2002 Honda VTX1800
Double discs and six-pot calipers should provide far more feel and initial bite than the VTX's binders allow.Minor nuisances aside, the VTX is quite simply the most powerful stock cruiser we've ever ridden. Every time we'd have occasion to twist the throttle, it was open wide and the resulting power would surprise us every time. Hey, maybe there is a reason for this 150 mph-speedometer after all.
Doug Toland told us at dinner about spending hours at a time burning through tanks of fuel on this bike, tapped out in top gear with his head down and feet up on the Honda Proving Center of California track that features a 7.5 mile oval. His hot tips for top speed? Tucking in gets you a few miles an hour. Likewise, taking your feet off the forward-mounted pegs and letting them be held up by the wind, behind the bike's mid-line, counted for a few more miles an hour on top as well. With the reduced wind-resistance the bike was able to reach the rev-limiter (fuel cut-off, not skip-spark) in top gear for long stints in excess of an indicated 140 miles per hour.
When not performing Rollie Free-style antics on closed courses, the ergonomics on the VTX seem well-suited for a wide range of riders. The low seat height is an open door for those shorties amognst us, while the long reach to the bars and forward-mounted foot pegs allow room for just about anybody this side of Shaq.
At 6'2" tall, Minime's knees were bent at just more than 90-degrees and he wished for peg mounting that afforded just a bit more leg room. The flip side to his ganglyness is that he overheard some shorter riders saying they wished the pegs were mounted even closer. What this means, we guess, it that Honda has found a nice middle-ground here and that people who buy this bike will not be put off by a riding position that's either too spread out or too cramped.
"On the VTX, we actually had to modulate the throttle thanks to the copious power flowing from the big cylinders beneath us."
The motor that allows such high terminal velocities is equally adept at everything from parking lot profiling to open-highway cruising. The power-pulses are big - nay, huge - but they're never intrusive in the way that yearly doctor's exams tend to be. This motor provides more of a constant remainder as to what's going on internally, with a nice consistent pat on the butt instead of a jarring feeling deep inside you.
The vibes start out thick and, as the revs climb, things get very smooth (for a V-twin) and purr right until it's time to shift. Power never falls off on top, instead it keeps climbing until you up-shift or hit the fuel cut-off that acts as a soft rev-limiter.
In the mid-range, where this bike will spend most of its time, the response from the motor is extremely impressive. On most cruisers the throttle is more of a binary device, either open or closed. On the VTX, however, we actually had to modulate the throttle thanks to the copious power flowing from the big cylinders beneath us. This is not to say that the VTX is hard to ride, however, because it is obviously not. There were a few people on the intro that had never ridden anything this large or powerful before and they had no problem adapting to the 1800 beneath them.
Taking the Honda off its side-stand, you know it's a BIG bike, though it hides its weight remarkably well once under way. Only in slow parking-lot maneuvers where you get (abnormally) out of shape would you be able to feel how substantial the machine truly is. The long and low styling also helps in keeping the center of gravity low and the bike manageable, even for those short of strength.
In the twisties, the chassis worked well and we were able to keep things pointed in the right direction. The suspension provides decent feedback and takes care of most road irregularities without much fuss. Still, the bike still has the sort of suspension that lets you know you're on a cruiser. The front end doesn't quite work in concert with the back end and there's really no reason for this on any cruiser -- especially one as well-developed as this VTX.
Ground-clearance is about average as far as cruisers go, though any sort of attempt at high cornering speeds will result in some hero-blob scrapes. We're fine with this, though, as Honda pointed out that they made certain the first thing to drag was "soft" and would not cause damage to the bike or cause it to veer off line. It's a nuisance at first and a comfort shortly thereafter. We found ourselves setting corner speed by how hard the pegs dug in and then adjusting that lean angle by varying the throttle.
Even when the bike was laid over hard, well past the point where things touched down, the chassis never became unsettled. Even at triple digits where this bike is not likely to spend much time, it stayed firmly planted to terra firma. It's nice to know the capability is there should you decide to call on it, and this speaks highly of the amount of attention Honda's engineers paid to every detail of the bike.
Whether or not Honda did go overboard with two 900cc cylinders bolted to a single crank, separated by only 52-degrees, will be decided by market demand, but as far as we're concerned, they did things just right.
Sure, the power pulses are fantastic and there's something serious going on in the combustion chambers below the frame's main spar, but the real magic is not in how physically big the various bits are -- what's most impressive is how well the whole package works together, especially considering this is a brand new motorcycle. Often, when a manufacturer puts together something that's aimed at being the biggest, baddest something-or-other that has ever existed, they end up getting a big, bad pile. That is most certainly not the case for the VTX 1800.
From inception to execution, it looks like the Honda boys have been right on target. A few niggles aside, they have made what is -- for now at least -- the most impressive cruiser we've yet to throw a leg over.
Price $12,499 USDollars Engine 1795cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin Bore and Stroke 101.0mm x 112.0mm Compression Ratio 9.0:1 Valve Train SOHC; three valves per cylinder Carburetion PGM-FI with automatic choke Ignition Solid-state digital, 2 spark plugs per cylinder Transmission Five-speed Final Drive Shaft Suspension Front: 45mm inverted fork; 4.3 inches travel Rear: Dual shocks with 5-position spring preload adjustability; 3.9 inches travel Brakes Front: Dual 296mm disc with LBS 3-piston calipers Rear: Single 316mm disc with LBS 2-piston caliper Tires Front: 130/70R-18 radial Rear: 180/70R-16 radial Wheelbase 67.5 inches Rake (Caster Angle) 32.0 degrees Trail 146mm (5.8 inches) Seat Height 27.3 inches Dry Weight 705 pounds Fuel Capacity 4.5 gallons Colors Illusion Red, Illusion Blue, Metallic Silver, Black