First Ride

First Ride: Honda ST1300 Pan European

Visordown snapper Oli needed a rugged pack-horse to go to the South of France and back while chasing two hypersports bikes. He chose Honda's new-for-2002 Pan-European ST1300

Click to read: Honda ST1300 Pan European owners reviews, Honda ST1300 Pan European specs and to see the Honda ST1300 Pan European image gallery.

I've been here before. So many times it's getting boring. The two dots in my mirrors are growing rapidly. I'm minding my own business at 110mph, and sure enough with a double buffet they're past and vanishing fast. I'll see them soon though, in another fuel station looking smug but barely 80 miles from the last fill up. The Honda's tank won't be half empty, but the ritual must be completed.

Honda's new ST1300 Pan European is a continent-crushing super-tourer, but only when swimming with similar fish. If you're in a group with two-and-a-half-mile-a-minute fly boys as I was on the way to the Bol d'Or with Wozza and Daryll aboard the ZX-12R and Hayabusa prepare to be frustrated. This bike has been designed to travel 250 miles between fill-ups and to do so without leaving you feeling like you've done ten rounds with a Turkish wrestler. So having to stop as detailed above just after you've got into the tall, relaxing top gear and settled behind the hugely adjustable electric screen makes for staccato, annoying progress.

Other riders' shortcomings aside, the big Pan has always been a terrifically good compromise, if such a thing is possible, between pace, handling and load lugging with added range and comfort.

I rode the previous model down to the southern  French circuit of Nogaro in company with a couple of sportsbikes (an R1 and 998, poor souls) in '98. Laden with camera gear, even on backroads I was never embarrassed given the all-up weight of the thing. Indeed when first released the Pan was used as a travelling marshals' bike at the TT which, while only for the brave, gave an indication of Honda's faith in the handling. And so when asked to repeat the exercise (albeit to the Bol at Magny Cours) on the new Pan,  with a couple of Ÿber-speedster bikes for company, it  didn't seem too tall an order.

Four am is never the best time to get to know a bike, least of all when it weighs 283 kilos (seven more than the non-ABS version) and has another 60kgs of camera and camping gear attached. Still, by the time we'd blundered towards the coast to catch the 7am ferry from Calais, I was getting to know the beast. Wozza, being a late-braking racer dude brought an early insight into the effectiveness of the Pan's combined braking system as I followed his brake lights into an early roundabout and nearly overshot the thing. Fortunately a fistful of the very good stoppers hauled me safely up and out of harm's way.

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