Honda is not a company that acts out of desperation. Honda plans; Honda studies; Honda executes. Honda plays the long game.
The 2014 Honda CTX1300 is part of a strategy that Honda believes will point the way for the next generation of riders. Following close on the heels of the parallel-twin CTX700, the new CTX1300 is a V-4 bridge to the flat-6 Valkyrie. Honda believes that riders who are looking for a more capable, modern cruiser will be interested in the CTX1300; they also believe that riders looking for a more relaxed experience than delivered by a sportbike or dedicated sport-tourer will be intrigued by the new V-4 bagger.
I got to spend a day riding the 2014 CTX1300 in the roads around San Diego -- some of my favorite motorcycling roads in Southern California. After about 170 miles of riding, I'd had a chance to experience freeways, curvy country roads, changes in elevation, and a few hundred yards of gravel -- just about enough time in the seat to get a good impression of the all-new Honda's strengths and weaknesses.
The Honda CTX1300 is an all-new motorcycle from the ground up. Take a look at the pictures. If you hate what you see, stop reading now. Nothing I say is going to make any difference to you. If you're intrigued, welcome to the rest of the review.
Low and horizontal define the CTX1300. The bike seems to sweep back from its headlights, an impression that is reinforced with a low (28.9") seat height, and bodywork that emphasizes the horizontal. The bike comes with an integrated fairing, low, non-adjustable windshield, and integrated saddlebags as stock equipment. The fairing and plastic bodywork pretty much conceal the all-new steel double-cradle frame. This is not a fully-faired touring machine, however. The 1,261 V-4 engine peeks out beneath the covers, with 4-into-2-into-2 exhaust headers flanking the bike on each side. The gas tank is beneath the seat, effectively keeping the bike's center of gravity low.
CTX1300 has a few advanced technology features that will turn some heads. All of the bike's lighting is LED, from the headlight to taillight to turn signals to marker lights. There's a cool signature LED feature line of light that underlines the dual stacked headlights. That should give the CTX1300 a unique face on the road, and may improve visibility to oncoming traffic.
On the audio side, CTX1300 can be ordered up with a Bluetooth audio system that allows you to pair a Bluetooth helmet headset to the bike, and to feed audio to the bike via Bluetooth or USB (tucked in a covered compartment in the top of the faux gas tank). A pair of speakers is integrated into the dashboard for playback, as well. It's an interesting concept -- more of an interface and amplifier than a fully-featured audio system. There's little visual clutter, which is good. Unfortunately, unless you feed the system content, like from a connected iPod or a memory stick loaded with .mp3 files, there's nothing to play -- no AM/FM radio, no other input. You can pair your phone or Bluetooth-enabled music player to the bike and then pair the bike to your helmet -- but why wouldn't you just pair the phone or music player to your helmet? The compartment that hides the USB port is big enough to hold an iPhone or iPod, which is great, but it doesn't lock, which is unfortunate. If you don't order the audio system on the base CTX1300 (it's standard on the Deluxe), you get some ugly blank control switches on the left side of your dash, and speaker grilles in the dash, but no speakers behind them. You might as well get a sticker that says "I'm cheap."
More technology is included with the Deluxe model, like Anti-Lock Braking (ABS) and Traction Control (TC) and electronic self-cancelling turn signals, making that "I'm cheap" sticker (and the base model) seem like a mistake, considering that the Deluxe model is just $2,000 more than the base.
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