Hello all. Time for a bike review. As some of you know I've ridden my Kawasaki VN750 for the last 2+ years and loved it. GREAT bike, comfy to ride, goes fast, looks great, extremely dependable, has just about everything you need on a bike. Awsome bike. Love it. However, under pressure from Todd and Mike here in Utah ... they held me down and made me do it ... I have added to my bike collection and added a 2001 Honda ST1100 Sport Tourer. The following is my review of the bike.
The ST1100 is a sport touring bike and is now replaced, as of 2003, with the ST1300. The bikes are quite similar so a review of the St1100 will cover a lot of the 1300 except where I remember to note otherwise.
First off, let me clearly state this ... The ST1100/1300 is NOT a Beginner Bike !!! Don't even think about starting out on this bike ! This is a #2 bike more like a #3 bike. Don't be stupid, spend a couple years on some other great bikes THEN move to the ST1100/ST1300. The ST1100/1300 is NOT a Beginner Bike
That being said ... I LOVE THIS BIKE! Weeeeee!!! First things first ... the ST is a "Sport Touring" bike. It's part Sport bike, part touring bike. The riding position is more sporty thay say a cruiser, but not so far leaned over as to be a Sport bike. The feet are placed direcly below you, so more akin to a standard bike. This takes a little bit of getting used to when you come from the forward controls of a Cruiser. The bike is built for, and geared toward, touring. It has a large gas take (7.4 gallons) and comes standard with windshield, faring, and hard side bags. Here's what the ST looks like ... this is my ST1100, the ST1300 is very similar ...
Engine/Power ... As noted, this bike is an 1100cc bike, so it has a large engine. May not seem large compared to behemouth cruisers, but remember it's geared to be more sporty. Red line on this bike is 8000 RPM and at 80 mph (GPS'd) I'm doing just over 4000 rpm. YOU do the math. I can easily and comfortably do 45 mph in 3rd gear. I've seen pics of riders doing a wheelie on this bike, and I can believe it. It has the power to do that, but thankfully not the torquie twitch that powerful sport bikes have. The bike has a V4 motor that is very silky smooth ... deceptively smooth, especially if you come to it from a V-twin cruiser. The engine and pipes are quiet ... remember, this is a touring bike, not a cruiser. The engine is so smooth and quiet it is VERY easy to be going much faster than you think you are ... Example ... doing 45 mph in 3rd gear in a 30 mph zone and not even realizing I'm doing 45 till I look at the speedo. ST can very easily stand for Speed Trap !!
Comfort/Control ... the bike is a HIGH bike, seat height is over 31". I can not flat foot this bike. I'm 5'8 with a 30" inseam, so I basically tip toe the bike. That had me worried in the beginning but has really not been an issue. The bike has a very low center of gravity, so once you're moving, even very slowly, the bike is so balanced the height isn't an issue. You would think the 7.4 gallon gas tank would make it top heavy, but that is not the case. Most of the tank is below you when you're on the bike, so again, very centered. The bike is heavy tho ... over 700 pounds wet ... so maneuvering the bike is challenging. Unlike my VN750 which I can flat foot and thus move around with ease, the ST is a whole different story. In the garage I basically have to stand on the side of the bike and man handle it around. Again, that unnerved me in the beginning but you get used to it and I'm okay now. For parking, I always aim to find a parking spot that is either up hill (so I can coast downhill to get out of it) or I find a parking spot I can pull through or turn around in so I can start out by going straight out. The bike feels very light, so light in fact that on my first day of having it I was doing the dreaded MSF box on my 3rd try.
Riding/Touring ... the bike, so far, has gotten me between 43 and 47 mpg, which I'm extatic about!! Given the 7.4 gallon take that means I have a range of at least 300 miles with room to spare. Since I'll take bathroom breaks before that, the range is great. Then again, this bike is geared for touring, and range is a critical part of that. I bought the bike used so it did not come with the stock windshield, but rather a Laminar Lip shield. It is fine and deflects most wind around me. The faster I go, the more the envelope expands. Thus, the bike provides great wind protection, which is great now that it is cold out. The handlebars are a bit too far forward for my tastes ... making me have too much weight on my wrists. Part of this is simply me coming from a cruiser, not a sport bike, but I'll likely put some risers on the bars to help out with this. The bars are great tho and do not interfere with any kind of turn. The feet are directly down which isn't bad although I'd like some kind of highway bar setup for long riding ... something to let me stretch out my legs. The bike has a great seat, tho mine is a Corbin (awsome seat) and has plenty of room for a passenger. My wife prefers the ST saddle over my VN saddle and I can't argue with her.
Brakes/Clutch/Throttle ... dual disc up front, single disk in the rear. My ST is the basic ST, but there are versions with Linked brakes as well as ABS. I don't have all that fancy stuff. The brakes are good, VERY good, and I can stop very quickly. Haven't locked anything up, so they're responsive but not twitchy. The brake lever can be adjusted some to be closer or further away from the throttle depending on your hand size. The clutch has a nice friction zone was I was comfortable with it right off. It does have a lot of pressure on it though, which can tire your hand out if you hit a lot of lights. The throttle is responsive and smooth.
The newer ST1300's are pretty much the same, somewhat smaller wheelbase, lowered repositioned engine, FI, and a windshield that can be moved electronically. They're also a bit lighter I think. I have met some fellow ST riders on their website and many of them easily put on 100,000 or more on this bike. So I'm looking for many years of happy riding with it.
Overall ... the bike is very smooth and so fun to ride. It leans into the curves effortlessly and I know I'm doing them faster than on the VN. Downside is, again, the speed is so deceptive that you can easily be going faster than you think,and thus enter a curve hotter than you planned. That obviously takes a lot of practice to get used to. I have done some 2-up riding with the bike and felt totally fine with it. Very good balance and control and my wife loved the ride. The hard side bags are each large enough to hold a FF helmet so they're roomy. I've added a GIVI topcase to the rear which now allows me to put my laptop there and commute to work. The bike is fairly maintenance free which is nice, but to do anything to the bike you basically have to remove parts of the fairing. Not all that hard, but still an issue. The engine isn't quite as accessible as a Cruiser engine is.
So far, the only downsides, for me, is the bike height when I need to manually move the bike around. Stopped at lights or whatever, it's not an issue. But moving the bike in the garage or something like that requires I manhandle it. Some of you taller people probably wouldn't have this issue.
Is this bike a beginner bike? NO, cripes NO!!! It is too heavy, has too much power and is too deceptive to be considered a beginner bike. However, would it make a fine second or third bike? Yes. It is my 3rd bike and I was able to adjust to it easily. Once you know riding and have mastered some decent skills and control, this bike can be good for you.