Ridden: 2009 Honda ST1300

2009 Honda ST1300

Stock photo of the stock 2009 Honda ST1300 in “Dark Candy Red”.

  • Model: 2009 Honda ST1300
  • Color: Candy Dark Red
  • Miles ridden: 1,625 (averaging 331 miles per day)
  • Fuel: 38.5 miles (average) per gallon
  • Locations: Nevada (Las Vegas north to Beatty) and California (Death Valley to Lone Pine, through Walker Pass to Lake Isabella and Bakersfield, down to Mojave, and back to Death Valley via Trona).

I rented this bike in Las Vegas for a March 2011 trip to Death Valley.

It’s hard to mention anything about the Honda ST1300 that isn’t a comparison to the Yamaha FJR 1300. The two bikes are very similar in handling and performance, and ergonomics and styling. So I’ll point out the features that caught my attention.

As far as handling, I mostly pointed the ST in the direction I wanted to go, and it took me there with a minimum of fuss. The bike had plenty of power to zoom up mountain passes far in excess of the posted speed limits. I also did about 30 miles of graded desert gravel roads (and even snowy gravel roads), and the bike handled fine, although it rattled quite a bit on the washboard desert roads. (My “rack and piñons” took more beating than the bike!)

Like my Suzuki Bandit, the ST seems to run fine at any speed in any gear. I was perpetually riding in a higher or lower gear than was optimal.  The combination of uphill and downhill grades, curves, and posted speed limits created a need to shift up and down more frequently than I normally experience.

Front view in Death Valley (2011).

Front view in Death Valley (2011).

2011.03.25-CA.DeathValleyNP-Sunset-02

2011.03.25-CA.DeathValleyNP-Sunset-02

The ST handled high speeds in mid-gears without grunting and handled low speeds in high gears without bucking, and otherwise ran smooth enough that I found myself frequently looking to the tach to determine if shifting would be advisable.  Overall, I rate this as a good thing; if the bike runs smoothly in any gear, I can worry less about the bike stalling, grinding or bucking, and more about engine wear and fuel efficiency.

After one very long and high mileage day,  I was mentally worn out, but chose to come back through Death Valley via the “backdoor” through Wildrose Canyon. The road was paved once back when Death Valley was a tropical rainforest filled with dinosaurs, and most of the blacktop has been washed away, leaving motorcycle-deep potholes. The road itself is tightly twisting, only nominally two-lanes wide, with several places where there is no shoulder, just rock walls (in the canyon) or steep drop-offs (over Emigrant Pass).

I was lagging pretty badly through the hairpin turns and using a lot of rear brake because my judgment coming into the turns was running on fumes. A couple times I just about drifted into the rocky mountainside, but I mentally commanded the bike to stand up straight and stay on the road and it did. So I’d have to say the bike handled rather well!

I did notice some surging at low altitudes (that is, below sea level), similar to what I experienced on a BMW at high altitudes (in the Colorado Rockies); the bike acted like it was not getting enough fuel. Not sure if that is common for this (or any) bike in these circumstances, but the opportunity to ride at such low levels is rare enough I would not consider it a problem.

For ergonomics, I was actually somewhat more pleased with the seating than I am with the FJR. The seat is about the same height, but the bike is a little thinner through its waistline, making it easier to put both feet flat on the ground. The FJR seems to be a little chubbier in the middle, and I can’t always easily get both feet flat on the ground.

One thing I did not like is the clutch lever’s lack of adjustments. With thick winter gloves, I wanted to reduce the lever’s throw, but it wasn’t possible. (The front brake lever is adjustable, however.)

The ST is jug-eared due to integrated rear view mirrors, but this seems to reduce mirror vibration, which is a plus when you’re cruising at high speed and scoping for CHP cruising up from behind.

The bike also has integrated black rubber crashpads which should give some protection if you drop the bike at a standstill, but they also add to the bike’s odd front view.

I did like the way the hard cases appear to be integral to the bike’s overall design, and also that different locking mechanisms were used to lock them versus those used to secure the bags to the bike. (A little more solid feeling than those on the FJR, and less chance of losing one due to mounting it incorrectly.)

I do need to dock a few points for the dim digital gauges that were simply hard to read during daylight, even on their brightest setting.

Overall, I was impressed with the Honda ST1300, which always seems to come in third in the Honda/Kawasaki/Yamaha sport-touring comparisons.