This is a motorcycle review. I know it doesn’t say ‘motorbike’ on the cover of this magazine any more than it says ‘skateboard’ or ‘freestyle armchair’. But, as Edna Mole said, yet here we are.
I’m not a motorbike reviewer. I’m not even a motorbike expert. But maybe I know more about motorbikes than your average DJ or celebrity chef knows about cars, and that doesn’t seem to stop anyone.
The bike in question is the new Honda Africa Twin – significant enough to warrant a mention because its rebirth isn’t unlike the second coming of the Honda NSX. Both were originally introduced, to great acclaim, within a year of each other around 1990, and both managed to hang around until the early part of the 21st century. By that time they were outgunned by their rivals but still retained a charmed following.
And now they’re back together, too. The new Twin isn’t without new-NSX qualities in that it sits between two established orders. The NSX is more powerful than most sports cars yet less so than most supercars.
Likewise, adventure bikes in the Africa Twin’s sphere tend to have around 800cc or 1200cc engines. BMW’s R1200GS, used by the thousand on southern European tours, makes 125bhp, which is rather more than the F800GS’s 75bhp. The 94bhp, 1000cc Africa Twin sits between those two and many more rivals, designed to pinch sales from above and below.
At £11,299, it has. Despite Honda’s Kumamoto factory being closed for three months due to an earthquake, the Africa Twin will this year become the UK’s best-selling motorcycle.
The British used to be obsessed with sports bikes. The Africa Twin is decidedly not one. It has long-travel suspension and a tall seat and weighs 242kg. Obviously, it’s comfortable, with its soft suspension, but it felt plenty agile enough for me. There are comfier bikes out there, I’m sure, but not once in a near-solid eight-hour stint did my bum ache.
I tried an auto, whose dual-clutch system is effortless on the move but made slow manoeuvring wobblier because it’s hard to slip the clutch while trailing the back brake, to keep drive to the wheel and aid stability. You can have a manual, and I think I would, were I so inclined to put down £2300 as a deposit and part with £89 a month on a PCP.
So there you go. It’s a lovely thing, and all the reviews say so, in case you don’t think I’m expert enough. And if you don’t? Well, this is how reviewing works in 2016. Everyone’s at it. Just wait until next week, when you read my recipe for pan-fried hake on an island of rocket and wild rice, with a chorizo and mixed bean cassoulet.
A note from last week
Thinking about how car makers create limited-run cars for ‘loyal’ customers (Tester’s Notes, 24 August) reminded me what a serial Ferrari buyer once told me. He’d put down a deposit on a 458 Italia, which was then the latest mid-engined Ferrari. Bit of a wait. Bit of a pain, but no big deal. Then his dealer phones. Turns out we can move you along the line a bit, sir, get you a car a touch earlier, if you felt inclined to buy a Maserati Quattroporte. I can tell you that his answer was a bit different from what mine would have been.