Adventure touring seems to be the flavour in the premium motorcycle market in India with many manufacturers jumping on to the "adventure" genre. The year started with the big one - the much anticipated Royal Enfield Himalayan being unveiled just ahead of the Auto Expo.
The 2016 Auto Expo itself saw another player in the superbike segment, DSK Benelli unveiling its upcoming adventure tourer TRK 502. Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) also sprung a surprise by showcasing and announcing that the new Africa Twin will be assembled and sold in India, later this year.
The term 'adventure tourer' as it's known today, in a way owes its origins to the Honda Africa Twin, revered the world over for its off-road prowess and favoured by many round-the-world motorcycle travellers over the past two decades. The legendary Africa Twin of the 1990s is renowned, particularly for its rally DNA, and performance at the Paris-Dakar Rally.
The original production Africa Twin, or XR750, was launched in December 1989 and based on the rally NXR750, which won the Paris-Dakar rally four times in the 1980s. The XRV750 was in production till 2003 and now Honda has revived the Africa Twin after more than a decade, thanks to the recent spike in interest in adventure bikes globally, and even in India. What's more good news is that the Africa Twin will be assembled and sold in India too, later this year.
In terms of looks, the new Africa Twin follows typical adventure bike looks with minimal bodywork, a tall stance, dual headlights topped by a windscreen, large spoked wheels and high ground clearance. The seat height is adjustable with 850mm at its lowest point, so that would be welcomed by riders here.
The engine, unlike the V-twin units of the earlier Africa Twins, is a liquid-cooled, 998cc parallel-twin motor which makes 94bhp and around 97Nm of torque. Kerb weight is around 230kg and a steel semi-double cradle frame is engineered to provide rigidity as well as promote ground clearance and protect the powertrain.
Suspension duties are handled by a 45mm Showa inverted fork with over 228mm of travel at the front and a pro-link single shock with hydraulic preload at the rear, with 220mm of travel. At the front is a 21-inch spoked wheel and an 18-incher at the rear. Braking is taken care of by dual 310mm discs at the front and a single 256mm wave disc at the rear. ABS is standard and switchable only at the rear wheel. There's a four-level switchable traction control too.
Internationally, the Honda Africa Twin is available in two transmission options - a manual and an optional auto shifting dual-clutch transmission (DCT). In India though, we will only get the manual transmission variant.
HMSI will be bringing in the Africa Twin as CKD units, so that should keep the price competitive enough. But a lot will depend on the percentage of localisation too, to really take the fight to the premium adventure bikes, dominated by the extremely capable Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and even the Suzuki V-Strom.
Now, this one - the new Africa Twin - has a lot of expectations from fans and adventure enthusiasts alike. If it's priced between Rs 13-14 lakh or thereabouts, Honda may well have a very desirable adventure bike indeed, and one many an aspiring adventure tourer will be willing to wait out. We will, of course, be doing a review once the bike is launched sometime later this year. Till then, the adventures will have to wait for the Africa Twin.