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2004 Honda ST 1300: Long Term Report

This is a report on our experience so far with our 2004 Honda ST1300 (non-ABS model). You may recall our extensive ride review of the 2003 ST1300 (part one here and part two here). Take a look at those articles for a thorough analysis of the changes made by Honda to the venerable ST1100 for the 2003 model year (much of which remains unchanged on our test unit).

One notable change for 2004 is the availability of the electrically-adjustable windscreen on the non-ABS model, which happens to be the model we are testing. Our experience with the windscreen has been a very pleasant one. Being more than familiar with windscreens that cause buffeting for the rider — buffeting that is often difficult to tune out (take a look at our efforts with our long-term 2003 Suzuki V-Strom, for instance, here), we appreciate a windscreen, adjustable or not, that allows the rider to (a) find the ideal wind protection for the circumstances and (b) not beat upon the rider’s head and shoulders with unwanted wind buffeting. Frequently, a higher windscreen position creates more problems than it solves (i.e., buffeting). We are pleased to report that the ST1300 transitions to a tall position that leaves this rider (5’10″, with a long torso and short legs) in a virtually still pocket of air with near zero wind buffeting.

Why so much attention on the wind screen? Because it is a big part of rider comfort on any touring bike. Riders of different heights will experience different levels of comfort behind any windscreen, and we are sure that the ST1300 is no different, but the range of adjustment is large enough that most riders will find a very comfortable position behind this screen.

We chose the ST1300 as a long-term subject, quite frankly, because we were so impressed with the 2003 model we previously rode. We wanted to see what it was like to live with for an extended period of time. 2,600 miles into this review, the ST1300 has been bullet-proof (as you might expect), and returns relatively good gas mileage (38 miles per gallon). Coupled with the large gas tank capacity (7.7 gallons), we frequently exceed 250 miles before heeding the call of the low fuel warning light on the very thorough instrumentation (see our original reviews).

The standard tires on the 2004 ST1300, consisting of Dunlop D220s, show very little wear for 2,600 miles. We are not as pleased with their performance in every respect, however. These tires tend to follow rain grooves on the freeway here in Southern California (a significant annoyance, given the amount of time an ST1300 will spend on the freeway), and, although they provide decent grip, lack the feedback we have become spoiled with by riding the latest-and-greatest sportbikes (something we have done quite a bit of, lately) wearing the latest-and-greatest rubber. Overall, not bad sport touring tires, but we will try some competing tires shortly, and report back to you.

We like the blue color available on the 2004 model, but must advise you that the 2005 ST1300 has already been announced, with yet another new color (Candy Dark Red), pictured in this article. Fear not, however, if you like the Pearl Dark Blue of our 2004 test model, as this model will not be replaced by the 2005 version until February of next year, and color is the only significant change for 2005 (other than a $200 price increase).

We are still pleased with this bike’s luggage capacity and the adjustability of the rear suspension. We are less than completely satisfied, however, with the performance of the front fork. After we see what a change in tire brands does, we may try to modify the spring rate and/or damping of the fork. As it stands, the fork performs reasonably well (Honda is known for its compromised settings on non-adjustable forks — such as those of the ST1300), but rebound could improve a bit (such as, on choppy boulevards or freeways).

Overall, we are again enjoying our time aboard the ST1300 — a comfortable, good handling (particularly for its size and weight), versatile motorcycle.

Take a look at Honda’s web site for additional details on both the 2004 and 2005 ST1300s (both non-ABS models and ABS models).