Can a Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE Keep up With a Honda Africa Twin Off-Road?

Adventure bikes form one of the most popular motorcycle segments for a good reason. Models like the Honda Africa Twin strike a balance between off-road capability and on-road civility, able to commute and venture into the dirt. However, they’re not the only bikes that can do that; scramblers can, too. While some scramblers are more about aesthetics, the Triumph Scrambler isn’t one of them. But is that enough to let it hang with the Africa Twin off-pavement? RevZilla decided to find out.

The 2020 Honda Africa Twin offers adventures in touring

Both the 2020 Honda Africa Twin and Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE can smoothly go from pavement to dirt and back again. But they approach their dual nature in slightly different ways. The Africa Twin, being an adventure bike, has touring elements, Cycle World explains.

A black-and-red 2020 Honda Africa Twin CRF1100L
2020 Honda Africa Twin CRF1100L | Honda

Honda updated the Africa Twin lineup for 2020, Cycle World reports. The ADV is still available in two trims—base and Adventure Sports—and still offers a 6-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic. But it now has a 1084cc parallel-twin rated at 100 hp and 78 lb-ft. The 2020 Africa Twin also has a revised lighter frame, a shorter windscreen, a narrower seat, and a 6.5” TFT display.

White-blue-and-red-liveried 2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports, side view, driving down a desert road
2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports side | Honda

Plus, it has more gadgets, in the form of cruise control, wheelie control, rear-wheel lift control, and Apple CarPlay. It already had ABS, but that’s been upgraded for 2020. The 2020 Honda Africa Twin also has multiple riding modes—including an Off-Road Mode—as well as adjustable torque, power delivery, and engine-braking. And while it doesn’t have all of the Adventure Sports’ features, it does have a metal skid plate and roughly 9” of suspension travel, Motorcyclist reports.

The 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE can tackle pavement and gravel

The Scrambler, in contrast, is closer in spirit and layout to a dual-sport or standard, Gear Patrol reports. But it has genuine off-road chops; RevZilla even called it a “naked adventure bike.” A Triumph Scrambler 1200 finished 5th in its class at the 2019 NORRA Mexican 1000, Motorcyclist reports. And apart from an extra skid plate, aftermarket grips, and upgraded tires, it was basically stock.

The 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 is available in two forms: XC and XE. Like the Honda Africa Twin, they have a parallel-twin engine. It’s a 1200cc unit rated at 89 hp and 81 lb-ft linked to a 6-speed manual.

A blue 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE | Triumph

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But while the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is down on power, it’s also down on weight. The Africa Twin weighs 501 pounds fully-fueled and 467 pounds dry, Cycle World reports. The Scrambler, meanwhile, weighs 456 pounds dry.

The 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC and XE share many of the same features, Cycle World reports. Both models have Brembo disc brakes, twin fully-adjustable Ohlins rear shocks, and a fully-adjustable Showa fork, Cycle World reports. They also both have TFT displays, multiple riding modes, a skid plate, keyless ignition, cruise control, and ABS. However, being the more off-road-focused trim, the XE has some extra goodies.

Firstly, while the XC has five modes, the XE has an extra Off-Road Pro Mode, as well as traction control and cornering ABS. It also has a longer swingarm for extra stability, standard (not optional) heated grips, and more rear suspension travel, Motorcyclist reports. All told, the 1200 XE has 7.9” of front travel and 9.8” of rear travel.

What’s it like when the bikes meet dirt, rocks, and snow?

So, on paper, the 2020 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE and Honda Africa Twin are similar in some ways. But what happens when they actually go head-to-head on paved roads and unpaved mountain trails? That’s what RevZilla tested, traveling to Lake Tahoe to get some pine trees. Along the way, hosts Ari Henning and Zack Courts experienced needle-strewn dirt, rocks, and snow.

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Traveling to the forest, the duo found that the 2020 Honda Africa Twin’s greater focus on touring pays dividends in rider comfort. The Honda doesn’t have standard heated grips, though they are optional. But it does have a larger windscreen, more wind protection, and handguards. Both bikes have good ride quality, but it’s less chilly on the Africa Twin. However, although the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE has a less-plush ride, it doesn’t “move through its suspension stroke” as much as the Honda does. That matters when the pavement ends.

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True, with the traction control on, the Honda Africa Twin can win a drag race over snowy ground, partially due to more power. But on actual trails, the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is arguably the better-suited bike. It’s more compact, slightly lighter, has better-dampened suspension, and more ground clearance. Plus, the Africa Twin’s bodywork can block the rider’s view of the trail, RevZilla reports. However, the Scrambler’s high pipes mean hauling cargo, such as trees, is more difficult.

Which bike should you buy?

Buying any motorcycle is a matter of personal comfort. So, as always, ride before you buy. As for choosing between the 2020 Honda Africa Twin and Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE, that’s a matter of intended use.

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The Africa Twin is a comfortable touring bike, and it can handle itself off-road, even without the Adventure Sports upgrades, ADVPulse reports. And in base trim, it’s about $1000 cheaper than the Scrambler 1200 XE. However, when it comes to actual off-roading, the Triumph’s capabilities are worth the lack of wind protection, Cycle World reports.

So, if your adventure includes a lot of interstate time, the Honda may be the better option. But if it’s a short ride to the dirt, the Triumph might serve you better.

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