Baffle Goes Off-Roading

Harry & Revs are let loose on the 2020 Honda CRF1100 Africa Twin

Hey everyone, Harry and Oli here. We were recently invited along to the Honda adventure experience through our friends at Thunder Road Motorcycles. The idea was to review the new Honda Africa Twin and the adventure experience at the same time. Considering we are now best adventure buddies we leapt at the opportunity to do some proper off-roading. The event was located at Dave Thorpe Honda Off-Road Centre in Exmoor National Park, Somerset. Specifically, the venue is in Combe Sydenham Country Park. 

On arrival we met the instructors and fellow riders for the two-day experience. There was an initial welcoming vibe and we all grabbed a coffee whilst filling in the necessary paperwork and getting geared up. The instructors took us through some basic procedures and explained the agenda then got us on the bikes for a brisk road-ride to the first off-road section of the day.

Oh hello, new Africa Twin! The bike immediately felt confidence inspiring. It seemed light despite the advertised figures and had awesome grunt to propel us forward. The brakes felt sharp and the off-road tyres performed uncannily good on the wet country roads. The new TFT screen was quite busy but we were too excited grinning from ear-to-ear to notice the details.

Upon arrival at the first venue they had us move the bikes in wide circles on a wet, muddy track. Everybody’s apparent lack of skill came shining through with the majority of us either putting a foot down or the entire bike down at some point. This was a quick indicator of much learning to come. Once we had completed these circles in both directions, we navigated a small slalom course by walking and using the bike’s power instead of our own. Then we moved onto tight circles using an outstretched leg for support, much like you see motocross riders do in the corners.  After completion of these basic tasks we were split into ability-based groups and sent along a dirt track route uphill that put these newly learned skills to the test. The snack breaks complimented our retro Fuel Motorcycles gear perfectly by providing fruit clubs, penguins and other chocolate bars that reminded us all of misspent childhood days.

The big climbs were a great point to get into the technical details of the new Africa Twin. The bike provides multiple options through its TFT screen for the usual rider modes found on many bikes, but they also allow some serious fine tuning. ABS, traction control and wheelie’ability can be easily dialled in to suit the terrain. The instructors took us through the options and their application so we could make adjustments as necessary. The new Africa Twin is not just big and fast, it’s clever!

Back on the road with a decent ride ahead we aimed for lunch at a local pub. Food and drink was provided and allowed us time for discussion with the riding group. The attendees came from all over the UK with one chap, Luca, hailing from Rome…. Mind you he lives in Essex now. There was a real variety of skillset with one couple not having ridden for years after passing their tests. Clearly, this course was designed for allcomers.

After lunch we rode to the second venue of the day which was set in a different forestry area. We spent the afternoon working on a slalom course and working our way up and down a long winding hill using various techniques. These techniques allowed the varied use of brakes, gears and speed to show how they could be combined in differing scenarios to increase control and confidence. The stated aim was not to find a single answer but to find your own flow and comfort point on the bike.

As the day drew to a close, we rode back to base having built layers upon layers of new skill. We both agreed that we had come a long way in just one day whilst simultaneously having a brilliant time. The new Africa Twin was faultless on and off the road and we were constantly jabbering to each other about how much we loved it. The instructors were clear, concise, firm and friendly, with every command designed to develop new skills. We finished day one with a group meal in a nearby pub called the Notley Arms Inn which also happened to be our hotel for the evening. Over dinner, and a very nice drop of wine indeed, the group waxed lyrical about the first day, the bikes and our lives. Both Oli and I agreed this had been one of the better days of 2020 and we were super keen to get stuck into day two.

Day two, like day one, started with a spirited ride to the off-road venue, with a fuel stop en-route. The instructors lined us up at the venue and explained that we had to tackle a long technical uphill section to get on top of the main venue for the day. We lined up and went, one-by-one, up the path. The climb was the most demanding yet and Harry just about managed to get up it despite riding the entire length with a totally punctured and flat back tyre! Once everyone was at the top and Harry had swapped for one of the instructors’ bikes (Thanks again for the lend! H) we assembled in groups and spent the morning blasting around on top of open moorland and through dense forest. We covered just about every off-road terrain imaginable including deep mud, gravel, rock and grass. What a day this was turning out to be! The lessons learned on day one paid huge dividends on day two, with all riders clearly exhibiting confidence and Joie de vivre. The biggest difference showed in the lesser experienced riders who were now doing everything that the wider group was. 

After lunch on day 2 we went back to the off-road venue and were shown a track to follow and told we could repeat it as many times as we liked. The track consisted of everything we had learned over the past two days. It had climbs, descents, tight bends, long fast sections, deep mud, rocks and gravel and a great few bodies of water! We all set to this course with enthusiasm and were really left to become at one with the bike and the terrain. Oli took the instructors message about overtaking being allowed quite literally and started to count his overtakes. We all got in many laps of the large loop before ending the day, covered in mud, wet and happy. 

Between us we couldn’t find fault with the two-day experience, at all. If we were being uber picky we only had one or two grumbles about the bike. These were mainly focused around the bike’s controls, like the horn being right next to the indicator causing us to ‘honk’ frequently whilst navigating turns. That said the new Africa Twin is well up there on the list for the both of us. The power was ample for long road trips, it was comfy, felt light and had impressive brakes. It was totally confidence inspiring off-road! We could easily imagine taking it on huge adventure trips and covering serious mileage both on and off road. Think of it as the swiss-army knife of motorbikes. 

Harry and Oli

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