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REVIEW - First ADV bike, first ADV ride (tarmac only)

4513 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Derek Dust
**************************WARNING: LONG REVIEW*******************************

Where to start?

I don't know if a PRO/CON list will suffice because I feel the need to explain every experience in detail. Aaaahhh bloody ****, I'll just start writing. I'll TRY to keep it short.

Before I start, I think it's important to mention my height and background: I'm 5'5" (165cm) and started and ended on sportbikes. I retired from racing sportbikes about 4 yrs ago because the same routine was getting too old, too fast. I was burnt out to the point where I didn't want anything to do with motorcycles. So I stopped racing and even riding for a good 3-4 years.

Then I heard about the Honda Africa Twin about a year ago. And it got my heart pumping again because I've always wanted to try adventure riding. That and I love outdoor camping.

I've read & watched other peoples' reviews religiously. And the most common complaints were the lack of power, clunky shifts, turn signal switch location, footpegs, and windscreen.

Did I experience the same thing? Here's my review:

Power: Having ridden/raced parallel twins before I expected a linear power delivery from the AT but what I did not expect was just how fast that power would be delivered. LOL I have no idea why people are complaining about the lack of power. The AT pulls like crazy! I'm amazed Honda was able to extract such power/torque out of a parallel twin engine. And the power delivery is so smooth, manageable and forgiving. That's what makes parallel twin engines so fun to ride. On numerous occasions I found myself in excess of 20-30 mph over the speed limit without realizing it. Completely insane! I love it!

Clunky shifts Not sure if the people complaining about clunky shifts experienced this at low gears/revs or what but I didn't experience any so long as I shifted in the powerband. Shifting in the powerband reduces and/or eliminates clunky shifts. At least that was my experience on the AT.

Turn signal switch location You got me here! First attempt at signaling I honked. 2nd time, I honked again. Come on Honda, you can do better. Of all the Hondas I've owned they've always placed the horn where your thumb would be if extended.

Footpegs too small The footpegs were perfect for me. Probably because I have small feet and I'm used to small pegs. You should see how small sportbike race pegs are! LOL However, given the AT is an adventure bike (not a sportbike) I imagine bigger and gripper pegs are a necessity. One thing I do want to point out is how surprised I was to find the pegs and shift gear lever further forward than sportbikes. I had to make a conscious effort to remember to place my feet position further forward to shift.

Windscreen Common complaint - short windscreen causes wind buffeting on taller riders and/or riding with peaked helmets. Even at 5'5" and riding on my non-peaked full faced helmet I felt the wind buffeting. It wasn't really an issue for me since I was on a short ride (80 miles) but on long rides this can be very annoying.

Handlebars With the handlebars up so high, it made counter steering difficult. I felt like I was pushing the handlebars forward rather than slightly downward which caused me to drift slightly wide in turns. I don't know if my short stature played a part or if ADV riding requires a different cornering technique but I did not enjoy cornering on the bike.

Stock Tires Omgosh! They're horrendous! Highway riding at speeds of 75-90 mph the front tires would slightly wobble. I don't know if this is normal but it definitely did not feel safe. Also, while cornering once you got to a certain lean angle the grip level felt very neutral. Almost like you're about to tuck the front. Do I have the bike leaned over too far, or are the stock tires that bad? And would the feel be any worse when I switch to knobby tires because the plan is to to do 50/50 riding?

So what was my overall impression?

Honestly, I'm 50/50 about the bike. Let me explain.

This bike being my first ADV bike, I was quite nervous and excited at the same time. But the two main concerns I had with the AT was the weight and seat height. In the event I dropped the bike, there is no way I can lift/push a 500+lbs bike on my own especially since I suffer from lower back pain. I never felt my short inseam (29 inches) was a handicap when riding sportbikes till I started riding the AT. On a sportbike I could flat foot one foot or place all toes on both feet on the ground. But on the AT I could only manage to keep the balls of one foot on the ground.

Seat height on a typical sportbike is 32 inches. Seat height on the AT is 34.5 on high and 33.5 on low seat positions. I have my seat on the low position. And though 1 inch + change difference may not seem much it is when you're trying to keep a bike upright that weighs 125 more than what you're used to. I can't imagine how much worse it would be if I added stuffed panniers.

I don't know if my paranoia is premature but the one time experience where I almost dropped the bike has me spooked. I stalled the bike in the middle of an initiated turn on a slight uphill. Not sure what happened but my guess is not enough throttle. I managed to keep the bike upright but it was a battle. Imagine trying to PUSH the bike upright with the balls of ONE foot. The whole time I was thinking, Oh sh!t! Oh sh!t! What did I get myself into?!!!!.

I'm not one to give up. I love challenges...especially challenges I fully know I can conquer but I'm also aware of my limitations.

So that's where I am at with the bike...50/50.

I know you guys can't convince me to keep the bike since it's ultimately my decision but I'm hoping to hear from riders of similar stature that can give me some advice on how to overcome the weight issue because overall I really think the bike is awesome.
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The bike is an AUSSIE outback dirt blaster.
I'm 52 yo and stand 175 cm / 90kg.
No, I cannot lift it either loaded up and have to unload some gear to get it up.
Still manages soft river sand crossing and can tackle the rough stuff pretty good.
Spends most of its time all dusty now. that's what it was designed for.
Up and down the the sealed road mountain ranges here with knobbies on no probs, even in the wet.
Buy a Vstrom or similar if you want a better sealed road riding bike.


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Haha...I didn't know you were a forum member here. I watch your vids.

Off topic: Are you wearing a HELD protective gear? If so, which model is it and could you do a review? They have 4 different sizing options (Standard, Stocky, Slender, and Tall) and I'm just curious which version you have on. We don't have any vendors that carry Held for me to try on.

I tried emailing Held but they referred me to their US distributor and they've replied back. It's been weeks.
Ha ha...Small word this online stuff hey :)
Yes I have HELD gear, very good setup.
Carese II GORE-TEX Touring Jacket and matching pants.
I went small pants but large Jacket, there is size chart on the site.
Worse case send it back and get the next size.
Are you in Aus?

I use to own a Vstrom 1000 for 10 years, it's a 2 up 1000km per day interstate blaster and very comfy.
Hard dirt roads it's good on too but no way it could keep up to where I am taking the AT now, and look out if you hit some sand.
Firstly, if ADV riding is a new experience for you then like anything there is a learning curve involved: it's a confidence thing because the bikes you are used to are lighter and lower. You'll get there - think back to when you first started racing...did you ever have an "oh ****" moment back then? - but you learn and become familiar, and gain experience, right?

Height-wise, there are other guys on here who are around your height - I'm a bit taller, but not much, and I have the low seat which you can buy separately. TBH I don't use it that much because the standard seat in the high position gives me a comfortable highway ride and I'll switch it to the low position when I arrive at the trails. However, if I think I'm going to encounter slippery mud I will fit the low seat so that I can get at least one foot firmly down for paddling and stability.

Weight-wise: yeah, it's a pretty heavy bike (although not as heavy as most other big ADV bikes), but it carries its weight really well and most of the time off road you'll be up on the pegs for stability anyway. This bike will descend a steep gravel and scree incline at walking pace no problem, so it's pretty well balanced despite the weight. Practice slow-speed riding up on the pegs and you'll get used to dealing with the weight over time as your confidence builds.

Mate, everyone who rides ADV bikes has had those "oh ****" moments: I had one last Wednesday - honestly! And FWIW, yeah, I did ride dirtbikes when I was much younger, but they were much lighter and for the last 20 years I've been riding sportsbikes, so I know where you are coming from. I'd say get some decent 50/50 tyres fitted (yes, the stock tyres are crap), fit some crash protection, the low seat and a steering damper and give yourself a year on the bike. Take it off road as often as you can, start easy and build your confidence bit by bit - trust me, you'll get there. Oh, and BTW if you head off road you WILL drop the bike at some stage...most of us have...lots of times, but it will usually be an unexpected low-speed stall, so no real harm done, and it's not too bad to pick up if you get the technique right - even easier if you have a mate with you.

Stick with it mate, because ADV-riding is an awesome experience and the AT is an awesome bike to do it on.
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