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2008 Honda VTX1300T – Road Test Review

Rider MagazineJune 30, 2008

We’re all aware that size matters, and that it matters more than ever in motorcycling. Back in the 1960s a 500cc was considered a big motorcycle, and now we have bikes with three to four times that displacement (and even larger) scooting around our streets and highways. But as displacement increases so inevitably does weight, and it seems we’ve finally reached the point of diminishing returns at which bikes have become so large and so heavy that to go much farther would be to risk exceeding the physical abilities of some riders. As a result, the manufacturers are now concentrating on filling out and widening their product lines rather than offering ever larger engine displacements, and that’s a good thing.

Case in point is Honda’s newest version of its VTX1300, which has been around since 2003. Honda calls it the VTX1300T, on which the “T” stands for “Tourer.” Honda tells us that cruisers comprise about 60-65 percent of the street motorcycle market these days, and that its best-selling cruiser line is the 750 Shadow models, followed by the VTX1300s. The most popular accessories sold for cruisers are windscreens, saddlebags and backrests, so last year Honda introduced those items on a touring version of its largest cruiser, the VTX1800. Now they’re filling out their VTX1300 line with a Tourer. Not only is the 1300 less expensive than the 1800, but it also weighs about 90 pounds less–and those are very good things indeed. To introduce its new VTX1300T, Honda invited the press to ride it late last fall in the local California mountains, and in that day we were able to gain a fairly complete picture of the bike.

The Honda VTX1300T with additional accessories

This particular bike was dressed with additional accessories, including the light bar shown.

The VTX1300 family includes three base models, and each retails for an identical $9,599. The C-model features abbreviated fenders with slant-spoke cast wheels and a street-rod look. The VTX1300S offers deeply valanced fenders and wire spoke wheels. The VTX13000R (the “R” stands for “retro”) also utilizes the deeply valanced fenders, but it has more retro-look cast wheels. The fourth model, the new Tourer, is based upon the R-model but has been equipped with such touring essentials as a bolt-on windscreen, a pair of 24-liter leather saddlebags and a chromed passenger backrest with pad. In addition there’s a chromed “Tourer” badge on the front fender, chromed sidecovers and a two-into-two exhaust system.

All VTX1300 models are powered by a liquid-cooled, 52-degree, 1,312cc V-twin engine with a compression ratio of 9.2:1, and they’re mechanically unchanged from 2007. The 1300 offers three valves and two spark plugs per cylinder, and inhales through a single 38mm CV carburetor. The T-model is a good looking package, and in fact the 1300 carries a strong family resemblance to the VTX1800T. My only styling complaint with all VTX13s is the flange along the bottom of what otherwise appears to be a stretched, custom fuel tank.

2008 Honda VTX1300T

2008 Honda VTX1300T

The standard choke knob requires some fiddling during warm-up to keep the engine running smoothly, and power reaches the ground through a driveshaft. Shifting is easy with the heel-and-toe shifter, and clutch pull is moderate. Feed out the clutch and power is immediate. With bore and stroke dimensions of 89.5 x 104.3mm you would expect the 1300 to offer prodigious torque, and you’d be right. The one we dyno tested last year delivered 57.8 ponies to the rear wheel at 5,000 rpm, with an impressive 71.4 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. With the single-pin crankshaft the rider feels a bit of throb as the revs build, yet the vibes are tamed by dual two-axis primary counterbalancers.

The various touring amenities on the T-model are stock Honda accessory items that have been available previously, and in fact we tested one set up very much this way last year. Though we did not weigh the new Tourer, the very similarly dressed version we tested last year weighed 762 pounds wet. With the wide-set floorboards and broad handlebar seating is spacious, and the dished seat is comfortable. The Tourer’s windscreen keeps the wind nicely off the chest, and shunts it over the head. On this cool day it certainly made a difference in our short ride. Honda’s hard-sided, leather-covered bags won’t droop when empty, they’re relatively capacious and easy to load, and their lids nicely overlap their bodies for security in the rain. Having to fuss with buckles is a pain, so behind each single standard buckle per side Honda hides a handy quick-release buckle that latches with a click and releases with a squeeze; these bags cannot be locked.
The backrest is relatively upright and presents the passenger with a fairly secure mount. Of course more wind will reach the passenger than the rider, and the passenger will also feel some engine throbbing through the backrest.

Gauges on the tank result in a clean, basic package.

Gauges on the tank result in a clean, basic package.

With an MSRP of $10,999 in black, or $11,099 in silver or red, you’ll pay a $1,400 premium for the Tourer over the basic R-model. Yeah, it sounded a bit high to me, too, so I priced the Honda accessory items individually: Deluxe Chrome Backrest ($253.95), its mounting bracket ($149.95), 24-Liter Leather Saddlebags/plain ($589.95), their mounting brackets ($158.95) and the Custom Windscreen ($519.95). These items total $1,672.75, so buying the package saves you a bit over buying them separately…and you won’t have to install them, or pay to have them installed. Another advantage of buying a turnkey touring model is that should your accessorized bike be stolen or totaled in a crash (heaven forbid), you may not get full value for it from the insurance company unless you can produce the receipts. Third, if you buy it as a complete model you can finance the entire package. Fourth, the factory installed accessories are fully covered by the same warranty as the bike. Finally, when you go to sell your bike, the various pricing guidebooks will recognize this specific model and price it accordingly, which would not be the case if you’d bought a base model and accessorized it.

Overall the Tourer is nicely styled with a retro look, delivers good torquey performance and we found it a comfortable ride. Through the suspension the rider feels connected with the road, and the mild throbbing of the engine is soothing rather than bothersome. Its voluminous fenders, big handlebar and that old-fashioned dished seat deliver classic style with real comfort. Honda’s VTX1300T offers a visceral rider experience with enough protection from the elements to make certain you continue to enjoy the ride.

If you’re interested in the 2008 Honda VTX1300T, you might also be interested in Rider‘s Middleweight Rumble featuring the 2008 Honda VTX1300T plus the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT, Suzuki Boulevard C50T and Star V Star 1100 Silverado.

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