Honda Transalp long-term test verdict | Gareth sums up his thoughts after 4576 miles

I’m sad to say it’s time to wave goodbye to the Honda XL750 Transalp. Safe to say that I’ve had a fabulous year with the middleweight adventurer, and have learned a lot along the way. 

My highlight is a memory of stopping at the middle of the England’s longest green lane – Rudland Rigg – and taking in the scenery, having tackled a few hundred miles to get there. It felt like we were on top of the world, and the Honda Transalp made life so easy along the way.

We did 500 miles in total (with very little motorway) during that long summer jaunt, and pulling onto my drive at 11.30pm, it felt like I could do the whole thing over again the following day, such is the level of comfort on offer. I’ve read some owners say they’d like a softer seat, but from my perspective it was just right. 

Honda XL750 Transalp long-term test bike 500 mile route

The other thing I really liked was the engine, which has a surprising amount of character considering its parallel-twin layout, tuned in this guise for more midrange than the Honda Hornet at the expense of some high-rpm fizz. The riding modes highlighted this well: switch from ‘Rain’ to ‘Sport’ and give it the beans on a sliproad, and you really notice the extra grunt as the front wheel does its best to stay on the floor. 

The standard Dunlop Trailmax tyres on the Honda are incredible and thoroughly deserving of high praise. After riding its closest rival, the Yamaha Ténéré 700, I did begin to notice a few things the Transalp could do better, though. It feels a little top-heavy at lower speeds, and the steering isn’t anywhere near as sharp or engaging the Yam’s, with all else being equal. 

However, it’s clear the Transalp has better tech. The screen is great, with a choice of layouts, an automatic night-running mode and loads of functionality. I was still perfecting my choice of options when the bike went back to Honda, such is the extent of its adaptability. 

Honda XL750 Transalp vs Yamaha Ténéré World Raid

And as we’ve come to expect from the brand, there’s been no hint of any mechanical issues and in the main the bike feels tremendously well screwed together. Sure, some of the switchgear feels a little plasticky but overall the Transalp is a quality product that belies its sub-£10,000 asking price. 

And furthermore, it’s a neat design from an ergonomic perspective, with the switchgear and riding controls all set out in an intuitive fashion. My only bugbear was the hazard light switch, which I kept hitting with my thumb when aiming for the indicator while using some rather bulky heated gloves through winter. A small matter in the great scheme of things.  

Would I buy one? I’m not sure I would, because it’s missing that certain something. What Honda’s talented team of engineers have built into this bike is a seriously high level of all-round ability, but
I think it lacks a bit of character. It’s so good at so many things, but I find it difficult to love, and I certainly don’t steal an extra glance back as I walk away after an epic ride. 

Honda XL750 Transalp long-term test bike in front of viaduct

That’s no reflection on the paintwork either, because I love the Ross White colourway with its retro-inspired graphics. It’s just that the Honda hasn’t won my heart in the way some others have. Subjective, sure, but there we go. 

Gareth’s back riding, and has a new interest in inner tubes…

Published on 05.03.2024

Gareth Evans stands by the Honda Transalp long-term test bike

I’ve recently started riding the Honda Transalp adventure bike again after an op on my right arm. Specifically, I had some tendons rebuilt in my elbow, and they’re precisely the ones used to operate a bike’s throttle. 

Why is this relevant? Well, because in order to get back into the swing, I needed to start slowly on a bike that’s easy to ride. Step forward the Honda Transalp, which – when in Normal mode at least – is so easy to ride that I fell right back in love with biking within moments.

That’s no mean feat in the middle of winter, but alas my first ride was on a Saturday in January and the mercury was just above freezing. 

Honda Transalp long-term test bike front wheel

Truth be told, I wasn’t able to go particularly fast. It immediately became apparent that my arm would tire quickly when using a wide range of the throttle movement available. This naturally forced me to cut back and slow down. Might as well work on my smoothness, then… 

Fortunately, the Transalp excels in this situation. It’s a very laid-back ride, with a comfortable seat, slow-ish steering, an assured gearchange and a nicely mapped throttle. I soon got into a rhythm through corners and found myself grinning from ear to ear. It was a bit like reuniting with an old friend.

However, there is another point to make this month and it’s something reader Guy Morgan wrote in about, having seen my test round-up video on YouTube. It’s about the bike’s tyres: since the wheels are spoked, and therefore more flexible but stronger than cast wheels they use inner tubes (because they’re centre-laced, rather than rim-laced, which can run tubeless). 

Honda Transalp long-term test bike action riding shot

Guy reckons it’s a sub-optimal approach: “I have been going off to the mountains of Europe for the best part of the last 20 years, usually with a couple of mates, and I can’t remember not having to repair a puncture… sometimes several,” he says.

“How confident would you be having a puncture half-way up the Col de L’Iseran with nowhere safe to stop? Many new bikes can have spokes on the outer rim, and this allows tubeless. KTM have a simple idea of a big rubber band on the inside of the wheel causing an air seal over the spoke ends, so again allowing no tubes.” 

This made me think. Should adventure bikes at this pricepoint, which don’t spend a lot of time actually off-roading, ‘make do’ with tubed tyres for cost reasons? I’m aware they can be repaired at the side of the road, but tubeless are less likely to get a puncture in the first place. Plus, I’d need to buy new wheels to move to the far more ubiquitous tubeless variety.

Honda Transalp long-term test bike right side in a car park

I’d be keen to hear what you think, and what experiences other riders have had.

Update six: Honda Transalp vs Yamaha Ténéré 700 – is the Yam a match for the MCN fleet XL750?

Published 08.01.24

Honda XL750 Transalp vs Yamaha Ténéré World Raid

The Honda Transalp XL750 adventure bike has been a brilliant bike to spend time on, but ever since our road tester Carl Stevens noted: “The Honda is best… but I’d take the Yamaha” in his Transalp/Ténéré/V-Strom off-road test back in August, I’d been keen to ride it against its closest foe, the Yamaha Ténéré 700 to see what all the fuss was about. 

That opportunity rather fortuitously arrived, when the Honda Transalp was called into further group-testing duties and a Yamaha was available as a replacement. This was my first chance to ride the Yamaha Ténéré, so I thought I’d do my own head-to-head and see which one came out on top. 


For me, the Transalp wins in this aspect. The Honda Hornet-derived 755cc motor is 19bhp more powerful than the CP2 in the Ténéré 700, with 5lb.ft more twist, but only 3kg heavier, and you really notice this gap on the road. Furthermore, the Honda engine is more characterful, sounding more interesting while making its power. 

Honda XL750 Transalp cornering shot on the road

It’s also more responsive on the throttle, but only in Sport mode, which brings me to another Transalp advantage – its riding modes are hugely different from one another, offering loads of flexibility for differing demands. The Ténéré doesn’t even have traction control, let alone modes. 

Plus, while this isn’t going to make a massive difference, the Transalp’s tank is 0.9 litres larger than the Yamaha’s, for a slightly longer range. 

  • Solid win for the Honda: 1-0

Handling and comfort

Here is where the Yamaha comes out swinging. Within moments of starting my ride, the Ténéré felt better than the Transalp in corners. It turns in more confidently, leans more predictably and steers with more feedback. 

Honda XL750 Transalp front action shot

I was left feeling that the Transalp was slightly top-heavy and cumbersome in comparison. Its only redeeming feature in this regard is its minute turning circle, which really does help when you are wheeling it around the garage. Frankly this doesn’t make up for the handling differences, though.

I didn’t notice much of a difference in comfort between the two bikes; neither is uncomfortable and neither is perfect either, with nicely shaped seats becoming hard after longer periods in the saddle.

  • The score is now 1-1 

Tech and build quality 

The Honda also has a very fetching screen arrangement and lovely switchgear which combine to make the Ténéré feel a little cheap, albeit still easy to use. 

Yamaha Ténéré World Raid dash

But that’s not all. The Transalp’s display has myriad functions to make life easier, including an automatic dark ‘night mode’, multiple views and an easily adjustable menu so you can display the information that matters to you. 

The Yamaha, on the other hand, has none of these things. Sure it’s a little older, having been released in 2019, but that doesn’t really account for the differences on show here. 

  • It’s 2-1 to the Honda 

What about value?

For me, this is the most eye-opening factor. As I write this, the Transalp costs £9699 to buy outright. The Ténéré is £10,110. 

Yamaha Ténéré World Raid switchgear

It’s a similar story in PCP land. If we assume a £4k deposit, 4k miles per year and a 36-month term, not only is the Honda £113.75 a month compared with the Ténéré’s £125.36 a month, but the optional final payments at the end are £5331.14 and £5842.50 respectively, so the Yamaha is considerably more expensive. This isn’t helped by the APR, which is 8.9% from Honda and 2% higher from Yamaha. 

  • It’s 3-1 to the Transalp

It’s a win for the Honda (on the road anyway)

My preference is quite clearly the Transalp, but there’s a big caveat: I’m only dealing with road riding here. With the Ténéré’s poise and handling capabilities, it’s likely it’ll be the better off-roader, particularly for riders who are more skilled than me.  

Update five: A sound investment?

Published 08.11.23

Honda Transalp right side parked in a field

One thing I’ve noticed about the XL750 Transalp is that it’s a hugely capable motorcycle, but if anything, it’s lacking a little fizz. Bikes are meant to be exciting, and this one’s so good at so many things that it leaves me a trifle unsatisfied. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the solution to this might be a new exhaust. The parallel- twin has a 270-degree firing order, which means it sounds more interesting than some rivals, but it could still do with some livening up. I’d prefer a bit more exhaust volume to accompany the induction roar. 

Honda offer an SC-Project end can for the Hornet (which shares its engine with the Transalp), but there’s currently no word on a system specifically for the Transalp through the manufacturer route. However, SC do list two products on their own website: a Rally Raid muffler and an X-Plorer II muffler.

Transalp dirty

Both of these retain the bike’s Euro5 emissions rating and cost just over £500, which I don’t think sounds too bad at all, if you’ll forgive the pun. Not only do these promise a modest power increase but also a weight saving of a kilo or two, which is always worth having. This is now on the wishlist. 

Anyway, following my 500-mile day including a spot of green-laning last month, the bike was in dire need of a clean. It’s not an easy bike to wash properly, let me tell you. There are nooks and crannies all over the place that are very easy to miss, and the spoked wheels are hard work, too. 

But the thing that really made me swear this month was the headlight adjustment. I’ve been made aware that mine was too high, and it was blinding people in front of me at night, so it needed sorting. 

Transalp - Dust

A spot of research later and I learned there are two 8mm adjustment bolts behind the headlight – one easily accessible to tweak left and right, and a far fiddlier one for height.

This bolt is very difficult to get a spanner on, hidden right up underneath the screen, and my knuckles took a beating trying to get the light into a better position. I think I managed it in the end, though… 

I was quite surprised that a fairly routine task like this was such a challenge on a Honda. Oh, and the list price has risen £200 in the past month, too. How long until the Transalp is a £10k bike? 

Update four: Doorstep adventuring

Published 04.10.23

Honda XL750 Transalp long-term test bike in front of viaduct

I’ve got a confession to make. All year I’ve been planning to take the XL750 on a European road trip, to write what felt like a no-brainer of a story – doing some Alpine passes on the Transalp. However, events conspired against me, and I simply ran out of time to get this trip done during the summer months. 

But no matter, because on a sunny September day, I proved that you don’t need to travel for days and thousands of miles to enjoy some stunning scenery. We’ve got some incredible roads, figuratively speaking, on our doorsteps. 

A plan was hatched for a trio of mates (myself, Editor Richard Newland on his Mulitstrada V4 Rally and Group Art Director Steve Herbert-Mattick on his Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+) to spend a day in the saddle to take in some of the highlights of the north of England. 

Honda XL750 Transalp long-term test bike 500 mile route

Rich planned our route, which began when we met in Stamford, Lincolnshire at 7.30am. I’d loaded the Transalp’s fairly fiddly panniers with some snacks and a spare set of gloves, just in case it rained. We brimmed our fuel tanks, reset our trip computers and headed off north through a misty
Corby Glen. 

Engage… Rain mode? 

The previous day had seen biblical rain and the roads were still sodden, the late summer sun taking its time to evaporate the water, so I started the trip in the Transalp’s Rain mode. It’s so laid back, and as we headed through Lincoln and over the Humber Bridge we’d been caught behind a bit of traffic, and the trip computer said I’d done 69mpg over the 100-or-so miles we’d been travelling. 

Our first coffee stop was at Flamborough Head – a peninsula with beautiful beaches and a lovely lighthouse. I was instantly glad of my spare gloves as the lining came out of the ones I’d started with. 

Honda XL750 Transalp long-term test bike with Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally and Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+

It was around 10am by now, and the roads were dry, meaning switching back to default User mode for the ride north to the outskirts of Scarborough and then west into the North York Moors. 

Rudland Rigg – England’s longest green lane 

It was here we tackled Rudland Rigg. This was my first chance to take the Transalp off-road, and what a way to start! The fantastic vistas on offer as you traverse the shale and mud path between Kirkbymoorside and Battersby need to be seen to be believed. 

The medieval route didn’t challenge the Honda too much – snaking its way at around 20mph predictably and solidly through the loose surfaces – until we got to The Steps, right at the end of the route, where I was hugely thankful for all the engine braking in Gravel mode as we navigated the steep descent in first gear, and then back onto tarmacked road again. 

Honda XL750 Transalp long-term test bike on greenlane

Picking up speed

From there we headed through Richmond and into the Yorkshire Dales following the route of the River Swale, picking up speed and generally enjoying the best the area had to offer. 

We joined the breathtaking Buttertubs Pass – quite simply one of the finest roads in the whole of the United Kingdom – and then continued down to Hawes for a tank top-up before going south again towards the beautiful Ribblehead Viaduct. 

By this time the sun was getting low, the gorgeous September Golden Hour was approaching and I was enjoying every single second, every twist of the throttle, every lean into every bend.

Honda XL750 long-term test bike parked in lay-by with scenic view

As darkness descended we went south past Manchester into the Peak District, before making a beeline for home. I tucked the Transalp away in my garage 502.4 miles later, at 11pm, absolutely shattered and absolutely buzzing. 

What an adventure! And what an adventure bike…Who needs to venture all the way to the Alps, eh? 

Update three: Carrying concerns

Published 25.09.23

Honda XL750 Transalp with luggage fitted on the road

When I bumped into Editor and consummate biking expert Richard Newland in the office the other day, he asked if I kept the three-piece luggage on my Honda Transalp all the time.

I said yes, because it’s just so practical, and he replied “it’ll ruin the handling”. Being honest, this hadn’t crossed my mind. Cue an immediate back-toback test to prove him wrong. I did 50 miles with the luggage in place, and 50 without, on the very same day, route and weather conditions.

And do you know what? As usual, he was right. Being able to leave my lid in the topbox rather than cart it around with me, along with disc and lever locks and a pair of shoes in the panniers, has corrupted my riding experience.

Removing it all was revelatory: the bike carves through the air far, far more easily, changes direction more readily and accelerates faster. It’s something I simply hadn’t noticed while getting to know the bike, because I’d been getting used to the performance, riding modes and ace handling at the same time as sampling the luggage.

And I’d wager this isn’t simply a question of weight. The boxes aren’t all that heavy. But drag increases squared with your speed, so the quicker I go, the more additional power is required to move the bike with the carry kit in place.

Wind resistance and additional weight combined create quite a large performance deficit, and as such, my enjoyment was being curtailed by my own perceived convenience.

The 2023 Honda Transalp XL750 is so easy to ride quickly

Suffice to say, I’ve made a change. I’ll carry my lid now, and enjoy the ride that much more. Besides, I’m starting to find some small issues with the way the luggage works. My main criticism is the ties on the panniers, which often get caught between the halves of the shell when I close them.

But furthermore, considering their cost direct from Honda – £1185 for panniers, £695 for the topbox – they don’t feel of particularly high quality. The plastics in particular are easily scratched. If I were doing this again, I’d consider Givi instead.

That isn’t to say they’re not functional, though. They are very solidly fixed to the bike’s frame and simple enough to get on and off, with the carrying handle also serving as the mechanism to affix them to the bike. Plus they lock securely using the ignition key, which is a nice touch you wouldn’t get from aftermarket luggage.

So I’ve learnt a lesson recently: Don’t let practicality get in the way of a decent ride out…

Update two: Honda Transalp – Mode Swings

Published 30.08.23

Honda XL750 Transalp parked in a lay-by at dusk

One of the things I initially found most interesting about the Honda Transalp XL750 was the fact that it has a range of distinct personalities that you can flip between using its mode switch. Located handily next to your left thumb, your options are Gravel, Sport, Standard and Rain and to start with, I found myself doing this rather a lot.

The two I used most were Standard and Sport – the former is for a more laid-back riding style, with peak power down slightly, traction control up and the engine braking set to level two. This works well on the motorway. Sport is better for those spirited rides, with the full 91bhp on tap (along with a more pleasing engine note), traction control on its lowest setting and engine braking down to a minimum.

However, a trip to the Peak District and back on a beautiful sunny day had me wanting a little more. It was time to delve into the bike’s computer and tailor myself a mode using the ‘User’ setting.

The screen on the Honda Transalp XL750

This allows you to set a custom profile with the parameters of your choice. You’ve got four power settings, three levels of engine braking, five traction control configurations and ABS for on road or off. I went for full power (of course), and opted to give Honda’s parallel twin a bit of V-twin-esque engine braking by setting that to level two, and traction control at three.

Rear ABS is active for on-road riding. This set-up gives me everything I want from the Transalp. It’s seriously easy to ride like this, and with the power at the highest level the engine sounds fantastic, with response to match.

To get this configured you need to be at a standstill to thumb your way through the menus on the screen, but in typical Honda fashion it couldn’t be easier. I’d sorted my set-up in five minutes. I’m resolved to using my ‘User’ setting for most riding now. I’ll simply switch to ‘Rain’ when the heavens inevitably open, and ‘Gravel’ for those brief off-road moments as and when the need arises. No stress.

A trip to the Peak District on the Honda Transalp XL750

That’s my over-arching impression of the Transalp at this point: it just makes life so easy. The addition of luggage big enough to store your lid (£1185 for panniers, £695 for top box) makes it almost as practical as a car, but obviously miles more fun.

What’s less obvious from pictures, but more pertinent to me, is how friendly it is on the rural back roads where I live. It just never feels like it’s breaking a sweat. The 190mm of Showa rear suspension travel soaks up bumps and lumps really well, giving me confidence on routes other bikes would struggle with.

I’ve found myself riding at a much higher average speed while being easier on the brakes, and the seat is supportive yet supple enough for long-distance touring.

Honda Transalp XL750 with top box and panniers

I have to mention the tyres, too. While it sounds from the owners’ group that bikes come with a number of options from the factory, I’m on Dunlop Trailmax Mixtours and they’re brilliant. They warm up quickly, have loads of grip and turn in nicely, with decent feedback through the bars. I’m impressed with these, and they’ve set a high bar for any improvements.

So, not a huge amount to dislike at this point then. Now the ducks need to align for me to plan my European adventure…

Update one: Ready to head to the hills on the Honda Transalp

Published 26.07.23

So, here’s the final piece of the MCN fleet puzzle for 2023 – the Honda Transalp XL750 has finally arrived, and it’s a beauty.

Anyone who’s following our Instagram page will know that I’ve already been out and about enjoying what this middleweight adventure bike has to offer, so this report is going to contain some of my first impressions of the bike.

But before we get into that, you’ll notice the Honda Transalp has some extras on it already. I knew early on that I was after some luggage – the idea is that in August or September I’m going to take the bike to the Alps, as the name suggests, so I’ve got a topbox and panniers on board.

Honda Transalp XL750 with paniers and top box for loads of luggage space

This gives me a whopping 106 litres of luggage room, which is equivalent to around 141 bottles of wine. That should be ample…

This little lot was fitted when it had the first service, before which I had a few hundred miles to find out what it was like in standard form.

There were plenty of positives, but one change I had to make was the screen. I’ve had Honda’s taller version fitted, because the OEM one was simply too short. I’m six-feet tall and the wind noise was pretty extreme at anything over 50mph, even with earplugs and a highly aerodynamic lid. So, here are my trio of Transalp triumphs so far:

1: It’s so easy going

I was instantly comfortable, and settled into riding it within seconds. The riding position fits me brilliantly, with my feet able to be perfectly flat on the ground without the bike feeling low.

The handling surprised me too: it corners far more nimbly that I was expecting, with the long-travel suspension controlling the wheels impressively well, which makes it feel very predictable.

At lower speeds I found it has a tiny turning circle, which helps when wheeling the bike around the garage or doing a U-turn.

2: The bike has an exceptional engine

This parallel-twin motor, which first joined the Honda range in the all-new Hornet, is fantastic. It’s a short-stroke engine with a 270-degree firing order and couldn’t be further from a common-or-garden twin in terms of character or tractability.

With the engine braking turned up, it feels and sounds more like a V-twin, in fact. Like many in the MCN office, I’ve got soft spot for Suzuki’s SV650, and I’m reminded of that engine in a lot of ways.

There’s plenty of punch at lower RPMs and it revs to a fizzy 10k, with peak power at 9500rpm, but it’s the mid-range where this bike really shines, pulling impressively through its gears with plenty of poke to keep you amused while never getting out of hand.

3: It has great gearing for Great Britain

While the gearbox is the same as the Hornet’s, the Transalp’s larger 18in rear wheel means effectively it’s longerlegged than the pure street bike, and able to tour comfortably at low revs on the motorway.

Honda Transalp XL750 cornering quickly

But the other advantage is that the Honda Transalp is doing 54mpg and its 16.9 litres of tank capacity means the range is knocking on the door of 250 miles; ideal for longer jaunts.

I’m seriously excited about getting more under the skin of this bike. It’s been hugely popular on our website and YouTube channels so far, and the latest news is that it’s likely to be heading over the pond to the US market too, so
that popularity is only going to grow over the coming months…