As a more rugged and dirt-friendly derivative of the Africa Twin, the Adventure Sports brings Honda’s new-generation dual-purpose bike closer in spirit to the XRV650 and 750 Africa Twins of the late Eighties and early Nineties. Those fondly remembered all-rounders established the format of twin-cylinder engine, stylish bodywork and genuine versatility that Honda successfully recreated with the CRF1000L Africa Twin two years ago.
Capable as the current Africa Twin is, the off-road bar is set high for a model whose lineage starts with the famed NXR750V and 800V racebikes that won four successive Paris-Dakar Rallies from 1986. Hence the Adventure Sports: aimed more towards dirt and long distance, with features including longer-travel suspension, increased fuel capacity, extra crash protection and modified riding position.
There’s no change to the Africa Twin’s 998cc, SOHC parallel-twin engine, which produces a max of 94bhp and comes with either a conventional six-speed gearbox or Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission. The Adventure Sports inherits the standard Twin’s 2018 updates including ride-by-wire throttle control (with four riding modes), wider footrests, redesigned instrument panel and lighter, lithium-ion battery.
To those, the Adventure Sports adds go-anywhere features including a taller screen, crash-bars around its fairing, and a thicker aluminium bash-plate beneath its engine. New suspension from Showa gives 20mm more travel at front and rear. Fuel capacity is increased to 24.2 litres, without spoiling the lines that contribute to the Africa Twin being one of Honda’s most attractive bikes, especially in the traditional blue-white-red that is the Adventure Sports’ only colour.
On the road, there’s not a huge difference between Adventure Sports and standard Africa Twin. The new bike’s 50mm higher seat makes it harder to climb aboard (lower accessory seats are available) but the Honda’s slimness and fairly lightweight mean it’s still manageable. The parallel-twin engine is flexible, the new ride-by-wire system hasn’t marred the sweet throttle response, and there’s enough power for lively acceleration and relaxed main-road cruising as well as a top speed of about 125mph.
The Adventure Sports gains with an increased range of 250-plus miles, and on bumpy roads has a comfort advantage thanks to its longer, multi-adjustable suspension, which is very well damped. The travel is most useful off-road, where the Sports’ taller handlebar gives a more natural riding position when standing on the footrests. That helps make it more at home on loose surfaces than the standard Twin, either with the standard gearbox or uprated DCT. Pressing the dual-clutch system’s new “G” button on the dash gives a more direct drive, for better control and rear-tyre grip.
There’s an inherent rightness about the Adventure Sports that makes a few drawbacks easier to accept. The Africa Twin’s engine’s flexibility, economy and amiable character outweigh the fact that the bike can feel breathless when heavily loaded; the Sports’ sweet handling and relatively lightweight counter the lack of a semi-active suspension option. Even Honda’s reluctance to match rivals’ screen adjustability is partially redeemed by the Adventure Sports’ simple, Eighties-inspired style.
Thoughtful touches include standard-fitment heated grips and power socket, plus a rear carrier that usefully extends on each side of the pillion seat to support a big bag. There’s also a storage area on the right of the seat, secured by Allen bolts rather than a key – apparently because Honda did it this way on the original Africa Twin. Less convenient, sure; but also evidence that the world’s biggest bike firm put its heart and soul into the Adventure Sports.
Pricetag of our bike: £13,549 with DCT, £12,599 with conventional gearbox (standard Africa Twin: £12,549/£11,575)