Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Jackie Bass, Ken Freund
At first blush, we expected these machines to ride and feel nearly the same, but after hundreds of test miles, their separate identities began to emerge more clearly. A multi-day trip up the California coast to scenic Morro Bay, with a diversion inland on snow-lined mountain roads, steep, twisty canyons, woodlands, broad plains and even hours of steady highway riding, gave us a chance to experience both machines in a variety of riding conditions.
Rarely do we test motorcycles side-by-side that are so close in design, style, displacement, price and mission than these two: the Honda VTX 1300T and Yamaha V-Star 1300 Touring. Both machines offer classic cruiser styling with hefty 80-cubic-inch engines, full windscreens, saddlebags and passenger backrests - and either can be purchased for just north of 11 grand. In fact, their specifications are so similar that many potential buyers would find it confounding to decide which to choose without the opportunity of a test ride - something many dealers don't allow.
Engine & Transmission
Most cruiser buyers prefer traditional V-twin engines, a lumpy rumble and plenty of torque at low rpm - and that's what we have here. Although finned cylinders give both engines an air-cooled appearance, Honda and Yamaha chose liquid cooling for these engines. This allows more power to be extracted, along with increased longevity, less noise and lower exhaust emissions. To retain a traditional cruiser visage, the radiators are fairly well hidden. Each also has a thermostatically controlled electric cooling fan on the radiator to help keep temperatures in check at low speeds and when idling. Both engines utilize screw and locknut valve adjustments, which reduces labor costs compared to shim-type adjusters.
Honda's engineers chose a single-pin crankshaft, a 52-degree angle between cylinders and an "undersquare" bore/stroke of 89.5mm x 104.3mm respectively to produce 1,312cc. Compression is 9.2:1. The SOHC engine breathes through three valves per cylinder - two intakes and one exhaust - an interesting compromise that flows better than two valves and costs less than four valves. Honda also developed a dry sump lubrication system which holds engine oil within the gearbox case instead of requiring an external tank.
The VTX's engine is rubber mounted, and dual two-axis primary counter balancers are designed to further reduce vibration. An ECU uses digital 3-D ignition timing maps for each cylinder, and twin spark plugs per cylinder ensure more complete combustion. The VTX has a smallish single 38mm-bore constant-velocity carburetor featuring a manual choke located beneath the left side of the gas tank. The carb is warmed by engine coolant to aid fuel vaporization and reduce stumbling during warmup, so within a few blocks you can take off the choke.
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For the complete article of the riding impression(s) and technical specifications, please purchase the May/June 2008 back issue.