Honda’s ST 1100 model ran for 12 years and during that time earned itself an enviable reputation amongst touring motorcyclists.  Now the ST has grown up and matured in to the ST 1300.

Weight is down, power is up.  But that is only half the story…

While it utilises the same V-4 configuration as the previous model’s 1,084cc engine, the performance improvements are immediately obvious. Power is up by 20% while torque improves by nearly 10%.

The new engine displaces 1,261cc, but manages to be both more compact, and shorter in overall length.  The previous model’s wide belt-driven cam drive was replaced with a slim, new chain drive for lighter weight.  The combined result of these changes is a 60mm reduction in engine length and a major reduction in the number of respective component parts.

The engine’s four valve per cylinder double overhead cam design uses cam-over-bucket direct valve actuation. This helps keep operation simple while reducing maintenance requirements.  When routine maintenance does become necessary, the engine’s head covers are positioned for easy access that allows even major operations to be performed with ease.

The engine is also very aesthetically pleasing, making me think that it might just find it’s way in to some sort of power cruiser…

Like several of Honda’s most high-performance motorcycles, the new ST now features advanced aluminium composite cylinder sleeves that are lighter in weight, more resistant to wear and more effective at transferring heat than conventional iron sleeves. Riding inside these new sleeves are lightweight aluminium pistons.  These feature a new ‘Lube-Coat’ surface process that reduces friction and contributes to the engine’s sharper response and acceleration.

Fuel is delivered to the highly refined new engine by Honda’s excellent PGM-FI injection system. The four 36mm throttle bodies are fed from a 29-litre dual element fuel tank. I covered 2,800km in three days aboard the new ST and the machine returned between 350 and 500km per tank depending on the pace. An unmatched touring range in my experience.

Fluid drive is fed through a faultless 5-speed gearbox via the maintenance-free shaft final drive system.  The old ST powerplant was fairly smooth and fuss free but this new combination reaches a much higher level of refinement.

Thanks to the excellent comfort offered by the machine I could use the whole tank range without rest stops. After first doing the Townville to Brisbane journey I then backed that up with a quick day cruise from Brisbane to Sydney, nearly 1,000km, with only two stops for fuel, so good are the ergonomics. The seat is three-position adjustable offering a low, medium, or taller seat height. The low position also places the rider closer to the bars.

While some of the competition offer an electrically adjustable screen, the new ST model that we received in Australia for 2003 offered no such remote adjustment. Instead the 2003 machine had a two position manually adjustable screen. Set in the high position this screen offers an excellent level of protection.  So good in fact that I spent my whole time aboard the ST with my helmet visor raised. Normally I would never consider wearing an open face helmet, but on the ST I would have actually preferred an open face. The screen is the best I have used; there is little need for adjustment.  But with the coming 2004 ST1300 Deluxe model, electric adjustment of the screen is available.  When riding completely upright you can feel a little back pressure caused by the air rushing over the top of you, and sometimes even a little turbulence on the back of the helmet.  Interestingly this completely disappeared when riding with the visor up.

The new 2002 ST features large-volume pannier bags that offer greater volume. The standard panniers offer 35-litres of storage on each side. An optional top-box provides another 45-litres of capacity. The panniers are securely locked to the machine and are keyed alike with the ignition. The fuel tank also readily accepts a magnetic tank bag.

These new panniers also feature strong stopper straps that hold the lids open to approximately 90 degrees for easier access without fear of dropping any of their contents while the bags are mounted on the bike. The straps can be easily detached to allow the panniers to be fully opened like a suitcase for packing or unpacking on a hotel bed.

 

The panniers are fairly easily loaded when on the machine but successfully locking the mechanism first go on every time does take a little practice.

 

Carrying convenience also extends to the forward fairing’s handy side pockets. The left-side pocket offers the carrying volume of a standard automobile console component and can be locked with the ignition key.  The right pocket is covered by a weather-resistant resin lid.

 

In the cockpit area, the ST’s integrated instrument panel features a large centralized speedometer and smaller tachometer.  Both engine and outside air temperatures are displayed on the LCD panel.  Two tripmeters help keep track of the distance covered while a constant readout of fuel economy can be switched to show the average fuel consumption in a kilometres-per-litre format since the system was last re-set.  I averaged 15.1 kilometres per litre during my 2,800 kilometres with the ST.

 

When riding in following sunlight the LCD screen can be hard to read at times but the level of illumination is push-button adjustable and can compensate in most situations.

 

To the left of the instruments is a dial which is used to adjust the level of the headlight beam while riding.

Machines of this size once tended to wallow a little in bumpy corners, but the ST1300 can handle just about anything. It is not a sportsbike, but an accomplished rider on an ST could easily show an inexperienced sportsbike rider a clean pair of heels in most situations.

The larger 45mm forks and improved shock absorber keep the machine tracking true.  A major factor in the improved handling package is the new triple-box-section frame and large cast aluminium steering head.  The frame surrounds the engine in a diamond configuration, incorporating it as a central stressed member.  It’s new configuration also allows the more compact new engine to be positioned 40mm farther forward for enhanced ride feel and handling.

Geometry changes have resulted in a 50mm shorter wheelbase.  The ST’s steel swingarm has been replaced with a lighter aluminium item.  It suspends from a monoshock rear end with hydraulically adjustable preload.

The latest generation dual combined braking system is fitted to the ST1300 and works well.

More effort is needed through both the brake lever and rear brake pedal than is preferable.  For just washing off a little speed for a bend, or in most normal riding situations this is not immediately apparent.  But in ‘oh shit’ situations a considerable amount of effort is needed through the levers to quickly come to a complete halt.  The machine remains utterly composed during emergency breaking though and the forks cope better with this treatment than many other touring machines.  The Deluxe 2004 model also offers a sophisticated ABS facility.

Cornering clearance is very good, perhaps the best in class.  I don’t think many potential owners will push the ST as hard as we did when chasing each other over some mountain roads.  None of us decked anything out, but it must be said that we were not carrying a pillion.

A wide range of optional equipment has been designed and produced by Honda especially for the new ST.  The list includes:

  • A large-capacity 45-litre rear top box.
  • A large-capacity tank bag with multiple compartments for more efficient carrying of riding essentials.
  • An RDS radio system that automatically changes reception frequencies to seamlessly follow favourite stations across the continent.
  • A multi-disk CD changer for long hours of convenient listening enjoyment.
  • A rugged, padded tank protector.

The question on many peoples lips will be, ‘is the ST 1300 a match for Yamaha’s FJR 1300?’

The answer is yes.  But both machines offer strengths in different areas.

The FJR offers lighter weight, a slightly stronger engine, marginally better brakes and sportier suspension.  As a bonus it also has a slightly cheaper price tag. 

While the ST 1300 is a slightly more comfortable, further refined and seamlessly polished touring package.  Albeit at a price premium over the Yamaha.  It also has a fantastic and well proven reputation for a great service life and reliability.  Adding to that pedigree is a truly excellent level of finish on this new model.

It would be nice to have a stereo included as standard, and some extra colour options would not go astray either.  But other than for those small nuances the ST 1300 has little to fault.

Grace, pace and space’, was once the moniker of a car maker, but it also describes the ST1300 perfectly.

Honda ST 1300 Specifications

  • Engine ≈ Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC 90° V-4
  • Bore x Stroke ≈ 78 x 66mm
  • Displacement ≈  1,261cc
  • Compression Ratio ≈  10.8:1
  • Induction ≈ PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
  • Power ≈ 93kW @8,000min
  • Torque ≈  117Nm @ 6,500min
  • Ignition ≈  Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance
  • Starter ≈ Electric
  • Transmission ≈ 5-speed
  • Final Drive ≈ Enclosed shaft with integrated dampers
  • Dimensions (L x W x H) ≈ 2,282 X 935 X 1,332mm (with panniers)
  • Wheelbase ≈ 1,500mm
  • Seat Height ≈ 790mm (±15mm adjustable)
  • Ground Clearance ≈ 145mm
  • Fuel Capacity ≈ 29 litres (with 4-litre LCD-indicated reserve)
  • Wheels ≈ Front/Rear Hollow-section triple-spoke cast aluminium
  • Tyres ≈ Front 120/70 ZR18, Rear 170/60 ZR17
  • Suspension Front ≈  45mm air-assist telescopic fork, 117mm axle travel
  • Suspension Rear ≈ Single-side conventional damper with adjustable preload and rebound damping, 120mm axle travel
  • Brakes ≈ Front 310mm dual hydraulic disc with Combined three-piston calipers and sintered metal pads, Rear = 316mm hydraulic disc with Combined three-piston caliper and sintered metal pads  (2004 Deluxe machine gets ABS)
  • Dry Weight ≈ 276kg (289kg for the Deluxe version)
  • RRP ≈ $22,990 ($24,590 for the Deluxe version)

The 2004 model ST1300A has also now arrived in Australia.  This is the deluxe version of the totally revamped for 2003 ST1300 we reviewed on the preceding pages of this feature.

The ST1300A is now on sale at a recommended retail price of $24,590 and ships in an attractive new ‘Tower Silver Metallic’.  This new model ships with an electrically adjustable windshield and ABS as standard for a price premium of $1,600 over the standard model.