Story by Seiji Ishii Photos by Simon Cudby, Konflict Motorsports

Story by Seiji Ishii
Photos by Simon Cudby, Konflict Motorsports

The moniker “Africa Twin” rings romantic to motorcycle and enduro aficionados worldwide. Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) created their first purpose built, twin cylinder bike in 1986, during the peak of interest in the Paris-Dakar Rally. Officially dubbed the NXR750, HRC’s efforts to upset the near win monopoly that Yamaha and BMW enjoyed since the race’s inception in 1979 proved worthy; the bike notched four consecutive wins starting with its debut. This works machine became a sensation, and rightfully so, as Paris-Dakar was deemed “the world’s toughest motor race.” Honda fed the resultant demand from adventure hungry motorcyclists with production versions starting in 1988, and the beloved Africa Twin faithfully stirred wandering souls until its deletion in 2003.

The release of the 2017 Africa Twin CRF1000L was met with both rabid anticipation and subdued skepticism, as Honda certainly had big shoes to fill and dreamy notions to satisfy by resurrecting the model name. Early industry and enthusiast reviews have stamped the 2017 Honda Africa Twin as an easy to ride and fully capable adventure touring machine. But, part of the fun of owning a motorcycle, no matter how proficient it is in stock form, is to modify it and truly make it your own.

Alex Martens, owner of Konflict Motorsports of Kent, Washington, took delivery of his own 2017 Honda Africa Twin and parlaying his knowledge, experience and industry connections, set forth in constructing a dream Africa Twin for this lucky author to ride and review during an upcoming Baja trip (featured elsewhere in this issue). This bike-building service is a source of pride for Martens, and that became apparent as he juggled a myriad of issues that can arise when modifying a brand-new model soon after release. Parts scarcity, fitment problems and just a lack of data, presented obstacles. But Martens would not be denied and I was introduced to the pristine Konflict Motorsports Project Africa Twin upon my arrival in California, the day before our planned departure.

Konflict Motorsports is principally a suspension shop specializing in the adventure and off-road segments, so it’s no surprise that Martens attacked the forks and shock first. Custom straight rate springs were installed to slightly alter chassis angles. Valving was modified to nullify effects of an overly compliant mid-stroke and improve bottoming characteristics, the internals closed off with SKF brand seals. The stock shock was too small in Marten’s opinion, and although workable, a revalved Touratech Extreme shock was installed. The shock valving changes were aimed at improving bottoming control and added a touch of high and low speed dampening.

Wheels were replaced with ones from Dubya; Excel rims laced to Talon hubs with Dubya Bulldog spokes and billet aluminum nipples, mainly chosen for durability, with added bling being a bonus. GoldenTyre 723x’s were shod front (90/90/212) and rear (150/70/18) to tackle traction issues when leaving pavement.

Cyclops Adventure Sports provided a Honda Africa Twin LED Auxiliary Light Kit, consisting of Long Range OPR lights, with one ten and one twenty-degree beam pattern, mounted to a bracket below the front fairing, bringing welcome extended vision. Double Take Adventure mirrors do the same for highway jaunts and provide folding ability. The small version of the Touratech Touring Windscreen was chosen to lessen the danger of contacting the top edge while exercising aggressive body english.

Rider cockpit alterations included Fasstco Flexx Handlebars graced with Pro Taper MX Pillow
Top grips, chosen to improve comfort and delay fatigue. Black Dog Cycle Works provided their Traction Footpegs designed to add all-day comfort, grip and control when compared to the small and narrow OEM pegs. A custom Renazco Racing Dual Sport Seat, adorned with suede leather, offered adjustable height and additional comfort on long highway transfers between dirt sections.

The motor was left stock to ensure durability but an Arrow Maxi Race-Tech Exhaust and Stainless Steel Header system was bolted on to massage the power delivery and soothe ears with pleasant tones.

An Altrider skid plate protects the underbelly of the Africa Twin, replacing notoriously flimsy OEM skids and Cycra Probend System Handguards armored both hands and bike.
Giant Loop provided a baggage system comprised of their Fandango Tank bag and Around the World Panniers, which were mated to a
Touratech Pannier Rack.

Four wonderful days on lonely dirt roads and meandering highways of the Baja peninsula allowed me to get intimate with Konflict Motorsports’ creation. The suspension modifications were the most obvious addition, the hold up and action, even fully loaded with gear, allowed as much aggression and speed that I could muster. The GoldenTyre tires were equally impressive, particularly the rear, which doled out smooth highway miles and great traction on dirt, rocks and gravel. Impressive for a single tire to be correspondingly capable on both tarmac and dirt. A clear benefit was provided by the Fasstco Flexx Handlebars, which noticeably reduced vibration transfer to the arms, especially on the graded gravel roads found throughout Baja.

I chose to wear softer adventure specific boots and I stood almost exclusively on dirt; the Black Dog Cycle Works Traction footpegs’ large surface area never left my feet sore and I was never seeking more grip.  

The brand-new and spotless bike was unsympathetically subjected to Baja style abuse almost immediately after leaving pavement. The sounds of rock roost pinging the Altrider skid plate started the minute we hit dirt, but it survived the trip virtually unscathed. Same can be said for the Doubletake mirrors, which I witnessed deflecting as designed when I came too close to brush at speed.

Rolling into camp or accommodations late is not unusual for adventure based riding, and being able to see at dusk is especially important in Baja. The Cyclops Adventure Sports Auxiliary Light Kit was wholly appreciated during these times, providing much more vision than the stock set up alone.

All the other modifications, the exhaust, wheels, seat, windshield, luggage, etc. meshed well with the above enhancements to provide performance, durability, comfort and safety gains that surely added to the average speed attained while crossing the landscapes of Baja, but that wasn’t really the point. Martens and Konflict Motorsports created a machine that honestly faded into the background of my conscious while riding, allowing me to absolutely engross myself in the moments that create the memories, adding to my experience in a way that was priceless. end

The following Project Africa Twin items are available from KONFLICT MOTORSPORTS
Custom fork springs/revalving •
SKF fork seals •
Touratech Extreme Rear Shock, revalved •
GoldenTyre 723x tires •
Fasstco Flexx Handlebars •
Cycra Probend System Handguards •
Arrow Exhaust System •
Giant Loop Baggage •

Other items used on the Project Africa Twin:
Dubya Wheels •
Cyclops Adventure Sports Lights •
Touratech Touring Windscreen and Pannier Racks •
Doubletake Adventure Mirrors •
ProTaper MX Pillow Top Grips •
Black Dog Cycle Works Traction Footpegs •
Renazco Racing Dual Sport Seat •
Altrider Skid Plate •

Chris Glaspell

The success of any online publication depends on the quality of execution, and
in this respect UpShift Online’s success is virtually assured.  It was founded by veteran motorcycle industry professionals: English-born photographer Simon Cudby, the premier photographer in the world of motocross, and Chris Glaspell, creative director with firms serving clients that include Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Cycle World and Yoshimura. This, plus Upshift’s veteran editorial staff and unrivaled journalism, will gives readers unparalleled views of adventure motorcycling.