Honda has been stirring up rumors. No, not BIG rumors, but rather an equally exciting and fast-spreading mid-size rumor.
In what form? Enter the supposed Africa Twin 850 that will (hopefully!) reach the market in 2021.
But what exactly is the Honda CRF850L Africa Twin and why should we be so excited about it?
In the sections below, we propose what the newest mid-sized ADV motorcycle might be, what we hope it will be, and when we expect it to arrive.
Why the CRF850L? Why now?
Honda is no stranger to the ADV bike market. Take the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin and the up-spec Africa Twin Adventure Sports. Both are highly capable motorcycles, and both getting serious improvements for the 2021 model year.
In fact, both are now dubbed CRF1100Ls following an increase of stroke measurement by 6.4mm and the resulting 1,084cc displacement.
But the real reason for the CRF850L Africa Twin? The bump in size of the flagship Africa Twin leaves a gap left to be filled by a mid-sized adventure motorcycle in Honda’s lineup, while also entering a highly competitive category that’s mostly dominated by European manufacturers.
Adding the CRF850L to the adventure lineup will create an opportunity for Honda to grab ahold of newer or less experienced ADV riders who are looking for a platform that is less than liter sized.
Think of the mid-sized Africa Twin as the stepping stone between the entry-level CB500X or endure model CRF450L and the long-stroke, teched-out CRF1100L Africa Twin.
What Will the CRF850L Africa Twin Look Like?
Oh, can we dream, but some things are pretty certain to come to fruition.
Expect and all-new engine platform from Big Red, coming in the form of 800-850cc liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-twin engine.
Considering that the new platform will have to meet the restricted Euro 5 emissions standards and the numbers we have recently seen of similarly sized competitors, we’d expect the Africa Twin 850 to crank out roughly 90 horsepower. And be extremely tractable, smooth, and rider-friendly in typical Honda fashion.
A full suite of rider aid electronics is also expected on the Africa Twin 850, including selectable ABS, traction control and power delivery modes via a throttle-by-wire system derived from the big-displacement Africa Twin 1100.
Honda will also likely use the same full-color 6.5-inch TFT dashboard used on the 1100, and Apple CarPlay may work its way to the 850. Cruise control will likely be seen on the middleweight as well.
The Africa Twin 850 will more than likely use a steel semi-double-cradle-frame also derived from the 1100, while employing long-travel Showa suspension to soak up all the imperfections of trail and tarmac you point it towards. We also expect a 21-inch front wheel and 18 inch rear wheel to be used, offering serious capability off-road.
Will there be an Africa Twin Adventure Sports model?
Just like the 1100 Africa Twin, we expect an up-spec, more capable Adventure Sports trim for the 850.
Taking notes of the long-stroke model, it should be expected to more fuel capacity, Showa EERA semi-active suspension, an adjustable windscreen, tubeless tires, and more!
But, of course, that will come at an added cost. Somewhere in the range of an additional $3,000, just like the 1100 model.
The CRF850L Will Have Stiff Competition
The middleweight Africa Twin will enter a cutthroat and booming market of similar-sized machines, mostly ruled by European manufacturers.
The competition will come in form of the BMW F 850 GS and the Triumph Tiger 800, as well as the Austrian’s bid into the middleweight ADV game–the new KTM 790 Adventure and more off-road focused 790 Adventure R.
The upcoming Yamaha Tenere 700 will also serve as tough competition for the CRF850L.
The serious competitors:
- BMW Motorrad F 850 GS
- KTM 790 Adventure
- Triumph Tiger 800
- Yamaha Tenere 700
When to Expect the Africa Twin 850
If Honda blesses the ADV market by putting the Africa Twin 850 into production, we likely won’t see it hit the markets until the 2021 model year.
We’ve seen the photos, but the required tooling, testing, and production of an all-new model is no small task, and Honda doesn’t do anything half-heartedly.
That, and considering that Big Red has just launched the heavily updated and noteworthy CRF1100L in the United States, it wouldn’t want to spoil the buzz surrounding the flagship model.
Personally, I’d expect to see an official announcement of the middleweight Africa Twin sometime around the 2020 EICMA show in Milan, Italy. Until then, we will continue to daydream over the thought of shredding the 850 through the backwoods!
*Images shown are of the 2019 Africa Twin Adventure Sports