Honda ST1300 ABS

Text: RoadRUNNER Staff • Photography: RoadRUNNER Staff

In the ST1300, Honda has introduced a bike with more capacity, more power, a lighter frame, and more equipment features than its predecessor. If you need a comfortable bike for longer trips that is still sporty enough for twisty roads, here it is.

Concept & Transformation
I will never forget one ride from Snowmass back to Denver after a Colorado 500 trip. My wife had called on her way to the hospital to have our baby way earlier than expected. Of course, I was in a hell of a rush to join her. And the temperatures on the pass roads I had to cross were low, very low for May. I made it in three-and-a-half hours, a pretty good time. My bike: a Honda ST1100. In the end, my wife and I had to return home from the hospital when the little joker decided to wait another four days.

Since then, a little more than three years ago, I've loved the old ST and I've considered it one of the best long-distance bikes in the world. It was comfortable, fast and easy to handle. And the vents behind the fairing delivered some warmth after the covers were removed.

But time didn't stand still. Honda has introduced the successor of my former favorite touring bike, and calls it the ST1300. The new one still comes with a V-four but with more power, a lighter aluminum frame, and many more additional details.

Engine & Transmission
Reminded of my last ST1100 ride, I start the engine of the new 1300. The motor already sounds stronger. You can feel the additional capacity when you pull the throttle the first time. I shift it in first gear and take off for our test ride. The V-four is a unique power plant within the motorcycle business if you're just talking about series production. The crankshaft sits in the frame lengthwise so you don't have to transfer the forces through many linkages to the shaft drive as in the case of an inline-four. The mapping of the electronic fuel injection (ST1100: carburetors) works perfectly. There's no break in the power curve and the engine runs smooth and strong up to redline at 9,000rpm. The peak power of 126hp kicks in at 8,000rpm, and peak torque is 94ft.-lbs. (125Nm, 12.7mkp) at 6,000rpm. The V4 feels pleasantly responsive when you accelerate in mid-turn. Precise control and light throttle action make operation easy. Other advantages are low fuel consumption (45.7mpg; 5.2l/100km) and great fuel range (349mls/558km) with one load of tank capacity (7.6gal/29l).

Everything works fine. Pulling the clutch and changing gears is fun since both operations only need little forces. And the shaft drive fits perfectly to a touring bike like this. You don't have to worry about chain tension or dirty hands. Additionally, the drive train works discreetly without any disturbing up-and-down moves of the chassis - what would be considered typical behavior for a shaft-driven motorcycle. But the right mounting pivot and the right length of the swingarm, as well as the right concept of the suspension and its linkage, can absorb these movements as they do on the Honda. Again, the Japanese did a great job.

Chassis & Brakes
If you've ever ridden an ST1100 - not a tough bike to handle at all - you will be surprised how easy it is to steer the 1300. The new bike follows your dictation without hesitation and keeps the line through the curve accurately and safely. Ten years ago, no one thought a 1300cc bike could be this easy to handle, ever. The wide handlebars help a lot and provide a perfect lever for turning. In addition, the ST gained through its well-balanced chassis, concentrating a lot of mass close to its center of gravity, and its chassis specifications: 64-degree rake, 98mm of trail and 1,490mm of wheelbase. All of which makes for an easy turning big bike.

The ST1300 feels at home even on twisty side roads with bad surfaces. The suspension, with 120mm of travel in the front and 123mm of travel in the rear, absorbs most of the bigger bumps. In conjunction with the thick cushion of the adjustable seat, forks and shock promote a pleasingly comfortable ride. The position of the footpegs fits this bike, which is capable of crossing the United States in express times.

Only one downside popped up when riding faster than legal highway speeds in rainy and windy conditions. The front of the bike felt wired, and light and started shaking a bit. As reported by our European colleagues, who ride at higher speeds on the autoroutes, the ST is known for this kind of behavior. Over there, Honda issued a recall about six months ago but they couldn't fix the problem. In Germany, over 200 units were returned to the distributor, who has his own test facilities, to get the job done. So far, they haven't released news of any lasting solution (as of our submission deadline in October, 2003).

But honestly, American customers shouldn't worry too much about it. If you stay within the official speed limits, you're safe. Just remember the things an experienced rider usually keep in mind: Be mindful of the correct weight distribution, don't overload the rear end, use a tank bag for heavy stuff like tools or such, and only run tires with enough tread. With this preparation, the ST will run and hit the turns like a greyhound after that stuffed bunny.

And, if you're hankering for an ST, consider the ABS-version. The good Combined Brake System (CBS, Linked Brake System/LBS) with three discs and three floating three-piston calipers makes riding all that much better and safer, most of all when you're out there on nasty, slippery roads. The 1300 definitely has one of the best brake systems available for the money.

Accessories & Arrangements
The passenger will love the space and cushioning. Rear-peg positioning is comfortable as well. Another important, general safety feature for the rider, the full fairing shunts wind and rain away, keeping one dry and warm, relaxed and concentrated.

In this way, you can use the full fuel-capacity range without longer breaks. The hard cases, with 35l of capacity, provide enough luggage space and we didn't experience any leaks on our test rides. For additional stuff, you can choose an after-market tank bag and/or a bag tied to the ST's stock luggage rack.

Honda equipped the bike with complete instrument panel including gauges for speed, rpm, time, trip length, cooling fluid temperature and fuel level, as well as a lot of control lights. A button on the left side of the controls electrically adjusts the windshield. For straight highways, we used the highest position, and recommend the lowest level for twisties to have a better view into the turns.

Test Summary
The ST1300 represents the high standards of Japanese manufacturing in general and Honda R&D especially. These guys know the US touring rider's needs and preferences, and provide them in one strong, torquey, reliable, easy-to-handle bike that can cross the nation from any direction in style and comfort. Of course, one always has the choice of the renowned Gold Wing in the Honda range. But the ST is lighter and nimbler particularly on twisty side roads - something worth considering when one contemplates riding the Pan-American Express.

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Honda ST1300/ABS

Retail Price $ 12,999 to $ 14,499
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 600/4,000/every 4,000 miles (1,000/6,400/every 6,400km)
Importer/Distributor American Honda Motor Co.,1919 Torrance Blvd.,Torrance, CA 90501-2746,phone (310) 783-2000, www.hondamotorcycles.com

ENGINE
Type 4-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling water-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cams chain driven, shim under bucket adjustment
Bore & Stroke 78 x 66mm
Displacement 1,261cc
Compression Ratio 10.8:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no (Europe: catalytic converter)

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive shaft drive

CHASSIS
Frame cast aluminum-alloy frame, double beam
Wheelbase 1,490mm (58.7in.)
Rake 64 degree
Trail 98mm (3.9in.)
Front Suspension telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 45mm (1.77in.)
Adjustments no
Travel 120mm (4.7in.)
Rear Suspension cast aluminum-alloy swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 123mm (4.8in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 18
Rear 5.00 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 18
Rear Tire 170/60 ZR 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, floating 3-piston calipers
Diameter 310mm (12.2in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating 3-piston caliper
Diameter 316mm (12.4in.)
Combining Dual CBS/CBS-ABS

DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES
Seat Height 775, 790, 805mm (30.5, 31.1, 31.7in.)
Wet-Weight 315/321kg (700/713lb.)
Fuel Capacity 29l (7.6gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)126hp at 8,000rpm
Torque 12.7mkp (125Nm, 94.1ft.-lbs.) at 6,000rpm
Top Speed 225km/h (141mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 3.5s
Fuel Consumption 5.2l/100km (45.7mpg)
Fuel Range 558km (349mls.)

EQUIPMENT
Full fairing, electrically adjustable windshield (only on ABS-version), dashboard w/speedometer, odometer, trip odo-meter, tachometer, and display for clock, cooling fluid temperature, fuel level and other information, key switch on top of the upper triple clamp, Dual CBS-ABS (ABS-version), luggage hard cases w/mounting kit, center and side stand.

ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 5/5
Comfort 5/5
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Equipment 4/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 4/5