Review of 2012 Honda ST1300: Night Rider

2012 Honda ST1300

Basem Wasef

How do you get from A to B with the optimum combination of speed and comfort?

Motorcycle manufacturers have offered a variety of solutions over the years, and Honda's answer since 2002 has been the ST1300, a sport touring motorcycle that's become a favorite among an unlikely cross section of riders: law enforcement officials and long distance tourers. This review of the 2012 model of the ST1300 includes information that was current at that time, including 2012 pricing.

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The Goods

Priced at $18,230, the ST1300 occupies the higher end of the sport touring segment. It's powered by a 1,261cc V-Four engine mated to a 5-speed transmission that powers the rear wheel with a shaft drive. A massive 7.7 gallon fuel tank feeds the engine, and combined with Honda's EPA estimate of 35 mpg, produces a theoretical cruising range of around 270 miles.

Standard touring-friendly features include integrated, lockable and removable saddlebags, anti-lock brakes, and an electrically operated windshield. The non-adjustable front suspension offers 4.6 inches of travel, while the rear preload can be set using a dial just behind the engine.

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On the Road

Honda describes the ST1300 as having a combination of "Gold Wing-inspired luxury with CBR-derived performance," but there's a surprising amount of GL-inspired heft here, too: the ST1300 has a staggering curb weight of 730 pounds, and there's no getting around that weight: lift it from a stand and its heft becomes immediately apparent. The slightest grade makes pushing the ST into a parking spot a challenge, so you'll need to plan your low-speed maneuvers accordingly.

Overall ergonomics are pleasing thanks to a big, cushy saddle that distributes your weight evenly, and a relatively upright seating posture that enables the ST to conform to your body—not the other way around. That comfort level helps explain why law enforcement forces speak highly of the ST1300's usability; few motorcycles are as comfortable for all-day riding. The integrated saddlebags operate easily enough, with the ignition key locking and unlocking the hinged outer door, as well as the mechanism which allows the bags to be removed.

On twisty roads, the ST1300 has generous power to charge ahead on the straight sections, but a lack of front end feel makes it less enjoyable to flog around corners. Again, this is a motorcycle that's biased more towards straight line comfort and speed than surgical precision in the corners.

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Why "Night Rider?"

The ST1300 is at its best when it's gobbling up large expanses of pavement. When the bike was tested on a late-night ride, a completely different side of the bike's personality came through: it coasted through the cool air with ease, with just the right amount of wind protection from the cold. Without having to thread through traffic, that vague front-end feeling was no longer bothersome, and the ST1300 came across as a comfortable and confident ride. Thanks to its humungous gas tank, refueling was unnecessary.

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Who Should Buy the Honda ST1300?

While the ST1300's strengths are many, so are its shortcomings, which include unsporty handling, non-adjustable front suspension, a heat-generating powerplant, and a disconcertingly heavy curb weight. The Honda ST1300 isn't necessarily a bad or unlikable bike, but it is at a disadvantage against other bikes in its class. Perhaps most crippling to the ST1300 is its $18,230 MSRP, which is $2,231 pricier than the sportier VFR1200F.

However, long distance riders who want a comfortable bike and don't demand cutting edge electronics, of-the-moment styling, or exceptionally sporty road manners, this may be the perfect bike. No doubt there are tons of Honda enthusiasts (and police officers) who are saying "Bring it on!" 

Key Specifications

  • Price: $18,230
  • Engine: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 1,261cc V-Four
  • Fuel Economy: 7.7 gallons
  • Fuel Efficiency: 35 mpg (EPA estimate)
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual
  • Final Drive: Shaft
  • Brakes: Linked ABS, 3-piston front and rear
  • Suspension: Non-adjustable 45mm cartridge fork, preload-adjustable single-shock rear
  • Rake/Trail: 26.0 degree (Caster Angle) / 98mm (3.9 inches)
  • Storage: Two dash compartments, plus hard rear saddlebags
  • Seat Height: 31.1 inches, plus or minus .6 inches
  • Colors: Black
  • Warranty: Three years, transferable, unlimited mileage