Honda CrossTourer 1200 DCT
On a grey and chilly November day I put on my gear and climb aboard the (not hugely) trusty Triumph Sprint and head south.
Destination Slough and Honda UK HQ to collect the DCT variant of their V4 1200 Crosstourer.
After a brief intro to the controls of this technological two-wheeler I am left to it. First job is to get the bike out of its parking space in the immaculate garage with its polished floor. I can tell you moving this tall heavy bike around on foot is pretty hairy, and I nearly dropped it before getting the chance to swing a leg over.
Blushes spared, and once moving everything just felt right, not only was the bike very well behaved at low speeds but I felt like I had been riding the bike for years, not minutes.
The strong yet benign engine is tuned more like a car than a bike – Plenty of low and mid-range power and when cruising the auto box will change gear at 2000rpm like a diesel. Intelligent mapping keeps things exquisitely smooth however and I soon learnt to trust the gear selections at all times except when making quick overtakes.
Even this was a simple procedure, a flick of the thumb to select higher or lower gears, which the bike would hold for a few seconds before taking over and putting you in the right gear once more.
Auto changes were accomplished with wonderfully smooth rapidity too. The dual clutch arrangement meant the next gear was always ready for upshifts and only a minimal delay for downshifts. Hard acceleration from a standing start may not be totally sensible, but it never got boring either. Having said that, redlining this motor is not as much fun as on a straight four engine; the silky V4 is better at surging than screaming.
Motorcyclists probably have more troglodydtic tendencies than their four wheeled bretheren; we tend to distrust progress, but as a biker of too many years I can comfortably say there is no drawback to using this DCT auto system. In fact I soon forgot about it altogether apart from the first few seconds of each ride when I would feel for a clutch that wasn’t there.
The dominant character trait of this machine is smoothness – from the V4 engine, the gear changes, suspension, cornering and noise it is simply a limousine of a bike. Wind and weather protection is very good indeed despite the fairing not being the size of a spinnaker, and my bluetooth helmet fed audible music to my brain up to 90mph (not on the road of course), usually I lose any idea what song is playing above 40mph.
The fly-by-wire throttle action is actually too smooth and soft for absolute precision and can give you a bit of a wobble exiting bumpy corners but this is a very minor issue and one to which I quickly adapted by holding the bar end as well as the throttle grip. Stronger springs would be nice here however.
Smooth riding is most rewarding too, flowing from corner to corner gives a sense of swanlike progress whereas a squirt and brake approach just felt clumsy and unnecessary – think more motorcycle cop than motorcycle racer. The relatively skinny tyres still grip nicely and move predictably.
The high wide bars and high weight give good poise and stability when leant over, it does not take great heroics to touch the pegs down but even at these lean-angles everything is still buttery smooth. The brakes are strong and progressive with a decent level of feedback from the front end. If you do overdo it a little however the ABS and traction control do come in useful and again are quite gentle on the user.
Easy riding will reward you further with near 57 mpg while still passing traffic at a good rate, getting a serious move on pumps this right up to 36mpg but normal commuting gives a good 50mpg and shaves 20 minutes of a typical 1 hour car-commute. So using this bike instead of your car gives you almost four hours more free time every week!
This is not a cheap bike, it is also quite large and powerful yet I do believe it would make a good first bike after your test even at 1200cc as long as you are of at least average height and build. Top speed is electronically limited to 130mph, but the way the bike encourages smooth and unflustered riding should give those at-risk new large bike riders a better chance of staying rubber-side-down than most big bikes I’ve ridden.
There was very little about this bike to annoy me, I have mentioned the too light throttle action, and the only other niggle that comes to mind is the position of the indicator switch – this is set quite low on the left hand cluster, and the horn button is where you would expect the indicator to be. So yes, a few times I signalled my intent audibly instead of visibly, but I would have put them the other way round and prioritise the instrument you are likely to use the most. Unless they are looking for big sales in Delhi perhaps?
On board entertainment is about as good as it gets on two wheels, the display shows a lot more information than most tourers including external temperature, tank level, fuel economy and gear position all on a very easy to read panel. The bespoke Honda luggage for this bike is capacious, light and strong, very smart in a Krauser style offering single key operation and very simple to fit or remove.
Regarding economy, I put about 500 miles on the bike and averaged a tank range of 220 mixed miles for 21 litres giving 48 mpg for the whole week. This included commutes of 28 miles, a couple of 100 mile runs and a bit of general silliness. This is a better return than I would have expected and I think a large part of it is down to the bike selecting a higher gear than my foot would have done. And yes, the bike was right about that too.
At 285 kilo this bike is no featherweight sports machine but the sensation of weight when moving is negligible, especially with a low fuel level which lowers the centre of gravity.
The £1000 cheaper Triumph Tiger Explorer 1215 is more powerful – 135hp against 127hp for the Honda – but it is less sophisticated and refined.
The bulk of Crosstourer sales though will be won against the BMW GS 1200 which costs the same, has pretty much the same performance but is still almost 40Kg lighter.
While the BMW comes with loads of optional extras to give you the full Ewan McGregor experience the Honda arrives out of the box already well equipped, it is also a more effortless ride and very easy to live with. It is a tough call where I would spend my money, but if the bike is to be used for commutes as well as tours the Honda has to win it.
words – Mark Wolens
pics and action – Mark Wolens, Lee Woodlands & Honda
|126Nm @ 6,500rpm