Retrospective: 1990-2002 Honda ST1100 | Rider’s Magazine
YEAR/MODEL: Honda ST1100 2002
OWNER: Clement Salvadori
HOMETOWN: Atascadero, California
In the late 1980s, the European market was as important to Honda as the American market. And motorcycles were popular, because cars and auto insurance were more expensive than they were here. Demand was quite different, with the Yanks liking big cruisers and narrowly focused sport machines, while those east of the Atlantic had a more practical approach, favoring motorcycles that could be used to get around on workdays. , then go on vacation together. .
Every motorcycle company is constantly looking around to see what the competition is doing. Japan’s big four no doubt have their own national spy rings, trying to keep track of everyone’s actions, but there are also the local manufacturers. In the United States, the only native competition was Harley-Davidson, but in Europe many local brands were taking their share of the market.
By the end of the 1980s, BMW, with its new four-cylinder K-bikes, was doing quite well in the touring market. The head of Honda Germany decided he wanted to participate in this action and obtained permission from Japan to design his own motorcycle, a sports touring model, with an emphasis on touring but still agile.
Hence the ST1100, introduced in Europe in 1990 as the Pan-European, with a windproof fairing, removable saddlebags and shaft drive. Get to work in the rain, load up the bags for a trip, and never have to worry about cleaning and adjusting a chain. It was an all-new machine, with a transversely mounted V-4 engine (meaning the crankshaft was at right angles to the axles), putting out nearly 100 horsepower to the rear wheels.
It wasn’t light, as the ST weighed around 700 pounds with the massive 7.4-gallon gas tank filled. But the blessing was that the reservoir was under the seat, keeping the weight low, which is where many sensible touring riders like to have it. This required a fuel pump pushing gas up to the four 34.5mm Keihins – carburettors in the age of fuel injection. It doesn’t matter, because the carbs did an excellent and trouble-free job of revving the engine. A choke lever on the handlebars was reminiscent of carburettors.
The liquid-cooled V-4, with a bore of 73 mm and a stroke of 64.8 mm, had a total capacity of 1,084 cc. It used dual overhead camshafts, with a single timing belt running all four camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Valve adjustment was by shims, not always appreciated by home mechanics, but service intervals were set at a fairly long 16,000 miles. The ignition was transistorized, with electronic advance. And the oversquare engine pulled strong from 2,000 to the 8,000 rpm redline.
In the guts of the wet-sump engine, everything was built to last, with nearly four liters of oil capacity and a cooler up front. It sat in a full-cradle steel frame (contributing to the bike’s high weight), which gave the rider confidence when leaning hard into corners at considerable speeds. Up front was a 41mm Showa cartridge fork, with Honda’s TRAC anti-dive mechanism and allowing nearly 6 inches of travel. No adjustment here. Out back, a single Showa shock, with rebound damping and spring preload adjustment, provided nearly 5 inches of travel.
Longitudinal power returned through a wet clutch and a 5-speed cassette-type transmission to the driveshaft. The aluminum tri-spoke wheels used an 18-inch 110/80 tire in the front, a 160/70 17-inch in the rear, with a tint of over 61 inches between axle centers.
Europeans loved it – perhaps for the sole reason that it was a good alternative to BMWs, with a bit more power. The US market got to see this bike about a year after its release east of the Atlantic. Several improvements were made after this first version, including increasing the alternator output from 28 to 40 amps and offering a combined ABS and traction control system. The initial ABS, running from 1992 to 1995, had separate systems on the front and rear wheels, but an upgrade for 1996 used linked brakes. A slight windshield upgrade arrived for the 1995 model year.
The most important thing for a motorcycle of this design is comfort. On this 2002 model, which is yours, a laminar lip was added to the top of the windshield to smooth the airflow around my helmet, as I am taller than average. A nice addition is to the left of the instruments, where a hand-turned knob can change the angle of the two halogen lights; very simple, very useful. Fitting a tank bag to the plastic cover above the engine has been simplified by a company called Bagster who manufacture Naugahyde covers for over 200 motorcycle models, onto which a bag can be neatly clipped. This bag logged plenty of miles, as I had on my ’92 model, which sold out after 93,000 miles, and then on my new ’02 ST1100, which has 103,000+ miles.
The flat saddle is comfortable for long days in pairs, or even the longest days solo, allowing the rider to move back and forth. Panniers are locked to the bike, but can be removed with minimal fuss. However, it is much more useful to have liners in the bags; just open the bags, take out the liners and you’re on your way.
A handy steering wheel on the ST is the handle under the left side of the saddle, which folds up against the bike until it is pulled 90 degrees to be very useful when lifting the bike onto the center stand. Another much appreciated addition is the crash bars concealed on the fairing, allowing for a slow drop without doing damage.
Big smiles could be seen at Honda Germany after the appearance of the ST1100. They had given the competition a good kick in the old wazoo, with the ST soon winning all sorts of awards. And it remained virtually unchanged for the next twelve years until the launch of the ST1300 in 2003.
Throw a leg over that saddle, turn the key, push the button, hang on, click first, and the rush of pure, quiet power is exhilarating. And 500 miles with a fuel stop in between is always a temptation.