Honda’s latest version of its off-road styled trailie, the Varadero, doesn’t feature too many radical updates. But those few and subtle changes are still effective enough to improve it noticeably.
Chris Moss reports from the launch of the revamped Honda Varadero 1000 trailie styled tourer.
After listening to the requests of existing customers, Honda claims it wanted to give the bike more practicality and comfort. It went about achieving those goals by primarily swapping carbs for fuel-injection, adding a sixth gear, altering the suspension, and changing the size and shape of the bodywork.
The style of the new Varadero isn’t too different from the old bike, and only a closer inspection will reveal the changed contours of the top fairing and side panels – which to be honest, don’t exactly make the big trailie any easier on the eye.
But the sight of the big, bulky, and let’s face it, less than attractive Honda shouldn’t put you off choosing it too much. Because as soon you get on it and ride, the fat disappears instantly and the Varadero loses its frog-like status to become much more of a prince.
In fairness, it takes a while to fully appreciate the Honda’s numerous qualities. It’s not the sort of bike to grab you by the horns and shake up your excitement glands immediately, the endearment takes a little longer than that. But when that happens you realise that though it’s not too sexy, the Varadero is in fact a very practical, useable, and comfortable tool. And on that very basis is worthy of a fair bit of praise.
As a bit of a shortie I initially felt a bit intimidated by the bike’s height and size, and I pondered over whether I might need a step-ladder to get onboard the thing, or suffer a nose bleed once I’d got there. But apart from having to consider where to park it, for fear of not being able to back it out again (thanks to too short a leg, and no foot traction), the Varadero turned out to be very easy to manage.
It’s a beautifully balanced bike and pootling round town turned out to be a piece of cake, with the tall riding position actually paying dividends by offering a great view over the traffic, allowing a more predictable passage.
Comfort was another virtue to note quickly. The riding position is very rangey and relaxed, and the seat broad, soft and supportive enough to suggest longer stints will not be an issue for your limbs. And as high speed dashes along a motorway proved, neck muscles won’t be overworked thanks to the very protective fairing and screen which can be adjusted in height. In its standard position it was good enough for me to cruise at 110mph without needing to tuck in too much. And that would be the same story for more gangly riders if they raised it the extra 50mm. Though it should be added that doing that takes a few minutes armed with a screwdriver.
No adjustments are needed to the suspension, which in my opinion is the most improved feature of the bike. Springing and damping rates has been firmed up to give the Honda quite a bit more control and composure than the previous model. And that’s been done with no compromise to comfort, with the initial part of the fork and shock’s movement being quite plush and compliant.
This excellent balance helps to give the Varadero a pretty good handling package, and with the excellent feel and grip offered by the Bridgestone Trail Wing tyres, hooting along twisty and bumpy roads was a grin-inducing affair. Which certainly wouldn’t have been so amusing on a lighter and friskier sportsbike.
Steering is a little slow and heavy, but thanks to the leverage offered by the wide bars, turning the bike on time isn’t a bicep-busting ordeal. And though it might be road testers most abused cliché, I’ll say it anyway ‘cos it’s so appropriate, and that is; on the right roads, in the right hands, the Varadero would be a hard bike to catch.
The engine plays a part in the overall competence of the trailie. Lifted from the VTR 1000 Firestorm, and detuned a tad to suit its new role, the 90-degree V-twin nevertheless has enough nicely-spread, and grunty power to get the bike up to half-decent speeds pretty sharply.
Low down stomp and glitch-free fuel-injection ensures a sharp and crisp throttle response. So getting off the line, or blatting past cars smartly more often than not needs no more than a quick yank on the throttle. There’s obviously a bit more acceleration on tap if you work the box a bit more, but the motor has a fairly lazy and relaxed delivery, and is best not to be rushed as much as something like a four-cylinder motor.
Top cog is more of an overdrive, and keeps the revs and fuel-consumption down – which, at an average of around 40mpg will give a very useful 200-mile range from the big 25 litre tank. That will dip down to around 150 miles if you cane the hell out of the bike. But even so, that sort of range is still very practical.
The engine can be a bit vibey at times if you spin it up higher in the rev range, but most would consider this as character-forming stuff rather than anything obtrusive.
Despite the bike’s bulk, a spot of off-roading which I tried felt within the capability of both the Honda and myself. And though the ground was fairly hard-packed, roaring over its loose surface was fun and pretty straightforward. And even the CBS linked brakes didn’t present any real problems for an off-road novice like me. On the road they’d been an ally on more than one occasion thanks to their fine combination of power, progression and balance.
They pretty much sum up the overall character of the Honda. And though the Varadero might not be the most exciting bike to either look at or ride, after a few hours in the saddle the bike had done much to earn itself plenty of respect as an all-rounder in my book. By the end of the day I couldn’t really fault it. And considering it had taken me more than competently through town, up to around 130mph down the motorway, slithered around on the dirt in relative safety, and given me lots of entertainment scratching down the lanes, I couldn’t really rate it as anything but a highly civilised, sorted and capable beast.
Along with its highly competent character, the Varadero also has a few neat little touches like a fuel consumption gauge, clock, hazards, H.I.S.S. security, and a solid rack. If that’s not enough for you, then a hard pannier and top box kit will be available too, along with other options like heated grips, and a centrestand, which like the bike will be in the shops in Spring 2003.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda varadero 1000.
Engine……….Liquid cooled 900 V-twin, 8 valve, four stroke
Power ……….92bhp @ 8000rpm
Frame……….Diamond steel tube
Front suspension……….43mm telescopic forks, no adjustment
Steering head angle……….27.3
Rear suspension……….Monoshock, adjustable pre-load
Front brakes……….Twin 296mm discs, three-piston CBS calipers
Rear brake……….Single 256mm disc, three-piston CBS caliper
Top speed (est)……….130mph
Fuel capacity……….25 litres
Current price……….£7500 (est)