First Ride: 2003 Honda ST1300

More power, less weight, better handling. What's not to Like? Don't ask...

Brakes are great. Honda's ABS is some of the best, and you may as well go ahead and spend the extra dollars because you need the electric windshield that comes with it anyway. Either way, you still get linked brakes; the front lever operates the outer pistons in the two, three-piston calipers in front and the one out back. The pedal activates the middle pistons, with a new delay valve going to the front that's supposed to minimize front-end brake dive.

It works, I suppose, but with all the messing around Honda's done with its LBS over the years to make it not feel like LBS, wouldn't it be easier to leave it off if you have ABS anyway? Is it just me? All those rubber hoses running fore and aft don't do anything good for feel at the lever, and I for one don't want to be the poor sap who has to bleed that system in a couple of years either. Remember when Honda's car tag line a few years ago was We Make it Simple?

If your windshield's electric, it goes down this far. If it's not, it doesn't.

I think my final complaint is that quite a bit of heat leaks out onto the leading edges of my lower legs, enough to be almost uncomfortable riding along at 80 or so on days when the temperature's not all that hot--only in the low 80s. When it's chilly, though, you are fully ensconced back there from stem to stern.

I think I'm done complaining. No, wait; the non-adjustable windshield draws more vacuum than the Cal Tech wind tunnel.

I dunno, it's just one of those bikes I expected to love and instead am left with a pretty ambivalent feeling. If the BMW R1150RT were its only competition, you could make a real case for the 110-horsey Honda. I, however, can't help remembering a ride up the freeway not long ago on the Yamaha FJR1300, which is the Honda's real competition. On the FJR, I was giggling to myself and I think I actually did YEEEEHAAAA once. On the ST, over the same route I ply nearly every day, it's more like, are we there yet?

Little Things You Do

  • New FI system is closed-loop, with two oxygen sensors and two catalytic converters
  • auto enriching system, sayonara choke
  • dual-section fuel tank; 5.5 gallons in the usual place, 2.2 gallons lower in the chassis
  • easy access oil filter and spark plugs Second Opinions

  • Minime

    You can fit many things inside the two 35-liter saddlebags. Including illegal contraband such as this illegal-contraband filled helmet. Notice the pre-load adjuster and the centerstand-lifting-handle just in front of the bag.

    What to do with a sport-tourer like the Ess Tee Thirteen when it shows up? Easy. Throw a beautiful lady on the back, have her grab my front, and head north. No, not that kind of head. Get your mind out of the gutter. Like the song says, "North to Alaska... go north, the rush is on." And so we went rushing. It was to be an epic journey, fit for the Travel Channel, but we only made it out to Palmdale. It wasn't the bike's fault, though. We were just out there to shoot photos and scare some moisture from the blonde with her naughty bits pressed up against Calvin's backside.

    I've spent a ton of time on the old ST1100, and it's a bike I dearly love. My dad's got one (the non-ABS/TCS/LMNOPQRST version) with a Penske shock on back and I swear both he and the bike get faster with age. It'd be a tough bike to improve on I thought, just like with my other favorite Honda, the Interceptor. But then I rode the new Interceptor and I liked the old one better. Immediately I was worried the new ST1300 would let me down, too. Thankfully, once again I was wrong, though the trend is starting to cause me some concern.

    The best thing about the new bike for me? That's the extra leg room which means no more knees hitting the fairing. Oh, and the power's definately improved too, as is the transmission, the way the hard bags work and pretty much everything else about it, actually. But damn it if John ain't right again. The whole wind screen thing sucks. Hear me? It's sometimes manageable but never right. Lose the electro-magic headlight adjustment and all the linked brake stuff and give the bike the adjustable windscreen, just like Yamaha manages to do on their much cheaper FJR1300. Do that, and I'd nearly be willing to replace the BMWR1150GS as my beloved Best Bike of All Time.


    Yea, I thought the screen was too tall (or too short I suppose). The wind flow wasn't buffety in the way that getting your head stuck in washing machine would be. Instead it was just annoyingly loud. In my un-educated opinion, I believe the one true fault of the ST1300 is that darned windscreen. Why couldn't they just put that thing in there? It would be like dropping lots of green for a fully loaded Honda Accord LX and then realizing that, not only are power windows not standard, but they're not even an option! Instead, you have to buy the top of the line EX.

    Anyway, enough of this negative ranting business. Noisy, wind buffeting notwithstanding, the ST does deliver an extremely fast and smooth ride. It cruises effortlessly at 95mph and if you go any slower than that in top-gear, she'll creep up to that speed without you noticing. Stop and go traffic is no problem, thanks to its great brakes, gads of low-end torque and, for a bike this size, extremely nimble handling. I could see the ST being an only bike for a lot of people.

    Lisa Delaney
    Backseat Rider

    Lisa used to do Public Relations work for Yamaha and has spent the past few years doing some consulting at various firms. She has quite a bit of time on bikes, mostly piloting them, and jumped at the chance to hang with us sexy MO boys while getting some Backseat time on Honda's latest ST. Who can blame her for wanting to come along? -- Minime

    Yesterday I was honored to be the unofficial Motorcycle Online passenger on the Honda ST1300. Our adventure started off with 40 miles of hairy lane splitting through downtown LA and up the San Fernando Valley. From where I was seated the ST1300 felt very nimble and maneuverable through the tight traffic. The height of the passenger seat was perfect and offered a clear view of the instrument panel.

    As we made our way out of town and hit the twisties of Sand Canyon I really appreciated the placement of the passenger side rails and the ergonomics of the footpegs. I felt completely confident and comfortable upon this machine. The 1300cc engine provided smooth power delivery in the uphill sections and the brakes felt reliable and secure when approaching the hairpin turns.

    The ST1300 is not only fun for the passenger to ride but is aesthetically pleasing as well. With integrated and removable hard bags it looks sleek and sexy. The bags themselves are roomy enough to hold all the stuff I require, i.e. purse, makeup bag, extra shoes and red dress.

    I would highly recommend the Honda ST1300 for anyone labeled the "backseat rider".

    ENGINE Type: 1261cc liquid-cooled 90 degree V-four, DOHC 4v/cyl Bore x stroke: 78 x 66mm Compression ratio: 10.8:1 Ignition: electronic, digital, 3D map Fuel delivery: FI, 4x 36mm TB, one injector/cylinder Valve adjustment: 16,000 miles Transmission: wet multiplate clutch, 5-speed Final drive: shaft CHASSIS Frame: Twin-spar diamond aluminum alloy SUSPENSION front: 45mm cartridge fork; 4.6-in. travel rear: single coil-over shock; 4.8-in. travel; adjust for spring preload BRAKES Front: 2x 310mm discs, three-piston calipers, Linked Braking System Rear: one 316mm disc, three-piston caliper, LBS WHEELS/TIRES Front: 3.50 x 18 in. cast aluminum/ 120/70ZR-18 tire?? Rear: 5.00 x 17 in. cast alloy/ 170/60ZR-17 Wheelbase: 1491mm (58.7 in.) Rake/trail: 26 degrees/98mm (3.9 in.) Seat height: 32 in., (+/- 0.6 in.) Thumb height: in. Thumb-to-thumb: in. Wet weight (full tank): 700 lb (318 kg) Fuel capacity: 7.7 U.S. gallon Fuel mileage: 42 mpg Colors: Silver Suggested price: $12,999 (ABS $14,499)

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