Honda VTX1800R

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

All right, all of you cruiser guys can line up to give me a moto-wedgie for what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyway. Seven-hundred-and-fifty pounds of dry mass on a two-wheeled chassis is heavy. Yeah, yeah, sure...I can hear all you big he-man types laughing at little Chrissy all the while the waistband of my riding pants is increasing in upward velocity...

OK, very funny, you guys. Now get me down off of this coat hook and at least give me a chance to explain myself before you stuff me in that locker. Let's be honest, Honda's VTX1800R is a heavy motorcycle, especially to someone accustomed to the sporty side of the street. But as my experience aboard all different types of rides broadens, I'm beginning to find that weight is a much more relative topic than ink on paper would indicate.

I remember my first ride on a real street bike. Shortly after acquiring my motorcycle license, my friend Fast Freddie tossed me the keys to his '73 Triumph 750 Tiger. I was amazed at the huge weight difference between the Triumph and my Honda MT250 dual sport, and felt a little intimidated; but soon I found that the Triumph wore its perceived girth quite well and that even "heavy" bikes could be thrown around with little effort.

Fast-forward 23 years and that feeling of initial apprehension sets in as I first throw a leg over the big VTX. Despite the low center of gravity, there's still a bit of effort required to heft the bike off the long side stand. The fact that the guys at Honda set us up with a full complement of Honda Genuine Accessories (including a windshield, saddlebags, and tail pack) only serves to make the bike look even bigger. This illusion of large is actually compounded with a thumb of the starter that coaxes the two garbage-can-sized pistons into motion. The ka thumpa ka thumpa ka thumpa cadence of the big V settling into idle is oddly invigorating and soothing at once. You can tell that there's more than enough oomph to get this big boy up to speed.

Despite the bike feeling a bit sluggish in the parking lot, the weight issue soon becomes moot as the speed increases. It quickly becomes obvious that, like the old Triumph, the VTX wears its weight quite well. The low 27-inch seat height, coupled with the relaxed bend of the bars, the nicely contoured levers, and the forward positioned floorboards have this sport ridin' kid settling into cruiser mode. With the surprisingly smooth-shifting transmission dropped into fifth at freeway speed, the V-twin feels like it's barely above idle, leaving plenty of go-power just waiting for a simple twist of the throttle. When so motivated, the torquey twin thumps the pavement through a meaty 180-width rear tire that's spun by a smooth shaft drive, otherwise known as one less maintenance headache to worry about. A beefy, tubular steel chassis complements the smooth engine performance on the interstate. The long and low feeling VTX never even hints at any stability issues no matter the speed. The big 45mm fork and the chromed rear shocks provide a comfortable ride over most of the usual freeway joints, but the bigger bumps can deliver an unwanted jolt, especially to an unsuspecting co-rider atop the narrow pillion.

Riding on the interstate is great for making time, but what about the curves and twists of the back roads that lie at the end of those long, straight jaunts? Well, there's no need to worry in this department either. Again, the hefty VTX exhibits artfulness in masking its waistline. Sure, it's no supersport, but don't think for a second that this machine is incompetent when the sweepers swoop in. The massive 120 ft-lbs of torque allow the rider to scratch at the asphalt in almost any gear he or she chooses. And I'm not kidding about that scratching thing: the only real drawback of the VTX is a low ground clearance that allows the floorboards to touch down a bit too easily. Drawbacks aside, the fact that the floorboards are scraping speaks volumes for the confidence the chassis inspires. An integral part of that poise is the quality of the brakes. The dual triple piston calipers up front and the double plunger unit in the rear squeeze down on 296mm and 316mm discs respectively. Sure, the bike can go, but Honda has seen to that all-important stopping thing as well. With the exception of the surprising scratching sound as the floorboards make landfall, there's nothing keeping the VTX from its duties as a self-help tool for workweek aggression release.

Once again, Honda has provided the riding public with an incredibly competent and stylish motorcycle. Some may argue that its look might be a little too reminiscent of a certain bastion of the V-twin cruiser market. But, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The mechanical performance is nothing short of fantastic, especially the ground-stomping 100-plus horsepower V-twin. The dual, primary-shaft, mounted balance weights eliminate harsh vibrations without compromising the inherent soulful feel of a big twin. This works perfectly with the cushy ergonomics that allow for all-day riding enjoyment whether making time on the freeway or enjoying the breeze on your favorite byway. The fit and finish is top notch with quality chrome gleaming in all the right places and all the little things working flawlessly. There's always something to be said for attention to detail. Of course, there's no skimping in the accessories category either. The windshield, quality leather saddlebags, and tail pack are only several of the many options available from your Honda dealer.

Sure, I'm nowhere near giving up my sportier rides for a cruiser. But I do have to admit to thinking that there's a certain place for a bike like this in the "dream" garage. I'm sure I can find room right over there next to the '73 Tiger.

Rider profiles

Name: Daniel Neuhauser
Age: 33
Years Riding: 15
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 198 lbs
Wow, this is a big piece of motorcycle. Thankfully the engine is plenty strong enough to haul it around. No bad vibrations make for a smooth ride and the large size allows for plenty of space to move around. The brakes are great and the finishing is perfect. Now, just give me a little more ground clearance, better wind protection, and less of a Harley look, and we're in the game.
Name: Chris Myers
Age: 39
Years riding: 27
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 175 lbs
I'm really starting to like these big V-twins and the VTX is a monster. No matter when or where you twist the throttle, the big boy lurches ahead with no complaints. Great brakes and surprisingly competent handling really complete the package. This is a bike that can be ridden all day long on any road; just try not to mind that ugly sound of the floorboards kissing the asphalt in the corners.
Name: Christian Neuhauser
Age: 45
Years Riding: 27
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 169 lbs
The first two things about this bike that jump out at me is the powerful engine and the strong brakes. Honda did an excellent job on both. The touring options go great with the look of the VTX and when combined with the exceptional comfort makes a respectable long-distance rig. Be aware of the extra weight on this one, it does handle heavy in low speed situations and pray you never have to push it.
Name: Paul Cook
Age: 46
Years Riding: 27
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 185 lbs
I love the motor on the VTX. The remarkable smoothness is surprising for a big V-twin. This fact only adds to the over all comfort of the machine which is excellent. Another thing in the VTX corner is the many Stage options available from Honda to further personalize your machine. If I have to complain about this ride, I'll aim it at the non-hinged gas cap. The whole "cool factor" thing is negated when you find yourself chasing the cap across the gas station lot.


TECHNICAL SPECS:
Honda VTX1800R

+ power, brakes, comfort, customization options
- ground clearance, heavy handling

Distributor American Honda Motor Company - powersports.honda.com
Engine four-stroke V-twinSOHC, 6-valve
Displacement 1795cc
Bore x Stroke 101 x 112mm
Carburetion PGM-FI with automatic choke
Power 106 hp @ 5000rpm
Cooling liquid
Ignition digital
Transmission five-speed
Frame tubular steel
Front Suspension 45mm inverted fork
Rear Suspension dual shocks5-position spring preload adjustable
Rake/Trail 32° / 6.4in (163mm)
Brakes front/rear dual hydraulic 296mm discs/single 316mm disc
Tires front/rear 150/80R x 17 / 180/70R x16
Dry Weight 750lb (340kg)
Wheelbase 67.5in (1714mm)
Seat height 27.3in (693.4mm)
Fuel Capacity 5.3 gal (20l)
Fuel Consumption 34mpg (6.9liters/100km)
Colors black, titanium, candy red
MSRP $ 13,399 base