2017 Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L & 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

Text: James T. Parks, Jeff Arpin • Photography: James T. Parks

Jim’s Riding Impressions

2017 Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L

This Africa Twin had the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which allows either completely automatic gear shifting or pushbutton sequential shifting. The combination of a torquey two-cylinder, liter-sized engine and the DCT’s propensity for upshifting at relatively low RPMs, when in automatic mode, often made for a jerky throttle response. For me, the ride was much smoother and more enjoyable using the paddle shifters, when I could achieve higher RPMs before upshifting. With a little practice, I also became adept at using engine braking by downshifting with the paddles. 

It had top-loading Hepco and Becker panniers, which are easier to load and unload than the Honda branded side-opening bags. My wife was a passenger on the Honda and we both found it a comfortable touring bike with very good wind protection, ergonomic positioning of hand and foot controls, a comfortable seat, and sufficient grunt from the 998cc motor. The bike’s performance and comfort on paved roads, especially in light of its general off-road design bias, makes it an excellent touring bike even for mostly on-road touring.

2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

I was looking forward to my seat time on the Super Duke. Swinging my leg, I immediately noticed the almost 33-inch seat height, which allowed me a relatively relaxed leg position. I brought the big, 1300cc twin, with its 13.2:1 compression ratio, to life and it emitted a big heart-thumping growl. The GT, however, has a relatively small windscreen and I quickly noticed the difference from the Africa Twin. I felt the cool morning windblast on my chest, telling me I should have worn heated gear on this day on this bike. 

Although the KTM is of comparable weight to the Honda, it has one and a half times the Africa Twin’s horsepower. A small twist of the wrist produces breathtaking acceleration. While thrashing the GT through twisty tarmac was great fun, I noticed that it didn’t like being ridden casually at low RPMs, when it would buck and snort. The suspension, brakes, and handling of the GT are first rate. But the KTM’s limited carrying capacity and wind protection are noticeable tradeoffs for its high level of sporty performance.

Jeff’s Riding Impressions

2017 Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L 

The Africa Twin is a welcoming bike. It’s a classic ADV with comfortable riding positions and ergonomics, well-mannered control characteristics, abundant storage capacity, and an impressive presence. Honda embellishes it with a road worthy suspension, crisp and responsive handling, good power delivery, and renowned reliability. The DCT was a new twist for me. I’ll probably remain a four-appendage rider but I admired the DCT’s performance abilities. Our friendship grew as the design and engineering strengths of this bike were revealed. I could easily see this one having a space in the garage with my other buddies. 

2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT 

The Super Duke GT greets you differently. I saw aggressiveness, power, speed, maybe a wrenching ride for someone past the apex on life’s age curve, even a mild dose of terror. But I was also smitten, and that only got worse as I rode. It’s a hybrid of sorts, as even KTM calls it a “sports tourer” with a bias toward ‘sport’ when you consider the styling, awesome power, technology, handling, and overall performance stats. But the touring credentials are revealed in abundance with all-day riding. Seating comfort was high, cutting-edge controls were easy to operate and afforded endless adjustments to suspension and handling, and storage is sufficient for the efficient packer. KTM engineering alchemy has produced a heart-pounder laden with systems to keep you safe and comfortably transported mile after mile. My crush never let up, thanks to the brilliant execution of this amazing bike. As for garage space: I could see all my other buddies being put out in the cold.

Both are great bikes and excellent choices for all-day touring. They are comfortable to ride and possess ride characteristics, power, and handling to satisfy the demands of long-distance riding. The Honda has the edge on overall comfort, cargo capacity, pillion comfort, off-road excursions, and appetite for regular gas. The KTM takes the lead with styling, absolute power, sport-bike handling, electronic adjustments, and sheer fun. Both will get you there with great satisfaction—one with a big smile on your face, the other with a thump in your heart.