1991 Honda ST1100 PanEuropean

"Ol' Blackie"

I bought this bike on 14-Oct-2000, with 18,422 miles showing on the clock. I sold it on 18-May-2005 with 52,830 miles. I didn't put any serious miles on it after purchasing the '00 ST last fall, so call it 34,408 miles in 4 years, or an average of 8,600 miles/year. Not a bad total - well over the 2,500 odd miles the average American motorcyclist accumulates annually, and nearly double the 5,000 miles turned in by the average Cycle World reader. Enough to thoroughly get to know the bike, certainly. Indeed, it came to feel like a second skin to me!

If you've read the page devoted to my new ST, you know that I love these bikes. Indeed, you're probably tired of me prattling on about it. Smiling So I'll turn you over to Peter Egan, a far more capable writer than I. This is an article published in Cycle World a several years ago, and I think it will speak for itself.

Note: If you enjoy this article, I encourage you to purchase Peter's book, Leanings. He's the greatest motojournalist of our times, in my humble opinion. His writing displays an insight and wit that is rare in any genre, and unparalleled in his chosen field. It's available from the Cycle World web site, I believe.. and while you're there, why not subsribe to CW? They're tops! Leanings is also available from amazon.com, at a substantial discount. Essential reading.. get it today!

WHEN SOME BIKES ARE INTRODUCED, you know immediately you want one.

Take the 1991 Ducati 900SS, for instance. A decade ago, I went to Italy for the introduction of this bike and knew by the time I rode out of the factory gates that I would have to own one. I arrived home and placed an order the next morning.

Other bikes are a slower sell. You are strangely attracted to them and toy with the idea of owning one, but never quite do. You go to the dealership, hang around, sit on the bike and collect sales brochures, yet no money changes hands.

Not immediately, anyway.

But I have long entertained a secret theory (now revealed!) that if you acquire enough sales brochures on a certain motorcycle, you are destined to buy one.

And so it was with the Honda ST1100.

Ever since this bike came out in 1990 as a 1991 model, I have pondered its utility as a long-distance cruise missile, a sport-touring bike with decent wind protection, admirably adapted to poshly traverse the Great Plains yet not lose its composure in the mountains.

I've ridden a few ST1100s on CW comparison tests and have always found them surprisingly agile for their size and easy to live with on the road. On that typical last day of a trip, when Editor Edwards has said, "Pick a bike to ride home and keep for the weekend," I've generally slung my tankbag onto the big Honda.

I like the bike's uncluttered honesty, not to mention its tall, relaxed gearing (3100 rpm equals 65 mph) and growling, torque-rich engine. Also, the riding position suits me. Yet, in all these years, I have never bought one. Why not?

Well, the bike's a little heavy on plastic for my hardware-fixated tastes. I like to see at least a little of the mechanical heart of a motorcycle, and the ST1100 reveals only a sneak glimpse of its camshaft covers in the modest fan dance of its bodywork. Also, the Honda is quite large and heavy. At 700 pounds with a full tank of gas, it lives near the outer limit of my concept of what a motorcycle should be. Add a few more pounds, and you might as well take the car.

And then there's the "character" issue. My normal inclinations run toward large-bore Twins with a concussive engine pulse and an edgy mechanical feel. The ST1100, by contrast, feels almost like a Carnival cruise ship in its civility. "Never mind what's going on in the engine room," it tells you, "we've got that taken care of. Go up on deck and have another drink. We'll get there before you know it."

A Manx Norton the ST1100 is not. It has a reputation as a slightly bland bike with a heart of gold, where charisma is buried in a no-nonsense competence that only gradually warms the soul.

Nevertheless, I have dutifully gone to the dealership nearly every year since 1991 and picked up an ST1100 brochure, favoring the "black" years. Honda has alternated between red and black all through the past decade, and it's the quietly handsome tuxedo-black ones that blow oxygen on my own glowing coals.

So, wouldn't you know it, I rode my black Harley XLCR to the Slimey Crud Cafe Racer Run last fall and ran into a guy named Rob Gravitter who told me he was selling his black 1991 ST1100. It was a nice clean example, just serviced, with a Corbin seat, detachable Krauser top box and 31,000 miles on the clock. He wanted $4500 for the bike.

That last bit got my attention. Most of the used ST1100s I've looked at lately have been late Nineties models, with prices in the $7000 to $10,000 range, well beyond what I regard as my "experimental ownership" threshold. Also, not many used ST1100s come up for sale, especially with low mileage. Like Honda Civics, they tend to get used by one owner until they are used up.

I have an acquaintance in California, an avid desert racer who's on his third ST1100. He uses them for long, meandering vacation trips with his wife through the Rockies. "I put 100,000 miles on a bike," he says, "and then I sell it to my nephew and get another one."

A very swift riding buddy of mine, Curt Gonstead, has 41,000 miles on his own black 1991 ST1100. He is active in the Honda Sport Touring Association, and says there are ST1100 owners in the club approaching the 200,000-mile mark.

I finally caved in to all this favorable propaganda - and the sheer weight of my own accumulated curiosity - and bought Rob's bike. After all these years, I now have a black ST1100 captive in my own garage.

So. Will I eventual1y put 200,000 miles on the ST? Or even 20,000?

Who knows? I have found there is no way to be sure a bike will fit into your life over the long run without owning, riding and maintaining it yourself. Time and distance reveal all.

I've had two weeks of very nice late-autumn rides on the bike, and so far the report is good. The hefty old girl handles remarkably well. Sweeping down a winding road is sort of like dancing with Big Mama Thornton; she may be larger than you, but she dances just fine. Maybe better than you do.

Also, I like the fuel range. The huge 7.4-gallon gas tank gives you 300-plus miles between fill-ups. Wind protection is good - quieter and calmer around the head and shoulders than my trusty BMW R100RS - which encourages you to ride after other bikes have been put away for the season. As I've been doing.

If all this sounds a bit car-like, it is. But the upside is that you find yourself riding on days - and on trips - when you normally would use a car. Not such a bad recommendation.

But we now know, of course, that Honda has a new version of the bike, a lighter and more powerful ST1300, coming out, even though the old ST1100 will be carried over for another year or so. The new ST will have a shorter wheelbase, lower cg and better wind protection.

I suppose I'd better get down to the Honda dealer and start collecting brochures on this bike, in case I want to make another snap decision 10 years from now. Meanwhile, I can be out test-riding my new '91. --Peter Egan

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