You could easily argue that updating the mighty Pan-European tourer is one of the most unnecessary things Honda has ever done. The current ST1100 is so well sorted, it’s hard to fault.
But time never stands still, and after talking to its customers Honda has given the new version of the bike, the STX1300, just what they asked for – more power, less weight, and even more comfort. Chris Moss reckons Honda have managed to improve on a class leading touring bike.
The STX 1300 is a completely new machine. Its new engine has a bigger capacity (up from 1084 to 1261cc), is now fuel-injected, and develops another 20 bhp, together with much more torque. Its chassis now features an alloy twin-beam frame, and new swingarm. And the whole lot is clothed in new wind-tunnel developed bodywork, which gives the bike a sleeker and much more futuristic style.
The radical changes make the Pan even easier to ride, and add a sportier element to increase its portfolio of ability even more. It´s now an even better tool for whizzing down to the south of Europe with complete ease and comfort in a single day.
It can also entertain you with its scratching prowess the day after.
The Pan´s handling is probably the most improved aspect of the bike. The shorter and steeper geometry of the frame, and the loss of fifteen kilos, and the redistribution of the bike´s weight are largely responsible for this.
The Pan is still a very large and heavy bike, and your first view of it gives the impression of it being an unwieldy and unmanageable beast to ride. But once its new alloy wheels are turning, any intimidation disappears completely.
The Pan is more than happy to be manoeuvred over a wide range of speeds, and does so with great poise and balance. Doing U-turns at little more than walking pace, or grinding the footrests at well over a hundred miles per hour, are things well within the capabilities of the Honda´s chassis.
The lower centre of gravity of the new bike, and the fact that both the engine and riding position are now slightly further forward help the steering particularly. It now feels more secure and accurate. And though the Pan is a little bit too bulky to consider stuff like suddenly changing line mid-corner, with a bit of forward thinking and appreciation of how the road ahead is about to develop, the Pan can be ridden very fast and very safely.
It doesn´t hurt that the suspension has an excellent balance of suppleness to give a smoother ride over the bumps. But is still well controlled enough to maintain stability and poise under the heavier pressure generated by fast cornering or heavy braking. And the specially developed Bridgestone BT020 tyres add to the feeling of security by offering good feel, grip, and stability.
It´s only when the Pan is thrashed mercilessly can any limitations be found. But given the inappropriate speeds we sometimes rode the Pan at, any of this criticisms are quite unfair. The fact is, just judging the Honda as an all-round motorbike the verdict is that it handles very, very well. Then considering just how hard it can be pushed – for a touring bike – its cornering ability is nothing short of superb.
Praise for the new engine is pretty high too. The famed flexibility and smoothness of the V4 motor is still very much in evidence. But now there´s even more grunt to make gearchanging almost needless.
The very broad spread torque means that once you´re underway, the top two of the five gears on offer are all you really need. To be honest, even if this motor had a three-speed box, the bike would still be more than useable.
The pokey motor launches the Pan forward quickly and effortlessly at just the twist of a wrist. And it does with such a linear surge, it sometimes gives the impression that the Honda is going far slower than it is. On more than several occasions I found myself shocked at what the speedo was reading, thinking I was going at least 20mph slower.
Hauling up the speeding heavyweight is a mammoth task for the brakes. But in keeping with the well-balanced nature of the bike, they are more than up to the job. The linked CBS system provides strong power, and enough feel to play with the grip limits of the tyres. Though I have to say, I´d always recommend the ABS version of the bike.
It might cost a thousand pounds more than the standard model. But the security the ABS offers, especially on slippery surfaces more than justifies its extra cost.
Touch of Class
Another feature of the ABS equipped bike, which the standard version isn´t fitted with, is the electrically adjustable screen. And the massive benefit to comfort it gives, again tips the scales of favour more towards the dearer bike.
At the touch of a bar-mounted button it can be raised and lowered in seconds to provide perfect protection and vision for any size of rider. And when it´s fully extended, it rivals the wind-cheating comfort of a car.
The sofa-level of cosseting continues with other features on the bike, clearly designed with marathon distance rides in mind. The seat, which is adjustable in height, is broad and plush enough to spend hours in it at a time. The riding position couldn´t be more spacious and relaxed. And the smooth, quiet motor plays its part in fending off the trials and tribulations of lengthy trips.
To aid the convenience of any tour there´s plenty of equipment to make life easier. Panniers are roomy enough to carry a weekend´s life-supporting luggage, and can each swallow a full-face helmet. There´s a rack to lash on a bit more if you need, and if you´re really going far, a 45-litre top box and tank bag are available as aftermarket goodies. So too are heated grips and a radio.
But if you ask me there´s little extra the Pan needs really, as its design is so well thought out. There´s a comprehensive instrument panel which includes digital fuel and air temperature gauges, and a clock. Large grab rails keep pillions safe and happy. Another in the side panel makes lifting the Pan onto its sidestand easier. Remote headlight and rear shock preload adjusting knobs tailor different needs in seconds. And integral fairing crash bars will help keep accident damage bills down.
There was little you could criticise the existing Pan-European for, but now there´s even less. Honda took its time to update the Pan, but it did a bloody good job when it did.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda stx 1300.
Engine……….Liquid cooled 900 V-four, 16 valve, four stroke, cc 1261
Claimed power (bhp)……….121bhp @ 8,000rpm
Frame……….Alloy twin spar
Front suspension……….45mm telescopic forks, air adjustable pre-load
Steering head angle……….26 degrees
Rear suspension……….Monoshock, adjustable pre-load and rebound damping
Front brakes……….Twin 310mm discs, combined three piston calipers
Rear brake……….Single 316mm disc, combined three piston caliper
Top speed……….140mph (est)
Fuel capacity……….29 litres
Current price……….£10,650 (otr) ABS model; £11,650