Does everything have to fit into a neat little box for everything to be right in the world for you? Are you a motorcycle enthusiast who’s convinced that by simply looking at a static bike, you can peg the owner without ever having met him? Are you a dang know-it-all who compulsively feels the need to label bikes and their riders? Then you might be afflicted with OCMD (obsessive compulsive moto disorder). Now I’m no doctor, but I did stay at the beautiful Westlake Village Inn in Southern California a few days ago, and what I learned there might be just the thing for you — and anyone who’s fed up with high gas prices. I know that people like to have things fit properly in a category. It’s the OCMD curse. Everything must be “just so.” The 2014 CTX line of motorcycles from Honda have dumbfounded onlookers. Is it a cruiser? Is it a standard? It’s sporty looking, so how can it have forward controls? Oh, no! It doesn’t fit neatly into a compartment in my brain! Relax. I’ll bring you up to speed on this cool, fun machine in a mere five pages.
The nameplate is an acronym for Comfort, Technology, and eXperience. While I’ve needled Honda for its alphabet soup choice of nameplate digits in the past, this one actually makes sense. And you should get used to this combination of letters as I have word that it’s going to be used more in the future to encompass other motorcycles from Honda. The CTX line — and bikes like the NC700X — are part of a campaign by Honda to bring new people into motorcycling and for that, you’ll get no argument from me. The goal for the CTX was to produce an unintimidating bike with a low center of gravity to inspire confidence. A bike that is easy to handle, a great commuter mount (to the tune of 64 mpg, 61 with DCT), and comfortable to ride. Honda wanted to make it a blend of cruiser and sportbike, no, not CBR1000RR-type radical sportbike, but one that light and fun when on the go. The cruiser aspect includes a relaxed riding position with low seat height so the rider can be flatfooted at stops. If the bike is easy to learn on and a practical commuter, then new and reentry, motorcyclists will ride more, allowing them to build confidence with less stress. Oh, and make it a high-value, quality-built machine worthy of the Honda nameplate. Lofty goals, perhaps, but I think Honda has achieved them.
In the US, bikes are fun toys, but everywhere else in the world, motorcycles are transportation. Honda of Japan developed this line of bikes to attract new riders to the fray. And while Honda USA had some styling input, this is a world market bike. I imagine that folks who are more accepting of European designs would be more comfortable with the looks of the CTX than, say, the more OCMD-afflicted out there.
Honda actually foresaw the need for this machine as far back as 2008 before the financial bubble. The goal was to build a great product at an affordable price. In a twist on the film Field of Dreams: build it and they will ride. With affordability, versatility, comfort, high technology, and ease of use — not to mention the over 60 mpg it can travel — I’d say Honda is on to something here. Not surprising. Honda has done it before, back in the 1960s with the release of the Universal Japanese Motorcycle. Think of the CTX as the UJM for the next generation. While the CTX’s profile and silhouette is confusing to many, riding it clears up its ambiguity. To see the CTX in the rearview mirror or to follow it at speed leaves you with no doubt that it’s a muscle cruiser, one that can handle roads quite well. It touches down pegs on fast, tight, twisty roads, but no more than any capable standard.
To clear up the acronym a bit more, the CTX700 base model is the large-faired bike with traditional manual transmission. You can get it with Honda’s now-proven dual clutch transmission (DCT), which will be referred to as CTX700D. The version that features the smaller bikini-fairing is called the CTX700N. Add DCT to it and you get CTX700ND. Honda is quick to tout the bike’s low cost. But nothing on the bike, save for the passenger footpegs, has an air of cheapness. The only quirk I found in the production units was that the gauge pod on the N naked model doesn’t seem to be as fixed as it is on the full-faired CTX bike. It wasn’t loose or wobbly, but it flexed a bit when I pressed on the reset buttons. As far as the gauge pod itself, this tiny unit packs a wallop of information with a speedo, two trip meters, tachometer bar graph, clock, gear indicator (DCT model only), and fuel gauge. Backlight brightness is adjustable. Highquality switchgear, as well as all the other ancillary equipment, is all thanks to modern manufacturing techniques, which keep costs down. As I said, no cheap hardware, and typical Honda highend quality abound.
There’s plenty of under-seat storage, and what appears to be a built-in pocket for a factory U-Lock security device. Yet Honda USA didn’t deem it necessary on our shores. Disappointing. If this were my bike, I’d be sourcing the right size U-lock to carry under there. The seat release key lock is tucked away in the tail next to the LED taillamp, facing aft, and the profile of the tail bodywork reminds me of a flat tracker. Very cool!
The front face of the full-faired CTX bears similarity to its VFR and CBR250 sister ships and features two speaker grilles looking back at the rider. While Honda doesn’t offer a speaker kit, I’d look for my own small speakers and amp for some touring entertainment from a MP3 player. Some of the lower plastic trim panels remind me of the 1980s and 1990s Magnas. Not completely necessary, in my opinion, but I’m sure they hide ugly bits. No helmet lock is visible, but there’s an included cable that can be affixed under the seat.
The nonlocking tank top panel easily flips open to expose a locking gas cap and a covered storage cubby, which is just the right size for your garage door opener or some change for tolls. An accessory power port is also available to make that space a good spot for carrying and charging your cellphone or MP3 player. It isn’t a large space, so you won’t be able to do all those things at once, and it’s not lockable. But it’s a perk you won’t find on most entry-level bikes.
The ergonomics were pure sit-up-and-beg, and the seating position was more comfortable than the one I’m currently in as I write this story at my work desk. The broad, one-piece seat is all-day comfortable for the rider while the passenger pillion area may be a bit diminutive for cross country touring. I’m sure it’s fine for day trips, though. By the way, mirrors are well placed with just a touch of elbow visible. The 28.3″ seat height makes it easy to swing a leg over. Once there, the bike can be lifted off its sidestand effortlessly, thanks to its low center of gravity. There is no centerstand, and the average new rider will need to learn to clean and lube the drivechain. This bike is so much fun to rack up miles on that chain maintenance will come quick and often. However, the good news is that the rear swingarm is made from old-fashioned rectangular tube, and an inexpensive, aftermarket pit stand should easily pick up the rear of the bike for chain lubing.
The 670cc twin-cylinder engine is surprisingly powerful! I’d say it’s almost as smooth as a four-cylinder. It’s easy starting and responsive, yet not overly abrupt in power delivery. The bike invites you to be a bit ham fisted. Go ahead, tell it what to do and don’t be afraid of it biting back — all the while at no time being lethargic. High-speed highway passes require a downshift, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not weakness; that’s just the rider making sure he’s in the right gear for the intended speed. The sixth gear is welcome and carries the CTX to extremes in cruising speed. Several times I found myself zooming along in fifth, and a quick notch up to sixth settled the bike down, extending the speed capability. Don’t get me wrong, fifth wasn’t buzzy at all. On the highway, it was surprising that the motor could get any smoother by simply clicking up to high gear. Sixth gear is not overdriven with a final ratio of 0.837.
The engine is rubber-mounted for smoothness and tuned for low end torque. The 270-degree firing order on the crank helps, too. The cylinders are canted 62 degrees forward to contribute to the lower center of gravity. The exhaust ports are consolidated within the engine, allowing one overall exhaust exit, which then feeds into one catalytic converter. And because the cat can be so close to the engine near the hottest of gases, the cat can be downsized. It’s ingenious.
Dual clutch transmission is here to stay, folks. Get used to it. While the CTX is available with an old-fashioned clutch lever and shifter, Honda is dedicated to the DCT. Fine with me, as I find it fun to ride with, and it should also help bring more riders to the sport. The DCT has a learning mode that adapts to a more appropriate shift pattern based on throttle applications. The current second-generation DCT allows immediate manual override. It’s smaller and lighter than before, and while the VFR1200 uses 10 clutch plates, the DCT in the CTX has six.
The front brake was strong thanks to its huge diameter. The rear a little less so, but that’s okay with me; I found it difficult to lock up. The non-linked ABS works well, too! And it saved my hide an occasion when a quick slowdown was necessary before a directional change. However, ABS is only available with the DCT transmision — just consider it a technology package. What the heck, the car companies are doing it. Just go with it. And the wheels are similar in design to the thin-spoke mags we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on sportbikes these days — another premium-looking part on a totally affordable commuter bike.
The Honda reps asked us more questions pertaining to what we thought about the CTX than they have about any of its other bikes at press rides I’ve been on. The presentation of the CTX is still cautious because the bike doesn’t fit into a neat little box. Yet, I say it doesn’t need to. The CTX is flickable and easily maneuverable, surprisingly peppy, and comfortable. I’m sold. Unfortunately, people are conditioned to react when they see a bike, so if you can’t resist your OCMD urges, call it a fun-to-ride, economical, practical, futuristic UJM-style cruiser. There. I’m sure you have a category for that. RB