By Adam Waheed, Road Test Editor

Part cruiser, part tourer, all Honda

Honda targets a different kind of touring motorcyclist with its uniquely styled, V-Four-powered CTX1300 (starting at $15,999). Part cruiser, part touring bike, the CTX appeals to riders seeking an authentic riding experience with elevated levels of comfort and technology compared to what other brands offer.

The CTX sports a unique form – one that won’t be recognizable by most. But it’s that way by design, and despite being listed as a touring bike on American Honda’s website, "New-Age Cruiser" might be a more fitting term considering who Big Red is going after. And with a stretched wheelbase, a wide and sweptback handlebar, and a super low seat height, it plays the part well.

Even with a rather hefty fully fueled curb weight of 724 pounds, the CTX is responsive and highly maneuverable for a motorcycle of its size. Direction changes are made swiftly with a light touch of the bar, and it’s very easy to get a feel for its neutral handling manners. The suspension generally delivers a smooth ride, but things do get a little springy on rough roads. A passenger and a full load of luggage will likely compound this; however, it’s worth mentioning that the rear shocks do allow the rider to dial-in different preload settings (we rode in the lowest and most comfort-oriented setting) to better accommodate heavier loads.

Through turns, the CTX feels glued to the ground, but ground clearance is somewhat limited with the rider’s footpegs reaching pavement at even modest lean. Although the CTX’s rear disc brake is hydraulically linked to the twin front binders, the front setup is actuated independently – a nice touch if, say, you need to scrub off a few mph mid-corner. Both brakes also feature anti-lock functionality on the up-spec Deluxe model. In a simulated panic stop, the ABS proved to be one of the more seamless-feeling setups we’ve tested on any motorcycle (high-performance bikes included) and is a welcome feature. We also appreciated the strong yet not overly sensitive feel of the heavy-duty Nissin front calipers.

The CTX features a wide and generously padded seat, and there is plenty of room behind the controls even for a taller rider. The rider’s footpegs are positioned at a more traditional street-bike-style angle, which is great for city riding, but it would be nice if Honda offered another pair of forward-mounted footpegs so you could stretch your legs during touring-oriented rides on the freeway.

It is obvious Honda spent considerable time fine-tuning the CTX’s user interface, and though the instrumentation looks cheesy and overly automotive-based, you can’t argue with how well it functions. Both analog-style speedo and tachometer gauges are positioned high up so your eyes don’t have to leave the road to check on the bike’s vitals. A multifunctional LCD sits between both gauges and displays the remaining fuel capacity of the 5.1-gallon tank, as well as fuel economy, coolant and air temperature, clock, odometer, and trip functions. The display also lists the track/artist name of music (Deluxe model) that can be streamed wireless via Bluetooth or via the included USB plug under the right-side pseudo fuel tank flip-up pocket (the actual fuel tank is located underneath the rider’s seat). Other goodies for the Deluxe model include self-canceling turn signals and a wheel-speed-enabled traction control system that modulates engine torque (via fuel injection cut) when excess rear wheel spin is detected.

We got a chance to feel how the TC reacts on loose gravel and were pleased with the way it gently interrupts power to restore traction in a smoother fashion than other touring-based systems we’ve tried recently.

Equally as impressive as the CTX’s highly refined chassis is its water-cooled V-Four engine. There’s plenty of power on tap from idle all the way up through its indicated 7,000 rpm redline. It’s smooth power too – the kind you want when passing slower vehicles. In fact, the powerband is so rich in torque that you can pretty much lug the engine in any of its five gears and simply twist the throttle if you want to go faster. It’s that easy.

The CTX’s clutch features hydraulic actuation, which nets a light lever pull and highly progressive feel. And paired with the engine’s potent low-end grunt, the CTX is an exceptionally easy motorcycle to launch from a standstill. The gearbox performed well, but it would be nice if it had a more secure engagement similar to what Harley-Davidson or Yamaha/Star motorcycles currently offer. Furthermore, we’d love to see the convenience and thrilling acceleration feel of a dual-clutch transmission as well.

The engine is also devoid of any hint of annoying, hand-numbing vibration. We love its sound, which offers a much more high-tech mechanical melody than the traditional potato-potato boom synonymous with a V-Twin. Throttle response also proved to be spot-on with it offering a connected feel to the engine yet not being overly sensitive or difficult to master. Another nice touch is that the engine is tuned to run on lower-grade 87-octane fuel. Speaking of fuel, we achieved an average of 37.2 mpg during a moderate-paced touring-style ride. This should equate to a range of roughly 189 miles.

All in all there isn’t a whole lot to not like about the Honda CTX1300. Sure, its suspension gets a little bouncy and there aren’t any highway-friendly forward footrests, but beside those two gripes it’s hard to find any fault. Surely with its refined riding experience and almost too-smooth engine, the CTX won’t appeal to more traditional V-Twin riding enthusiasts. However, if you’re seeking a simple, fun and easy-to-ride touring motorcycle, then Big Red has got you covered.

Honda CTX1300 Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Ridiculously easy to ride and master
  • Gobs of smooth, vibration-free power everywhere
  • Strong brakes with well-calibrated optional ABS

Lows

  • Transmission could be more precise-feeling
  • Suspension can feel overly springy on rough pavement
  • Missing touring-friendly forward-style footpegs

2014 Honda CTX1300 Specs

  • Engine: Liquid-cooled 1261cc V-Four
  • Bore and Stroke: 78.0 x 66.0mm
  • Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
  • Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI, 36mm Throttle Bodies
  • Clutch: Wet multi-plate
  • Transmission: Five-speed
  • Final Drive: Shaft
  • Frame: Steel
  • Front Suspension: 45mm Inverted Fork
  • Rear Suspension: Twin Rear Shocks with spring preload adjustment
  • Front Brakes: 310mm discs with four-piston calipers
  • Rear Brake: 315mm disc with single-piston caliper
  • Curb Weight: 724
  • Wheelbase: 64.5 in.
  • Rake: 28.5 deg. Trail: 4.5 in.
  • Seat Height: 28.9 in.
  • Fuel Capacity: 5.1 gal.
  • MSRP: $15,999 / $17,499 Deluxe
  • Colors: Metallic Black, Gray Blue Metallic, Candy Red
  • Warranty: One Year, unlimited mileage

Shoei J-Cruise Helmet

Shoei is an established leader in motorcycle helmet technology. And for the cruiser rider it has released its all-new Shoei J-Cruise Helmet. This open-face helmet features a conventional flip-up style clear shield. Inside, a smaller tinted shield can be flipped up or down via a small button on the left-hand side of the helmet. The optical clarity of the sun shield is fantastic and on a comparable level with a piece of high-dollar eyewear. The helmet comes in seven different colors in sizes X-Small through 2X-Large.