2013 HONDA CTX700 – The Great White Hope
Youth In Revolt
Growing up, I can remember spending countless hours playing Nintendo, Sega, Playstation, and XBOX. I also found time to play outside, participate in a myriad of organized sports, and learn how to do my own laundry. More importantly, though, was a little something I had to get called a job. This, of course, required me to get a Drivers's License. So after an entire weekend with the family car in an empty parking lot (and more heavy sighs and eye-rolling than I had ever seen from my father), I felt ready to take the test. To this day, I’m proud to say that I aced that driving test in a manual transmission car, which had no power steering. And sometimes in my own little fantasy world, that’s the way I think all kids should grown-up.
Luckily unlike myself, Honda is fully aware that the times and youth have changed. Motorcycle riders are getting older and the younger generation is not crowding the showroom floors as much as they used to. That’s not to say that Honda doesn’t have attention-grabbing machines. But most of that attention is coming from the 30 and overcrowd. The crowd that is already into motorcycles and most likely knows the difference between a Cruiser and a Sportbike.
As one might imagine, this presented somewhat of a problem for the folks over at Big Red. So as marketing and design teams are known to do, they put their best minds on the case and thought up a solution.
Respect the Tech
To put it bluntly, the CTX700 is an odd-looking bike. If they ever held a design contest to see who could best combine the look of an Airport luggage mover with a Battlestar Galactica motif, the CTX would win hands down. However, looking past the head-scratching styling cues we’ll find that this new machine has a lot going for it. For starters, there’s the engine. Honda has dropped in a throaty 670cc Parallel Twin that produces respectable low end and mid-range torque. Notice I said respectable, not awe-inspiring. Smoking your friend’s 600cc street bike in a drag race with this mild-mannered beast is a pipe dream. The good news though is the way in which this engine delivers power, both eerily smooth and properly balanced.
Our test model was a manual transmission version, (via my request). You see, last year I had an unfortunate experience with Honda’s automatic DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) VFR1200F, that is to say, I absolutely hated it and promptly parked it in the garage after only one day of exploring its capabilities.
In speaking with other moto journalists who have tested out the CTX’s DCT equipped version, they have assured me that the bike’s computer-assisted shifting is a thing of beauty. Much to the relief of new and older riders alike, the automatic version will come equipped with ABS brakes. These provide skid free slowing if you ever find yourself in one of those I NEED TO STOP RIGHT NOW emergency situations. There’s also a centered easy to read digital display that keeps track of things like time, speed, changing fuel levels, and your trip mileage. But we could talk tech all day long, the real question is, how does this new creation handle?
What’s to Like
It may come as no surprise to anyone who’s recently tested a new Honda, but today’s machines are focused on user-friendliness. And in this aspect, the CTX shines brilliantly. The 28.3-inch seat high makes it possible for all types of riders both big and small to become immediately comfortable and relaxed. The seating position is pleasant with the handlebars straight and wide, and the footpegs are positioned so that your legs get a good stretch while riding. Fuel economy for the 3.17-gallon tank was estimated from Honda at somewhere around 64mpg. According to my calculations, that’s not to far off; I never recorded less than 60mpg during my six days of testing.
The heartbeat of this machine is a liquid-cooled 670cc parallel-twin engine. She may be a bit slow on takeoff, but don’t be surprised when the power starts to roll on at around 3000rpm’s. Thanks to its low seat height and stable handling, this bike feels just as comfortable at 35mph on city streets as it does hitting 80 on the freeway. Likewise, the mirrors don’t vibrate terribly, the front and rear suspension do an adequate job of soaking up most bumps in the road, and maneuverability even in tight spaces is not a problem. Not to brag, but the CTX is so easy to ride that even with its 500lb weight, I’m convinced that if you gave me an average person off the street with no riding experience whatsoever, within thirty minutes I could have them doing figure eights and high speed turns.
For advanced riders out there, if you know how to properly wring its neck, the CTX is capable of blowing by scowling Harley riders at will. Which let’s face it, that never gets boring. Let’s be clear though, this bike is about as far from intimidating as you can get. Even a blind man can see that Honda has gone out of their way to give this bike a likable personality that should appeal to both new riders and people returning to the sport. This, of course, begs the question, how will it appeal to seasoned riders?
A Closer Look
In trying to keep up with the times I recently bought an IPAD. There’s no denying it’s small, lightweight, easy to use, and a welcomed relief when trying to plan out a full day’s schedule. However, taking it with me on the CTX is a problem. That’s because, above the gas tank, there’s a (non-locking) storage space that fits little more than your cell phone and insurance paperwork. That’s ok though because I could always just buy a tank bag to put my stuff in right? Not on this bike. Plastic is one of those weird inventions that while saving weight, just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with your “six contact points” magnetic tank bag. So if your daily journey requires more than a set of keys and your wallet, it looks like you’ll just have to wear a backpack, slap on some saddlebags, or get the fully decked out touring edition CTX. And as most riders will tell you, nothing makes us happier than having to pay hundreds of dollars more for something that should already be there. Speaking of the Deluxe Edition, while it will come with heated handgrips, a taller windscreen, and a 12v port, the color match saddlebags will carry little more than the aforementioned tech tablet. But hey, it’s fun carrying your helmet around after a long stretch of riding, right? Hopefully, you paid a lot for it and it has a cool design or paint job that’s a sure-fire conversation starter with the future Mr. or Mrs. Right.
I must admit though that I have a soft spot for this engine. My very first bike was a Ninja 500, and that little parallel-twin engine was so much fun that it took an act of cowardly vandalism for us to part ways. So while this perfectly balanced engine brings back some of that joy, you have to wonder if they couldn’t have squeezed just a little more than 48HP out of a brand new machine. $8000 is a lot to pay for a bike that while it may produce a nice sound and notable engine braking, really has me wondering if I shouldn’t just look for a used ST1300 instead.
In search of a fair conclusion, I put almost 600 miles on the CTX before returning it.
To be honest, it tackled city streets, highway jaunts, and a slew of sweeping canyons corners all with relative ease. What we have here then, is a comfortable user-friendly, albeit oddly styled, all-around solid machine. If you take the time to look through their website, Honda has the CTX listed under both the Touring and Cruiser categories. Though it remains to be seen how many new riders would be willing to take it on a Cross Country adventure, it’s a safe bet that it might be perfect for a weekend getaway.
In my infinite wisdom (which changes daily) I took a look at the CTX700 and decided on some changes for the 2014 model year.
1. Either redesign the fairings or lose them.
2. Place the footpegs closer to the rider. This way shorter riders who want a bigger bike can both flatfoot the bike and have easy access to the controls. (The 5’4 and under market is growing, let’s not leave them stuck on Rebel 250’s)
3. There’s no sense in having a giant plastic faring/tank if you aren’t going to put some (USEABLE) storage space in it. And are those supposed to look like speakers?
Reliable 670cc Parallel twin motor
Comfortable seating position
Ridiculously easy to ride
No Storage space
No power punch till after 3000RPM’s