First Ride

UK road test: Honda CTX1300 review

A big mile-muncher with surprisingly good handling. Shame there isn’t the power to match

THE Pan European is a famously accomplished motorcycle but it's a bit, well, square, isn't it? If only it were possible to have all that comfort, and that 1261cc transverse V-four, without looking like an off-duty copper.

It is. Both the big tourers in Honda's range now have alter egos with more attitude, known as 'baggers'.

The basic, American concept is to take a tourer, typically an air-cooled V-twin, and strip it down a bit, leaving panniers and half the fairing. Honda's idea is to offer a more powerful variation on the theme.

So last year we had the F6B, a stripped-down Gold Wing, and now we have the CTX1300, using the shaft-drive engine from the ST1300 Pan European.

While the F6B share's its twin-spar aluminium frame with the Gold Wing, the CTX has an all-new steel double-cradle chassis, giving it a wheelbase 15cm longer than the Pan's, at 1,645mm.

It's an imposing object, with its huge 200-section rear tyre, low screen and acres of sparkling metallic paint.

The seat is about a yard wide but low enough to make it easy to get both feet flat on the ground, even for a shorty 5'9" rider like me.

The clocks seem far away but the long bars sweep towards you, making for an easy, almost scooter-like riding position. The pegs put your feet forward of your body but not right out in front like a traditional cruiser does.

The mirrors are positioned lower than usual, giving a view under the bars.

It's as relaxing as a hot bath.

It doesn't handle like a hot bath though. Considering its dimensions, and huge rear tyre, it turns with unlikely ease, responding to light input into those bars. It's deceptively easy to throw into and out of corners, with a decent amount of ground clearance.

It's stable and predictable, and the suspension, provided by non-adjustable upside-down forks and preload-adjustable twin shocks, is soft enough to deliver luxurious ride quality without losing composure on twisty B-roads.

A slight annoyance is that those long bars amplify the shock of any sudden bumps or dips, delivering a judder to your arms. 

The ABS brakes have loads of power and the CTX remains unflappable when they're applied, with that long wheelbase helping to minimise forward pitch. The brakes are linked, with one of three pistons on the front left disc applied when you press the rear pedal.

The CTX actually handles and stops really well.

The engine has some character too, with a meaty sound and those sticky-out cylinder heads. Twist the throttle in neutral, or with the clutch in, and you can feel the sideways rotational force it puts through the chassis.

If only it made a bit more power.

The Pan makes 118hp at 8,000rpm and 86lbft at 6,500rpm. For the CTX1300, Honda has detuned the engine to 84hp at 6,000rpm and 78lbft at 4,500.

If the idea of a bagger with a V-four engine has appeal, it must be lessened by the loss of 34hp and 2,000rpm.

Numbers can be deceptive but not in this case. The CTX doesn't have enough low-down torque to haul its 338kg quickly off the line. It's the only big bike I can remember riding which is at risk of being beaten away from lights by cars.

The only way to make anything like a quick getaway – and be confident of getting ahead of the traffic – is by slipping the cutch to about 5,000rpm. By the time you're off the clutch it's nearly time to change up, with the red line at 7,000rpm, about 40mph in first gear. It hits a rev limiter just below 8,000rpm.

On the move, the power delivery is like a car's, with useful mid-range building to an underwhelming surge at the top. You can overtake easily at the national speed limit, but it doesn't live up to the promise of a Pan-engined bagger.

Traction control comes as standard with two settings, on or off.

The five-speed gear box is smooth but on several occasions put me in neutral when I was looking for second.

At fast-lane motorway speeds, the engine feels as under-stressed as Honda has made it. The screen gives a comfortable level of protection to a rider of my height, and there's an optional higher one available. Eating miles on the motorway is probably where the CTX1300 makes most sense. That plush seat and luxurious ride quality make for as much comfort as you'll find this side of a Gold Wing.

Standard equipment includes heated grips and a sound system with two speakers housed in the fairing. The audio system doesn't actually have any means of playing music itself. It's essentially an amp and speakers with Bluetooth, and you have to connect a phone or another device to provide the soundtrack. There's also a USB socket for devices that don't have Bluetooth. Once it’s synched with your phone, the music automatically starts when you turn the key in the ignition lock. The sound quality’s good, but a bit more bass would be welcome.

There are two small gloveboxes, one the size of a slim wallet and the other big enough for a phone, with that USB socket inside.

The panniers won’t take a helmet but are plenty big enough for a weekend away, without making the rear end excessively wide. Fill them up, whack on some tunes and you’re ready to wind in some triple-digit miles, as kids stare from the backseats of cars at the gargantuan motorcycle from the future.

That’s how the CTX1300 feels - like a big, laidback, mile-munching tourer with extra presence, which of course is what it is.

It’s just a shame there isn’t the power to make more of its surprisingly good handling.

Model tested: Honda CTX1300

Price: £14,999 on-the-road

Power: 84hp

Torque: 78bft

Fuel economy (according to dash reading on test):  42.9mpg

Kerb weight: 338kg

Tank capacity: 19.5 litres

Seat height: 735mm

Colours: Red, white, black

Availability: Now

Read our Honda Gold Wing first-ride review

Read our Honda Pan European first-ride review

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