The Transalp's been part of the Honda line up since 1986. The latest 2023 model is the fourth incarnation and easily the best one yet. More importantly though, along with the trademark light and easy feel the Transalp has become famous for, this version has some all-important character and personality - qualities not always associated with the Honda brand.
At the press launch in Portugal we rode the new, 91bhp, 755cc parallel twin-engined middleweight adventure bike along a variety of roads, which certainly helped to show it in its best light. Versatility is an obvious strong point, and no matter what speed you ride at, and what type of route you're navigating, the Transalp feels right at home. It has a very easy and manageable nature, and whether you're doing slow speed feet-up U-turns, or rounding high speed mountain corners, its user-friendliness is always a real strong point.
Having a lovely balance helps the 208-kilo bike's agreeable feel, helping it deal with whatever challenges the road offers, allowing you to enjoy the ride all the more. It has a typically Honda do-it-all personality, which given the sort of machine the 750 is, didn't come as a surprise. I've ridden all the Transalp models and found each of them very likeable and easy to get on it with.
Leaving the outer suburbs of Faro along cool, wet, slippery looking roads didn't worry me in the slightest, so well-mannered is virtually every aspect of the Honda. Engine power is delivered in a smooth and linear fashion, with no dips or rushes to have to have to take into account. With perfect fuelling and very useful overall flexibility, I was happy enough to leave the 91bhp engine in the Sport mode I'd originally found it in.
Housed within a very sorted chassis, equipped with equally user-friendly brakes, well controlled suspension and an easy, agile manner, navigating the Transalp through the commuter traffic couldn't have been much more straight forward. As we got out onto the quieter roads, I really got the impression the adventure bike was going to be yet another fully-sorted Honda that's hard to fault, but in being so polished, would unfortunately also lack some appeal. And so that view continued…
We upped the pace a little on the still damp roads during the first photo and video point, and with stuff like a good steering lock, nice switchgear, clear and informative 5" TFT instrumentation, useful mirrors etc, etc, I saw no reason to expect that overall verdict would change. There wasn't, it seemed, anything this bike wasn't capable of coping with really well.
But as the roads dried and the routes became more challenging, the real bonus of the Transalp began to surface. When you rev the engine harder there's a more exciting feel to it as the acceleration rate increases. I certainly wouldn't call it a sudden pick up in power and pace but combined with the endearing rise in intake and exhaust noise, the parallel twin seems to come alive.
Earlier I'd found the motor to be all too happy pulling the bigger gears and driving me from tighter corners cleanly and progressively. But when you spin the engine a bit harder, the extra effort is rewarded not just by extra pace, but heightened emotion too. It's not essential to work the gearbox more, but it's definitely worth it if you do.
Fortunately, the increased speed the engine delivers continues to be contained very competently by the chassis parts. Just as they had done earlier in Faro, they provided a very safe and secure ride. Even making very sporty progress along the now totally dry tightly twisting mountain roads caused no worry. Suspension might well be soft, and only adjustable for preload, but the travel is damped nicely and, just like the Metzeler Karoo Road tyres, provides superb feel and feedback. Even the 21" front wheel feels secure and planted. You always know exactly where you are on this bike, thanks to this very valuable chassis communication, and it's another feature that really makes the Transalp feel so satisfying and rewarding.
Matters felt a little different when we were taken off-road. Not having dried out following the recent rain meant the terrain, though generally easy in nature overall, was made more slippery. And with the Metzelers having been designed for road use only, grip levels weren't massive. As a keen off-roader, I have definite views on how best to tackle the dirt, and expecting an adventure bike as sizeable and weighty as the Transalp to perform well is a big ask. I'd selected Gravel mode from the five available (Sport, Standard, Rain, Gravel, and a custom User) which all influence the degree of intrusion of the throttle response (though not the peak power), engine braking, traction and ABS levels. However, without off-road tyres riding was always going to feel a bit edgy. Had it been dry, I think I could have made much better progress. And with more off-road focused rubber, the Honda is undoubtedly going to be a decent dual-purpose machine as long as you choose appropriate routes and take care.
Honda had cheekily fitted a lot of aftermarket accessories to my test bike, including crash bars and a sump guard, and these would be well worth considering if you did want to get a bit more adventurous with your adventuring. There are lots of other things you can also buy and fit from the options available including luggage, quickshifter, taller screen, centre stand, fog lights and handguards.
My bike seemed to have everything fitted to it, which undoubtedly made it weigh quite a bit more than the 208kilos it does in fully-fuelled and ready to ride standard trim. Even so, the Honda still felt very flickable and easy to steer, and though I never sat in the comfy seat for more than an hour at a time, I felt as fresh at the end of the 100-mile day test as I did at the start.
It was a disappointment to have to finish riding when we did, and I would have loved to have ridden the Honda for a lot longer. In fact, it would have been nice to continue on it all the way back home to the UK, which I'm confident is a long trip it would handle commendably well.
At £9499, the new Transalp repesents excellent value (the recently launched Suzuki V-Strom 800DE is £10,499, and the CFMoto 800 MT £10,399). It's a really enjoyable, highly versatile bike to ride, regardless of what use you put it to, with the added bonus of having a bit of spirit to it too. I expect it's going to sell really well.
2023 Honda XLV750 Transalp specification
Engine: 755cc, parallel-twin
Power: 91bhp/67.5kW @ 9500rpm
Torque: 75Nm/55lb.ft @ 7250rpm
Transmission: Six-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Steel-tubed frame
Suspension: Preload adjustable 43mm Showa inverted telescopic fork, 200mm travel. Preload adjustable Showa Prolink, mono-shock, 190mm travel
Brakes: Axially-mounted, twin-piston front brake callipers and 310mm floating discs. Single-piston, pin-slide rear calliper and a 256mm disc.
Wheels: 21” front, 18” rear, spoked alloy rims
Tyres: Front 90/90-21 tubed. Rear 150/70-18 tubed.
Ground clearance: 210mm
Seat height: 850mm
Kerb weight: 208kg
Fuel capacity: 16.9 litres
- - -
Words: Chris Moss