Honda XL700V Transalp (2007 - present) review

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Adventure
Price:
£ 5400
Overall
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)
Versatile tourer, commuter or soft roader is reliable and fun to ride. Great value.
Cheaply finished, lacks a sixth gear.

Adventure Sports bikes are currently the fastest-growing market sector in motorcycling in Britain today. At 31% up on last year they are flicking two long-suspended fingers up at superbikes, who by comparison are only a measely 4% up year-on-year. It would appear that UK riders are finally following in the footsteps of our European chums, eschewing one million bhp in favour of decent tank ranges, Ewan and Charlie styling and easier everyday riding. It had to happen at some stage. As motorcycling becomes older and fewer young bloods come in at the bottom, so biking’s demographic has changed. And in the same way the dinosaurs eventually gave way to warm-blooded furry little mammals, it would appear that the Adventure Sports bikes are stepping forward to inherit the earth.

And into this odd-looking world comes a new Honda Transalp. I remember these things from back in 1987 when I was a mere nipper. They were white and blue and nobody was quite sure what to do with them, so they took them off-road. Which the Transalp wasn’t really meant to do (to any great degree) so at the time it was dubbed either a silly roadbike or a rubbish dirtbike. More recently, I rode 1,600 miles around Turkey for the last issue on a 650 Transalp, which probably makes me the only journalist to have actually ridden one in the last 10 years and therefore uniquely qualified to comment on the new bike. And while that Transalp was brilliant at pottering around the country at 80mph in tremendous comfort, it was wholly unexciting and not very pretty. I admired it for what it could do but always wished I was on something else.

And so to this latest incarnation. It’s been hogged out to 680cc, got completely new bodywork and a smaller, more road-orientated 19” front wheel to make it handle better and offer a wider choice of tyres. Some of the journalists on the launch thought it was grossly ugly, and certainly the headlight assembly is no oil-painting. But I rather like its rumpy, stumpy Massey Ferguson looks, and the new Transalp has the air of a bike which can be ridden for miles and take a hell of a beating in the process. 20 years of refinement mean this Honda is nothing if not built to last, and I wager you could throw this fella down the road at least five times before you actually needed to fix anything more than brake levers.

Compared to the slightly lifeless 650 it replaces, the new bike’s performance is almost rampant in comparison. We did a lap of the Monaco F1 street circuit before heading North into the Alps, and the XL700 has got plenty of poke. Nothing like a Triumph Tiger or KTM Adventure, of course, and with only 60bhp on tap the Transalp is never going to pin your ears back under full boost, but there’s certainly enough oomph for something of this ilk and fun things like wheelies are easily achieved with a flick of the clutch lever. Honestly, the old model struggled to do even that. The exhaust note thuds along pleasingly behind you, the midrange power is surprisingly plump, and gauged purely on the merits of its engine the new Transalp is a big step forward. 100mph comes up on the easy-to-read instruments very easily, and you get big-bike feel at the throttle for just another 30cc and a reworked cylinder head. The fastest I saw in a straight line, if you care about that sort of thing on a bike like this, was 130mph. Downhill and with a slight tailwind.

Read more: http://www.visordown.com/road-tests-first-rides/first-ride-honda-xl700-transalp/4392.html#ixzz0xcrPsrEV

Adventure Sports bikes are currently the fastest-growing market sector in motorcycling in Britain today. At 31% up on last year they are flicking two long-suspended fingers up at superbikes, who by comparison are only a measely 4% up year-on-year. It would appear that UK riders are finally following in the footsteps of our European chums, eschewing one million bhp in favour of decent tank ranges, Ewan and Charlie styling and easier everyday riding. It had to happen at some stage. As motorcycling becomes older and fewer young bloods come in at the bottom, so biking’s demographic has changed. And in the same way the dinosaurs eventually gave way to warm-blooded furry little mammals, it would appear that the Adventure Sports bikes are stepping forward to inherit the earth.

And into this odd-looking world comes a new Honda Transalp. I remember these things from back in 1987 when I was a mere nipper. They were white and blue and nobody was quite sure what to do with them, so they took them off-road. Which the Transalp wasn’t really meant to do (to any great degree) so at the time it was dubbed either a silly roadbike or a rubbish dirtbike. More recently, I rode 1,600 miles around Turkey for the last issue on a 650 Transalp, which probably makes me the only journalist to have actually ridden one in the last 10 years and therefore uniquely qualified to comment on the new bike. And while that Transalp was brilliant at pottering around the country at 80mph in tremendous comfort, it was wholly unexciting and not very pretty. I admired it for what it could do but always wished I was on something else.

And so to this latest incarnation. It’s been hogged out to 680cc, got completely new bodywork and a smaller, more road-orientated 19” front wheel to make it handle better and offer a wider choice of tyres. Some of the journalists on the launch thought it was grossly ugly, and certainly the headlight assembly is no oil-painting. But I rather like its rumpy, stumpy Massey Ferguson looks, and the new Transalp has the air of a bike which can be ridden for miles and take a hell of a beating in the process. 20 years of refinement mean this Honda is nothing if not built to last, and I wager you could throw this fella down the road at least five times before you actually needed to fix anything more than brake levers.

Compared to the slightly lifeless 650 it replaces, the new bike’s performance is almost rampant in comparison. We did a lap of the Monaco F1 street circuit before heading North into the Alps, and the XL700 has got plenty of poke. Nothing like a Triumph Tiger or KTM Adventure, of course, and with only 60bhp on tap the Transalp is never going to pin your ears back under full boost, but there’s certainly enough oomph for something of this ilk and fun things like wheelies are easily achieved with a flick of the clutch lever. Honestly, the old model struggled to do even that. The exhaust note thuds along pleasingly behind you, the midrange power is surprisingly plump, and gauged purely on the merits of its engine the new Transalp is a big step forward. 100mph comes up on the easy-to-read instruments very easily, and you get big-bike feel at the throttle for just another 30cc and a reworked cylinder head. The fastest I saw in a straight line, if you care about that sort of thing on a bike like this, was 130mph. Downhill and with a slight tailwind.

Read more: http://www.visordown.com/road-tests-first-rides/first-ride-honda-xl700-transalp/4392.html#ixzz0xcrPsrEV

Versatile tourer, commuter or soft roader is reliable and fun to ride. Great value.
Cheaply finished, lacks a sixth gear.