By Adam Waheed, Road Test Editor

An easy, agile, economical motorcycle

Have you ever wanted to reap the benefits of motorcycling but are intimidated by the art of riding? Honda has the answer with its 2014 CTX700 (starting at $7,799 plus $310 destination fee). The CTX blends some of the finer attributes of both cruiser and sport motorcycle genres while infusing new technologies, creating the ideal two-wheeled platform for those who have dreamed of swinging a leg over a motorbike.

Ease of operation is at the core of the CTX. With its low 28.3-inch seat height, road-hugging center of gravity, and optional fully automated Dual Clutch Transmission ($1,000 extra, but that also includes anti-lock brakes), it is tailored to people who don’t have a whole lot of experience behind a handlebar. But, with its five-foot wheelbase and 494 pound curb weight, this Honda is a full-sized machine, making it a perfect fit for riders who still seek a sturdy-feeling mount too. Plop you butt into the seat, however, and it feels more diminutive than the aforementioned specs; in motion, it feels even more svelte. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Flip the key and thumb the starter button – the CTX’s 670cc Parallel Twin engine fires to life and immediately sets into idle. It’s both quiet and smooth running. Since it’s fuel-injected and liquid-cooled, this Twin runs perfectly whether you’re riding in the mountains or at sea level, day or night, hot or cold. It comes equipped with a manual-style six-speed transmission that’s controlled through a cable-actuated clutch lever mounted on the traditional left-side of the handlebar. The setup is refined and about as friendly as they come, but the real magic lies with its automated DCT.

The optional gearbox removes one of the biggest hurdles for a new rider: learning how to shift gears using a clutch. The DCT setup deletes both mechanical components and replaces them with a series of push-buttons on the handlebar controls. There’s also a lever-actuated parking brake. The electronic drive mode selection toggle engages the drivetrain at a standstill and offers two automatic riding modes: D mode (upshifts into the next gear based on vehicle speed) and S mode (sport mode – holds onto gears longer before upshifting and downshifts earlier for more engine braking). It also allows the rider to select gears manually via a pair of videogame-like triggers on the left clip-on.

When you press either the up- or downshift trigger, the ECU engages the clutch that operates the requested gear. This shifting exchange happens within a fraction of a second, thereby achieving smooth, seamless acceleration. DCT allows this Honda to be ridden with the simplicity of a scooter yet still delivers enough speed for overtaking maneuvers on the expressway. Another plus is how refined the powertrain is with no lurching or clutch shutter when launching from stop signs.

The technology does come with a weight penalty, the setup adding 22 pounds and increasing its fully fueled curb weight to 516 pounds. But considering how well it functions and the potential stress savings for those who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of working a clutch, riding the DCT option will be a big convenience, allowing them to better focus on their surroundings and the road ahead.

In spite of its heft, the CTX’s brakes get the job done and provide easy and surefooted stopping. Braking hardware comprises a perimeter-style 320mm cross-drilled disc clamped by a twin-piston caliper. A single-piston caliper pinches the smaller 240mm rear disc. Unlike some of Honda’s other street bikes, the brakes aren’t linked and can be applied independently of one another – a feature we like. We had a chance to ride a model outfitted with ABS, and it functioned flawlessly and will be a welcome safety feature for all riders.

The engine complements the up-spec gearbox, offering a smooth spread of power with peak torque arriving at 4,750 rpm, but it lacks the punch of a sporty middleweight or big bore cruiser riders expect. Although you won’t win any stop light drag races, it does have enough power to keep up with automobile traffic. We also appreciated the engine’s subdued V-Twin like power pulses, a product of its uneven firing order that just makes it plain more fun to ride. It’s pretty easy on fuel too, netting just over 60 mpg during our slower-paced ride and earning a range of nearly 200 miles based on the 3.17-gallon capacity of its fuel tank.

The way in which the engine is positioned within the chassis further contributes to the handling of the motorcycle. With the cylinders sporting a 62-degree forward cant, it has an exceptionally low CG, which is evident the first time you swing it into a parking lot or bust a U-turn. It’s simply incredible how agile the CTX is, which will be a boon for those who routinely ride in and out of traffic and tight parking spots. With just over four inches of travel, the suspension glides over asphalt and delivers a comfy ride. The CTX’s forward fairing offers some degree of protection from wind and road debris, helping to reduce fatigue on longer trips. There are also passenger grab handles and a small storage compartment in front of the rider adjacent to the gas cap.

The ergonomics of the CTX are relaxed and similar to that of a cruiser. The handlebar has a deep rearward sweep that is not only cozy but functional too, especially during low speed steering maneuvers. The forward position of the footpegs is also very cruiser-ish, and while we appreciated the leg room, it hindered ground clearance in steeper turns. The front brake lever also doesn’t offer any position adjustment, which could make it more difficult to use for those with smaller hands.

Although the new CTX700 is comfortable, nicely assembled and of course easy to ride, it certainly isn’t for everyone. It lacks the handling and acceleration performance for fast-paced folks and doesn’t have anywhere near the character of an American or metric cruiser. Still, for those who have always lusted over the idea of riding but have up until now been tentative to fulfill their fantasy because of the mechanics and coordination required, the CTX could be the machine that finally enables them to experience life with the wind in their hair.

Honda CTX700 Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Easy to ride; agile handling
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Fantastic automated DCT drivetrain

Lows

  • Mundane engine acceleration performance
  • Could have more cornering ground clearance
  • The Honda Civic of motorcycles

2014 Honda CTX700N Starting at $6,999

Whether you’re on a strict budget or seeking a more traditional riding experience, you should take a second look at the ‘N’ variation of Honda’s CTX700. This motorcycle shares the same running gear as its brother, including its 670cc Parallel Twin engine and quick handling chassis, but deletes the forward fairing and passenger grab handles. It also carries an $800 less expensive price tag with it priced under seven grand (plus $310 destination charge). Of course, it’s available with the safety and simplicity of Honda’s fabulous DCT and ABS for a $1,000 upcharge.