Four-time Dakar racer Christophe Barriere-Varju has road tested the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin in the toughest of conditions in Morocco and declared “anyone car ride that bike, cruising or fast”.
Christophe rode the bike with off-road novice and Australian fashion model Laura Csortan for a National Geographic Channel show, “Riding Morocco: Chasing the Dakar”, which will be broadcast in Australia on June 17 at 10.30pm and June 18 at 8.30pm.
Their trip in February this year took them along part of the original Dakar Rally route and included the rugged Atlas Mountains, rocky valleys and gigantic Sahara Desert dunes.
Christophe rode the manual version and Laura rode the dual-clutch transmission model, however, he also had a play on the DCT automatic.
“The automatic is super easy and you have to look at the display to notice the bike actually changed gear, it’s that smooth,” says Christophe whose 2010 Dakar Rally race was immortalised in the feature-length film, Dream Racer.
“You can also override it and change the gears via two triggers (up/down). Basically you have a button to switch from Neutral to Drive or Sport. Obviously there is no shift lever or clutch lever anymore.”
He is also a fan of the ABS which you can turn off at the rear. That allows the rider to lock the back wheel to turn the bike for a corner without worrying that the front will lock and tuck underneath the rider.
Both bikes also have three levels of traction control.
“It would be very useful on a very slippery surface for less-experienced riders, making the bike a breeze to ride,” he says.
Both Christophe and Laura are about 176cm (5’7”) tall, but Christophe says the Africa Twin is “not that high and you have the option to lower the seat by 20mm.”
The Honda has a variable seat height (850/870mm) which is the same as the BMW R 1200 GS.
“The seating position is typical Honda; all natural and you feel comfortable instantly. From a riding perspective I rode the bikes with a full fuel tank and did not feel it being top heavy,” he says.
The Honda is the lightest of the big-bore adventure bikes (228kg standard, 232kg ABS and 242kg DCT/ABS) with the 18.8-litre tank fully fuelled.
“The centre of gravity is very low and it feels lighter than my bike which is actually lighter in weight. The bike is well balanced so when you hit dips neither the front or the rear kick up.”
The Africa Twin is powered by a new 998cc parallel twin with 69kW and 97Nm.
“The power feels less than a KTM 690 but the wheel seems to get more traction and push you forward in a much smoother, which means you can ride longer faster, and without power surprises to have to control,” he says.
“The engine is vibration free, very smooth and the power is linear.”
Christophe says the Showa forks and ProLink shock are well balanced.
“The bike has no problem switching from on-road to off-road,” he says.
“Overall, I’m quite impressed with the 1000cc Africa Twin. Anybody can ride that bike cruising or fast.”
HONDA CRF1000L AFRICA TWIN TECH SPECS
+ ON-ROAD COSTS
Africa Twin ABS
Africa Twin DCT/ABS
Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 4 valve-per-cylinder parallel twin with 270° crank and uni-cam