Monday, April 02, 2007

Ride report.

My cell phone vibrated on my hip just before noon on Sunday. It was The Director.

"Where's my bike? I opened my garage door and it wasn't there." I'd known he would be back sooner or later and I'd have to give up the bike.

"If you ever want to see your bike again, get together a thousand dollars worth of unmarked riding gear. Put it in a worn piece of soft luggage. Come to Albany and put the bag on the pitcher's mound at the ballfield", I told him in reply.

It would seem that I was the only one of the two of us that found this amusing. The only response I heard on the other end of the line was a snort. He wasn't going for it. My time to play with the ST1300 had expired after ten and a half fun days. Here's some high points of the experience.

I'll have to preface this by saying I expected not to like the bike all that much. When the ST1300 first came out, I really didn't like the looks.

Sophie, my ST1100 has a more flowing look than the 1300. Call me a lecher, but I prefer sensuous, sexy curves over sharp angles. As you can see in the picture, the 1300's body work is comprised of numerous edges.

Looking at the bike, I feel less like I'm being seduced and more like I'm being attacked. To me, it was the difference between Mae West's "come on up and see me sometime" and Madonna's "in your face" approach. Call me old fashioned, but I like to make the first move!

Then there was the back end of the bike. I know, I know, a real gentleman wouldn't be looking back there. Not only did I look, but I didn't care much for what I saw. Here, you have a look for yourself.

Those triangular tailpipe housings present a sharp contrast to my mental picture of how motorcycle pipes should be. It goes back to the flowing curve thing, I guess. Between the pipes and the turn signal lenses that rise upward like ears on a dog, it all looked sort of cheap and tawdry to me. Up until now there really hadn't been anything that made me want to rush down and trade Sophie in.

Despite the looks, I had a bike to play with for a while. Like people, some bikes look better than others, but they're all bikes, right? With that attitude in mind I started the process of exploring this bike.

After a surprisingly short time on the bike, all the visual awkwardness was forgiven. This bike and I were a lot alike in one regard. Looking at us can put some people off. Once you get to know us, though, it soon becomes apparent that we are exceptionally competent! Besides, once actually on the bike, you don't see the rest of the body work so much. Here's the view from the cockpit.

It's not so bad from this angle. It sort of reminds me of my first pickup truck. Grandma would laugh her head off at me when I'd give just the hood a quick wash. I don't know what was so funny. The hood's all I could see when I was driving!

The tach and speedometer are still analog. My CBR had a digital speedometer. Here's my stubborn streak showing again, but these two instruments were meant to have moving needles. On the right side of the instrument pod are some amber colored LED's. These tell the rider the ambient temperature, the engine temperature, the time, average fuel consumption, and how many miles should be available on the remaining fuel. There's also two trip meters and the odometer. With the button on the left that toggles four ways the readouts can be changed. There's also three stages of brightness for the LED's. A rider has to be careful to keep attention on the road and riding! Speaking of attention, did Honda purposely change which side fairing pocket locks? On the 1100 the right pocket locks. Which means that a rider can get into the left side pocket while riding. In contrast, the left pocket is the one that locks on the 1300. You can't access the right pocket without taking your hand off the throttle. Interesting.

Once familiar with all the goodies I set off riding. Sophie's set up such that I sit down in the bike. I felt more like I was sitting on top of the 1300. It was a comfortable seating position. Sitting on top of the bike also made it feel more agile. The down side was that the bike felt a little less stable in gusty side winds. It wasn't a problem, it just felt different. Where I really felt a difference was in the fuel injection and extra horsepower.

Fuel injection allows for more precise and efficient use of the fuel. There's also drawbacks. For being smooth, I much prefer a carburetor. That "lightswitch" effect of fuel injection always gets to me. One thing I noticed on the 1300 that I never noticed on the CBR was how long the fast idle stayed on. For a few blocks after starting off in the mornings, I'd let the clutch out and the bike would want to surge quickly ahead without my giving it any throttle input. Weird, but no big deal.

There's a little more weight to the 1300. ABS requires extra hardware and I think the body work is slightly heavier. That's more than made up for by the 20 extra horsepower over the 1100. Combined with the fuel injection's crispness, the 1300 feels more like it wants to get up and go. Did I mention the extra 20 horsepower?

The windshield is another feature that looks funky but works really well. I'm a die-hard traditionalist, I guess. I've never changed the windshield out on Sophie. I like the way her factory shield looks. Not so wild about how the aftermarket ones look. So I give up a little available comfort to retain the sleekness of the bike. I have to admit, though, that it was nice to be able to change the shield height in certain circumstances. A little higher at faster speeds and a little lower in town. Worked really well, it did!

One time, for a brief period, I raised the windshield all the way. It was really quiet in the cockpit. It was too much like being in a car so I lowered it again. I wonder what having that shield up there all the way does to the fuel economy? Kind of like pushing a glass wall through the air. As the shield raises the angle also flattens out.

Comfortwise, the bike worked. One particular feature was a bonus for me but not so much for Katie. Our footpegs are farther apart than on the 1100. I usually have to be pretty precise when I put my foot down at stops. If I let my foot drift back at all it hits the front of Katie's foot. She tries to keep back a little but there's only so much room. On the 1300 I have a little more clearance. A small thing, but nice. The bigger space between the pegs means that the passenger seat is a little farther back. Instead of being able to snuggle up close Katie found there was a little space between us. The rider's footpegs are lower than on the 1100. I was able to stretch out a little more which gave me more options for comfort on the long parts of the ride.

I'd soon find that the lowered pegs demanded a price in ground clearance. Namely, that the 1100 will lean a little farther before things scrape. The reason I went to Medford was to conduct an instructor update. We spent some time working on our Rider Skills Practice class. At both the beginning and end of the class we do a circuit ride. It's a combination of low speed maneuvers, cornering, swerving, maximum braking, and the Barrel Run. The whole thing is timed and scored.

The Barrel Run is done around three cones. It looks a lot like what you see in rodeo but with a steel steed instead of flesh and blood. In this location the light pole is the center barrel. I had Katie snap a photo as I rode a demo. You can see how close the bike is to scraping here. In fact, a couple of times I heard grinding noises from somewhere underneath. Sorry, Mr. Director!

All in all, riding the 1300 was a pleasant experience. The biggest reason I'd change right now is for the ABS. No matter how good our skills are, having a computer backing us up is worth a lot. The computer never gets tired, distracted, or scared. I was riding some demonstration runs in the maximum braking chute. The idea was for the instructors to get practice in observing how an ABS equipped bike reacts and be able to coach accordingly. My first run was a normal, smooth stop without getting into the ABS. On the second run, the intent was to get into the ABS. I came in and used the brakes very aggressively and did a short stop from about 30 mph. Two of the instructors are motor cops and they swore I didn't get into the ABS. I had to agree as I didn't feel it. What blew me away was how well developed my own skills are. Cool.

I'm not going to talk much more about the ABS here as I intend to do a separate post later.

One of the things riders complained about on this bike was the excessive heat coming off the right side. This ST1300 is a 2004. It wasn't until just recently that Honda did some kind of "fix" for this. I never noticed it because the temperature outside never got over the mid sixties (f). It would be interesting to try the bike in the heat of summer. Then again, maybe not, if it's really that hot!

Now the bike's back with its owner. It was fun while it lasted. I never did get my riding gear, either!

Miles and smiles,



dan_durham said...

Looking forward to the ABS post. I am in the market to upgrade from the '87 CBR, and even though I am going with a sportbike I still enjoyed reading your review of the ST.

Was the braking system linked? I know some manufacturer bikes are linked, some not. I think it is funny how the WA DOL Motorcycle handbook says to "brake gently on the good tire" regarding responding to a flat tire. I know flats are pretty rare, but the handbook doesn't even mention linked brakes...shows how much they care up here about motorcycle education.


Steve Williams said...

Sounds as if you've gotten this month's allowance of fun out of the way. Other than some mileage put on a big Harley back in the summer of 1972 I don't have any relevant experience on a big motorcycle.

The picture I have in my mind is that they are like traveling by elephant compared to the scooter or smaller motorcycle which is more akin to a Quarter Horse or in the case of the Vespa an Arabian.

I strongly suspect I am wrong in this assessment but the idea of the kind of machines you ride is daunting. I have passed up a few test rides on BMWs and Triumphs for fear I might drop them in their ponderous weight. If I do someday acquire one I think I will be spending time getting used to the weight which is not nearly as easy to yank around as the Vespa.

So.... are you going to remain faithful to Sophie or is a Wing lurking in the wings?

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

The brakes are linked. These systems are getting better these days. Now the computer senses which brake the rider applies and how hard. The linked brakes are adjusted accordingly.

There's some good people up there who care but it's like turning a barge. Too many bureaucrats have to sign off on everything before it gets done.

It's all relative. For the kind of riding I do bigger bikes work best, though. If I ever found myself in a situation where I was making shorter rides like doing errands, etc., I would definitely opt for a smaller bike or scooter. Like you say, so much easier to just grab and go.

Sophie has nothing to worry about for a while!


Bryce Lee said...

My cell phone vibrated on my hip just before noon on Sunday. It was The Director.

"Where's my bike? I opened my garage door and it wasn't there." I'd known he would be back sooner or later and I'd have to give up the bike.

"If you ever want to see your bike again, get together a thousand dollars worth of unmarked riding gear. Put it in a worn piece of soft luggage. Come to Albany and put the bag on the pitcher's mound at the ballfield", I told him in reply.

I would've added: inside the bag as well is your orange cat, along with a bowl of dried cat food!

Bryce Lee said...

One other thought.
The 1300 is "more" bike than Sophie
and as noted heavier. The ABS probably adds something. However,
what happens if or when the ABS fails; after all it is a computer!
And then what if you the driver is
accustomed to wringing the brakes
to the extreme and suddenly the
once working ABS isn't!
What then?

And as was noted in the storyline
and photographs you were cornering very tightly round the pylons
which means your skills are far
better than any rider out there. Heavier, different machine and
still able to cut corners!

That takes skill!!!!

Doubt I could even come come close
with the 26 year old Goldwing.

And yes have cornered and scraped
the centre stand which really snapped me back to reality. Granted
the incident was years ago when the bike and me were both younger!

irondad said...

You voice my thoughts exactly. Riders tell me that they have ABS so they don't need really sharp braking skills. My reply is that ABS is a back-up, not a substitute for braking skills.

Thanks for the compliment. When you live on the bike and spend a lot of time training others, it's probably more a matter of exposure.


Combatscoot said...

The better ABS systems are becoming non-obtrusive, allowing riders to still practice good braking skills.

irondad said...

DCS John,
The ABS systems are cycling faster, if that's what you mean. With the slower systems it's even more important to have good skills because they will actually let the wheel skid briefly.

Anonymous said...

I have a 2005 Honda ST1300ABS, I'm in love again.

You can find me any day of the week at as dteel.

Nice review.