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2003 Honda ST1300: MD First Ride

Ever since I tested the Honda GL1800 Gold Wing during its introduction year (late 2000) (here’s a link to our review of that bike), I have been impressed with Honda’s ability to take a large, luxurious motorcycle and make it handle well — combining surprising agility with a solid and predictable feel.

Honda took its time introducing a completely redesigned Gold Wing (13 years, to be exact) and it took almost as long (12 years) to redesign the ST1100 sport tourer first introduced in 1990.

Of course, the 2003 ST1300 (successor to the ST1100) is significantly lighter than the Gold Wing, and its design brief includes handling goals that reach well beyond the Gold Wing. With this in mind, I had the opportunity to be one of the first journalists in the United States to ride the ST1300 over the past two days. Although we will post a thorough ride review in a few weeks, this is a brief, first impression of the bike.

After roughly 300 miles through varied conditions (from freeway to tight, twisty roads to a slow parade of sweaty journalists through Santa Barbara city traffic), I think Honda has hit the mark, once again. The magic act performed by Honda with the Gold Wing (i.e., making a large motorcycle handle like a much smaller one) has been repeated with the ST1300. The bike changes directions with far less effort than its predecessor, and feels superbly balanced in the process.

The adjustable ergonomics of the ST1300 (including a seat with height adjustment, and fore and aft adjustment — as well as adjustable windscreen) clearly places the ST1300 at the luxury end of the sport touring spectrum. Wind buffeting, and the back pressure associated with large fairings, have both been effectively minimized through Honda’s design efforts.

The longitudinally-mounted, V-4 engine also receives high marks for power, flexibility and smoothness.

Instrumentation is so thorough, I will have to sit down with the press kit (something I can’t do while dictating this article on my way home from Honda’s headquarters) in order to explain it properly. For now, suffice to say the bike will tell you much more than you need to know.

Take a look at our preview articles concerning the ST1300 on September 10, 2001 and September 12, 2001, and stay tuned for MD’s in-depth ride review of Honda’s new ST1300.