Finally, I was able to find the time to take Honda's new Crosstourer out for a testride and luckily had the bike for a full day. 230 miles later, here's my thoughts.
First things first, I got a good explaination on how everything works as I was taking the DCT version of the Crosstourer out. To get on a bike with no clutch and gearchange levers is quite odd at first as I've never ridden a twist & go scooter, so it does seem a bit weird, especially on a bike this size. The engine fires up and it sounds really nice with the fruity note of the V4 engine coming out of the exhaust. I have to say here that I personally love a V4 engine and have owned three of Honda's finest VFR's in the past and ridden the VFR1200 also. I expected to enjoy this experiance more as the riding position of the VFR1200 just didn't suit me and I remember thinking, 'Great engine, crap ergos' on that bike.
A push of the button on the right 'bar into D (for drive) and a small opening of the throttle has me making my way out onto the road (after I had released the 'handbrake'). The pick-up is creamily smooth and the changes up through the gearbox seemless. This is already impressing me as there is no noticable jerk or anything to say that the bike has selected another gear bar looking at the dash display figure going from 1 to 2,3 etc. Obviously Honda have done their homework on this system and unless you try it, you won't believe just how brilliant it is. I know most bikers won't give it a fair hearing and would probably be the ones burning Honda in a pyre for Witchcraft, but there is always the old fashioned option available for those traditionalists.
Out on the open road away from the city and I'm able to stretch the big girls legs. With plenty of power available (I believe it's 127 bhp compared to the VFR's 170), there's certaintly nothing lacking in the real world. Progress is swift in the D mode and in my 230 mile ride, I was able to travel on just about every imaginable road surface available. On smoothly surfaced dual carrigeways, the bike just got on with covering distance without fuss. Once onto fast flowing A roads, the suspension seems to be set up for dealing with humps and bumps and keeps the rider well informed on what's going on under the wheels. Hitting the B roads, this was starting to show that things could get slightly bouncy, but not in a terribly bad way. The bike still held it's line while sucking up the imperfections on particularly bad sections of road and I could feel how hard the suspension was working to deliver me safely to the next bend. I also felt that the weight thing much talked about wasn't an issue as with most of these bikes, once moving, they appear to defy the quoted figures and I found it effortless to swing the bike from one side to the other. Should I need to brake sharply for any reason, the combined ABS set-up is very powerful and brings the bike to a swift halt without drama. I did several brake tests and found the ABS to be much less intrusive than what I've experianced on the likes of the BMW system, which I think is a good thing.
Comfort wise, the riding position is perfect for me. I didn't think I would have to change anything as regards to the ergos on this machine. The Triumph Explorer I rode recently didn't feel right and I was thinking that I'd have to experiment on how to make it fit me better. The Honda is just 'right'. After 230 miles, no sore knees or wrists and the only ache was in my butt. I think the seat could do with some firmer foam and could also be made a bit wider as I felt it was just that bit too narrow for long term comfort. Triumph have done better with their Explorer seat (although I didn't get to cover the same sort of miles on that demo run) and Kawasaki seem to have done well with the Versys 1000 seat too. Still, it was much better than the R1200GS and Super Tenere seats which gave me numb bum after 50 miles or so. No doubt the likes of Sargent/Corbin etc. will develop a comfort seat for this bike, but I wish all manufacturers would get it right at the start. The screen looks quite low, but as you sit in the Crosstourer, it's actually pretty effective. I raised to to its tallest position (not actually much of a difference to be honest) and suffered no turbulence on my Arai TourX peak. I know to some, a taller screen will be a must have, but if I wanted to sit behind a humongous screen, I'd be looking at the likes of a GoldWing instead.
Now back to the DCT. I've already said how much I liked it, but it has a few more tricks up its sleeves. Push the mode button again (and you can do this on the move) into S (for Sport) and the bike really comes alive. Naturally, the bike holds onto its gears for longer giving even more explosive forward thrust. And does this bike fly in this setting. Best of all, you can still change up or down through the 'box by using the shifter switches on the left 'bar cluster so there seems to be no situation that presents itself to frustrate you. If you want to introduce some engine braking, just dab the down shifter and there it is. Likewise, you want to speed things up even more, well, rapid fire the up shifter and away you go go go ! You also have the option of using the shifters in manual mode by using the switch at the front of the right cluster. The D or S disappears from the screen and you just flick away 'till your hearts content. Try gunning the bike from a standstill in this setting and it delivers a totally seemless wave of accelleration that defies belief and I challenge anyone not to be impressed. In fact, I think that this bike would be the perfect bike for pillions as there will be no head-butting due to the smoothness of the gear changes.
To sum up. I really enjoyed my day on the Crosstourer. It doesn't have all of the gizmos that the other contenters in this sector have like the Triumph's cruise control or the BMW's switchable suspension etc etc. Many also think it looks quite bland, but I prefer to think it looks like a quality product and the finish is typical Honda, impeccable. I'd have a yellow one, please !! The clocks are clear, the mirrors are brilliant, the engine and DCT are fabulous and it comes with the Honda reliability reputation built in. Ok, it's no off roader, nor is it really intended to be in my eyes. What it is, is a damn fine road bike built for covering miles and given the choice, I'd plump for the DCT version without hesitation and riding my own bike back home, I thought that all this gear-changing was such an inconvenience !