Honda ST1300 – Lots of tour… But, Er… Where’s the Sport?

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st1300v2The first thing that will strike you about the ST1300 is not it’s 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 from the foley stage for a Jetson’s cartoon; 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 through the neighbourhood and have a bit of edge to them on the road. That and I used to watch a lot of Jetson’s 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. It’s a very forgiving power plant and hustles the ST1300 up to respectable highway speeds with aplomb… but not much more.

The new ST has a smooth engine with great balance; it’s actually a brand new engine, but they have done a lot with the same configuration. It’s much freer with the power than it’s predecessor despite only about a 10 hp change (depending on which sport-tourer dyno shootout you choose to believe). You feel a comfortable vibe from it that’s not intrusive – it’s just reminding you that it’s there. As far as I could tell from my limited test the fuel injection was near flawless, which was nice, as I have heard stories of intermittent lean surging. This engine also has something that was missing from the ST1100, serious grunt. True, you are never going to outrun a Gixxer, but with the ST you really don’t care.

This bike is a genial and pleasant ride. Its wind protection is superb, which is to be expected given its lineage and the amount of plastic used. Behind the screen is calm and I’m curious to see what it would be like in proper Wet-Coast weather; I suspect I would be quite dry.  Added bonus or detractor is you never feel the speed, which could get you into trouble. The dash is expansive and the mechanism for the windscreen is intrusively high for my tastes, but that’s niggling, besides you need the shade for the digital readouts.

So this then is a barcalounger capable of 150kph cruising for hours, and for that it’s got to be given a lot of credit. Sure, the Gixxer will pass you, but when he’s in the gas station line-up you are still deciding which of the next states you are going to fill up with; 320 miles (515 kms!!) is the reputed range so you get a bit of choice (though the suggested 92 octane hits the pocketbook more than it’s precursor’s 89). So the ST1300 is on the tourer side of sport tourer, and good for it, it doesn’t make any concessions in the process.

The bags are spacious, while you are never going to fit a tent in them they will comfortably hold all your CD’s, underwear, a laptop or two, and a few changes of clothes for the next week’s 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.

Unlike a majority of the sport-tourers out there, the significant other isn’t going to be complaining about the seat; three ride heights leave you and yours with a range of seating adjustments to keep you comfortable – once you figure the thing out. I didn’t 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 me a bit of time to figure out the adjustments, the resulting, however upright and commanding, seating position was worth it. The ST1300 and its 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 mirror casings are the break-away style and easily re-attached after lane-splitting mishaps and other incidents. The beaST has 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; the digital readouts are completely unreadable in the luminosity of even a slightly overcast day, an odd oversight considering the quality of engineering and build for this bike.

So what’s it like to ride? Well here’s the thing…

Every other ride review has gone on about how well the ST1300 hides it’s weight and they’ve been 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 it’s still a rhino and that it weights a lot.

Now I am partial to rhino’s a lot of the time; sometimes they can be quite fun animals. Technically the ST1300 is not that much bigger than my last rhino, the K1200RS, its wheelbase comes in at 1500mm where the K’s 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 than it is. As far as weight goes it’s 628lbs for the K and 702lbs for the ST (add another 20 for the ABS version) and that’s near enough to 74 lbs, and you’ll feel it; it may be down low, but it’s still there.

It handles well, the input required to steer is minimal but you can feel the inertia. If your riding technique is based on hanging off or shifting your weight extensively you’d 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. It’s a pleasant way of traveling, but if you feel the peer pressure to be an active rider you’re more than likely doing it for pose value or a photo shoot.

Oh, and you will feel the mass in emergency braking, as during the test ride when I was cut off by a cager. Or you think you are going to feel it and then realize that the brakes 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 penthouse. Coming from a sport bike you’d be wondering about the vague feel from the front, the over plush ride and one other thing…

Where is the “wheeeeeeee” factor? Where is the sport in the tourer? This bike made me grin a bit, but there was no giggle. Somewhere in it’s deep dark recesses there may be a bit of hooligan in it, but I’d have to spend a lot of time getting to know the bike to find that giggle. Ok, there was one giggle, the cops waved at me. I think I looked a lot slower that I was – tee-hee…oops! This could have its advantages.

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