2014 Honda CTX1300: FIRST RIDE

Alan Cathcart | April 3, 2014

Honda continues to expand its post-2008 strategy of bringing people back to motorcycling – as well as attracting new recruits – by developing an ongoing series of unconventional new models, presumably working on the basis that you won’t attract new customers with the same old bikes. Thus these bikes frequently blend frontiers between existing model segments and often feature innovative technology – like the company’s semi-auto DCT dual-clutch transmission.

So after such innovative novelties as the parallel-twin Integra scooter/bike hybrid, its related CTX700 range that provides accessible, inexpensive motorcycles for novice or returnee riders, the 1200cc Crosstourer V4 adventure bike, and the F6B six-cylinder bagger, not to mention the quirky 125cc Grom, comes the Honda CTX1300. And this one should also carry the Crossover tag, since it’s essentially four bikes in one.

Because as a fundamental part of that recovery strategy, Honda is engaged in rewriting the rule book in terms of categorizing what a motorcycle is, what it can be used for, and thus who it appeals to. So in attempting to meet the company’s mantra that CTX stands for the Comfort Technology eXperience, the V-four-powered CTX1300 combines the chilled-out cruising capabilities of a custom bike with sufficient ground clearance and good manners when ridden hard to deliver something approaching sportbike-style handling. And it also provides bagger-style practicality for weekend touring via the set of hard luggage it carries and some clever aerodynamics.

Those bags don’t, however, stick out so far that they detract from the new bike’s commuter potential via reduced lane-splitting capability – a function aided by the broad spread of power and especially torque that makes shifting gears optional if you’re just riding to work and going with the flow. Like we said, four bikes in one – resulting in a model whose appeal is much greater than the sum of its parts. This new Honda is more than just a four-cylinder take on the V-twin bagger segment – think of it as a two-wheeled MPV with peppy performance.

The CTX1300 isn’t, however, powered by the Crosstourer’s new-generation 1237cc 76-degree V-four motor, but by a heavily revamped version of the longitudinally mounted liquid-cooled DOHC 16-valve 1261cc 90-degree V-four engine measuring 78 x 65mm that was introduced back in 2002 in the ST1300 sport tourer, that’s albeit now discontinued in many markets.

In that model, the V-four delivered 115 hp/87kW at 8000 rpm, with 117Nm/86 lb-ft of torque peaking at 6500 rpm, whereas now in CTX guise it produces a claimed 83 hp/62kW at 6000 rpm, and 106 Nm//78ft-lb at 4500 rpm.

That’s a hefty 40 percent less power and 16 percent less peak torque than before, achieved via new camshafts and valves, altered valve timing, a slightly lower 10:1 compression ratio that allows the use of regular-grade fuel, and a remapped PGM-F1 fuel-injection system featuring 34mm throttle bodies, 2mm smaller than before to help create an enhanced bottom-end response and greater midrange torque in this CTX version of the motor. This is delivered via the same internal ratios for the five-speed shaft-drive transmission, but with shorter overall gearing for improved thrust.

This is the exact same strategy that Honda adopted in retuning the VFR1200F sports tourer’s 172bhp 76-degree V-four engine to deliver 129 hp in VFR1200X Crosstourer mode, but the CTX1300’s apparent deficiency in performance numbers compared to the ST1300 probably explains why Honda was so reluctant to quote specific engine output data at its press launch for the bike in Southern California, featuring a full day’s ride along a 180-mile route encompassing a wide variety of roads inland from San Diego.

Yet less can also be more, and anyone considering buying a bike like this won’t be as interested in comparing horsepower figures as much as obtaining a hands-on assessment of how this performance is produced. And that’s as it should be, because what matters especially is the character of the torque delivery, and on the CTX this is practically syrupy. It’s so accessible and smoothly provided, with more than adequate muscle when you really need it.

To read more of our 2014 Honda CTX 1300 review in this week’s Cycle News, click here

For more Cycle News Standard motorcycle reviews, click HERE.

For more Honda motorcycle reviews, click HERE.