When thinking about building their latest cruiser, the VTX1800, Honda’s engineers must have been influenced a bit by the ’if yer can’t beat ’em, join ’em’philosophy.
And that´s because it has some of the class-leading firm´s character deliberately built into it to make it more appealing. Yes, the VTX has a hint of Harley about it. It´s even built in Harley´s backyard in the US of A.
You can´t blame them really. Harley´s have had the cruiser market stitched up for years and the boys at Honda want a piece of the action.
Only time will tell whether they´ll manage to overturn the fortunes of the Milwaukee masters. It´ll be a hard nut to crack, but then again they didn´t do such a bad job beating Triumph at its own game back in the seventies did they?
But that was then, and this is now. And right now I´m checking out a very impressive looking motorcycle. And it´s not just the retina-burning chrome and polished alloy glinting in the afternoon sun that´s drawing my attention to the Honda. No, it’s the VTX´s sheer size that´s making me ogle.
It´s a huge motorcycle. Though when you consider its capacity of 1795cc it´s no wonder. And within the Honda´s biggest ever V-twin motor there´s other sizeable components like the biggest pistons and longest con rods ever made by Honda. The ‘big is best bug´ has been caught by the chassis too. And at 1715mm, the VTX has the longest wheelbase of any Honda built.
That impression of size is also very obvious when you first straddle it and get it moving. Despite the very low seat which helps to make it more manageable, the Honda stills feels a bit daunting due to its length and 320kg weight. But fear not, within about a mile that feeling disappears and you feel right at home on it.
It might be a big beast, but that engine has a very gentle character making it easier to master. The 520 fuel-injected V-twin has some vibration to let you know it´s working, which is one example of a Harleyism. But the VTX motor is so low-revving, so well-silenced and so smooth in its power delivery, that you´d swear the thing was just bimbling over at tickover the majority of the time. Then just when you least expect it, the rev limiter cuts in quite suddenly and reminds you to change up.
It´s probably only revving at about five and a half thousand rpm when it gets electronically strangled, and it takes a little while before you´re on time with the gearchanges. But it´s a perfect lesson in why you mustn´t rush the VTX.
Instead you should snick up early through the slightly clunky Harley-apeing box and get to the taller gears as soon as you can. There´s so much torque on offer it feels as grunty as a truck. And though the highest of five gears is more of an overdrive, which makes the Honda start snatching below 40mph when it´s selected, most of the time the massive stomp is enough to launch the bike forward with just a tug on the throttle, whatever gear it´s in.
That shouldn´t be a surprise given the massive 115ft/lbs of torque that´s on tap, which flows to its height at an incredibly low 3,000rpm. And with a claimed 95bhp on tap, perhaps it´s also not that unusual to see an impressive 120mph being clocked by the top-yoke mounted speedo.
You have to hang on a bit at that speed though. The enforced crucifix-style riding stance opens you up to a severe wind battering and it´s not long before you have to back off.
Still, speed isn´t what the VTX is all about. And you´re reminded of that as soon as you attempt your first corner. At what seems to be just a couple of degrees from vertical the low slung footrests start grinding themselves away on the road. Though the trail of sparks they leave is impressive.
Now though it´s probably unfair to expect to Honda to have sharp or agile handling, the ground clearance problem is unfortunate. Because the rest of the chassis behaves securely enough to suggest it could howl round corners quite smartly if it wasn’t for that restriction.
Given its chopper-like raked out front end geometry, steering is actually reasonably quick and light. And the chunky 43mm inverted forks and twin shocks do a good job of controlling the mass of metal they suspend. And do so without compromising any of that all-important comfort.
There´s plenty of that stuff in evidence elsewhere on the bike. The seat´s plush, and the riding position (sub 80mph at least) is, like the motor, laid back and relaxed.
Using the brakes is also free of urgency and stress. Its CBS linked brake system does a fine job of rolling back the mph without having to use much physical power. And anyone who dislikes the system will be glad to know the front brake can be used independently of the rear. It´s only when the footbrake is pressed that all three calipers are worked.
The cruiser market is growing in the UK, and the VTX stands a chance of adding to the popularity. I wouldn’t say it has the same level of presence and performance of the Valkyrie, but for fans of size, style and soothing pacification the VTX scores many points.
It’s not cheap at £11,345. But sometimes showing off a bit costs a few quid more. And making your presence felt is something the VTX is very good at doing.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda vtx 1800.
Engine……….Liquid cooled 520 V-twin, 6 valve, four stroke, cc 1795
Claimed power (bhp)……….95bhp @ 5000rpm
Frame……….Steel tube cradle
Front suspension……….43mm inverted forks, no adjustment
Steering head angle……….32 degrees
Rear suspension……….twin shocks, adjustable for pre-load
Front brakes……….Twin 296mm discs, three-piston CBS calipers
Rear brake……….Single 316mm disc, three-piston CBS caliper
Top speed……….115mph (est)
Fuel capacity……….17 litres
Current price……….£11,345 (otr)