Used test - 2002 Honda Transalp

Honda's Transalp combines true all-round ability with big mile comfort, so it may make sense if practicality is number one on your shopping list

Brit bikers have never really been turned on by off-road styled bikes. We've dismissed them as slow, soggy and unsexy and have only bought them in small numbers. But ignoring the virtues of these adventure sports machines is very much our loss. They've got tons to offer and you really don't know what you're missing until you've ridden one. They're rugged, practical all-rounders that go well in many environments and cosset you in comfort all day long.

Honda's Transalp is one such starlet, and one of the bikes that assisted the birth and development of this class when it was launched all the way back in 1987. The Honda hasn't changed that much since then, which is proof the factory got its sums right. And though us lot haven't latched onto it, the Transalp has been a massive hit in Europe from day one.

No wonder really. It's a very friendly, easy to ride machine that doesn't demand much at all from the rider, and forgives him if he doesn't always do as he should. Few bikes can match the Honda's marvelous balance and usefulness that make it such a doddle to deal with. It's a fantastic bike for beginners.

The 583cc V-twin engine is a peach. With only 50bhp on tap, it's no lap record breaker. But what it loses in terms of bhp, it makes up with cool, calm and collected ability to progress. It's a soft power unit and as such, is unlikely to land you in trouble with either hospitals or magistrates. It feels quite flat when you get the bike out onto the open road but, thanks to its V-twin configuration, you can always guarantee it'll respond - albeit no more than steadily and surely - to a yank on the twistgrip.

What little it has, it's always willing to offer. And given that there are plenty of people out there who want dependable delivery of power rather than a massive macho surge that'll leave them shaking, the Transalp's engine behaves almost perfectly.

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And so too does most of the rest of the bike. Softly sprung suspension smooths out all but the most pot-holed and rutted roads, and as it's well damped, there's enough control on the smoother, faster stuff. No one's saying you're going to hang onto sportsbikes - you won't. However, where a more quickly ridden pocket rocket might get flustered and flappy, a Transalp will just plough on regardless. It takes a hell of a lot to ruffle this bike.

It's at its best in town. Feet-up U-turns of ridiculously small diameter are easily possible and say a lot for the agility and balance of this bike. As do the handguards, rack and fairing that add to the general practicality of this very sorted machine.

Now, there's no such thing as the perfect bike of course and there are a couple of things to blot the Honda's copybook.

The brakes aren't the most powerful in the world and, unless you're willing to accept that and slow down, then they're worth beefing up a bit. The screen could do with being a bit taller too. The Honda is generally comfortable and capable of long non-stop trips, but taller riders might need to grit their teeth a bit or rest prematurely thanks to the low screen's restricted protection. Alternatively, they could buy a 5.5" taller screen, which is available as a Honda accessory.

Overall, the Transalp, like the 11,000-mile 2002 example we tested for £3295, should be viewed as a reliable workhorse. It's quite unremarkable in the way it goes about its business in a very calm, but highly effective way.

No one's saying it's a bike to excite - it's a long, long way from being able to get the heart racing. But when you sit back and look at its not unattractive bodywork, especially after a long day in the saddle, the Honda will have done more than enough to generate a smile or two of satisfaction. Think of it as more of a Felicity Kendall than Kylie Minogue, and you'll understand the Transalp.

Click here to read Honda Transalp owner's reviews

Used Honda Transalp tips

  • Transalps are very reliable workhorses that rarely go wrong
  • They are usually owned by older and more mature riders
  • Higher mileage bikes shouldn't be dismissed initially
  • Exhaust collector boxes can rot and can be expensive to replace
  • Check bodywork, levers and bar ends for damage from  off-road adventures
  • Chain and sprocket wear can be high due to the torquey V-twin engine
  • Check the tension and condition of the wheel spokes
  • Loosen the fork gaiters to check the condition of the seals and stanchions
  • The rear shock's damping can suffer on high mileage bikes
  • Braking power suffers if calipers are not serviced
  • Brakes are stronger if braided hoses are fitted

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