MCN Fleet: Carrying concerns on Honda Transalp

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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.

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 2: Honda Transalp – Mode Swings

The 2023 Honda Transalp XL750 is so easy to ride quickly

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.

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.

A trip to the Peak District on the Honda Transalp XL750

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.

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…

Honda Transalp XL750 with top box and panniers

Update 1: Ready to head to the hills on the Honda Transalp

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.

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

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

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.

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…


Honda Transalp XL750 cornering quickly