A Look Back: 1991-2002 Honda ST1100

1997 Honda ST1100
The auxiliary gas tank, removable trunk, custom saddle and tall windscreen on this 1997 Honda ST1100 project bike from the February 2004 issue make 400-mile days fly by.

When Honda introduced the V45 Sabre in 1982, everyone thought the V-4 revolution was at hand. Everyone at Honda, that is. With a few exceptions nobody else jumped on that bandwagon, though Honda continued cranking out sportbikes and cruisers with V4 engines. In 1991, maybe looking for another way to demonstrate its faith in the layout, Honda rotated the engine 90 degrees, put it in an all-new sport-touring chassis with all-enveloping bodywork and a huge underseat gas tank, and the ST1100 was born.

Though big and heavy—61.2 inches between the axles, and depending on the model anywhere from 679 to 737 pounds wet—the ST1100 worked well enough on smooth back roads to keep riders entertained. The 1,085cc “flying” four had the same kind of low-end grunt as its cousins, cranking out a claimed 79 lb-ft of torque and about 100 horsepower. A quartet of carbs nestled between the cylinder banks provided glitch-free fueling, and the 7.4-gallon gas tank kept them fed for up to 300 miles between stops.

As was standard on factory sport tourers of the day, a pair of locking hard cases blended seamlessly into the flanks of the bike, and could be removed and replaced with extra body panels. The OE windscreen kicked up a lot of turbulence, and was often shelved in favor of an aftermarket unit that produced less buffeting. For many riders the stock seat wasn’t up to the range provided by the big tank, and the low handlebar was often replaced with something higher; the conventional tubular-bar design made that an easy swap.

Rider-cover-July-1990
The new Honda ST1100 graced the cover of our July 1990 issue.

About the only other feature that came in for criticism was the 28-amp alternator on the pre-1996 models. It wasn’t up to powering all the auxiliary lights, heated clothing and other gadgets riders added, and some failed outright. In ’96 a 40-amp unit replaced the old one. It can be retrofitted to older bikes, but it’s not a simple job, to some extent resulting in the higher prices you’ll find for later ST1100s.

ABS and traction control were options, and in 1996 the ABS models also came with linked brakes. The twin front discs worked fine under all but the most extreme use, where they tended to overheat and fade; a brake pad upgrade and fresh fluid generally solved the problem. The driveshaft produced some hop in response to ham-handed throttle use but otherwise performed without complaint.

Many used ST1100s show fairly high mileage—few ended up as garage queens—but the model’s reliability is legendary. Valves, once adjusted, stay that way for a very long time, and with regular oil changes most bikes will glide past the 100,000-mile mark with no fuss at all. One thing you don’t want to skip is timing-belt replacement, set by Honda at 90,000-mile intervals; push your luck there and you risk bent valves.

On used ST1100s check the rear brake caliper for corrosion caused by water thrown up in the rain, and look under the bike for rusting exhaust components. If the bike has been down it’ll be obvious—there’s hardly a square inch of it that isn’t covered with plastic—and inspect the covers on the tipover bars for evidence of, well, tipovers. The hard cases that came stock on the bike should be included in the deal, too.

Expect to pay somewhere between $2,400 and $3,500 for a good used ST1100. Post-’96 models are typically at the higher end of the price scale, as are those with ABS and traction control, which came as a package. Most examples you find will have at least a few accessories like a taller screen, a custom seat or a passenger backrest; these add to the appeal of a bike but not necessarily to its price unless they’re accessories you’d add anyway.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I owned a couple of ST1100s. They were fabulous bikes. Great handling despite their weight and comfortable for both pilot and passenger.

    Interestingly, Honda of Germany had a great amount of influence on their original design and it shows. They seemed like they were meant as the ultimate autobahn blasters, capable of hour after hour cruising at 100mph plus speeds. The underseat gas tank dropped the center of gravity and helped give it a very planted feel at such high speeds.

    Too bad that it’s successor, the ST1300, didn’t live up to the reputation of its predecessor

  2. Had two ST1100’s also, still have a ’96 and agree with all John F said. I liken it to the feel of riding a locomotive, when at speed. Rock solid and it can go more than fast enough to scare me! Great in the twisties, with a potential lean angle that leaves little room on the tires for chicken strips. With a new Russell Day Long saddle, a Canada coast to coast and back again trip was a real pleasure, 5,000 km of that with the missus aboard. The weather protection provided by the fairing really is phenomenal, with a slightly higher non OEM screen, of course.

  3. I’m a 6’4” first owner on a 2000 ST100. I’ve never found a motorcycle that fit me quite so well. I rode a GS 1200 BMW in Europe this summer & expected that would ruin the appeal of my ST. They come from two different technological eras but when it comes right down to it the ST remains intensely satisfying.

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