What does one do with a brand new 2004 Honda ST1300? Well, for starters, the motor needs to be broken in, the tires need scrubbing and the rider and the bike need to get acquainted. So you hope for a dry day, an iffy thing in mid-October in Puget Sound, and we’ve already figured that the last good weekend of the year has occurred before the cold, dark and wet weather sets in. But when Mother Nature blesses us with such a gift on a Friday, you call some riding buddies, play hooky from work and then head for Windy Ridge in the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The road up to Windy Ridge is exciting enough but lately, the volcano has been more active than usual. Our favorite ride in the State will soon be closed until late Spring due to weather, or an eruption, or both.
So after meeting for breakfast at the Hob Nob in Tacoma, Joe, Stew and I head out to Randle, Washington. Along the way, we ride through dense fog enabling me to verify that the ST’s fairing provides excellent weather protection. In comparison, the fairing on the GL1800 I just traded in was huge and my ST1100’s fairing was pretty sizable as well. I’m amazed at how minimal it is on the ST1300 and yet how well it works. I wonder if Honda spent a fair amount of time in the wind tunnel. With the windshield down, the bike sure seems to cut through the wind instead of pushing through it like the big Wing did.
I quickly learn that I need to wear ear plugs unless the ST’s electric windshield is all the way up. I had gotten out of the habit from riding behind that massive fairing on the Goldwing. This will prove to be a royal pain in the ass on this ride as I consistently don’t remember to put the earplugs in after each break until after everyone has donned their gear and fired up their bikes. After awhile, Joe starts keeping an eye on me and whistles loudly while pointing to his ears as I grab my helmet to make sure I’ve put them in. (Thanks, Joe!) I find myself riding along with the windshield all the way down. It feels great to be back in the wind again like on the VFRs I’ve owned. The only drawback is that my helmet’s faceplate is getting plastered with bug guts, something I’ve not had to deal with for quite some time. Reminds me of crossing Montana on our way to Little Bighorn on my ’97 VFR750 with my faceplate literally covered in bug guts and having to crane my head to peer out the last remaining clear spot until we got to the next gas station.
We enter the LaGrande curves with little or no traffic but the road is wet and I’m still scrubbing new tires so I take it pretty easy. We emerge onto dry roads and we stop for coffee in Elbe. I notice that my butt doesn’t hurt at all and I’m surprised because that’s a first. I’ve had to buy aftermarket saddles for every Honda I’ve owned because the wienie stock seats are way too soft and I’d be in pain after 30 minutes. So not only is this saddle firm enough, it’s adjustable. But let’s remember that this is no innovation on Honda’s part as they’re just catching up with BMW’s RT model. Nevertheless, I’m grateful. When brother Paul had an R1100RT and I had an ST1100, we traded back and forth to compare the two bikes. We finally decided that putting the superb Honda V4 in the BMW RT would result in the world’s most perfect sport tourer. Well, Honda has finally combined the features of those two excellent bikes into the new ST except they dramatically improved the V4 before installing it. Very sweet!
Stew and I trade bikes after coffee and we south ride to Morton. Ahhh, the VFR! I’ve owned 2 out of the last 3 VFR models and I’ve ridden all 3. In my humble opinion, this ’98 – ’01 model is the best of the lot; that gear cam whine, the growl of that superb V4 motor, the easy ergonomics, and the top notch handling. I bring up the rear of the threesome and I’m busy crouching down, getting reacquainted. I swoop around a bit in my lane and then I want to play with that engine so I blast past Stew and Joe. Wow! That felt good! I slow down, wave the guys to pass me and then settle down to 7,000 – 8,000 RPMs. I love keeping this motor on the boil. We reach Morton and pull over to swap bikes. I’m grinning as I always do after riding Stew’s VFR. Stew says that was lots of fun and after playing with that 1,300 cc V4, he wonders out loud why Honda doesn’t drop the VTEC gimmick of the ’02 model and just bore out the motor for the next VFR. Amen, brother!
We reach Randle and head south on Forest Road 25. That road is becoming increasingly hazardous due to a lack of maintenance and we slow way down to compensate. Since our Federal government is busy giving billions of taxpayer dollars to the military industrial complex and other assorted very rich people while giving little or none to the National Forest and Park Services, I expect the road to get a lot worse before it gets better. (Sorry. I’ll get off my soapbox.) We head up Forest Road 99 to Windy Ridge where it is blocked off at the 10 mile mark to keep the public back 5 or 6 miles from the active volcano. The fog completely obscures our view of Mt. St. Helens and if you didn’t know better, you’d have no idea that an active volcano was just beyond the ridge. I take a photo of the valley between us and the volcano. It is one of the areas where the blown down timber was removed after the 1980 eruption and new trees were planted.
A fellow rider pulls into the parking lot on an Yamaha FZ-1. The first thing he says upon removing his helmet was, “Are you guys playing hooky, too?”. We discuss tires while inspecting my new Bridgestones and the consensus is that I’ve thoroughly scrubbed them in all the way to the edge along with scraping the right foot peg. He then reminds us of the Burger Buggy at the Eagle Cliff store in the midst of the forest between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. Lunch? Great idea! On the chance that they’ll be open for business on a Friday afternoon, we head back down FR-99. I take the lead and now that the tires are scrubbed, I start practicing my Pridmore techniques on the linked 20 mph curves. The stock seat is just right for sliding a butt cheek off to get into a very proper body steering position. It works so well that I wonder if I’ll need to get a set of knee pucks for track days??. I kid you not. With the motor in 2nd gear and with smooth throttle management, the engine and suspension set up perfectly for each turn. I ride through well planted and feeling really confident. The handling is superb! It sure seems to me that Honda took a VFR or a Blackbird and modified it to make the new ST vs. tinkering with the old ST. We reach FR-25 and head South to the Burger Buggy. After some mighty fine riding through the Cascade foothills on twisty roads covered with dry fallen leaves that swirl up beautifully as we ride through, we arrive at Northwoods to find the Burger Buggy open. We feast on man sized burgers, read articles from UK bike mags that I brought with and then head north again back to Randle.
We ride through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, over rivers, around hills and along cliffs. The constant twists and turns in the road are rated 15 – 30 mph and give me plenty of opportunity to explore the design of my new ride. I’m really starting to get my technique dialed in and the more I do, the more the bike and I become one. After a particularly awesome piece of road consisting of one linked turn after the next, we pull over for a break. I pull my helmet off, take a few steps back from my ST and just stand there staring at it. Stew and Joe ask me what’s up and I say in reverent tones, “My God! This bike is amazing! It’s blowing my mind! It’s absolutely brilliant.” They grin with that look of blissful comprehension. I wonder how can a bike this heavy in the parking lot feel so light on the road? The 700 + pounds utterly vanish when the throttle is turned. Those Honda engineers are something else.
We continue North and along the way, we realize that the fog has burned off. Mt. St. Helens is now visible. We pull over at the Clearwater vista and take photos. A plume of steam is rising from the crater but nothing dramatic. From that same vantage point, we get a great view of the Clearwater valley. It has been healing from the 1980’s eruption that had an energy release equal to that of a 24 megaton nuclear weapon.
We reach Randle in the late afternoon. It’s been such a perfect day that we’re still craving more riding. We could ride to the East of Mt. Rainier or stay West of it and cruise through the countryside. But it’s cooling off quick, it will be getting dark soon and we realize that we’re getting tired. Stew mentions something about smelling the barn but not until he invokes the magic words of “pizza and beer” do I pull the plug on wandering home. That’s it. It’s beeline time and off we go.
I reach home in the dark and I’ve ridden 300 miles. The ST’s motor is broken in according to factory guidelines. One more ride like that and I’ll be heading in for the 1st oil change. My mind is still reeling. Not only am I blown away by the engineering and performance of this bike, I feel like it was designed just for me. Honda has really gotten it right. I roll the bike into the shed as I realize how exhausted I am and yet I’m glowing with satisfaction. All this from just one ride. Now I’m really intrigued. Are there any more track days this year??? Being a big Harry Potter fan, I’ve nicknamed her after his first high performance broomstick, the Nimbus 2000.
I awake the next morning a bit stiff but the aches and pains quickly fade away as I get moving and have some coffee. It is dark, cold and raining hard outside. Wow! Did we get it right, or what? What a gift this day has been; a brilliant bike, a day off work, cool Fall weather, top notch roads, beautiful scenery and the brotherhood I share with my riding buddies. Excuse me, I’m off to go light candles for the Motorcycle Goddess and Mother Nature. — Scott Bruce Duncan */:-)
- HP: (rear wheel, dyno tested by Motorcycle Daily)
- 111.7hp at 7750 RPM, stock
- 117.74hp at 7500 RPM, K & N air filter
- Torque: 85.3 foot pounds (dyno tested by Motorcyclist)
- Wet weight: 723 lbs.
- Hondaline Heated Grips
- Powerlet Dual Rear Power Outlets
- Powerlet Right Front Panel Power Outlet
- Givi trunk plate
- Custom seat by Rich’s Custom Seats of Seattle
- K & N filter
- Cee Bailey’s sport windshield (same width, 2″ shorter than stock, with vent)
- Cee Bailey’s headlight guards
- RAM GPS mount
- Hondaline Accessory Power Outlet
(click a photo to launch slideshow)