And the Winner is…
In keeping with its progressive nature, the Victoria Police Department in Victoria, BC, Canada, set out to select a modern motorcycle for their Traffic Section. While fiscal responsibility has always been a consideration in selecting vehicles for the department, officer comfort and safety are primary concerns, as well as the desire to have a motor that embodies as many current technologies as possible.
Prior to the department's most recent mount, Harley-Davidson's Road King police motorcycles, Victoria Police operated on the BMW K-75. These motorcycles proved to be very capable and popular with officers. The Harleys, albeit popular with some officers and tourists, could not perform like the K-75, or other sport-touring motorcycles. Some of the negative attributes noted include overheating during long idle periods, average brakes, and lackluster performance.
Over a period of months, various makes and models of motorcycles were put through their paces during an in-house selection process, and all members of the department's Traffic Section participated in the testing and selection process. The main denominator in the selection process was safety. However, as police operations are significantly more taxing than civilian riding, comfort, maintenance, acceleration, braking, and handling were also important considerations.
Of the many makes and models considered, the primary contenders were the Yamaha FJR1300 sport-touring motorcycle, the BMW R1150RT-P (police) model, the BMW F650GS-P (police) single-cylinder motorcycle, the Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Nomad, and the Honda ST1300A. All motorcycles tested were evaluated against the department's Harley Road King, and loosely compared to makes operated previously.
The testing process included routine urban duties, the department's in-house motorcycle qualification and training course, and even time at a local racetrack. After riding each model, Traffic Section officers commented and discussed their respective likes and dislikes in a roundtable fashion. Other than the department's qualification and training course, no regimented test or evaluation process was devised. It was hoped that open and frank discussions about each contender's prowess as a police motorcycle would eventually reveal a clear favorite.
The Yamaha FJR1300 had superb acceleration and handling, but was generally found to be uncomfortable to ride over the stretches of time typical of a 10-hour Traffic Section shift.
The BMW R1150RT-P model was well accepted by most officers, with many commenting on the excellent brakes, handling and acceleration. However, a deterring factor was the bike's top-heavy nature, most evident in tight locking turn maneuvers conducted during the department's motorcycle training course. This aspect, coupled with dull low-speed performance, ruled the R1150RT-P out of competition.
The second candidate tested from BMW's livery was the F650GS-P single-cylinder police motorcycle. Although a very interesting offering, this motorcycle was found to have one primary deficit - lack of power. Officers commented on the necessity to have a powerful engine, primarily when undertaking police escort. For this role, officers consistently operate their motorcycles from idle to maximum throttle in a leapfrog fashion to clear traffic and block intersections for escorted vehicles. Although BMW adequately configured the F650GS-P for police duties, the motorcycle wasn't robust enough for urban assignments.
The Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Nomad was also tested in an effort to give all major manufacturers a chance to compete in the selection process. The Nomad is very similar to the Road King and was considered to be just as good but no more beneficial than the existing Harleys.
The only Honda product tested was the ST1300A sport-touring motorcycle, featuring a linked Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). The ST1300A was found to be extremely comfortable to operate for long periods of time, and is markedly quieter in comparison to some of the other contenders. Rider fatigue was negligible, a factor attributed to the comfortable upright rider position, minimal vibration, and low noise emitted from the tailpipes. As one officer put it, "You become a part of this motor, you're not just sitting on it."
The 1261cc engine produced amazing amounts of power, and handling proved to be exemplary. The linked ABS disc brakes were nothing short of outstanding, and brought the motorcycle to a stop in certain and impressive fashion. Cargo capacity in the saddlebags was determined to be more than ample for routine urban duty police equipment.
Plastic fairings cover the crash cage, maintaining a sleek, dynamic look. Removable saddlebags are well incorporated into the design, as are the adjustable windscreen, heated grips, and the center-stand, which was considered a most attractive feature, as it facilitates ease of maintenance and cleaning.
With little need to compare anything further after the testing phase, the Honda ST1300A was unanimously chosen by Traffic Section members to be the next motorcycle operated by the Victoria Police Department. To quote Constable Eric Ooms, "We compared everything to the Harley, but the Harley couldn't compare to the Honda." The Victoria Police thus became the first law enforcement operator of any Honda ST1300 model in North America. Honda has subsequently fielded the ST1300P, which it now actively markets to law enforcement agencies.
Since no law enforcement agencies were operating the ST1300 at the time, Victoria Police had to configure the stock motorcycle for police duties. The primary modifications required were installations of police emergency lights, siren, push-to-talk radio button, radar holders, and markings. Action Motorcycles of Victoria, BC, the local Honda motorcycle dealer, installed most of these components.
The most noticeable body modification to the ST1300A was the removal and replacement of the rear seat with a low-profile fiberglass pod designed and built by Perfections Paint and Body in Victoria, BC. Incorporated on the lateral and rear aspects of the pod are brilliant red-and-blue LED emergency lights. Within the pod itself is the siren driver and various electrical components.
Additional emergency red-and-blue LED lights were mounted above each rearview mirror, and to each side of the front fender. Together, these lights provide 360-degree coverage, little wind resistance, and use a fraction of the electrical power that rotator and/or strobe lights use. A siren was mounted on the right side of the motorcycle, directly above the roll cage fairing. To activate lights and sirens, an aftermarket 3-button switch unit was procured. This product seamlessly replaces the top cover of the clutch master cylinder reservoir.
Graphic FX Signworks in Victoria, BC, applied a checkerboard race design, and reflective race style numbers for each motorcycle in the fleet. Reflective police markings were also applied to the windscreen and saddlebags.
It is anticipated each of the departments ten ST1300A's will serve 4 to 5 years and retain a high resale value. What few parts required for the motors thus far have been readily available through the local Honda dealer. The bikes never cease to turn the heads of citizens and tourists alike, and officers are so impressed with them that many have expressed interest in purchasing them once their police service has ended.
The Victoria Police Department is extremely pleased with the performance of their motorcycles, and they're proud to be the first law enforcement operator of the Honda ST1300 in North America. It is likely the Department will replace these highly capable and safe mounts with new ST1300s when needed.