2018 Honda Africa Twin Vs. 2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports

How does Honda’s new flagship ADV stack up against its base-model brother?

Old-time motorcyclists like to wax poetic about the days when you had one motorcycle to do everything. Whatever the machine, it was your dirt bike, your streetbike, your racebike, and your date bike. Walk into a dealership today, however, and you're presented with so many models with so many slight differences that understanding the purpose or need for each motorcycle can be quite challenging. Enter the 2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports: Not a replacement for the already dirt-capable Africa Twin, the Adventure Sports is being marketed by Honda as a premium trim level that encourages you to "go farther." But what does that mean when the base model is already pretty premium and already pretty capable of going far?

Adventure Sports package
Honda expanded its adventure-bike lineup with the addition of the Adventure Sports package.Courtesy of Honda

I rode this new Adventure Sports (a.k.a the CRF1000L2) machine at the domestic press launch in Prescott, Arizona, and I can confirm that it's a fantastic motorcycle. Regular readers will remember that we published a first-ride review of the bike from the European launch back in February, but we also wanted to ride the bike on our own turf to better understand the differences between the Adventure Sports and the standard Africa Twin. For whom are these bikes intended? And what actually separates them as far as options, pricing, and performance?

The best way to get to know a motorcycle? Stop reading about it and swing a leg over the thing. We had a chance to do so.Courtesy of Honda

Standard Equipment On A 2018 Africa Twin vs. 2018 Adventure Sports

The confusing thing about the 2018 Adventure Sports is that it has been released almost simultaneously with an updated base-model 2018 Africa Twin. That base model, due to hit dealers shortly after the Adventure Sports, will come standard with the following equipment:

  • New instrument panel
  • Throttle by wire
  • Three riding modes (Tour, Urban, Gravel)
  • Minor intake and exhaust changes
  • Lighter balancer shafts
  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Seven levels of HSTC (traction control)
  • Wider footpegs with steel brackets
  • Redesigned passenger pegs
  • Redesigned LED turn signals
Two Honda models
There’s a lot of motorcycle to look at between these two models.Courtesy of Honda

That’s quite a list of upgrades. Before Honda educated me, however, I thought a lot of those changes were exclusive to the Adventure Sports model. So where does that leave the Adventure Sports, which is due to be released later this month? Well it gets everything listed above in addition to the following:

  • Fuel capacity increased to 6.37 gallons (extra 1.4 gallons)
  • Fork travel increased to 8.9 inches (extra 0.9 inch)
  • Shock travel increased to 9.4 inches (extra 0.8 inch)
  • Ground clearance increased to 10.6 inches (extra 0.8 inch)
  • Seat height increased to 35.4 inches (extra 1.2 inches)
  • Redesigned flat seat
  • Handlebar height increased (extra 1.3 inches)
  • New windscreen (80mm taller)
  • Larger skid plate
  • Standard crash bars
  • Redesigned steel luggage rack
  • Standard heated grips
  • Standard 12-volt accessory socket
  • Rear storage pocket
  • 30th anniversary paint scheme
Adventure Sports
The standard crash bars, large skid plate, and 30th anniversary paint job are quick ways to identify an Adventure Sports.Courtesy of Honda

What's The Price Difference?

You get more on the Adventure Sports. No surprise. But do you get more for your money? The Adventure Sports package will cost $1,500 extra, whether it’s on the DCT or manual model. But Honda is adjusting prices for all Africa Twin models for 2018, so this is how it all stacks up:

  • CRF1000L Africa Twin Manual: $13,499
  • CRF1000L Africa Twin DCT: $14,199
  • CRF1000L2 Africa Twin Adventure Sports Manual: $14,999
  • CRF1000L2 Africa Twin Adventure Sports DCT: $15,699
Honda display
The new display is solid. Not TFT but easy to read and functional. It’ll be standard this year on all Africa Twin models.Spenser Robert

Is The Adventure Sports Worth An Extra $1,500?

When buyers are spending $20,000 or more on an adventure bike, quibbling over whether or not a $1,500 trim package is worth the money may seem silly. I also recognize a lot of people will buy this bike purely because it is the most expensive Africa Twin. But, for the sake of fiscal science, I tallied up what the Adventure Sports options would approximately cost if you wanted to add them to a standard Africa Twin.

  • 6.37-gallon fuel tank: $N/A
  • Suspension upgrades: $500–$1,000
  • Handlebar risers: $80–$100
  • Tall windscreen: $169.95
  • Skid plate and crash bars: $825.95
  • Steel luggage rack: $65.95
  • Seated grips: $287.90
  • 12-volt accessory socket: $23.95
  • 30th anniversary paint scheme: priceless

Total: $1,953.70–$2,473.70 (not including the larger fuel tank or the 30th anniversary paint)

When you crunch the numbers, the Adventure Sports starts to look like a bargain. It’s hard to put an exact price on something like the longer-travel suspension and nigh impossible to pin down the value of a larger fuel tank or fancy paint scheme, but even my conservative estimates point to this package being a pretty great bang for your buck.

neutral button
Yup, that’s a neutral button. Honda only brought out DCT Adventure Sports, and I was surprised at how easy the automatic transmission made maneuvering the big machine.Spenser Robert

Which One Should You Buy: Africa Twin vs. Adventure Sports?

The obvious buyer of an Adventure Sports is someone looking to do more long-distance riding or someone interested in the gnarlier side of off-road exploration. Sure, added crash protection and suspension travel are nice but, as strange as it sounds, the most notable improvement for the Adventure Sports in the dirt is perhaps the riding position while standing. Honda didn't have a base-model 2018 Africa Twin available, but I rode a '17 Africa Twin back to back with an Adventure Sports on dusty Arizona roads and it was remarkably easier to control the Adventure Sports from out of the saddle. Relying on that model’s taller handlebar and fatter footpegs, I felt far more in control than the hunched-over, bar-in-lap feeling I got while on the standard model. The taller seat on the Adventure Sports (adjustable from 35.4–36.2 inches) may prove challenging for some, but as a 6-foot-tall rider, I wasn’t as intimidated as I expected.

Adventure Sports skid plate
The Adventure Sports skid plate covers more of the exhaust headers and is strongly suggested for anyone expecting to navigate rocky off-road trails.Spenser Robert

I also can’t help but praise the fuel range of the Adventure Sports. I probably geek out over big fuel-range numbers more than the average motorcyclist, but there’s no denying the utility or convenience of riding 300 miles between fuel stops. Our test loop in Prescott was a perfect example. After about 160 miles of zipping around dirt roads, cruising on the highway, and giving the throttle a healthy amount of attention, I still ended the day with half a tank of gas and an average of 49 mpg. That, my friends, is awesome. And it immediately makes me dream of the trips I could take, or places I could explore, unfettered by the typical constraints of fuel range.

Where does that leave the standard Africa Twin? Anyone looking for a totally capable ADV machine at a great price will be more than happy on the base model. The updates that Honda is rolling out on the 2018 machine only add to the bike’s many attributes—the new dash, ride-by-wire throttle, and seven-level traction control work quite well. And even without the added suspension travel or ground clearance, the base Africa Twin is a fantastically competent off-road machine. If I were a little shorter and wasn’t planning to ride the thing around the world, I would be just as inclined to buy the standard model for its more easily manageable height and weight.

Dancing through twisty roads
I was impressed that the added height and weight didn’t seem to impact the on-pavement handling. The Adventure Sports was more than happy to dance through twisty roads after eating miles of dirt.Courtesy of Honda

No Such Thing As A Perfect Motorcycle

My two biggest complaints about the Adventure Sports are the lack of cruise control and the lack of a centerstand. For a couple hundred dollars, you can get a centerstand directly from Honda, but considering this is its flagship adventure bike meant to take you anywhere, it feels like a frustrating cost-cutting or weight-saving measure to not include one standard. Not having cruise control is even more frustrating now that the bike is equipped with ride-by-wire throttle. If I can travel 300 miles without stopping and it’s not technologically prohibitive to do so, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t have cruise control. It’s exactly the sort of thing that encourages you to “go farther” and therefore a perfect fit for the Adventure Sports. After talking to the Honda reps, I wouldn’t be surprised if cruise control is included on a 2019 model, but for the time being, we’ll have to wait.

Missing: Adventure Sports cruise control.
Missing: Adventure Sports cruise control. If found, please report immediately to Honda.Spenser Robert

Other than that, the big question a lot of people are going to have is in regard to the quality of the suspension. Honda may have added travel to the fork and the shock, but by and large the suspension components are the same. The original Africa Twin’s Showa suspension felt too soft when it was put under heavy off-road pressure, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that softness was apparent when the Adventure Sports is pushed to its limit as well. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to ride the new bike as hard as we normally would on such a test, so it would be disingenuous to say that the new suspension is better in any way other than maximum travel. I didn’t encounter any issues on fire roads or occasional off-trail field exploration, but we’ll have to seek out tougher terrain before we come to a conclusion.

Riding in Prescott, Arizona
It wasn’t exactly enduro riding in Prescott, Arizona, but dirt roads are still tons of fun when you’re on a machine as capable as this.Courtesy of Honda

Final Thoughts

As someone who prefers the BMW R1200GS to the R1200GSA and has ridden and enjoyed the base-model Africa Twin, I was skeptical of the Adventure Sports before I rode it. In my experience, adding weight and bold, new graphics doesn’t yield a better riding experience. Now, even though my time on the bike was limited, I understand the appeal. Compared to the base model, the L2 fits me better, provides added confidence when the terrain gets tricky, and looks absolutely fantastic. So perhaps the days of having one motorcycle to do everything are long behind us, but I struggle to name other bikes I would need in my garage if I owned an Africa Twin Adventure Sports, and in a lot of ways that’s the highest form of praise you can give a modern machine.

Held Carese II Jacket in the Blue/Grey; Held Torno II pants; Held Airstream II gloves; Schuberth E1 in the Radiant White.
The perfect gear for an Adventure Sports ride through a hot day in Arizona? Held Carese II Jacket in the Blue/Grey; Held Torno II pants; Held Airstream II gloves; Schuberth E1 in the Radiant White.Courtesy of Honda

Technical Specifications:

PRICE $14,999 (manual); $15,699 (DCT)
ENGINE 998cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin
CLAIMED TORQUE 73 lb.–ft. @ 6000 rpm
FRAME Steel semi-double cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 45mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping; 8.8-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Single shocks, adjustable for spring preload, plus compression and rebound damping; 9.4-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Two dual-piston Nissin calipers w/ 310mm discs; ABS
REAR BRAKE Single-piston caliper, 256mm disc w/ ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 27.5°/4.4 in.
WHEELBASE 62.2 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 35.4/36.2 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 533 lb. (556 lb. DCT)
CONTACT powersports.honda.com