mardi 1 décembre 2015

Essai - AS ZA Bikers

Approche basique comparé à d'autres constructeurs (puissance, suspensions électroniques, autres gadgets) et ça marche!

Retour à l'essence d'une moto honnête, c'est un plaisir de piloter sur toutes les surfaces

Une bonne moto tout-terrain avec d'excellentes capacités routières. Pas une moto de route qui peut aller dans le tout-terrain.

The way the larger capacity, dual purpose market has been lead down a path of high speed touring capabilities and comfort, we may be forgiven for thinking that the Africa Twin is somewhat underpowered based on the specifications alone. Not so! I was pleasantly surprised with the power delivery and top end. The Africa Twin, whilst able to hustle in high speed open road touring applications, would rather see you exploring off the beaten track. I saw 220km/h on the digital speedo as it revved out in top gear. The bike offers an incredibly smooth torquey punch throughout the rev range and at no stage was there a hint of snatch or labouring, even in high gears at low speeds.

We rode both the manual and DCT versions and although the 2 variants are way different in terms of gearbox and engine mapping technology, they are equally good for various reasons.

The parallel twin motor has an incredible soulful growl that intensifies as the throttle opens. At constant throttle and touring speeds it settles into a harmonious hum. The rugged purposeful nature of the bikes styling is contradicted by the utmost refinement of an engine and chassis that has absolutely no vibration. A real pleasure to ride! – smooth, taut and controlled in every way.

The DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) is an automatic version with no clutch, but does have the option to do manual shifts via paddle switches or an optional electronic gear lever. The DCT also offers a drive mode with three additional sport modes. These are 3 different mapping options that offer different levels of performance. For open road riding sport mode 3 worked well, with optimum “auto” gear changing at higher RPM with exciting throttle response. The DCT system already in use on some of Honda’s other models really shines in off-road applications. Hardened adventure riders might battle with the concept of an “automatic” motorcycle on the dirt. I personally had the same preconceptions, but after riding in various off-road terrains, ranging from gravel roads to washed away rocky paths and unexpected thick sand sections, it was soon apparent that the DCT makes life a lot easier! This confidence inspiring “rider aid” will make just about any rider look good in the dirt! I found that my workload was drastically reduced on the DCT compared to the manual version in rather intimidating sections. As a rider, all you need to do is pick your line, stand up and go for it, the motorcycle does the rest. The DCT has a gradient sensor which adapts the gear change by maintaining lower gears when going up a hill to maintain traction and then similarly timing the downshifts, for appropriate engine brake control while descending a hill. At some stages I did experience a bit of a lag in throttle response, mainly depending on what gear the DCT system decided to engage before I whacked the throttle open. The Honda design technicians considered that, especially in off-road scenarios, a rider might want to pop the front wheel up to clear a rut or other obstacle. A “G” switch specifically designed for off-road riding modifies the control of the clutch to give more direct drive, thus allowing instant throttle response. Particularly useful for direction changing power slides!

I thought slow balanced riding might not be possible without a clutch to feather but the DCT adapts perfectly, the only consideration is that one can’t “blip” the throttle as freely.

The manual version, in true Honda form, is an awesome bike. The gears are exceptionally smooth and the clutch is feather light. It was my favourite after testing on tar and district gravel roads on day 1. Most journalists agreed that the manual would probably be their first choice for tar riding, as the engine feedback appeared to be more responsive and there is an ability to squeeze out a bit more RPM before changing gears, offering slightly better performance compared to the DCT in auto mode. Interestingly the DCT version was a favourite amongst most on day 2 when off-road technical sections took riders out of their comfort zone.

Traction control is available on both the DCT and manual ABS versions. The traction control has four selectable options. It can be switched off entirely or the rider may choose one of three levels with greater or lesser degree of traction control. I switched off the traction control when riding on gravel sections. Personally I like to get the back-end sideways and found that in all settings the traction control was a little over protective, coming in quite early. A less experienced rider will find this feature very helpful in keeping the motorcycle restrained in tricky conditions.

The suspension performs brilliantly, no electronic mumbo jumbo, it simply works! Once again it is quite evident that Honda has gone for off-road capabilities. The fully adjustable front and rear long travel suspension combined with 250mm ground clearance is definitely up for the job. At no stage did the suspension bottom out and the feedback received through the suspension is that of a much lighter enduro motorcycle. On the tar, through tight, bumpy mountain passes, I found the standard settings to be a bit on the rigid side but this was easily improved with some minor adjustments. High speed stability is perfect and it was surprising to see how fast I could push through long sweeping corners. The front-end is well planted and confidence inspiring both on and off-road. Honda is known for excellent handling and the Africa Twin delivers admirably.

The braking system on the Africa Twin is definitely worth a mention. The brakes are exceptional on the road and the ABS works brilliantly. As corners tightened up through the twisty mountain passes, I found it easy to reduce speed with complete peace of mind, not once did I experience a “hold my breath” moment even though corner entry was a bit “hot” on more than one occasion. On the dirt one does have the option to switch the ABS off (rear wheel only). The front wheel with ABS activated works in a non-intrusive way, but by being able to lock up the rear wheel, a rider has more control over changing direction and can reduce speed more effectively when descending down a slippery road where ABS might have activated.

All electronics are easily accessed via buttons, rather than scrolling through an on-board computer set-up. It was refreshing to see that the designers took this approach and did not try to glam the motorcycle up with fancy options that can cause unnecessary frustration. A button near the dash de-activates ABS with one push. There is a G- button for the better acceleration response on dirt and a traction control switch near the left grip which selects different levels or simply cancels it. There is also a button to select either neutral, drive or sport options on the DCT version.

Rider comfort is excellent. Shorter riders will not miss out on riding the Africa Twin. There are two seat options available, besides the original, with the lowest able to be set at 820mm.Impressive when one considers the excellent ground clearance. The ergonomics are also great, the seat narrows to a tapered tank section, giving that real dirt bike feel.

Wind protection is remarkable, putting the rider in a bubble with no buffeting. There is no need for adjustments and the screen is fixed in one position. The screen’s centre duct controls turbulent air, while dual side ducts deflect wind around shoulders and arms. This all works well but the downside is that it gives dust easier access to the LCD display, making it difficult to read after spending some time in the dirt. Taller screens will be available but I believe that they got the standard one spot on!

With the Africa Twin, Honda have not simply hit the adventure touring mark, they have absolutely blown it away! Four odd years of design, research and development have culminated in what could just be the most focused and competent dirt biased adventure bike on earth! Try as I might and not wanting to sugar coat this article, I did try, yet I honestly could not fault this bike. The new Africa Twin is a winning package and I have no doubt that we will see riders taking on Africa and the world in absolute confidence, on this magnificent machine!

Welcome back Africa Twin, it was worth the wait!

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