ANYONE who favors flash over substance isn't likely to have a Honda VTX1300T in the garage. Honda's new middle- weight tourer is a laid-back Dairy Queen of a bike -- a simple, straightforward cruiser for riders who like their milk whole and their bacon thick.
It's a Midwesterner's motorcycle, which is why so many of the 25,000 VTX1300s Honda sells each year are in corn country, where the talk is straight, the roads are long and tolerance for any sort of showboating is shorter than your average 4-H member.
The VTX1300T is the latest addition to Honda's alphabet soup of VTX cruisers. Japan's biggest motorcycle manufacturer launched its VTX line for the 2002 model year, with a burly 1,800-cc V-twin that was so successful there have been five versions. Its VTX1300, launched for 2003, has followed a similar trajectory. Already, there have been C, R and S versions of its middleweight shaft-drive cruiser, all of which are style variations on the same theme. With its VTX1300T, Honda adds a tourer to the mix.
The VTX1300T is a real meat-and-potatoes sort of bike, but it lacks the gravy. The 52-degree V-twin is liquid cooled, but it isn't fuel injected. And the display is so bare-bones that it's practically down to the marrow -- giving just speed and distance, along with idiot lights for the turn signals, engine temperature, oil and neutral.
Of the VTX1300s, the T is most similar to the R in terms of styling, with its valanced fenders, floorboards, fat 140-mm front tire and chromed internal organs. It's just geared up with a windscreen, saddlebags and sissy bar -- a trio of accessories that were already the most popular VTX1300 add-ons. The T just makes it official. The three pieces are stock for an extra $1,400.
To see if the additions were worth the money, I loaded up the buckled, 24-liter cowhide bags and headed north for an up-the-coast overnighter, which was unremarkable except for the wind. I was attempting to beat the trio of storms headed for Los Angeles and ran into gusts so gnarly that they had won themselves a red-flag warning.
The trees on my route were shimmying, but the 748-pound VTX1300T refused to be pushed around. It didn't just stand its ground -- it charged forward, its ample windscreen battling the gale forces, like a bull resisting a branding.
The VTX1300T isn't the most torquey V-twin I've ever tested, but it had ample oomph and a nice linear powerband that had plenty of giddyap even at higher revs. I spent most of my time in fourth gear, which kept me cruising in the left lane. I never felt the need to kick the rock 'n' roll shifter into fifth, but it was nice to know it was there had I felt inspired to tempt the CHP.
Most of my saddle time was straight and on the 101, but I did take a 35-mile detour through the Los Padres National Forest to see how it handled the sweeping turns of California 154, which was as well as could be expected. The VTX1300T has a low 27.4-inch seat but a long, 65.7-inch wheelbase, so I wouldn't recommend it for twisties that were a whole lot tighter.
Slowing down, I wished there was a little more braking power when I put the squeeze on the single, 336-mm front disc with the twin-piston caliper because this bike is big and it isn't exactly slow. The brakes were fine for slowing under normal circumstances, but emergency braking could be an issue.
Otherwise, the VTX1300T handled admirably -- if understatedly.
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2008 Honda VTX1300T
Base price: $10,999
Powertrain: SOHC, liquid-cooled, carbureted, 52-degree V-twin, three valves per cylinder, shaft drive, five-speed
Displacement: 1,312 cc
Bore by stroke: 89.5 mm x 104.3 mm
Seat height: 27.4 inches
Curb weight: 748 pounds