A while back (4 weeks) in a somewhat tragic incident for my BMW K1200RS it and I left the pavement, went airborne and landed, fortunately not as one unit.
This has left me with a rather large void in my life. For the first time in 9 years I am bike-less. The last time this happened was due to an alternator failure on my ST1100 and a part taking an estimated 2 weeks to come from Japan. I panicked and over the course of an afternoon managed to put the entirety of my K1200RS onto an Amex Card.
This time I have resolved to remain calm. I have resolved to actually test ride a number of bikes before I buy one. Heck, I resolve to actually test ride the bike before I put it on a credit card.
First up the Honda ST1300.
The first thing that will strike you about the ST1300 is not itís styling, a preying mantis look that has been beaten into submission with the conservative stick by the marketing department, but its engine note.
The engine at idle sounds like an escapee form the folly stage for a Jetsonís cartoon. It is a whirring Sci-Fi oscillation like that of its precursor the ST1100. Many would not care for it, personally I like bikes that are quiet as you move thru the neighbourhood and have a bit of edge to them on the road. That and I used to watch a lot of Jetsonís in my youth.
Once on the road the engine is a delight of civilized power. It pulls whenever you choose to twist the throttle and refuses to lug; even from a mistaken second gear start in traffic. Itís a very forgiving power plant and hustles the ST1300 up to respectable highway speeds with aplomb.
And it is a smooth engine with great balance. You feel a comfortable vibe from it that is not intrusive Ė itís just reminding you that itís there. Far as I could tell from my limited test the fuel injection was near flawless, which was nice as I have heard stories of lean surging. This engine also has something that was missing from the ST1100, serious grunt.
Itís actually a brand new engine, but they have done a lot with the same configuration. Itís much freer with the power than itís predecessor despite only about a 10 hp change (depending on which sport-tourer dyno shootout you choose to believe). True, you are never going to outrun a Gixxer, but with the ST you really donít care.
This bike is a genial and pleasant ride. Itís wind protection is superb, which is to be expected given its lineage and the amount of plastic used. Behind the screen is calm and Iím curious to see what it would be like in proper Vancouver weather, I suspect I would be quite dry. The dash is expansive and the mechanism for the windscreen is intrusively high for my tastes, but thatís niggling. Besides you need that shade for the digital readouts.
So this then is a recliner capable of 150kph cruising for hours and for that itís got to be given a lot of credit. Sure the Gixxer will pass you, but when heís in the Gas Station line up you are still deciding which of the next states you are going to fill up with; 320 miles is the reputed range so you get a bit of choice (thought suggested 92 octane hits the pocketbook more than itís precursors 89). So the ST1300 is on the tourer side of sport tourer, and good for it; it doesnít make any concessions in the process.
The bags are spacious; and while you are never going to fit a tent in them they will comfortably hold all your CDís, underwear, a laptop or two, and a few changed of clothes for the next few hotels. The headlight aim is adjustable from the dash, which is perfect if those bags happen to be full or if you brought a significant other along. And unlike a majority of the sport tourers out there, the significant other isnít going to be complaining about the seat. Three ride heights leave you and yours with a range of seating options set to comfort Ė sort off.
I didnít have a chance to look at the users manual for the bike, but I expect that there is a separate one for the seat. I may not be mensa material but it took a bit of time to figure out the adjustments, the resulting however upright and commanding seating position was worth it. The ST1300 and itís seat are complex beaSTs, and the fact that the seat has this adjustment speaks well of it and the amount of thought put into the vehicle.
Tip-over wings catch the bike in the event of a parking lot drop. The mirrors are break away and easily re-attachable for lane splitting mishaps and other incidents. Blazing headlights, throw them on high and cars are instantly giving you their brights. The gages are large, clear and easy to read. The digital display outputs a staggering amount of information; at least I think it does, all the digital readouts are completely unreadable in the blazing light of a slightly overcast day. This is an odd over site considering the quality of engineering and build for this bike.
So whatís it like to ride? Well hereís the thingÖ
Every other ride review has gone on about how well the ST1300 hides itís weight and they are right. It hides the weight well. Sort of like putting slimming vertical stripes on a rhino, you might make it look a little thinner, but somewhere in the back of your mind your brain is saying that itís still a rhino and that it weights a lot.
Now I am partial to rhinoís a lot of the time. Sometimes they can be quite fun animals, and technically the ST1300 is not that much bigger than my last rhino, the K1200RS. The STís wheelbase comes in at 1500mm and the Kís is a bit longer at 1549 mm. Not a whacking difference, indeed the K should be a bit more of a barge in the corners. And as far as weight goes the its, 628lbs for the K and 702lbs for the ST (add another 20 for the ABS version); thatís near enough 74 lbs for me. And you feel it.
Itís down low, but itís still there.
It handles well, the input to steer is minimal but you can feel the inertia. And if your riding technique is based on hanging off or shifting your weight extensively youíd probably be better served by another bike. The centre of gravity on this bike is low, so when you shift your weight it feels like you are a little bit of mass moving to the upper side of a very big mass and the big mass pretty much just keeps on going and doing what it wants. This is the wordy way of saying this is a counter steer orientated kind of bike. Itís a pleasant way of traveling, but if you feel the peer pressure to be an active rider youíre more than likely doing it for pose value or a photo shoot.
Oh, and you will feel the mass in emergency breaking, as during the test ride when I was cut off. Or you think you are going to feel it and then realize that the breaks on this thing are really doing their job as is the anti-dive.
Coming from an ST1100 this bike would be amazing; like coming home to find that your apartment had been redecorated by the While You Were Out folks and then for good measure put in the pent house. Coming from a sport bike youíd be wondering about the vague feel from the front, the over plush ride and one other thingÖ
Where is the ďwheeeeeeeeĒ factor? Where is the sport in the tourer? This bike made me grin a bit, but there was no giggle. Somewhere in itís deep dark recesses there may be a bit of hooligan in it, but Iíd have to spend a lot of time getting to know it to find that giggle. Ok, there was one giggle, the cops waved at me. I think I looked a lot slower that I was Ė tee-heeÖ it could have itís advantages.