There’s a motorcycle saying that goes, “You can never have too many motorcycles.” While we can’t quarrel with the adage, most of us seek out a bike that more or less does it all. If you’re looking for that singular street machine, look no further than Honda’s remarkable sport-tour-de-force, the ST1300, or its sibling, the ST1300 ABS (antilock braking system).
Have you wondered if sport-touring is really for you? Consider this: If you’re a dedicated street rider who enjoys twisty two-lanes as much as the straight-arrow superslab, you’re already a sport-touring rider. Fortunately for us, Honda invented and perfected the genre—like nearly every other category of motorcycle out there. And that perfection is realized every time you swing a leg over the ST1300/ST1300 ABS.
Here’s a typical spring weekend from the log book on our ABS-equipped ST. Our two-up ride to the coast via the mountains started off on a cool and drizzly morning. The weather report told us fog was predicted in the valleys for the first hour. We donned our two-piece riding suits, loaded our detachable “his and hers” saddlebags, checked the tire pressures and adjusted the rear suspension pre-load. After raising the electrically operated windscreen and cranking up the amps on the (optional) heated grips to keep the cold damp air at bay, we were off.
We hadn’t gone 20 minutes when the fog turned to pea soup and drizzle. No problem—we slowed our pace and lowered the windscreen for improved visibility. More than once the ST’s LBS™ (Linked Braking System) slowed us with confidence as we approached blind curves and the ABS provided peace of mind for the slippery snakes of asphalt sealer we would encounter.
Just as we crested the last mountain pass, the sun broke through and the sinewy two-lane to the valley below beckoned us onward. The air warmed as we descended and the panoramic views were majestic. The tractable power delivery of the 1261cc liquid-cooled, longitudinally mounted 90-degree, V-4 propelled us effortlessly as we carved through turns and immersed ourselves in the experience.
Our lunch stop gave us pause to share our reflections and refuel our bodies (the ST’s 7.7-gallon fuel tank was still half full) and we shed some clothing layers in anticipation of soaring afternoon temps. The road straightened considerably as we neared our destination and so did our pace, yet the ST’s fairing and adjustable windscreen combined to minimize buffeting while still routing plenty of cooling air into the cockpit.
We arrived at the beachfront B&B by late afternoon just as the fuel display told us it was time to gas up. We’d covered nearly 300 miles with just one stop but felt like the trip had just begun. We weren’t tired at all and looked forward to a stroll on the sand before dinner. The following day we explored some coastal roads and stopped at several local shops. We weathered two cloudbursts and endured stop-and-go riding on 140-degree tarmac with nary a concern for anything mechanical. By the time we returned home Sunday night, we’d amassed 900 miles on the ST. For us, it was an invigorating and relaxing getaway. For the ST, it was just another day at the office.
Believe it or not, Honda’s first foray into touring, the 1975 Gold Wing® 1000, had a heavy dose of sport engineered into it as well. With high performance that rivaled anything on the market and unparalleled long-distance ability, the first Gold Wing revolutionized motorcycle design and almost single-handedly created the modern age of motorcycle touring. Seeing the potential of the sporting side of touring, Honda affixed a fairing and saddlebags to the six-cylinder 1047cc CBX in 1981-82 and created the most distinctive—and powerful—sport-touring machine to date. The trend continued with the introduction of the mighty 120-horsepower 1984 VF1100S V-65 Sabre, which was available with optional fairing and saddlebags.
With the maturation of the VFR Interceptor® line in 1986, everyday motorcyclists the world over were discovering the joys of V-4 sporting motorcycles. With its perfect primary balance and even firing, Honda’s 90-degree V-4 delivered gobs of torque at low engine speeds, ideal for all-day riding, while sacrificing none of the top-end rush that riders valued when overtaking slower vehicles or connecting curves. Equally important to this class of riders were real-world ergonomics and protection from the elements. Reliable, weatherproof storage was just as significant.
Honda listened attentively and in 1991 brought forth the first purpose-built sport-touring motorcycle, the ST1100. Its liquid-cooled DOHC, 24-valve V-4 engine was longitudinally mounted to provide a compact and efficient layout. Low-maintenance features abounded, including belt-driven cams, shim-under-bucket valve actuation and shaft drive. A well-designed layout provided sensible ergonomics, a firm yet supple seat with ample room for a passenger, a sleek, full-coverage fairing and two removable, cavernous saddlebags. Honda chose the ST1100 to offer its first ABS system for the street. TCS—Traction Control System—was an added benefit that utilized the ABS wheel sensors to detect rear-wheel slip during acceleration. Like ABS, TCS was especially effective on wet or otherwise slippery surfaces. Honda further improved the world’s favorite sport-tourer in 1996 with the addition of the Linked Braking System (LBS). The sophisticated system applied braking force to both wheels when only the front or rear brake control was applied, and in practice it improved braking performance under many different riding conditions.
Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too
In its latest incarnation, Honda has substantially expanded sporting potential and touring ability of the ST1300/ST1300 ABS. Fueled by Honda’s advanced programmed fuel injection (PGM-FI), the V-4 mill now churns out an impressive 125 bhp at 8000 rpm with a muscular torque peak of 85 lb/ft at 6000 rpm. Dual engine counterbalancers virtually eliminate primary and secondary vibration. The engine is more compact and positioned lower and farther forward in the lightweight aluminum frame for improved handling. Redesigned LBS offers seamless operation and when coupled with optional ABS, provides rapid, precise action.
Extensive wind-tunnel testing produced a fairing/windscreen design that greatly expands the still-air envelope around the rider and passenger and virtually eliminates the back-curl of wind. To ensure the broadest possible range of seating comfort for riders of all sizes, the ST1300 features an innovative, three-position-adjustable seat. Long-haul travelers will appreciate the 35-liter lockable, detachable saddlebags that are large enough to accept a full-face helmet.
A host of Honda accessories allow ST1300 owners to add even more touring touches. Soft Inner Bags ease packing chores and Heated Grips with Thermostat extend the riding season. Fairing and Mirror Air Deflectors further minimize air turbulence and a 12V DC Accessory Socket provides power for additional equipment. Saddlebag Scuff Pads and Tank Pads help prevent abrasion to painted surfaces. For more information, be sure to visit your Honda dealer.