Out of the wild continent

by Andy Bryenton

The year is 1985 — state of the art in home computing is still less powerful than today’s microwave ovens, big hair is king, and the charts are topped by the ‘king of pop’, Michael Jackson. Out in the dust and heat of Africa, a team of motorcycle designers and racers is about to make history.

The Paris to Dakar might be the ultimate endurance test for a vehicle — spanning mountains, deserts, tropical heat and burning sand; it’s long been associated with a level of automotive obsession bordering on the unhinged. It forges great stories — and even better machines. In the 1980s, Honda embarked on a series of four victories in this gruelling crucible of motorsport, stamping their mark once and for all as the masters of off-road adventure bike design. The masterpiece they presented to the public in 1989 was called the Africa Twin.

Now, three decades on, the 2019 model of the Africa Twin is a fitting tribute to that legendary machine — and more. Not content to pay homage to a moment in sporting history with a few badges and a neat colour scheme — although the new Honda is dressed in racing livery — the engineers behind the Africa Twin have added the best of modern tech as well. It’s the kind of stuff that those original Paris to Dakar riders would have wished for.

The engine is bigger and more powerful — a liquid-cooled unicam four-stroke parallel twin beefed up to 998cc and equipped with fuel injection. The massive fuel tank delivers up to 500 kilometres of riding between pit stops. Throttle by wire technology means that a rider can select from three distinct riding modes, with a fourth available on the DCT model for pure off-road action. All-round the ground clearance has been improved, weather protection and wind reduction fettled, and rider comfort for long-haul trips brought to the fore. It’s a machine, which could confidently tackle the wilds of any continent — that inspires huge confidence for those out there who want to explore New Zealand.

We might not have roasting hot deserts and steaming jungles, but with mud, gravel, blacktop and wild weather, having a machine built to devour the miles despite all nature’s whims makes for excellent peace of mind.