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Is the Africa Twin 1,084cc Engine Headed for a Standard Style Bike?

When I started working as a journalist in this industry, Honda was very reluctant to share engines between different product platforms. At the time, I thought that the RC51 v-twin superbike motor would be an ideal candidate (in a different state of tune, perhaps) for use in a naked bike/standard. That engine was a gem, but it never found another home.

Drawing from Honda patent application shows Africa Twin engine in standard-style chassis

Honda’s reluctance to use the same basic engine in different models eventually softened, and now we see multiple models using the CB500 engine, for instance, and, even more surprising, the latest Africa Twin engine showing up in a cruiser.

Well, it turns out that the 1,084cc parallel twin may find yet another home … in a standard-style motorcycle, or even a multi-use bike like the CB4X Concept shown by Honda a year ago that itself appears headed for production powered by a 650 inline-four.

Honda CB4X Concept

Cycle World published an article earlier this year regarding a patent application by Honda that displayed chassis designs housing the Africa Twin mill. Both chassis designs showed ergonomics pointing towards a standard style/naked motorcycle. This patent lends further credence to the rumor that such a bike is on its way.

In the latest Africa Twin, Honda rates the output of the 1,084cc twin at 101 horsepower at 7,500 rpm, and 77.4 pound feet of torque at 6,250 rpm. Of course, the Africa Twin is tuned for low-end/mid-range power in keeping with its off-road capabilities. We think the engine is easily tunable to 110+ horsepower for use in a sporty naked. Sounds like a fun bike, and we hope Honda builds it.

66 Comments

  1. ABQ says:

    Lacking sufficient inseam, many of us will have to settle for putting the Africa Twin into a Honda Rebel. But putting the engine into a standard style bike for the city, and a twisty road to the crest, would be excellent. Now, how about putting it into a Silverwing scooter?

  2. Hot Dog says:

    The only thing that keeps this bike from being perfect is it needs a shaft drive. How about a single sided swingarm shaft drive like what’s on my 1200 VFRX? Can anyone tell me what the weight penalty is versus a chain?

    • joe b says:

      I too have a VFR1200DCT, similar. It has the shaft drive, thats situated below the swing arm pivot, to cancel out the rear end jacking. Its not so much the weight penalty, its the mass of it all to get going. On mine, a sport touring machine, I’m not usually racing around, fast slow, fast slow, acceleration then decel. On a bike this big, it seems non existent even when I do. Overall, it just makes the bike, the rear wheel heavy. real heavy. nice to have i think, but a sport model, with lightweight in mind, it seems it would be out of place. I see what your saying. All too often, if the machine had that, it would turn off 99% of buyers, and would you buy one then? I dont like belts. New chains are much better than those in the 70’s. Chain drive bikes take time to keep clean. Seeing the intent of this machine, a chain, to me, is the only drive solution.

      • Hot Dog says:

        Yes, I would buy one. Is the weight penalty 10# – 15# for a single sided shaft drive rear end? My VFR12XDCT is heavy at slow speeds but weight disappears fast as acceleration picks up. To me the rear end is non existent, as far as weight goes. I just want a maintenance free bike as possible. I’ve had chain drive bikes and they need to be cleaned/lubed on a regular basis. I was 1500 miles from home, had a chain that started stretching, and had to tighten it every 100 miles. Nope, I didn’t carry another with me and Yep, it sucked. I’m hoping for a light weight twin, shaft drive, cruise, big tank and comfortable.

  3. joe b says:

    If Honda could package it like the 890 duke, with performance, it would be a 10 best bike.

  4. Documentcre says:

    inventions of typography

  5. kjazz says:

    Very elegant looking bike. We can go round and round about whether it should be this engine or another, but the way it is presented above is very enticing to me. Kinda BMW-like in the fairing areas, really dig that exhaust. It’ll lose some sexy appeal after the attachment of turn signals etc. But overall, nice job Honda.

  6. Frank India says:

    At 90 hp the 650 would be the smarter choice in my opinion, as opposed to the 101 hp of the Africa motor. Lighter weight, similar enough power should make for similar enough performance, and provide better gas mileage and insurance rates. CB4X…great looking bike. Honda, just quell the high rpm buzz and you’ll have a totally superb daily and long distance ride.

    • Dave says:

      I would think a 650cc i4 would be a little heavier than the bigger displacement twin since there’s more of everything that’s made out of heavier steels (crank, cam, valvetrain, etc.).

  7. In my boy racer days I would buy a new YZ250 every year.
    Now I head straight for the “gently used” market.
    Jim B

  8. Pedro says:

    That cb4x is beautiful – they should make it – just make it.

    • Nick says:

      You don’t have to like the look of that cbx4 concept bike to at least credit Honda for designing something with style, and then not smother it with naff decals that destroy its lines completely. That’s something Honda has been guilty of for years.

  9. Shmitty says:

    I reckon that Honda realizes it’s built a great adventure touring bike in the Africa Twin Adventure Sport but that it’s a bit big for some potential customers. I am very interested in the same features including the ES suspension in a more street focused bike. I don’t need 230 mm of suspension travel, but 170 mm would really help out with today’s beat up roads. I don’t need a 21” front wheel on the twisties but would like a 19” tire on dirt roads. I can see this bike as a direct competitor to something like a Ducati Multistrada, but with the reliability and dealer support of Honda. Sign me up.

  10. motorhead says:

    Honda, if you’re listening, could I buy this parallel twin as a kit-engine and drop it off at my custom bike builder? Would love to design my own steam-punk, post-apocalypse grungy new survival bike. This engine looks like it could reliably and quickly navigate armageddon.

  11. Nespressozes says:

    from lat. manus – “hand” and scribo – “I write”) ]

  12. Kermit T Frog says:

    If it looks like that CB4X, I hope it’s headed for a cliff…I

    That thing looks like a cat in heat.

  13. Dan says:

    Wish Honda would put the effot and resources into reviving and upgrading their VFR, VTR and CBX1100 Blackbird models. Those were great street bikes with so much potential to be carried forward and improved.

    • DucDynasty says:

      Dan, I agree 100% with you. I would even consider this motor in a clean, understated sport-touring design. I have not been able to warm-up to the “Bottoms-up” look of most bikes these days.
      It’s the reason I still ride my Yamaha FJR and 92′ Honda VFR750F.
      Nothing since has checked the boxes for me.

  14. motomike says:

    My humble opinion is the CB4X is cool to look at, I really like the CB900F concept bike, but the best looking bike of all eternity is my ZRX. If you want interchangeable body parts,buy the new Grom. I agree there are more choices today than ever before, so shut up and ride!

  15. motorhead says:

    I work for a major corporation. Not in motorcycles, but in things that customers can purchase. We do everything possible to develop new products that customers want the most and will buy in huge quantities. If a company knew exactly what customers want to buy in huge quantities they would make it immediately. Trouble is, it’s not obvious. Looks like Kia found it with their Telluride. Benelli found it with their semi-auto shotgun. But everyone else, even Honda, is struggling to find that magical combination of features in a fragmented market.

    • joe b says:

      Yes, i agree. Its easy to see and read, how someone doesnt like this or doesnt like that, little things, then say, I’d never buy that bike, “I dont like how it looks”. when it has a seam on the tank, or a different headlight shape, or angled muffler, not how all those things have been made in past models. The problem is not long ago, there were only a few bikes to choose from. Today, there are hundreds to choose from, so its easy to think, that perfect one is just around the corner, I’ll wait. Then when it comes out, its like the Homer Simpson car, it has everything everyone is asking for, and nobody buys it. Its ugly. because it has all the stuff for everyone. Then top it off, a small bike 125cc is four thousand dollars. On this page, i read so many negative comments, adding them all up about one model, its worthless, ugly, heavy, slow, doesnt have anything anyone wants, when in reality its a really good bike compared to what was available some 20 or 10 years ago. Motorcycles are not utilitarian buys, we dont need a motorcycle. We want motorcycles. (now someone will reply different) We live in a time when you can buy almost anything, when it comes to motorcycles. The next new bike shown on this website, will only get a lot of negative comments, from all those that would never buy one. Watch. and you know that it will be a really good bike, if only…

      • motorhead says:

        excellent points. The design and marketing teams of the Big motorcycle companies are really struggling to find a home-run hit. I’m thinking we need famous actors riding motorcycles in a blockbuster action movie, combined with a spin-off action first-person video game fought on motorcycles and lethal weapons. Then we might see a rush to buy the two motorcycles: the hero-motorcycle and the villain motorcycle. Hollywood, write a script! And I like the Africa Twin standard.

      • fred says:

        Good points, except, as you anticipated, when you write “we, you mean “I, Joe B”. Your point of view is shared buy some riders, but it is not exclusive. Many people buy motorcycles for utilitarian purposes, and “needs”. In parts of the world, than is true for a very high percentage of the motorcycle purchases. In the U.S.A., the percentage is still much higher than you think. (According to you, the percentage is zero.)

        Personally, I’ve been bike only for a couple of years now. FWIW, I still own a car, and keep minimal insurance on it, but don’t drive it. My bikes are very utilitarian. And fun. And reasonably fast. Over the years, I’ve known a number of other “bike-only” riders. Even when I still drove a lot of car miles, my bikes were still used for utilitarian purposes much of the time. Commuting, shopping runs, visiting people, etc. Not just rides for the sake of riding, though I did, and still do, ride just for fun as well.

      • mechanicus says:

        joe b, I see your point, but why do they keep insisting on marketing avant-garde designs? Seats with your tail-end up in the air with no passenger accommodation, bent over hunched-up ergos with your chin on the forks, huge protruding beaks and angular garish sharp-edged dark styling, etc? With today’s excellent running gear, a sane line of bikes would surely appeal to a broader audience and sell well. But, you can lead horse to water…

    • Dave says:

      The core issue is market size. Benelli (and Winchester, and others) have big market share in the US because it’s a big market. The US motorcycle market is small and over saturated with choices. In the US there are very few motorcycle models/types selling in great enough quantity to justify a focused development effort specifically for this market.

  16. Rachioyyt says:

    for Countess Louise of Savoy

  17. hh says:

    How about the AT engine in a design that has a variety of changeable fairing set ups. Ones designed from the factory to be easily stripped off to change and repurpose the same bike, making it look right for roadster or without too much effort, just turn a few dzus bolts or allen keys and in seconds touring protection or sport cafe. What a concept? You buy it and whatever fairing kits you wish. then all that electronic setting stuff works with how you want to appear to be riding it. But if you want to sell bikes then Honda, do that concept with an AT 800engine. One bike that goes from from cafe racer to sport touring via the fairings etc.

  18. newtonmetres says:

    So far i have owned 1 single, 4 twins, 2 triples, 7 fours: first bike Yamaha 80cc 1973
    last bought 2008 Suzuki B-King. Age 67

  19. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    ‘Exciting Bike’. – Just my crusty old opinion but having started with TR-6, Yam Catalina, Hon 250 Scrams and Royal Enfields in 1964, every configuration and image of motorcycle has been done. Even purely from a performance point of view, which for a long time now, have included full race bikes slightly legalized for the street, done done done. Now I am not advocating freak designs like that european Snail bike with a girl on top to be the next exciting, however electric is the only possible exciting next, and they still are too short for a full scale guy.
    That is all. For now.

  20. falcodoug says:

    I think it looks cool. Kind of different.

  21. DAVE SUMNER says:

    Hopefully not with that nut socket seat.

  22. mickey says:

    IMO Honda has the powerplant, they have turn signals and mirrors and wheels and headlights etc

    Make a frame seat and tank and exhaust to make a std out of it. What do they have to lose?

    unless it’s ugly like that CB4X prototype

  23. Mick says:

    Is the Africa Twin engine heading for a standard style bike?

    I don’t think so. Because…

    Is the CB4X a standard style bike?

    No. It is a bulky forward heavy design that is unwelcome on my planet.

    It doesn’t really matter anyway. I raced Honda until 2007 when they stopped making two strokes. Now I won’t buy another one. Not even a street bike. Support is a two way street.

    • Motoman says:

      “It doesn’t really matter anyway. I raced Honda until 2007 when they stopped making two strokes. Now I won’t buy another one. Not even a street bike.”

      To quote Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinney “now there’s a f@#*in surprise”….

      Betcha you’re not the demographic Honda was aiming for.

  24. dp says:

    Finally motorcycles are starting to look like – motorcycles again. Four cylinder engines are for cars.

    • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

      Four cylinder engines are for cars? Really? It seems as though every manufacturer and their brothers have more than enough V-Twins to suit most. I love the shriek of a 4 or even a 6 cylinder for many road bikes. I understand on some, for example, adventure bikes, something more than a 3 cylinder might be a bit much. But I as of yet have ever owned a V-Twin. Maybe someday I will in something where the width of a 4 or more is too much- I’ll see.

    • fred says:

      V-8’s are for cars. Fours are great for bikes.

    • ChrisB says:

      IDK, we’ve had 4 cylinder motorcycles since 1905 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FN_Four). 🙂
      I’ve wanted a CB750 since the mid 70s (yes, I am old).
      I’m with Rhinestone Kawboy, love the shriek if a 4 cylinder bike. Especially my R6 at 16,000+ rpm. I’m too old for it, can afford what I want, and yet I can’t ever settle on anything else as a replacement. And now Yamaha has discontinued the R6 as a road bike, I feel like hoarding them.

      BTW – I am long time reader here, but never posted before. So, hi to all.

  25. randy says:

    Honda is falling way behind in having “exciting” bikes. I would be thrilled for the concept CB1000F being made available. So far nothing being said about production. https://www.motorcyclenews.com/news/2020/december/honda-cb1000f-concept/

  26. Stuki Moi says:

    While a good engine for an offroad biased ADV, I have a hard time imagining it would ever be a good sporty bike engine. It is genuinely Dull.As.Heck (which is, honestly, exactly how an offroad ADV biased engine should be. The S10 is the same way. As was the GS boxer, back when that bike was still a proper tractor. And the KLR….)

    Precious few big twins, and pretty much none who aren’t 90 degree Vs, have any charm at all, at higher revs. Like Harley figured out long ago, their sweet spot is way down below ground, where potatoes grow. And “down there”, there’s little benefit I can discern, to the ATwin engine, over the purpose built, low revving NC engine (Now, three of those NC cylinders, for a displacement similar to the ATwin, would be something special…..)

    In a lighter, tighter BMW RT competitor, I could see the ATwin engine serve well. And BMW could use some competition in that “Smaller, but with the world’s best wind protection”, practical tourer niche. But in a “sporty” bike? I have some doubts…

    • Tom R says:

      “In a lighter, tighter BMW RT competitor, I could see the ATwin engine serve well. And BMW could use some competition in that “Smaller, but with the world’s best wind protection”, practical tourer niche.”

      Exactly! I’ve been wishing for a bike like this for years. Build it and I will come (that is, I will show up with money…now get your mind out of the gutter).

    • marloweluke2 says:

      KTM makes some pretty exciting parallel twins in the Duke 790 and 890.

      • fred says:

        Twins are great. Twins are horrible. Fours are great. Fours are horrible. LOL

        I’m enough of a gear-head that I pretty much like all engines. I don’t quite understand the objections.

        • Dino says:

          Exactly! Triples are great. Singles are great. Every engine has its pro and con. You have twins that are really well suited for cruising and touring (Harley and others) . And there are twins tuned for high performance (Ducati, KTM, and others).
          To me, the magic number is 2.
          Two wheels! Whatever the engine, it’s ok.. though for some, three wheels are the magic number, and that’s good too!

      • Stuki Moi says:

        I don’t find them particularly exciting at all (Well, the 790. Not sure about the 890). And that despite 790 being, at most, borderline “big” for a twin. In general, though, KTM’s twins are effective and do their job. And they are powerful. And light. But pretty darned lifeless, with their oversmoothed e-throttles.

  27. motorhead says:

    These unique ideas are wonderful. Granted, one never knows which models will find a fan club, which ones are a waste, but it’s good to keep trying. A parallel twin cruiser with a big Honda engine is a bit of an outlier from the norm, and I like it! If I were torn between a Harley, a BMW, a Triumph or KTM twin, I may well choose this concept twin as the perfect trade-off. Speaking of unique: a small, efficient in-line-four 400CC could become a cult classic, like the GB400 became, and I would like another.

    • todd says:

      I’m sure you meant the CB400F and not “GB400” (vs the GB500 single). I have one of each, excellent designs and total keepers. In the case of the GB, it took more than a decade before it became popular- then value shot through the roof.

  28. MGNorge says:

    Long ago I came to identify a specific bike by its engine. It was the beating heart below, no matter what clothes it wore. But I do realize the economics of keeping that up would be a large hurdle. I suspect Soichiro would have pressed to keep things that way. But even back in those days we had Honda CB’s, CL’s, and SL’s sharing engines. But I think there’s a difference today in that many designs hide engines largely behind body pieces so in my eyes the focus has shifted. Look at what Harley has done largely with just one engine over the years, only more recently sending new designs to the foundry.

    • joe b says:

      In the early seventies, the when the Honda service rep would come by on his once a year visit to clear out warranties, check our shop for all the things we should be doing and such, he would always ask, “what do you want to see in Honda products”. I vividly telling him, that for instance the CB750 should come in 3 versions. one stock like they were already selling, another one with touring fairing, saddlebags and all that stuff, and a third one, that was like a Cafe bike. I started to see it when in the early eighties we got both the Magna and Sabre models. I do wish Honda would make at least one model of this so base like, and offer their own products to customize it, or have the option to special order. But the options would need to be ones people wanted. Something I dont think is possible these days. so many bikes to choose from, and so many people cant buy them they are so expensive.

  29. Tommy D says:

    I don’t understand the ethos of Honda at present. People in the USA buy bikes that spark passion. The only bike in Honda’s current line up that sparks passion is the Trail 125 (ie long list of deposits at dealers). Is there any other bike they sell that really sparks passion, (besides the mini-moto bikes) and has people putting deposits down in eager anticipation? In the 80’s and 90’s Honda used to come out with bikes that fueled imagination. Now they produce bikes that all come in the same flavor. Vanilla ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Stuki Moi says:

      More realistically: People in the USA no longer buy bikes. Back in the 80s and 90s, they did.

      The rot and decline in number of people who buy bikes, is actually lot worse than even the depressing sales figures suggest: Out of the bikes who do sell, an ever increasing share are simply stuffed into already overstuffed garages, to be ridden twice. Maybe. Which changes the formula for making bikes dramatically. And in a direction of something I doubt Honda would ever be interested in doing more than, at most, simply dip their toes in.

      Much more sensible for them to shift focus to bikes which sell in places where people still buy them. To ride. They can, after all, still offer them to those dwindling number of Americans, who still care enough to notice.

    • Gary says:

      The ethos for Honda is the same as the ethos for all motorcycle manufacturers. They want to make money. And the fact is, the new generation of Americans seems to have no interest whatsoever in motorcycles of any kind. They only care for skateboards, remote control drones and video games. So Honda et al. are throwing everything against the wall in the hopes that something will stick. In that process, they are producing some hideous motorcycles, and relying on sales to old pharts like me to make ends meet.

    • Pedro says:

      That’s explain the popularity of BMW and the massive sales of v-stroms – passion LOL. Honda makes some great a very fun bikes. Ride one.

    • Jeremy says:

      The Africa Twin has a passionate following where I live (in Colorado) and likely all the mountain states. It’s one of those bikes that doesn’t seem very impressive on paper but just plain works in a real adventure bike environment. Maybe a standard with this powerplant might also prove to resonate?

      In general, though, people just aren’t passionate about motorcycles anymore. I think there used to be an element of freedom, independence, and danger about motorcycles that rang true with a large subset through several generations of Americans. In modern times, an appreciation for freedom and independence have been replaced with conformance and collective influence for the most part. And danger is just plan bad for society.

  30. Bruce R says:

    The RC51 engine never found another home? Itself based upon a heavily modified VTR1000 engine, which was also detuned and used in the Varadero adventure bike. They did repurpose engines back then, but not to the extent of today.

    On my first ride on my Africa Twin in 2016, I thought how awesome the engine would be in some sort of retro standard naked bike. All these years later, we are still not quite there but perhaps are getting close. It’s a great engine.

    • Dave says:

      The VTR engine was a bit of an outlier for Honda, who in many cases will leverage an engine platform into a few different models. Good example is the narrow-V engine for the Ascot 500 that was punched out and used in bikes like the NT650 Hawk, the NT700v and a few others.

      I could be mistaken, but I think the Africa Twin’s engine has found a home in the Talon Sxs ATV line?

  31. joe b says:

    when i first saw the Africa twin engine, in the street chopper bike, I thought to myself why would Honda not put that engine is a general purpose bike, the UJM universal japanese motorcycle. With its 270° V-twin engine, but with the cylinders together and the crank twisted, what a good engine for something like that. cheaper to make with half the parts of the 4 cylinder (about), and packaging to allow it to be different, in different chassis’. Curious to see what it will be when its released. (riding a Honda CB1000R now)

  32. HhH says:

    Build it and they will buy?

  33. John says:

    I’m curious as to how Honda or any manufacture patents a standard motorcycle with a parallel twin engine. A patent is defined as ‘Set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee so that he has a temporary monopoly’
    Honda did not invent the standard motorcycle, or the parallel twin engine. I’m just wondering what is unique that warrants a patent. The diagram in the patent application has many of the bikes parts identified with numbers, but none of the parts appear to be new or invented.

    • fred says:

      I’m no patent expert, but it would seem to be reasonable to say “you can’t clone this bike”. It would be unreasonable to say “nobody else can build a vehicle with two wheels and an engine”.

    • Marcus says:

      The frame shown in the patent drawing looks very similar to the Rebel with its ridiculous top tube angle.
      Give me that 1100 twin in a cb500F frame and I’ll head to the dealer with my deposit.

    • joe b says:

      you might just google hondas new patent, and see all the others. it may give you some insight into what they want to patent, and understand this one. imho