This is it, the three way on and off road comparison we’ve been waiting for; the Honda Africa Twin, BMW F800GS Adventure and the Triumph Tiger 800 XCa.
These models were chosen by Motorcyclist because they all have similar price points, power, weight, and the general option choices. Before the AT came along, if someone wanted a simple 800-class ADV with a 21-inch front wheel they didn’t have many choices outside of the Tiger 800 or F800GS. Now that the AT is out, those who want to see the world off the beaten path will have a third and cheaper option.
First up is a fully farkled Triumph Tiger 800 XCa.
The Tiger 800 lineup starts at $11,500 for the base level XR and then goes all the way up to $15,500 for the XCa, which comes equipped with everything from a GPs mounting kit to heated seats and grip. Its 800cc triple engine performed very well over 50 miles of twisty roads with ride by wire technology and ample power across the entire rev range. Though its windshield was the worst in the test when it comes to wind protection, the Tiger 800 XCa had no problems at freeway speeds and the handling was light.
Where the Tiger 800 XCa fell short was on dirt, not those hard packed and smooth dirt roads but the ones with large bumps and deep holes. The WP fork and shock were the easiest to bottom out because its suspension sits deep in its stroke so there’s less stroke available when you go over rocks and water bars. Not only that, the engine they liked so much on asphalt felt uneasy on dirt. Better to leave this one for sport-touring rides than hard off-roading.
Next up was the BMW F800GS Adventure.
For a starting MSRP of $13,895 you’ll be getting ABS as standard, a large windscreen, larger front shroud, and an additional 2.1 gallons of fuel capacity to that tank under the seat. This makes the F800GS Adventure a great bike for those long distance rides where gas stations are few and far between.
Unlike the Tiger, BMW’s F800GS A struggled at freeway speeds with an uninspiring engine that could use and extra gear so it doesn’t get “buzzy” at high speeds. But where the Tiger failed, the F800GS handled without problems.
Those water bars and rock gardens were no trouble for the BMW and off road is where it shines with precise clutch engagement, tight turning radius, great balance, and the body is narrow enough to make it easy to stand on the pegs. Three-mode Electronic Suspension Adjustment (Comfort, Normal, and Sport) controls the shock dampening but Zack Courts, this review’s writer, found that the sport mode’s stiffer settings to work best because the F800GS A is so heavy.
Then there’s the Honda Africa Twin.
Between the first two models, BMW’s F800GS Adventure does perform better off-road bike but the Africa Twin has it beat.
Let’s talk about all that technology bundled up into a compact body with most of the mass centralized. That 998cc parallel twin with a 270 crank uses a similar Unicam 4-valve cylinder head design as Honda's CRF motocross bikes, with twin spark plugs in each cylinder. A counterbalancer is used to keep vibrations in check and other items designed to keep the engine compact were added to the power plant.
Power delivery is very linear and easy to use, sure it lags behind compared to larger bikes like the BMW’s R1200GS or KTM’s 1190 Adventure in terms of raw power but in exchange, you get more control on dirt.
On asphalt, the AT performs fine and there’s nothing special about it. The engine can handle freeway speeds comfortably with better aerodynamics than the Tiger. Where it really shines is off road thanks to the fully adjustable Showa suspension that can handle anything from rocky terrain to eroded ruts. There’s a gnarled slice of earth that the Tiger has to slowly maneuver around? The Africa Twin will be more than happy to attack it with good speed.
Also, the AT comes with an optional DCT package and that extra 23 pounds of technology was fitted to their test bike. Oddly enough, it was the more seasoned and confident off-road riders who enjoyed using the auto-shifting function while less confident riders found it uninteresting.
There’s so much going for the AT including the four drive modes and all of this for a base model CRF1000L MSRP of $12,999 or, if you prefer the DCT model it’s a little less than $1,000 more at $13,699.
Out of the three models, the Africa Twin is the “True Adventure” bike.