed for points and we have to thank Honda for that. Less power, less weight and less that can break. But a lot of balanced harmony and more off-road.

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