Honda Africa Twin Motorcycle Buyers Guide

The Honda Africa Twin is built to last. The newest Africa Twin is now over a decade old so finding an unmarked example may prove difficult. Look past the cosmetics and grime and you’ll still find an amazing motorcycle worthy of purchasing. Its design, ease of repair, access to parts, plus expertise to be found here, on forums and clubs, means it’s very rare any problem can’t be resolved. However there are still things to look out for to help you choose your motorcycle.

Don’t be put off by a high mileage bike. These engines when properly maintained have been reported on achieving over 150’000 miles before any major work is needed. I’ve included some links to books that are a great resource of information and know-how. Whilst making the documentary Aim For The Horizon we bought an Africa Twin that had almost all the things listed below wrong with it and it was still worth every penny.

Don’t be put off by a high mileage bike. These engines when properly maintained have been reported on achieving over 150’000 miles before any major work is needed. I’ve included some links to books that are a great resource of information and know-how. Whilst making the documentary Aim For The Horizon we bought an Africa Twin that had almost all the things listed below wrong with it and it was still worth every penny.

Below is my motorcycle buyers guide. This is intended only as a reference and I am not responsible for the bike you buy, but hopefully it will aid you.

Cosmetic Check:

  • Inspect all the fairings and plastics for cracks, splits and the condition of the paintwork. If you’ve noticed damage to the front side panels remember to look at the condition of the radiators that are behind each side, as these may be crushed.
  • The rear sub-frames have been known to corrode so check the condition as much as you can.

Check for leaking coolant from:

  • Radiators, Reservoir and Hoses. If you do find any leaks investigate the source further. Most of the time it’s just a cheap seal or pipe that will need replacing. If the radiators are leaking or looking crushed it would be best to budget in replacement parts.

Check for leaking oils from:

  • Fork Legs & Monoshock: All of these components can be rebuilt at a small cost or even replaced with newer systems.
  • Engine Sump: The engines are not prone to leak along engine cases so if you find any ask if there has been any work done to the engine which has meant splitting the casing.
  • Oil Cooler: Not usually a problem but could be damaged if it’s leaking.
  • Output Shaft (front sprocket): A leaking output shaft could just be a worn seal but also could be an indication of an output shaft bearing failure. This is usually a result of the chain tension being too tight which over stresses the bearing. This can be checked by removing the front sprocket cover and checking for no lateral movement. If movement is found the engine will need a complete strip down to replace it.

The output shaft has also been known to wear. If it is worn badly the engine will need a complete strip to replace it.

Bearings:

  • Wheels Bearings: This is easiest if the bike is on the centre stand but if not the method is the same but the results may be harder to notice. From the side of the motorcycle, hold the wheel at its highest point. The attempt to shake the wheel by pulling and pushing is across the width of the bike. There should be lateral movement, so if you feel any clicks or see any movements there may be play in the bearings.
  • The headrace bearings can be checked by applying the front brake and plunging the bike forward and back. The handlebars should feel solid and no movement should be felt or seen round the steering yoke. The suspension should also feel smooth and linier. When riding another sign of worn headrace bearings would be a sensation of knocking from the front end when passing over small bumps.
  • Swing arm and suspension linkage bearings are harder to detect whilst under the load. It’s worth checking for any obvious play by pushing, pulling and lifting the rear wheel to move the swing arm. It should feel solid and smooth whilst riding.

Worn bearings are an inexpensive and easy problem to resolve. Please see the Bearing List for a guide to replacement bearings.

Brakes:

  • The Honda Africa Twin should roll freely with no resistance. Apply the brakes several times whilst freewheeling the motorcycle to confirm no callipers are seized or binding. This can also be done whilst on the centre stand.
  • Check the condition of the brake discs and brake pads. Uneven wear of the discs or pads can also indicate a seized brake calliper or its pistons.

Wheels:

  • Inspect both rims for corrosion, dents and buckles. Look closely for signs the rim may be weakened due to splits and bad corrosion. Early signs are seen rising up around the spokes holes. Rim replacement is the best option if the corrosion is bad. Most motorcycle garages can advise further.
  • The Spokes should all be of an even firm tension which can be heard by listening to the tone each one emits when tapped with a screwdriver.

Operation:

  • If possible start the Honda Africa Twin from cold. If the choke is applied there may be slight signs of faint burning oil or blue smoke. It should not be heavy smoke at all which would indicate worn piston rings, bore or valve seals. As the engine warms all signs of burning oil or and smoke should disappear.
  • When blipping the throttle the engine should sound responsive with no unusual knocking or tapping. A continuous tapping coming from the top of the engine may indicate the tappets need adjusting which is part of a full service.
  • Whilst the engine is warming up use this time to check all the controls. The throttle should feel free and quickly return to idle after use. The clutch should feel firm but smooth in its action.
  • Check functionality of the Horn, headlights, brake lights, indicators and engine kill switch.
  • The Honda Africa Twin should ride smoothly.
  • Make sure you use all five gears and the transition between them is positive.
  • No unusual knocks or sounds should be heard from the engine whilst it is under load and the acceleration should be crisp.
  • The standard suspension is soft and smooth and no clicks of knocks should be felt or heard from any of the moving parts.
  • The brakes should feel firm and responsive to the touch.

I hope this guide is helpful. If you’d like to add anything or have any questions please let me know via the Contact Page.