What You Need To Know About The Africa Twin – Parallel Twin Engine – 2 of 3

The CRF1000L is a whole new adventure motorcycle ready for off-road action

MSRP: $12,999 manual transmission, $13,699 DCT

Last week we rode Honda's all new 2016 CRF1000L Africa Twin both on and off road. Previously we explained all the ins and outs of the DCT (dual clutch transmission) which is one of the defining features of the machine. Now we will get into the motor, both the technically and how it works in the dirt. To read about the DCT, click here.

Manual trasnmission
The Africa Twin's motor draws a lot of inspiration from its smaller siblings in the CRF line, the 250 and 450Rs.Photo By Kevin Wing

The CRF1000L’s motor is brand new and, according to Honda, was heavily influenced by not only HRC’s CRF250/450R race bikes but also their CRF 450R Rally racing machine. There are 998ccs divided between the two cylinders connected by a single camshaft driving four valves per cylinder. There is also two spark plugs per cylinder, a design we have seen in some other modern dual-sport machines that is designed to create very efficient combustion.

Africa twin over a rise
Long stretches of dirt are no problem for such a large engine. Just twist the grip and you'll close most distances faster than you'd expect.Photo By Kevin Wing

There is a major focus with this engine on weight savings and overall size, which meant that a lot of the components in the motor had to pull double duty. For example, the water pump and the oil pump are both driven by the engine’s balancer shafts. Plus, the location of both the water pump and oil tank are inside the engine, a first for a Honda motorcycle. The engine is has a semi-dry sump design and has a shallow pan depth for more ground clearance and less weight and size.

Single cam
Here you can see the simplicity of the single-overhead-cam design it borrowed from Honda's motocross bikes. There are also four valves per head and two spark plugs in each.Courtesy Of Honda

One of the main reasons why the Africa Twin is a parallel twin rather than a V-twin is that, according to Honda, a V-twin of the same size and output is physically too tall and too long to fit in the chassis that Honda decided would offer the best off-road capabilities. More to that point, longitudinally, the CRF1000L engine is the same length as Honda’s CBR500R engine. The Africa Twin has a 270 degree phased crank system. This, according to Honda, offers the traction and performance of a V-twin with a parallel twin format.

Clear motor
The overall length and height of the engine was constantly kept in check by the Honda developement team. They could have gone with a V-twin, but that would have been too high and long for the kind of bike they wanted to make, one truly competent in the dirt.Courtesy Of Honda

In The Dirt

What does all of this feel like? First, the exhaust note is somewhere between a V-twin and sport bike. There is a quick, revvy feel to the motor but it isn’t too smoothed out like an inline-four or some of the other adventure bikes we’ve ridden. The motor is the same on the standard model as it is on the DCT, obviously minus the DCT and accompanying controls.

We noticed that it was much easier to evaluate the engine on the standard model than it was on the DCT model in one of the “S” modes. This is because the automatic shifts are so quick and seamless that the bike stayed in the mid-range all the time. On the standard model, we had a chance to really lug the bike and wind it all the way out. Right off bottom, there is a good amount of torque, not uncontrollable, just a solid flow of power that was moderately aggressive. Even on the standard model (without DCT) the bike was very resistant to stalling and, in that regard, reminded us a little of the XR650L. There is a low-speed tractor-like quality in first gear that is both familiar and welcomed. Plus, there was enough grunt down low to pop the front wheel over trail obstacles with ease.

jumping the africa twin
The bottom-end has a healthy, smooth, torquey character that is happy to lug through the tight stuff or blip over a little kicker.Photo By Kevin Wing

We actually felt that the mid-rang was a little lackluster – not slow but very linear and controllable without much excitement. But, when you push past the mid and get the rpm closer to the red numbers on the dash, the excitement comes back. You can rev this motor out and it responds with fun and zippy power that undermines the fact that you are riding such a big bike. High in the revs, single-cylinder dual-sport bikes aren’t happy and neither are some big adventure bikes. But the Africa Twin is really comfortable pushing the envelope or just chugging on through. The level of performance out of this powerplant is surprising in that it can be ridden multiple ways off-road, and it is very easy to ride for long highway stints.

Africa twin
The mid-range was a sort of bland compared to the torquey bottom-end and excitingly powerful top-end performance.Photo By Kevin Wing

There are three levels of traction control that can be adjusted on the fly via a bar toggle and when riding off-road, you need to turn it to level one or completely off. It was nice having it on level one (the lowest and least intrusive) because the TC would only slowly start to kick in when the rear wheel is spinning much faster than the front. This left plenty of room for controlled power slides and throwing some roost in the soft stuff.

As for the rest of the bike, keep an eye out for the next installment on the Africa Twin. If you missed it, click here for the first installment all about the dual clutch transmission.

africa twin on the road
On pavement, the motor character is fun and provides enough zip to get street guys to smile under their helmets. Plus, with the DCT, you can cruise for days in comfort and peace of mind.Photo By Ray Gauger

MSRP: $12,999 standard and $13,699 DCT
Engine: 998cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve parallel twin w/ 270o crank & Unicam head
Transmission: Constant-mesh 6-speed manual / 6-speed DCT w/ on- & off-road riding modes
Fork: Inverted Showa® 45mm fork w/ 8.0 in. travel; adjustable compression, rebound damping & hydraulic adjustable preload
Shock: Showa shock w/ 8.7 in. travel; adjustable compression, rebound damping & hydraulic adjustable spring preload Two 310mm wave floating
Front: 90/90-R21 tube type
Rear: 150/70-R18 tube type