2014 Honda CTX | First Ride

By Marc Cook, Photography by Kevin Wing

Ergonomically, the CTXs are a mixed bag. The distance from the saddle to the pegs is generous, and the reach to the bar is about right—you don’t have to rise out of the seat to stretch at full lock, nor do the handgrips describe odd angles. But it’s a somewhat traditional cruiser layout, which puts a premium on seat quality and makes you a human sail, at least on the N model. The press ride was just 80 miles, broken up with photo stops and a scrumptious meal, so it’s hard to say if the saddle is all-day comfortable. I can say that the aerodynamics of the touring-biased CTX are very, very good. On a brief freeway stint, I felt no helmet buffeting and discovered that the laid-back riding position worked well in that generous still-air pocket. And, of course, the NC-based engine is so smooth and relaxed at highway speeds that it might as well be electric.

New and returning riders will feel like heroes at the first twisty road they encounter. Although Honda said that there’s “ample” cornering clearance, the pegs drag quite early. And that’s probably because the chassis is fine, with light(ish), predictable steering. While you’re still feeling quite good about the CTX’s cornering manners...sparks. This issue is probably not a deal-killer for the intended audience, but the chassis is good enough to take things further with a bit more daylight beneath the pegs.

The non-adjustable suspension has more travel than your typical cruiser's. At 4.2 in. up front and 4.3 in. at the back, the CTX’s suspension has enough travel to manage bumps large and small. Like the NC, the CTX is softly sprung but adequately damped, so while the chassis pitches moderately during aggressive riding, it doesn’t ever get out of hand. I don’t think I ever came out of the seat, despite our riding event including a few stretches of heaved-up pavement. Can't say that about the last Sportster I rode.

Bottom line on the CTX twins, then: Comfortable, docile, smooth, fuel efficient, and exactly right for Honda’s stated mission of encouraging new riders to join our ranks. But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room, and that’s the ill-fated DN-01. That scooter/speedster/sci-fi machine was, to be blunt, a dismal failure. Honda’s brass acknowledged this. “Remember that it was introduced in 2009, at one of the worst economic times,” said Honda’s Bill Savino at the press event. That, and the fact that the DN-01 cost $14,599, probably doomed it from the start. Its radical, what-the-heck-is-it? styling didn’t help.

What’s past may not be prologue largely because the CTX twins are much more conventional and a dramatically better value than the DN-01. Honda’s also gambling that riders coming into the sport in 2013 will see the CTXs for what they are—easy-to-ride, high-value machines.

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If Honda were to take this platform, and turn it into a decent lightweight sport-tourer, THEN they would have something.  The basics are there:  Fuel efficient engine, the "not a tank" storage area from the 700X, and a frame that carries the cycle's weight low.

What needs to change:  
The seating position (needs to be better than this cruiser, feet-forward garbage)
A better-looking full fairing
A windscreen that is adjustable (even manual is fine) and of decent size
Return of the "not a tank" storage area from the 700X
Larger hard bags (the pizza boxes from the 700X are just not enough)
LEFT HAND CONTROLS need to return to standard.  On many new Hondas, the turn signal and horn switches are reversed - UNBELIEVABLY WRONG and poor engineering, baffling.
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