Honda turns the Africa Twin into a motorcycling version of corn flakes
Honda has turned its Africa Twin adventure machine into a sports tourer, in the most Honda way possible. The new NT1100 looks quick, capable, comfortable and reasonably well-appointed. It's probably built to outlast capitalism. And despite the fact that I'm certain it's an excellent bike, I can't muster a single squirt of lust hormone for it.
I want to, I really do. I've genuinely loved Hondas in the past, and this looks like it'll meet a lot of criteria for a wide range of riders. Its lightly retuned 1,084 cc parallel twin motor looks a tad underdone on the spec sheet, making just 100 horsepower and 104 Nm (77 lb-ft) of peak torque, but it's a powerful and responsive real-world engine and I'm sure riders will rarely find themselves wanting for grunt.
You can specify it with a manual gearbox, or else option up to Honda's well-proven DCT dual-clutch automatic system, rendering the bike clutchless for super-simple riding and leaving the ability to electronically select gears at will when it's time to get your game face on. Honda says it's been sort of a hit; 53 percent of Honda buyers have gone for the auto in 2020, when given the option.
The Africa Twin frame remains, but she's no longer going to land jumps or float over whoops with any kind of grace. The long-travel Africa Twin suspension is replaced with road-focused Showa gear, and the wheels come back to 17-inch street-sized die-cast aluminum rims.
There's electronic rider aids, but nothing too outrageous. ABS, naturally, as well as a fly-by-wire throttle enabling Honda's versions of traction control, wheelie control, engine map modes, engine braking levels, that sort of thing. You can roll with Honda's preset Urban, Rain and Tour modes or set up two different configurable user modes.
There's a tiny LCD dash, mounted under a large and impressive-looking 6.5-inch, full-color, Bluetooth-enabled screen that can function as another, cooler-looking multi-mode dash, or can also be set to run a bunch of apps, from navigation through to media, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's cruise control, a five-way adjustable screen and upper and lower sets of wind deflectors, heated grips and a decent-sized set of color-matched standard panniers, lockable and waterproof.
The seats look broad and comfortable for rider and passenger alike, as befits a long-distance 2-up machine like this, and you bet there's a range of optional accessories ready to go as well, chief among which is a medium-sized and aerodynamic-looking top box with a passenger backrest built in.
It doesn't displace the full-dress Goldwing; this is a lot lighter at 238 kg (525 lb) for the manual and an extra 10 kg (22 lb) for the DCT auto. It looks more agile and can likely lean over further in the corners – not that a well-ridden Goldwing can't get the odd sportsbike rider looking over their shoulder.
I'm certain that this bike will be well thought-out, reliable, fast and beautifully controlled, and that people who buy them will take them to incredible places and have wonderful experiences. And yet, well, look at it.
Available only in corporate grey, "is that a cop" white and anonymous black, the NT1100 looks like it's been designed by a team of monks who have managed to conquer their emotions. I know this segment isn't given to great beauty, but the lines here are so anodyne, so sexless and practical, that John Harvey Kellogg himself couldn't have sketched a better way to keep excitable boys' hands out of their pants.
Honda has spent the last two decades zigging as the entire rest of the motorcycle world zagged. It didn't get caught up in horsepower races. It doesn't portray its bikes as naughty or crazy or even particularly exciting most of the time. It rarely seeks to inflame passions or call attention to itself. It tends to prioritize perfect engineering, even at the cost of excitement. So it's the company's own fault if wild-eyed writers like me tend to damn its machines with faint praise.
Thrown into a market that's already brimming with machines like the S1000XR, the Multistrada, the Versys, the V-Strom and the Tiger, the NT1100 will surely find its people. If you're one of them, I'm certain you'll love it like a brother. And hey, brothers are no bad thing.
Check out a video below, which attempts to push the buttons of motorcycle riders by juxtaposing bikes with a violin player.