Honda Crosstourer | First Ride

Big Red’s Big Adventure

By Roland Brown, Photography by Giuseppe Gori

They say: “A perfect travel companion.”

We say: “But only overseas.”

The large-displacement adventure-bike class is booming while most of the market is in decline, and it’s Honda’s turn to throw a dog into the fight. Enter the Honda Crosstourer. Using a variation of the VFR1200F’s 1237cc, shaft-drive V4 engine in an identical frame, it joins Honda’s “Crossover” family as a bigger, more powerful machine that aims to provide the VFR’s comfort and touring ability in a more laid-back and versatile package.

Honda began by detuning the V4 engine, using different cams that give 2mm less valve lift plus longer, narrower intake trumpets and narrower exhaust pipes to boost low-rpm output. The result is a substantial drop in maximum power, but a hefty increase below 6000 rpm. It also features a new ride-by-wire throttle, traction control and the option of an updated Dual Clutch Transmission.

The seat height is a lofty 33.5 inches, and there’s no low option. The Crosstourer’s curb weight of 606 lbs. also means it’s significantly heavier than rivals including BMW’s R1200GS and Triumph’s new Explorer.

Weight wasn’t an issue, though, once we reached the motorway outside our Barcelona launch base. The big, softly tuned V4 pulled effortlessly almost from idle, throbbing forward with an appealing smoothness. There was enough power to put 140 mph on the speedo on a clear section, and to give an instant burst of acceleration when needed. The engine only disappointed me slightly when we upped the pace. The Crosstourer redlines at a lowly 8750 rpm, which meant I occasionally hit the rev-limiter exiting bends. Still, she boogies pretty good for a big girl!

The Crosstourer’s riding position is more upright and relaxed than the VFR’s, but the windscreen is too low even in the higher of its two settings. A taller screen is available as an accessory, but why Honda didn’t fit one as standard is a mystery.

Heading inland on a twisty, narrow road, Honda’s attempts at mass centralization worked. With the help of those wide bars, the Crosstourer was reasonably easy to throw around, despite having more laid-back steering geometry than the VFR. It slowed hard and very safely too, thanks to Honda’s efficient Combined ABS system.

The Crosstourer even showed some promise as a gentle off-roader. My rough ride was limited to a short burst up and down a gravel-covered trail, where the Honda’s grunt and balance impressed. Even its suspension coped better than I’d expected. I don’t doubt that in the right hands, especially with knobby tires, it could handily cover difficult terrain.

While the Crosstourer has some disappointing flaws for a flagship model, it manages to combine rugged good looks with a sophisticated feel and an appealing V4 character. Its belated arrival certainly adds a distinctive and promising new option to motorcycling’s most vibrant category. Shame it isn’t being sold in the States.

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