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Biggest twin is full of surprises

Published: 12 August 2001

Updated: 19 November 2014

Honda’s VTX1800 may be the biggest twin in production but the huge weight doesn’t overwhelm even at low speeds. It actually handles surprisingly well.

The majority of the 320kg (and that’s dry) is low-slung enough for it to be a stabilising influence rather than a cause for Weeble-like concern.

Those giant pistons may pump out 95bhp, but that doesn’t feel particularly brutal when it is having to drive the bulk of the longest Honda ever built (it’s got a wheelbase of 1715mm). It’s the big, big torque that sets the spine tingling (that, and the deliberately engineered in V-twin vibes). There’s 115ftlb of tractor-pulling torque, if you’re counting.

But tip it into a corner too enthusiastically and you get another surprise. While the suspension deals competently enough, the ground clearance makes it clear there are limits.

The hero blobs go down quicker than a Lockheed Starfighter. The effects may not be as devastating (the bike seems stable enough dragging a peg all the way round a roundabout) but the noise can be alarming.

And you should pay heed to that alarm. It is a good indication that more solid lumps of metal will be next to touch down, which could seriously destabilise you. Best to listen and learn.

That said, this was built for sun-drenched highways, not damp mini-roundabouts. And of course, it was also built to be parked and admired.

The acres of chrome reflect the surrounding scenery. The dinnerplate-sized chrome clutch cover draws your eye in and then the gigantic chrome exhaust pipes bring your attention from the monster cylinders along the bike to the enormous silencer. It is a bike that plays to the gallery.

There is no rev-counter, fuel gauge or temperature gauge instead a single speedometer unit with a digital trip is planted directly in front of the rider and an array of warning lights sit flush on the top of the tank.

Gripping the typical high and wide custom bars you adopt a kind of laid back – arms up position. Your bum is cushioned by a wonderfully comfortable sculpted seat and once you have located the pegs, somewhere out by the front mud-guard it seems, the riding position is really comfortable.

The suspension is smooth and reasonably responsive with non-adjustable forks and rear twin shocks that are only adjustable for pre-load.

With the engine running, vibrations from the 52 degree V-twin are minimal. Honda has incorporated two counterbalance weights which reduce vibrations to a minimum but allow through just enough tingle to add to the character. Unfortunately the sound of the motor has been stifled by emission laws and it has little bark.

A solid clunk lets you know first gear is selected and with only the slightest bit of throttle the bike pulls away. With all that torque the 5 speed box gets plenty of rest. The gears do seem quite well spread out but fifth is almost an overdrive.

Anything below 30mph in top and the bike judders and shakes as it tries to pull. I found myself mainly using third gear as it has loads of grunt to overtake cars going at 60ish. Really it is a case of pulling away in first, skipping through second and using third when the road is busy or fourth if the traffic is sparse. Fifth was always there if necessary but on A roads there was little need to use it.

The motor is lazy, like the riding position. If you want to bang it down a gear, go ahead, if not just wind on the power and let the huge engine do the work for you.

Should you find yourself approaching a corner that bit too fast, the linked brakes do stop the bike well. Initially the front felt a bit soft but the key is to use some back as well, do this and the bike will halt in plenty of time with minimal fuss.

At around £4000 cheaper than the V-Rod Harley it is bound to find a market, and, in fact, it already has in the States. Honda has sold 3655 of the £11,345 bikes in the first four months there.

It remains to be seen if us Brits will like it as much.

Listen to the sound of the Harley V-Rod, Harley-Davidson’s new 140mph water-cooled bike. We’ll bring you sound files very soon.

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