The 2016 Honda Africa Twin is the company's full-on assault on the adventure bike market. This new airbox, revealed in a patent, will help it achieve real dirt performance. Here's how.
These patent drawings popped up on Motorcycle.com a few weeks ago. They thought the significance was that Honda has a round headlight, retro-style ADV bike in the works. In actuality, the round headlight and all the other stuff you see here, aside from the parallel-twin motor and airbox, is there to obfuscate the real development — an airbox that sits outside the frame. That's denoted by "12" in the patent drawings you see here.
"The significance of the airbox is that the bike should be slim like a motocrosser through the middle," explains our inside source at Honda. He's seen the bike and shared exclusive details with IndefinitelyWild.
The new Africa Twin is going to bring a new approach to the ADV bike market. Where competitors like the 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere and class-defining BMW R1200GS are basically touring bikes that can get down a dirt road, the Africa Twin aims to offer real dirt performance in a package that can also get on the highway.
If you've ever sat on a bike like the GS, you know that it feels nothing like a dirt bike. The weight is obviously hundreds of pounds heavier, but you also sit far back on the bike, behind the wide fuel tank and in a manner that's decidedly road oriented. Where, on a dirt bike, a long, narrow seat enables you to shift your weight fore and aft and easily grip the bike with your knees while standing, traditional ADV bikes lock you into a single sitting position and splay your knees wide around a protruding tank.
The long, slim seat of a motocross racer allows the rider to slide forward, putting all of his weight over the front wheel, planting it in corners.
A big reason why that tank protrudes is that it has to cover and wrap around an airbox housed inside and underneath it. Honda's patent reveals an arrangement that foregoes that convention. By moving the airbox outside the frame's perimeter, that frame can then be much slimmer and the fuel tank can both sit lower and be slimmer.
Traditional ADV bikes like this BMW R1200GS lock the rider into a static position, a ways back on the bike. The BMW's airbox lies underneath all that plastic in front of the rider's knees.
"The fuel tank is in the standard dirt bike position," explains our source. "Capacity is a hair under five gallons."
Next to technologies like traction control and cornering ABS, an ergonomic innovation may not sound terribly sexy, but those of us who have tried to hustle these big bikes off-road will know what a game changer a dirt bike-style seat will be. It'll enable riders to scoot forward in corners, using their weight to plant the front wheel while also making standing an easier, more secure, comfortable affair.
Of course, this development also speaks to the bike's off-road focus. The Africa Twin is shaping up to be a real dirt performer.
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