Have Bags Will Travel
But Is That Enough?
By Steve Lita
photos by Bob Feather
In describing the 2008 VTX1300T, the Honda sales literature states “For 2008, the popular VTX1300 is now available fully decked out for cross-country travel straight from the factory in a turnkey package that’s both stylish and functional over the long haul.” Well, from firsthand experience I can answer both “yes” and “no.” Honda did what most every manufacturer is doing these days and taking a top selling cruiser platform, bolting on some of the most popular touring accessories they offer, tacking a T on the end of the name, and presto! Here’s your touring rig. Did it work this time? Yes, and no.
First off, I rode the heck out of this VTX most of the summer of 2008. Along with countless commuting trips, I attended the Honda Hoot in Knoxville, Tennessee, followed by the opening of the Motostars museum exhibit in Pickerington, Ohio. Several weeks later I took it on a 1000-mile Iron Butt qualifier, then participated in a Ride For Kids charity event in New York’s Hudson Valley. Another staffer rode the VTX to Americade and back, and still another finally returned the bike to Honda after taking it on a cross-country meander. All in all, I racked up over 5,000 miles, plus other staffers surely accounted for another 4,000 — at least. Naturally we could not have endured this sort of mileage if the VTX-T was not up to snuff. From that aspect I can say the T makes quite a comfortable long distance touring rig. Is it ready to roll right out of the box? That is the question.
The new-for-2008 VTX1300T differentiates itself from the remainder of the midsize VTX line by giving the consumer the following built in equipment: a windscreen, 24-liter leather saddlebags, chrome passenger backrest, Tourer badge on the front fender, and chrome body side covers. Deeply valanced front and rear fenders, tank-mounted instruments, semi-swept handlebar, and floorboards with heel-and-toe shifter create a classic retro style. The VTX1300T features slotted-style cast aluminum wheels and the meaty 140/80-17 front tire gives the T model a strong stance. Fit and finish is typical Honda, which is better than average.
The 1312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin delivers strong low-end and mid-range torque, so there’s plenty of power for passing and cruising. The carbureted engine will go about 130 miles before you have to flip to the reserve mode on the petcock. Max mileage from a tank is 176 miles, and then you’re coasting — ask me how I know. The carburetor is a single 38mm CV unit. There is an ECU that controls the 3-D ignition maps for each cylinder, but fuel injection is not available on the VTX1300 yet. Honda thought ahead with easy-to-service screw-and-locknut valve adjusters and a likewise easy-to-get-to, spin-on oil filter. I did several oil changes on it this year and that was welcome. The exhaust is a chrome two-into-two system that produces a deep exhaust note.
After the engine comes the five-speed transmission and shaft final drive, thus adding to the easy, low-maintenance appeal. The heel-toe shifter is fun and comfortable to bang on. Ironically, I found that the trans shifts are a little less clunky when I shift with my heel. I like the easy to access right angle valve stem on the rear wheel, but the front tire valve stem had me pulling out what little hair I have. It’s a straight valve stem that points directly at the aluminum disc of the front wheel. It looks like they give you a whopping 1/4” to get an air chuck in there. The single-disc front brake features a twin-piston caliper with a 336mm diameter stainless steel rotor. Combined with the rear single-piston caliper and 296mm stainless steel rotor, the brakes provide adequate stopping power.
The 41mm front fork provides 5.1” of plush and spongy travel. There are dual chromed shocks with five-position preload adjustment out back. Straight up the bike is comfortable and soaks up the bumps well, but get her in some curves and the VTX-T wants to wallow. A soft and comfy suspension has its limits and you need to realize what this bike was built for. The floorboards touch down rather quickly and ours now have some aluminum shaved from the underside. I found the seat comfortable just as it came from the factory. Rider comfort isn’t a question with this saddle, which features a low 27” seat height.
In the all-important touring bike ergo department I give the VTX-T high marks. The handlebar and mirrors were in just the right spots. I like the fatty grips, and they add comfort for the long haul. Unfortunately, however, the tank-mounted chrome housing features just a speedo, dual tripmeter, and indicator lights for the turn signals, high beam, neutral, oil pressure, and coolant temperature. Sorely missed were a clock and fuel gauge. I was always good at math and figuring fuel consumption from just a tripmeter reading is not a big challenge, but if this is really supposed to be a touring motorcycle, then it should provide the long-distance traveler with more input. Now I know what you’re thinking: yes, I did run out of gas once, but it wasn’t because of a miscalculation in my math. It was the result of traveling way off the beaten path in farm country where gas stations aren’t within 55 miles of each other. Fuel capacity is 4.8-gallons, by the way, and we usually realized between 38 and 40 mpg on average.
The VTX1300T is assembled in Marysville, Ohio, and I have to question some aspects in the assembly process. For example, there are two helmet locks on the T: one’s accessible but difficult to manipulate, the other one’s completely hidden from view, hanging from the rear fender behind the saddlebag. Our sample steed had a faint squeak coming from the front end; perhaps the chrome-plated covers didn’t line up just so. We tailored our T with some creature comforts to make the miles pass more comfortably. Not to say the VTX1300T isn’t ready to tour in stock form, but the add-ons really helped. In that department Honda offers a slew of bolt-on accessories to help you make your VTX1300T more comfortable and personalized. In choosing between the VTX1300T and the VTX1300R, keep in mind that the first costs $11,099, the second $9,699. The additional genuine Honda accessories that make a T a T add up to $1,431. So you have an overall savings of only $31 by buying the VTX1300R and accessorizing it yourself. You are, however, spared the labor costs and headaches of installing the bags, backrest, and windshield yourself if you buy a T version.
The little red express was a welcome addition around the RoadBike offices this past summer and I wouldn’t turn it away if it came this way again. With the addition of the parts Honda has added to make it a T model, you’re well on your way to long distance fun and adventure. We did however add a few personal equipment preferences to make the ride more comfortable, which no doubt any new bike owner would also do. The VTX1300T is a good start to your next great trip.
Genuine Honda Accessories Available For The VTX1300T:
Lower wind deflectors
Chrome spotlight visors
Leather touring bag (three styles: studded, fringed, and plain)
Leather front pouch (three styles: studded, fringed, and plain)
Leather tank belt with pocket (two styles: studded and plain)
Chrome rear carrier
Chrome passenger grab rails
Front fender trim
Front fender tip
Front fender ornament
Chrome rear fender trim
Chrome Allen bolt inserts (three sizes: 5mm, 6mm, and 8mm)
Chrome driveshaft cove.
Billet master cylinder cap (four styles: fluted, V-design, neo-retro, and chrome)
License plate frame (three styles: fluted, V-design, and neo-retro)
Swingarm pivot cover set
Countershaft cover trim, driveshaft bolt cover (three styles: fluted, V-design, and neo-retro)
Digital audio system
Rubber heated grips
Chrome heated grips
List Price $11,099
Engine Liquid-cooled V-twin
Valvetrain SOHC, three valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke 89.5mm x 104.3mm
Compression Ratio 9.2:1
Fuel System 38mm CV carburetor
Mfr Horsepower N/A
Mfr Torque Rating N/A
Transmission five speed
Final Drive Shaft
Overall Length 101”
Rake/Trail 32 degrees/5.7″
Seat height 27.4″
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gallons
Weight 748 pounds (curb)
Warranty 12 months
2008 Colors: black ($10,999), red, silver