Sunday, April 30, 2006

Trying the ST1300.

I ended up working Saturday. Our motorcycle safety program offers courses all over the state of Oregon. We have an agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The Motor Vehicles Division is a part of ODOT. Our program is approved by ODOT for the purposes of motorcycle endorsement testing. When a person successfully completes our beginning course they receive a completion card. DMV waives any further testing when a person presents this card. This waiver is based on ODOT's faith that the person taking the course received the prescribed curriculum.

In order for us to assure ODOT that the program presentation remains pure to what was approved we perform what we call "Site Compliance Audits". There's a few of us signed off to do these audits. That's how I found myself standing on the side of the parking lot watching a class. Somewhat boring duty, as I'd much rather be doing the actual teaching, but necesary.

The good news was that after all was said and done I had the chance to go ride another instructor's ST1300. I'd heard a lot about how this bike was a big improvement over the 1100. There wasn't anything to make me run out and trade up as my 1100 is fairly new and works perfectly for me. Still, I wasn't going to pass up a chance to try one out.

One of the first things I noticed was that it felt like I was sitting up on top of the bike instead of snuggled down in like on my bike. The 1300 feels wider to me. I think it's partly because I'm looking down onto it more. It probably is a little wider across the fairing, as well. The dash display is wider and higher. On my 1100 there's just the analog dials and a clock. The 1300 has a large digital display that shows a lot more information. It was difficult for me to see the orange numbers in the sunlight. Good thing, too. With all the information available, I'd probably run off the road while playing with the dash!

The bike is very smooth. I always thought the transmission on my 1100 was smooth. On the 1300, snicking into first from neutral and then from first to second was whisper quiet. The fuel injection pulls the bike strongly and evenly up to speed. I looked at the speedometer indication and saw I was doing 70 and didn't even realize it. Whoa, time to throttle back! I really like the carbs on my 1100. I know carbs need to be synched and are not as efficient as fuel injection in adjusting for elevation and such. It just always seems to me that carbs are better for smooth transitions between throttle settings, especially at low speeds. The fuel injection on the CBR600F4i is on/off like a light switch. With the front end stiffened up, riding over bumpy city streets makes my right hand twitch which does weird things to the throttle.

With the 1300 being a heavier bike low speed throttle response is pretty smooth. Speaking of low speeds, when I got back to the parking lot I decided to play with the bike on our course. We have a circuit ride set up for our Rider Skills Practice clinics. It's a hoot!

The rider starts with a 90 degree corner then goes into a barrel ride consisting of three large cones spaced in a triangle. The ride is a lot like what the rodeo folks do on horses. On the bike the riders run patterns around the cones, trying to stay within 10 feet of the cones in really tight turns. From there the rider rounds a cone and heads toward a curve. After the curve comes a tight swerve and then around to a maximum braking quick stop. The approach speed for the braking can be 30 to 35 miles per hour. By the way, did I mention that the goal is to be as fast as possible while making as few mistakes as possible? Like I say, it's awesomely fun.

So I'm riding the ST1300 around this course. One of the things I notice is from the way the handlebars are mounted to the triple clamp. There's some sort of foam spacer underneath each side. It creates some weird flex on these fast, tight, runs. The other big thing I notice is how easily I'm scraping in a parking lot! The footpegs are lower than on my 1100. I'd wear my boots out even faster, I'm afraid.

All in all, the 1300 seems like a great bike, which you would expect from Honda. It would be a comfortable commuter / traveller with enough sportiness to keep the rider entertained. It's a sport-tourer after all, not a sport bike. It looks like Sophie's going to stay a part of the family for quite a while longer, though.

It's been sunshine for a few days except for a rain shower Saturday afternoon. Riding in the rain was a disappointment but, hey, that's life on a bike. The sun's back for a few days according to the weather guessers. I'm going to dig my long underwear back out tonight. The low tonight is predicted to be close to freezing so it will be nippy in the morning. Refreshing, eh?

Oh, by the way, back to the picture up top. There's these two llamas who usually run over to the fence and watch when I go by. Don't know why. So I decided to take their picture. Trouble is, as soon as I came back and parked the bike they seemed to lose interest. By the time I got the camera out, they had settled back into the grass. Try as I might to get them to come back, or at least stand up, they remained stubborn. I figured they were being camera shy brats and decided to shoot them, anyway. You should see two heads sticking up out of the grass.

Miles and smiles



Mad said...

Many of the 1100 fans over here dislike the 1300, including one of the guys who instructed me. They say it's just not as good as the old bike.
There are also stability problems. According to some police riders I was chatting with if the screen is raised to the maximum it develops a very alarming wobble at high speed, for this reason all the police 1300 are limited to 100mph while the problem is being investigated.

irondad said...

That's interesting about the stability problems. The biggest complaint I've heard is about the right side heat problem. People tell me they cook when the temperature gets over 80.

Mad said...

A police rider in Manchester died, or so I've read, due to the stability problems. So tell your mates to keep the screen down.