RideApart Review: Honda Fury VT1300CX

Remember those big chopper bikes of the mid 2000s with odd names, weird handling, stupidly raked-out front ends, ridiculously oversized rear tires and ostentatious looks that sold for the price of a small house? The Honda Fury is not those things. It just looks like one.

Photos: Anne Watson

Where did those custom choppers go? One minute they were all the rage and then in the ensuing storm of the global financial crisis they disappeared. You can still find a few lurking on the pages of Craig’s List with the owners realizing motorcycles weren’t ever really for them. And now they have to get rid of the bike, albeit at a massive hit, and go and buy an expensive boat, which is probably what they should have done in the first place.

So it’s sort of surprising to us that Honda – arguably the most conservative of all motorcycle manufacturers – has persevered with its chopper-inspired Fury VT1300 CX and still finds enthusiastic buyers for it not just here in the U.S. but all around the world.

What’s New
Launched in 2010, the Honda Fury broke new ground as it looked unlike anything the company had produced before. And because it’s Honda it spent a considerable amount of time researching this market sector before committing to offering a bike that on first sight could have come straight from the custom motorcycle world.

Honda’s own marketing photographs don’t really do the Honda Fury justice. It’s really much nicer in the metal. Sure, it’s no hard-core chopper but it’s still an interesting-looking motorcycle that actually rides far better than its appearance suggests.

So what do you get for your money? It’s pretty basic as there’s very little equipment. Just a custom-look motorcycle that has a big v-twin engine, a comfortable, low seating position, and handlebars. And that’s about it.

The front end has been raked out to 32 degrees with a high mount steering head to give the Fury that chopper feel. The narrow 3.4-gallon fuel tank, which looks terrific, swoops down close to the rider. There’s a bobbed rear fender while the 21-inch tire and nine-spoke flat black front wheel is hugged by a close fitting fender. One issue for us here is that a lot of the chromed parts on the Fury, including the fenders, are all made from plastic.

However, the Fury’s svelte custom lines have actually helped create a terrific seat height of just 26.9 inches that will allow riders of almost any size to plant both feet flat on the road at a stop.

You do get a removable passenger pad on the rear fender and pegs but we wouldn’t recommend using it for more than a few miles. There’s no grab rail and your passenger won’t thank you for the experience.

This really is a solo rider type motorcycle. And it’s got a great riding position even if the seat is a little too firm for us. On the move your legs are not stretched so far forward to make changing gear a pain and you can dab the rear brake easily with the toe of your right boot.

And at a total weight of 666lbs (681lbs for the ABS model) the Fury’s single 336 mm front disc with twin pistons and 296mm rear brake are smooth and progressive and more than up to the job. You can of course pay a little more and get ABS-version of the Fury but the standard set-up worked perfectly well for us.

The ‘custom’ look also extends to the Fury’s bars which pull back nicely towards the rider and make everything easy to reach and operate. Honda has made an attempt to clean up the front end in true chopper style but there are still a couple of cables that we think could be tucked away or re-routed.

On top of the bars there’s an angular shaped simple instrument gauge that displays speed and has lights for oil pressure, water temperature and neutral. But there’s no tachometer or even a fuel gauge so you’ll have to keep an eye on the miles you ride or keep taking off the gas cap to see how much fuel is left.

You’ll also be hard pressed to find the Honda name anywhere on this bike, which is probably why most people have absolutely no idea what it is when they first see the Fury. But if you look close there are a couple of discrete ‘Honda’ badges low down on each flank, one on the engine casing, and the Fury name on the rear fender.

Power comes from the proven 1312cc, water-cooled, 52-degree v-twin (also used in Honda’s Stateline, Sabre and Interstate). There’s around 89 lb/ft of torque from this motor fitted in the Fury and whilst it’s no street racer it pulls strongly and evenly through the five speed transmission and delivers power smoothly to the 18 inch rear wheel and 200mm tire combination via shaft drive.

Those long front 45mm forks have a decent 4.0-inches of travel that soak up a lot of bumps and irregular road surface despite having such a narrow almost bicycle-like front Dunlop tire. Honda has done a good job of trying to create a hard tail look with the Fury and has managed to hide the single adjustable rear shock (there’s a five position pre load and 3.7-inches of travel) under that big fat rear fender.

For 2013 there’s not a lot new about the Honda Fury. Color-wise you get a choice of either red or black for the non ABS-equipped models or just black for the ABS equipped version.

The Ride
If you’re the shy, retiring wallflower sort of motorcycle rider then don’t even think about buying a Honda Fury. It is not the bike for you. Everywhere we took the Fury people want to talk us about it, sit on it or photograph it.

We were even chased down PCH1 by two guys in a truck who told us they were into building custom bikes and were really impressed with the way the Fury looks.

“We build bikes for a living and that looks seriously bad ass,” one of them said. “We’ve heard of the Fury but never ever seen one on the road. Is that really a Honda?”

So there in a nutshell is one part of Honda’s problem with the Fury. It’s a sort of double-edged sword. On one hand Honda has built a bike that looks terrific to some people yet very few have ever seen one in the metal or know that it exists. And when you tell them it’s a Honda they get very confused. They know Honda builds Goldwings, great sport bikes and very competent off-road bikes. It just boggles some people’s minds that Honda also makes the Fury.

That is a shame. As looks aside (and we can argue all day on the merits for or against of owning a chopper-style motorcycle in 2013) the Honda Fury is also a surprisingly nice bike to ride.

We’ll be honest here and say that when we first saw the Fury we were not sure. It looked too contrived as if it was trying too hard to be something it’s not.

But once you have swung a leg over and sat down on that ultra low seat it actually sort of all makes sense. First off it’s not difficult to ride. That big v-twin vibrates a little at idle as you’d expect but there are dual counter balances to prevent vibrations from becoming too objectionable.

At 71.1 inches, the Fury has the longest wheelbase of any current production Honda. Combine that with the skinny front tire and it does feel a bit vague at low speed and you have to watch yourself in parking lots. The raked out front end doesn’t make for easy low-speed maneuvering.

Out on the road, that rake and thin tire combination also gives the rider a vague steering feel at anything under 20mph. But after a short while you get used to the way it behaves and then, where it really scores well for us, it gets into its stride at mid range cruising speeds.

It doesn’t flop down in the corners like you would expect a chopper-style bike to do and most riders should find the Fury very easy to master. The steering at higher speed is neutral with no surprises and there is good overall feeling of stability. But there’s not a lot ground clearance with that low-slung frame and you can drag the pegs in even modest corners if you push too hard.

Over 50mph the Fury feels planted on the road and with the five-speed transmission and shaft drive it rides as smoothly and as seamlessly as you would expect from any Honda cruiser.

No problems either with that big fat 200mm Dunlop tire. It probably doesn’t enhance rear suspension performance but this is not a bike you would want to do hundreds of miles on in a day. It’s a cruiser, a bar hopper, a weekend rider whatever you want to call it. But above all it’s a bike to get on the road and have some fun with.

But keep an eye on your gas tank. Literally. There is no fuel gauge. With Honda claiming an average of 45mpg (we think we were getting a little less) that means you can expect only to ride around only 153 miles between fill ups.

So often those choppers of the past that we mentioned at the beginning of this review looked extraordinary but rode appallingly. Not so the Fury.

Somehow Honda has managed to get the balance almost right. You get the chopper looks but you also get a motorcycle that cruises well, is predictable and won’t bite you at the first corner you come to.

What’s Good
Head turning looks that Honda has managed to wrap around a competent and very willing cruiser. Despite those raked-out forks it rides nicely and it is really user-friendly.

This is a fun bike to ride. It’s not fast but if you want an interesting looking motorcycle for weekend cruising or just running around town doing errands this would not be a bad choice.

What’s Bad
You’ll get a lot of attention riding this bike and may have to put up with people asking you all the time if the Fury is a Harley Davidson.

To get a reliable, custom-styled bike to market it’s clear that Honda has had to make some cost savings and there’s abundant use of plastics (front and rear fenders for example) and chromed plastic on the engine header covers.

You also sacrifice some practicality for the chopper looks. While the Fury’s tank is nicely executed and suits the overall ‘custom’ feel, at 3.4-gallons you are going to be making a lot of visits to the gas station.

Real choppers are made from iron and steel. But that doesn’t excuse the ugly frame welds on the Fury – particularly on the neck. Some may put that down as character on a bike but it’s not the sort of fit and finish we have come to expect from Honda.

The Price
At $13,390, which is a fair price, you get the choice of either the red 2013 Fury or the black Fury non-ABS. For a further $1,000 you can opt for ABS-equipped version but have to take it in black only.

What else should you consider? To our mind there is nothing else that looks like the Fury. You could have considered the Harley-Davidson Rocket, which was HD’s interpretation of a chopper, but it quietly dropped that from its line-up in 2012. So maybe one alterative is the Harley-Davidson Wide Glide, but depending on specification, you’re looking at $14,999 to $15,729.

There are plenty of other bikes that ride as well the Fury but they don’t offer the chopper style of this Honda at this price.

What Others Say
“…it behaves extremely well for a chopper (maybe too well), and at 13K the price point is hard to argue with. So did the cost of cool just get a whole lot cheaper? Sure. And I can guarantee you for a lot of people it will buy the new Fury. But the question is, whom? What generation will think the Fury is cool? I’ve got my money on baby boomers going through a budget-minded mid-life crisis...” — Motorcycle-USA

“The Fury handles better than any chopper I’ve ridden, with the most neutral steering and best high speed stability, and is superior to many much less radical factory cruisers in these respects.” — The Daily Telegraph

The Verdict
Even today, some three years on since it was first launched, the Fury stands out in the Honda line-up as something a bit whacky and out of the ordinary. And that we think is a good thing.

As a simple motorcycle it rides well is easy to get along with and it’s fun too. As a cruiser it does its job with the minimum of fuss and with a certain amount charm. And it has Honda’s renowned reliability to boot. If you’re in the market for this type of bike you really couldn’t ask for more than that.

RideApart Rating: 6/10

Gear
Helmet: HJC RPHA Max ($414)
Jacket: Alpinestars Viper Air ($200)
Gloves: Alpinestars Scheme Kevlar ($60)

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