Honda Transalp XL650V review

Proven workhorse benefits from a makeover, but it still isn't a bike you'd carry a photo of in your wallet

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Wed, 15 Jun 2005 - 12:06

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Adventure
Price:
£ 5349
Overall
3
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the Transalp tempered its innately adventuresome spirit with superbly comfortable ergonomics
Established credentials make for good peace of mind
Slightly lacking in the fun factor

2004 PRESS INFORMATION: When Honda’s unique, ‘Rally Touring’  Honda Transalp first appeared on the European motorcycling scene back in 1987, it sent a shock wave through the middisplacement class.

By introducing a new genre of road and trail-going motorcycle as yet unimagined in the mix of hard-charging sportbikes and street-focused standards that then dominated the class. Based in part on the intrepid Paris-Dakar racers that had recently gained monumental popularity with their participation in that exciting New Year’s rally across the rugged face of the African continent, the Transalp tempered its innately adventuresome spirit with superbly comfortable ergonomics and a much appreciated ability to cruise the Continent’s high-speed motorways with confident performance and remarkable riding ease. Now into its third generation following a Year 2000 total upgrade of its design and configuration, the Transalp continues to proudly assert its unique position in the realm of Adventure Touring motorcycles with its attractive and sleekly integrated bodywork design featuring a compact yet comfortably protective front fairing and windscreen, its powerful, widely useable engine performance, and its light and nimble handling all perfectly balanced to carry it to the furthest corners of the Continent and beyond.

As always, the Transalp receives its smooth and impressive motivation from a slim, strong and soundly constructed 650cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine which provides both the low-end grunt to haul two passengers and a full touring load through the mountains that gave it its name, and the smooth, high-revving endurance to fly to the far horizon on long-distance motorway cruises. Nimble and assured handling on both city streets and weather-beaten country trails are provided by the Transalp’s compliant, long-travel front and rear suspension systems, and sporty dual-purpose tyres, while its responsive set of triple-disc brakes provides confidently assured braking control.

Colouring Concept
The new Transalp is available in three distinctive colour variations for 2004. First in line is a vivid, new pearlescent blue, which combines with a brightly contrasting metallic silver to accentuate the Transalp’s go-anywhere riding capability. A subtle new metallic black projects a look of well-bred urban sophistication, while a sparkling metallic silver exudes a modern and attractive look of northern European styling sense.

Colours
• Pearl Breezy Blue (with Sparkling Silver Metallic)
• Mute Black Metallic
• Shield Silver Metallic

New Optionally Available Low-Profile Seat

Over the last few years, the European motorcycle market has witnessed a significant and ever-growing surge in the number of women who have recently
become attracted to the sport. Not content to merely sit on the back and watch the world float by as somebody else drives, these women have taken upon themselves to learn the basics and pursue a full-fledged motorcycle license with the goal of piloting their own bike  whenever and wherever they want to go.

Remarkably, the versatile Transalp has also been enjoying a resurgent popularity among these new converts, as well as with more seasoned women riders looking to expand their range of riding enjoyment without having to contend with more size and weight than they feel they can comfortably handle. However, as impressive as the Transalp’s list of proven attractions may be, frequently these factors alone are not enough to win the hearts and minds of these important new riders.

Although the ranks of women riders are certainly growing, sometimes a frustratingly simple lack of stature (as measured by trouser inseam length) prevents
many of these potentially satisfied owners and riders from being able to fully enjoy the sort of motorcycling fun and exhilaration that attracted them to the sport in the first place. For people of shorter stature, and many women in particular, the disappointing realisation made upon first climbing aboard a desirable new motorcycle that one’s reach to the ground is a bit too far for comfort tends to negate all the other appealing features and potential riding fun that one may have been looking forward to enjoying. And while some shorter riders may just be able to touch a toe to the ground while mounted, this hardly translates into an overriding sense of security when stopped at a traffic light or manoeuvring at a crawl in dense traffic conditions.

Therefore, to help shorter riders—of either sex—more confidently enjoy all the riding pleasure that the Transalp has on offer, its development team set out to broaden its appeal by specially developing a lower seat that could be made optionally available to those in need of its shorter and more reassuring reach to the ground. Built on essentially the same moulded resin pan as the seat installed on the standard model, this new one piece tandem seat is not only a full 30mm shorter in height where it counts the most, it has also been specially contoured with a slimmer, more rounded profile that permits a much easier, more relaxed reach to the ground when at stop. This new seat’s lower height and narrower contours translate into significantly greater riding ease and comfort for a broad range of riders, thus helping to bring all the riding and touring enjoyment the Transalp has long had on offer within much easier reach, as well.

Plans are to make this new seat available through the Honda Access Corporation accessories list along with the Transalp’s current extensive assortment of optional equipment. Replacement is as easy as unlocking and lifting off the standard seat, and sliding the new seat on in its place. The removed standard-height seat can then be stored away and reinstalled at any time.

New Daylight Headlight

In keeping with the latest vehicle safety regulations, the new Transalp features an always-on daytime headlight, which helps maximise the machine’s visibility to other motorists at all hours of the day or night. A new hazard light switch takes up position in place of the previous headlight switch in the right-side switch pod, and flashes the Transalp’s indicators for an attention-getting warning to other traffic when stopped or when trouble is spotted ahead.

New Corrosion-Fighting Treatment The years have certainly proven that the Transalp is built to travel long distances in comfort and reliable confidence. To further ensure its long-term dependability, a stronger new anti-rust treatment has been given to such components as the wheel spokes, spoke nipples, disc brake rotors and other less visible parts to better fight off corrosion and further ensure the Transalp’s long-term dependability.

New EURO-2 Emissions Compliance

Essentially unchanged from the previous year, the Transalp features a highly effective exhaust port Air Induction system to ensure more complete combustion of exhaust gases, and a catalytic heat tube built into the exhaust system’s intermediate subchamber to help clean the exhaust of harmful gases. Although this system has consistently and easily conformed with earlier EURO-1 exhaust regulations, for 2004 the Transalp also officially passes Europe’s stricter EURO-2 regulations as proof of its environmentally friendly performance and design.

2004 PRESS INFORMATION: When Honda’s unique, ‘Rally Touring’  Honda Transalp first appeared on the European motorcycling scene back in 1987, it sent a shock wave through the middisplacement class.

By introducing a new genre of road and trail-going motorcycle as yet unimagined in the mix of hard-charging sportbikes and street-focused standards that then dominated the class. Based in part on the intrepid Paris-Dakar racers that had recently gained monumental popularity with their participation in that exciting New Year’s rally across the rugged face of the African continent, the Transalp tempered its innately adventuresome spirit with superbly comfortable ergonomics and a much appreciated ability to cruise the Continent’s high-speed motorways with confident performance and remarkable riding ease. Now into its third generation following a Year 2000 total upgrade of its design and configuration, the Transalp continues to proudly assert its unique position in the realm of Adventure Touring motorcycles with its attractive and sleekly integrated bodywork design featuring a compact yet comfortably protective front fairing and windscreen, its powerful, widely useable engine performance, and its light and nimble handling all perfectly balanced to carry it to the furthest corners of the Continent and beyond.

As always, the Transalp receives its smooth and impressive motivation from a slim, strong and soundly constructed 650cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine which provides both the low-end grunt to haul two passengers and a full touring load through the mountains that gave it its name, and the smooth, high-revving endurance to fly to the far horizon on long-distance motorway cruises. Nimble and assured handling on both city streets and weather-beaten country trails are provided by the Transalp’s compliant, long-travel front and rear suspension systems, and sporty dual-purpose tyres, while its responsive set of triple-disc brakes provides confidently assured braking control.

Colouring Concept
The new Transalp is available in three distinctive colour variations for 2004. First in line is a vivid, new pearlescent blue, which combines with a brightly contrasting metallic silver to accentuate the Transalp’s go-anywhere riding capability. A subtle new metallic black projects a look of well-bred urban sophistication, while a sparkling metallic silver exudes a modern and attractive look of northern European styling sense.

Colours
• Pearl Breezy Blue (with Sparkling Silver Metallic)
• Mute Black Metallic
• Shield Silver Metallic

New Optionally Available Low-Profile Seat

Over the last few years, the European motorcycle market has witnessed a significant and ever-growing surge in the number of women who have recently
become attracted to the sport. Not content to merely sit on the back and watch the world float by as somebody else drives, these women have taken upon themselves to learn the basics and pursue a full-fledged motorcycle license with the goal of piloting their own bike  whenever and wherever they want to go.

Remarkably, the versatile Transalp has also been enjoying a resurgent popularity among these new converts, as well as with more seasoned women riders looking to expand their range of riding enjoyment without having to contend with more size and weight than they feel they can comfortably handle. However, as impressive as the Transalp’s list of proven attractions may be, frequently these factors alone are not enough to win the hearts and minds of these important new riders.

Although the ranks of women riders are certainly growing, sometimes a frustratingly simple lack of stature (as measured by trouser inseam length) prevents
many of these potentially satisfied owners and riders from being able to fully enjoy the sort of motorcycling fun and exhilaration that attracted them to the sport in the first place. For people of shorter stature, and many women in particular, the disappointing realisation made upon first climbing aboard a desirable new motorcycle that one’s reach to the ground is a bit too far for comfort tends to negate all the other appealing features and potential riding fun that one may have been looking forward to enjoying. And while some shorter riders may just be able to touch a toe to the ground while mounted, this hardly translates into an overriding sense of security when stopped at a traffic light or manoeuvring at a crawl in dense traffic conditions.

Therefore, to help shorter riders—of either sex—more confidently enjoy all the riding pleasure that the Transalp has on offer, its development team set out to broaden its appeal by specially developing a lower seat that could be made optionally available to those in need of its shorter and more reassuring reach to the ground. Built on essentially the same moulded resin pan as the seat installed on the standard model, this new one piece tandem seat is not only a full 30mm shorter in height where it counts the most, it has also been specially contoured with a slimmer, more rounded profile that permits a much easier, more relaxed reach to the ground when at stop. This new seat’s lower height and narrower contours translate into significantly greater riding ease and comfort for a broad range of riders, thus helping to bring all the riding and touring enjoyment the Transalp has long had on offer within much easier reach, as well.

Plans are to make this new seat available through the Honda Access Corporation accessories list along with the Transalp’s current extensive assortment of optional equipment. Replacement is as easy as unlocking and lifting off the standard seat, and sliding the new seat on in its place. The removed standard-height seat can then be stored away and reinstalled at any time.

New Daylight Headlight

In keeping with the latest vehicle safety regulations, the new Transalp features an always-on daytime headlight, which helps maximise the machine’s visibility to other motorists at all hours of the day or night. A new hazard light switch takes up position in place of the previous headlight switch in the right-side switch pod, and flashes the Transalp’s indicators for an attention-getting warning to other traffic when stopped or when trouble is spotted ahead.

New Corrosion-Fighting Treatment The years have certainly proven that the Transalp is built to travel long distances in comfort and reliable confidence. To further ensure its long-term dependability, a stronger new anti-rust treatment has been given to such components as the wheel spokes, spoke nipples, disc brake rotors and other less visible parts to better fight off corrosion and further ensure the Transalp’s long-term dependability.

New EURO-2 Emissions Compliance

Essentially unchanged from the previous year, the Transalp features a highly effective exhaust port Air Induction system to ensure more complete combustion of exhaust gases, and a catalytic heat tube built into the exhaust system’s intermediate subchamber to help clean the exhaust of harmful gases. Although this system has consistently and easily conformed with earlier EURO-1 exhaust regulations, for 2004 the Transalp also officially passes Europe’s stricter EURO-2 regulations as proof of its environmentally friendly performance and design.

Length (mm) 2260
Width (mm) 920
Height (mm) 1315
Dryweight (kg) 191
Seats 0
Seat Height (mm) 843
Suspension Front 41mm leading-axle fork, 220mm axle travel
Suspension Rear Pro-Link with adjustable compression damping, 172mm axle travel
Tyres Front 90/90-21 (54S)
Tyres Rear 120/90-17 (64S)
Brakes Front 256mm dual hydraulic disc with dual-piston callipers and sintered metal pads
Brakes Rear 240mm hydraulic disc with single-piston calliper and resin mould pads
Tank Capacity (litres) 19
Wheelbase (mm) 1505
Ground Clearance (mm) 192
Cubic Capacity (cc) 644
Max Power (bhp) 52
Max Power Peak (rpm) 7500
Torque (ft/lb) 41
Torque Peak (rpm) 3500
Bore (mm) 79
Stroke (mm) 66
Valve Gear SOHC
Compression Ratio 9.2
Ignition Digital transistorised
Cooling Liquid cooled
Fuel Delivery 2x 34mm carburetttor
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Drive Chain
Standing Quarter Mile - Terminal Speed MPH 89.6
Standing Quarter Mile - Time 14.3
Top Speed 115.6
Max Power 52.8
Max Power Revs 7000
Max Torque 36.1
Max Torque Revs 6300
Score Breakdown
Overall
3
Engine
3
Brakes
3
Handling
3
Comfort
4
Build Quality
4
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