Trail – Africa Twin 2016 test: Honda picks up from the desert – Africa Twin 2016: MNC technical update

TEST

Cape Town (South Africa),

Africa Twin 2016 test: Honda takes over from the desert

Trail - Africa Twin 2016 test: Honda picks up from the desert - Africa Twin 2016: MNC technical update

Basically, a trail is a motorcycle that is easy to handle and comfortable on all terrains. Honda revives its famous Africa Twin to reconnect with this concept abandoned by (over) powerful and bulky road maxi-trails.

2016 CRF1000L Review.

Africa Twin 2016: MNC technical update

Engine

The engine of the CRF1000L is a 999 cc liquid-cooled parallel twin cylinder set at 270 °, like that of the NC750 … or the Yamaha Super Ténéré 1200. Thanks to several technical tricks, it displays a beautiful compactness: its depth would be similar to that of the twin of the CBR500R !

Honda has therefore adapted its "Unicam" technology to contain the size of the cylinder heads: thanks to this technology derived from its CRF cross-country motorcycles, the four valves per cylinder are actuated by the same camshaft. This saves space which also facilitates the integration of two spark plugs on each cylinder head (double ignition).

The main crankcases of this reasonably compressed (10: 1) engine adopt a vertical parting line and incorporate an independent oil reservoir, for the first time on a Honda motorcycle. What is more, the Africa Twin integrates its water pump in the clutch housing, a solution which makes it possible in particular to reduce the length of the hoses and reduce the weight..

In the same optimization perspective, the water and oil pumps are driven by the same balancing arm. A second balancing arm takes place behind the first in order to fight against residual mechanical vibrations.

As on the NC750 and CB500 engines, Honda has applied several specific treatments to reduce friction, to the benefit of engine performance and fuel consumption. For example, the piston skirts receive a resin surface treatment, while the pins and connecting rods are notably coated with chrome.

The winged coat of arms announces an average consumption measured by its care of "4.6 l / 100 km", even"4.58 l / 100 km"with the DCT double clutch version. If they are verified in real conditions, these values ​​are extremely low for a motorcycle of this size. !

The fact that the twin is not excessively pushed also explains this low consumption: unlike some rivals of larger displacement "hit to the core" to spit out 150 hp or more, the Honda unit develops a "reasonable" 95 hp and 98 Nm of torque. One of the advantages is that the engine manufacturers were able to obtain a nice, very regular torque curve, with a maximum peak from 6000 rpm. Availability and effective reminders from low revs are thus there.

As on more and more Honda motorcycles, the DCT dual-clutch transmission (Dual Clutch Transmission) is optional on the Africa Twin. In this configuration, the right crankcase is much more prominent due to the space taken up by the two clutches.

Unique in motorbikes (a little less in cars where it has been used for ten years), the DCT is based on a "conventional" gearbox with forks and barrels, connected to two multi-disc clutches in an oil bath. Note that the Africa Twin clutch adopts a limited slip system (anti-dribble) regardless of the version chosen..

Managed by an electronic control unit connected to hydraulic circuits, the first clutch takes care of odd ratios (1st, 3rd and 5th), the other of even gears (2nd, 4th and 6th). When the first is switched on, for example, the central unit pre-switches – in just 70 milliseconds! – the second gear, then releases the clutch of the first at the same time that the second gear is locked.

Cooling is provided by two radiators installed in front of the engine and the overhaul interval is set at 12,000 km, 24,000 km for valve clearance.

Frame

Similar in its architecture to that of the CRF450R Rally (the motorcycle used – among others – by Joan Barreda Bort in the Dakar), the frame of the Africa Twin is of the double beam type with a split cradle on the underside. The engine is attached to it via six anchor points. At the rear, it is a welded tubular frame.

The steel chosen for its design has the merit of strength and ease of repair. A simple welding station makes it possible to mitigate a potential breakage at the end of the world, which is completely excluded on an aluminum frame – certainly lighter but also more fragile. Note that the reinforcement of the rear loop with braces allows loading up to 30 kg on the luggage rack.

The geometric dimensions are average for this type of motorcycles, on which stability is essential: the wheelbase of 1575 mm and the 27.5 ° caster angle are part of this trend. Likewise, the swingarm is long enough (+20 mm compared to the late XRV750 of 1990) to improve traction..

As is often the case with Honda, the balance of the masses has been the subject of particular care. It is for this reason that the parallel twin was preferred to the V-twin characteristic of previous Africa Twin: in order to place heavy components – battery, ABS unit – behind the cylinders, which is not possible on a V2.

This also made it possible to install a real toolbox on the left, behind the engine. This toolbox can be dismantled using an Allen key located under the saddle and includes a spark plug remover, several wrenches and a multifunction screwdriver. This supplied tool kit – a rarity today! – is part of the practical objective, ready for any eventuality, wanted by Honda.

In terms of peripherals, the Africa Twin 2016 adopts quality fittings, in particular fully adjustable Showa suspensions with high travel (230 mm at the front, 220 at the rear). Protected by covers in front of its dip tubes, the inverted fork is 45 mm in diameter. The axes are offset in order to combine stability and agility by combining a long wheelbase (almost 1.58 m!) And a contained frame (113 mm) via this offset.

The tees are made of aluminum (cast for the upper, forged for the lower) and are linked together by a hollow steering axle, to contain the weight. Very nice stuff, solid appearance. The shock absorber has a separate reservoir, a technology aimed at reducing the phenomena of emulsion which are detrimental to the proper passage of oil through the valves..

Mounted on forged aluminum rods, the rear suspension can be adjusted in spring as in hydraulic and even has a remote control for adjusting the preload on the left side. Practice as a duo and / or loaded! The shock absorber is connected to the aluminum swingarm, cast in one piece.

In terms of the wheels, Honda openly made the choice of off-road with dimensions closer to enduro than to road bikes: 90/90/21 at the front and 150/70/18 at the rear. . These tall, narrow rims are spoked and tubed Dunlop.

On the braking side, the Honda trail exhibits radial 4-piston calipers at the front and generously-diameter petal discs (310 mm). A powerful and reassuring device, despite the absence of braided hoses. The disc frets are aluminum, for the first time on a Honda motorcycle.

At the rear, the single piston caliper clamps a 256mm disc. In France, the Africa Twin receives an ABS as standard which can be disconnected only at the rear to allow off-road sliding. This operation is done via a square button on the right of the instrument panel but requires to be stopped. The ABS cannot be disengaged at the front and does not offer different sensitivity settings, as is the case on some competing motorcycles.

Electronics, piloting aids and DCT transmission

In addition to the ABS quoted above, the Africa Twin carries an adjustable traction control as standard, renamed by Honda "torque control system". Neither more nor less than traction control, this"Honda Selectable Torque Control"(HTSC) compares the rotational speeds of the front and rear wheels and acts on the injection when it detects a difference.

Adjustable from the handlebars, it offers three levels of intervention and can be completely deactivated from the left stalk, while driving and without cutting the throttle. Convenient ! Unlike most of its rivals – and a growing proportion of motorcycles – the CRF1000L does not feature selectable injection maps..

Simple but not basic however, it also ignores the electronic accelerators of the "ride-by-wire" type more and more widespread in current motorcycle production. Here again, backpackers will rejoice: changing a broken accelerator cable in the middle of nowhere is within everyone’s reach – or almost -, which is not the case with an electronic control unit….

As an option, the 2016 Africa Twin can be fitted with the dual-clutch transmission. The motorcycle is then without a selector on the left foot (available as an option for die-hards!) And its clutch lever is replaced by a parking brake (mandatory, because it is impossible to immobilize the motorcycle in gear).

Deliberately moved away from the left handle, this handbrake lever cannot be accidentally operated while driving because it is very far away. To block it, it is necessary to let go of the handlebars to catch the lever with your left hand. This parking brake is then locked via a small lever and released with a simple pressure.

The DCT offers two operating principles: the first (AT) is 100% automatic and has two modes ("D" for Drive and "S" for Sport). As on the NC750 and CB500 2016, the S mode now includes three more or less reactive "sub-maps" named S1, S2 and S3. Yes, must follow…

The second mode (MT) is of the semi-automatic type: the pilot goes up and down gears via the “+” and “-” triggers on the left stalk, or “conventionally” with the optional selector on the left foot. But without disengaging !

This new version of DCT also includes an "adaptive control system" which provides smoother gear changes at low speeds. This also allows to have a more natural operating feeling, especially when you cut the throttle..

Given the Africa Twin’s off-road claims, Honda has added a new mode called "G" which is activated via a square button on the right, next to the control used to deactivate the ABS on the back. Operating this button in any mode (MT, AT, S or D) changes the control of the clutch (more precisely its rate of slip which is reduced). The reports thus pass more quickly but a bit less smoothly.

Finally, the Africa Twin’s DCT differs from those installed on other Honda’s because its electronic control unit is able to determine the longitudinal angle in real time to adapt the gear change. The idea is to avoid a sudden downshift during an ascent or descent of a slope, and therefore the assured loss of traction that would result. !

To determine this angle value, the DCT compares several mechanical data (gear engaged, throttle rotation angle, engine speed) with pre-programmed algorithms. He thus deduces if the motorbike is climbing or descending.

When the engine is started, the system is automatically in neutral. All that remains is to choose between automatic "D" or "S" modes via the control placed on the right handle or to actuate the "AT / MT" tab placed below to engage "manual" mode..

However, even in manual mode, the system "filters" the requests which seem unnatural to it: it is for example not possible to downshift when the engine speed is too high, nor to risk under-speed by increasing several. reports without accelerating. Likewise, the system will automatically downshift to first if you stop the bike in sixth (at a stop for example).

At any time, it is possible to switch from automatic to manual, and vice versa. The pilot can find out about the gear and the mode engaged directly on the on-board console. In the form of two superimposed LCD windows, it is fully digital, readable and complete (read the "Instrumentation" part of our technical sheet).

Finally, as on the first generation of double clutch, it is possible to manually up and down a gear even in automatic mode, in order to downshift around a curve for example. It is very practical on the road and even more so off-road.

Honda has also added an "auto-return" function which means that after a few seconds without any action on the paddles, the system returns to the selected automatic configuration ("D" or "S").

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