The Ric Ocasek / Honda ST1100 Conundrum: Part 4

Like anyone who loves his motorcycle I unfairly covet other motorcycles too. I particularly fancied Honda’s entry into the sport tourer category; the ST1100 (now upgraded to the ST1300). Comparing my beloved ratbike cruiser to the ST line was to compare a steam engine to a turbine. The ST1100 had everything right; more luggage capacity but not too much weight, more speed but not a riding position that’ll tire my back, more technology but not hopped up enough to risk unreliability, fairings, windshield, ABS, etc… It was simply a better bike than mine for the purposes I ride a bike.

Yet it lacked something. I couldn’t see myself on one of those fine machines. It was too smooth. Too calculated. Too precise. An ST1100 wouldn’t become a ratbike to match the rat riding it. The shiny fairings would look odd compared to me, unshaved and wearing rumpled unwashed clothes. I’m prone to taking occasional mid-day naps by laying in the dirt beneath a desert juniper. (Check for rattlesnakes first!) I’ve never seen anyone who owns a pricey sport tourer snoozing on the dirt.

I decided that the ST1100, a completely competent machine in all ways, was the Rick Ocasek of the motorcycle world. Absolutely ideal and surely superior to what I rode, but nothing to turn the dial to eleven. I couldn’t upgrade to a Rick Ocasek motorcycle because I can’t be like Ric Ocasek. I was too dusty, or backward, or colorful, or whatever you want to call it. The ST1100 was ideal but I couldn’t embrace it.

A Honda ST1100 and rider. Neither me nor my bike have ever been that clean and fashionable.

A Honda ST1100 and rider. Neither me nor my bike have ever been that clean and fashionable. Note: Ric Ocasek is not in this photo.

Soon I got to test my theories. Not twenty minutes after my musings that a Honda ST1100 was the uncool yet totally adequate Rick Ocasek of the motorcycle world, one pulled up behind me.

With proper turn signals and polite maneuvering he passed. This was no problem. I’m not some ego plagued git that needs to lead the pack. Conversely I’m not some leather clad poser that can’t get out of his own shadow. At least he wasn’t limping along like a bloated tourer.

I glanced at my speedometer. I was doing 80 MPH. Not too fast and not too slow. He was doing probably 85. Also not too fast and not too slow for his slightly superior machine. I decided it was a good chance to examine the Ric Ocasek motorcycle in it’s natural habitat.

We both swooped into a canyon and took a long sweeper of a turn. I got a good view of the ST1100 as its rear suspension compressed. We rolled through as if in formation. The ST1100 held the curve, apex to apex just like my bike. Neither better nor worse. It was the epitome of “average”. I’d half expected him to attack the curve like a “sport bike” and leave me in the dust. Conversely it wasn’t floundering it’s tonnage like a “tourer” either.

Nothing stood out in his outfitting. The rider had a synthetic road suit but nothing as flashy as the outfits favored by BMW sport tourers. (BMWs are the head of the pack in sport tourers.) BMW folks usually gear up in flawless new suits that match the exact wavelength of their bike’s spotless paint job. Their suits cost exactly what you’d expect from BMW brand and they have the brand emblem so you know they paid it. He had matching but not flashy riding boots and a matching but generic full face helmet.

By comparison my outfit was a mess. I looked as hard ridden as the desert. I had faded leather chaps, a synthetic mesh jacket, mismatched fingerless gloves, heavy work boots, and a randomly selected silver colored full face helmet. Such an outfit is sure to embarrass eagle emblazoned Harley riders and flashy race bike pilots alike. Nothing matched anything but it was all well broken in.

The ST1100’s styling was nothing special. It was dark blue, or grey, or some other unremarkable color. Nothing much in terms of chrome and no interesting aftermarket tweaks. It had fairings that were better at shedding wind than my exposed radiator but didn’t aggressively slice the air like a sportbike. His saddlebags might be loaded with a week’s gear or empty. The most average of all was the exhaust note. Not the high pitched fighter pilot whine of a raging sportbike and not the deep longwave rumbling of a cruiser.

Competent and forgettable. I decided an ST1100 was not for me.

Charitably I rolled off the throttle on the next sweeper so the guy wouldn’t have to monitor his rear view mirror for a desert rat who might be gaining on him. I’d made up my mind. There was nothing cool about an ST1100.

I was wrong.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.

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0 Responses to The Ric Ocasek / Honda ST1100 Conundrum: Part 4

  1. Wolfman says:

    I’ve often thought that the ST series would be sweet if I bought one that had been crashed, and pulled all the plastic off of it. I want to see a little engine, maybe some wires and cables running about. Maybe I’d put a little windshield back on it for long runs, but definitely a classic fat, round, single headlight, like the UJMs of old. Then again, I’m still riding a mid-90s CB750, so maybe I’m typecasting myself.

    • I’ve had the same idea of stripping a fairing bike and enjoying it. Sadly I’m not sure it works out. Whenever I’ve seen a full fairing bike without the farings it’s like Frankenstein exploded on the operating table. You don’t see engine so much as you see wires and hoses and all sorts of shit you’d rather not think about. What could all that crap possibly do?

      I’ve noticed that a totally functional Goldwing loses 90% of it’s value when the fiberglass is toast even though it’s still utterly functional. I hate that! It seems like I should be able to buy one and happily ride around on the ugly skeleton. Aside from fuel injection I don’t see the need for a lot of complexity. (Maybe a bit more for ABS but you could try to avoid that hassle.) Then then I see the mess that is a Goldwing’s guts and run away. There are so many wires it’s like a microwave has been hacksawed in half. It’s gotta’ be mostly shit. Does it really take a wiring harness from an iPod to run a rear blinker? Maybe that’s the secret of cruisers, about a half mile less wires and shit because it’s not strictly needed in the first place?

      • Wolfman says:

        The flip side of it being that once the 90% value cut has been taken, the ensuing Frankenstein’s microwave is much closer to my price range. Theoretically, one should be able to re-route a few things and hide much of that wiring, but there’s a lot of frustration and rolls of electrical tape between here and Theoretically.

      • I’m not brave enough. You just know that every damn wire is a kill switch itching to short out.

      • Bruce says:

        I’ve known at least one ST1100 guy that slept under trees in the dirt. It’s not completely unheard of. I don’t like stripping fairings off of bikes because it usually messes up the airflow over the radiators. I’m firmly sold on fuel injection, I’m grumpy I can’t get it on my snow blower. I’ve even installed it in my early ’80s Dodge. Never touching another fuel jet is worth any price.

      • It took me decades to accept fuel injection. I made peace with it only grudgingly. The horrible truth I had to admit to is that carboretors suck!

  2. Phil B says:

    So when are you going to “flash the cash”?

  3. Siege says:

    I’ve been running into that problem, a personal style unsuited to any of the bikes I’ve looked at. Just got my motorcycle license this past summer, but nothing I’ve looked at has offered quite the right style or been in a price range to tempt me to part with my hard-earned dosh. Streetfighters (a bike that’s supposed to have fairings that has them removed, it is to a sport bike what a chopper is to a cruiser) always catch my eye, as do the big HEAVY sportbikes like the Hayabusa (I dig the fairings and shape, even if I look incredibly out of place on it and would prefer about half the engine because I avoid needing enough power to smear me across four counties), and cruisers and sport tourers have all caught my eye a time or two. Just never quite enough. I suppose there’s always the Elio to justify the license (which will be had with or without a proper motorcycle to go with it), although I’ll look just as out of place in that assuming I even fit in it.

    It’s far harder to find a motorcycle that works with a duster in terms of both style and ergonomics than you’d think. To be fair, a duster seems slightly out of place with just about all vehicles that don’t run on hay.

    • Does the Elio exist on actual earth? I think it was Lee Iaccoca who said the perfect electric car was always five years in the future and it seems like reverse three wheelers are the same. (Aside from the Morgan which is pure awesome on wheels. I have seen exactly one Morgan on American roads.)

      As for motorcycles, a novice can get anything with two wheels and enjoy it. (Probably not something too huge. Size takes skill and fairings are made out of money.) If you’ve never ridden before, virtually anything at all will be a thrill. Even the little scooters are a hoot. You can have immense fun tooling around on a total piece of shit, so long as it’s mechanically sound. Note: go all in for safety gear… it doesn’t have to be the prettiest but make sure you pay for protection long before you fret about cruisers versus tourers.

      Dusters just don’t work. Sorry but it’s true. I wanted one myself and there’s just no way to make the duster and the bike get along at 60 MPH.

      • Siege says:

        The Elio is still only theory at this point, but it’s basically just a subcompact car sawn in half the long way with a spare wheel to keep it from falling over, unlike most of them that try to do ridiculous things. Supposedly it will materialize sometime this year, but I’m guessing it’s going to be a case of “becomes available Dec. 29, 2015” if they manage it. I’ve seen a couple of Morgans myself on the roads, they’re very nice, and I wouldn’t mind having one or something similar when I have garage space for such a thing.

        I’ve ridden a bit, tried out riding two wheels and an engine years back on a scooter I was far too large for, and just recently a nice Harley Davidson in the motorcycle safety course. My plan was to buy someone’s old-but-mechanically-sound beater for $500-1000 if I can manage it, and spend probably twice that on all the best armor I can get. I still can’t figure out why people complain about an opportunity to gear up like a space marine. The duster would just go on over it in the cooler months (which is most of them up in these parts), if it could be coerced into playing nice with the bike. Still, beaters come in all styles, so it’s fair to consider which I prefer! I can heft around huge bikes better than most (tall and strong), but I’m looking at something in the 400-600 cc range if I find one that I like.

      • Greybeard says:

        I see all these guys buying trikes that are so expensive you could buy a perfectly good KIA Rio for less outlay, and I shake my head in wonder.
        Ever check the fuel efficiency of those things? They use MORE gas than the KIA, and take up just as much room in your garage!
        I’ll take the sidehack rig, with the option of dropping the hack if necessary, and gain an extra seat over the trike if I need it. (But I want to be able to cruise the Interstate in Colorado without fear of being run over late at night by the guy in a big MACK semi-trailer.)
        I’ve seen “Morgan” look-alike kits using the Moto Guzzi twin that also interest me. At least you’d have something that, at a meet, would attract more attention than a GoldWing that sprouted an extra wheel. Building the thing would also bring some satisfaction, I would hope.

      • Trikes aren’t for me. Especially when the rear axle is the one with two wheels. They remind me of the old three wheel ATC I used to drive as a kid… that thing was a rollover waiting to happen.

        On the other hand, I’ve been lusting after a sidecar forever. All the fun of a motorcycle with the goofy effects of asymmetrical steering and the “groove factor” of operating something that’s just plain weird? What’s not to like? Seriously, I want one bad.

        Sadly, it turns out that hooking those things up is something of an art and a science. It’s not a simple, hook up and unhook thing. It’s not cheap either. Plus I don’t want to forever give up on two wheels for my cruiser so I’d almost have to buy a second bike with the sidecar. That desire goes on the heap with the other “I want this toy” desires and seems to stay there.

        Every so often I see an old but serviceable bike/hack combination on Craigslist and daydream. I can’t help myself. And yeah, I’d like one that can handle interstates so I can take it on a multi state trip without taking multiple weeks off work.

  4. Greybeard says:

    Bought a 1200 GoldWing.
    Liked it, but had a couple situations where if I didn’t get help moving the bike I’da been stuck.
    Bought a 1500 ‘Wing WITH reverse. Liked it, but had the aforementioned problem with not being able to see what made the damn thing motivate.
    Bought a Valkyrie. Fast. Looks like a motorcycle. Sounds fantastic.
    And then I got a great deal on an 1800 GoldWing. It rides like the Valk. It’s still covered with too much plastic, but Wow… the thing is wonderful on the road.
    There’s a reason you hear what you hear about ’em.
    It’s true.
    (Enjoying your unfolding story. Thx.)

    • I’d heard the 1800cc Wing was a whole different animal than the 1500cc. They do seem to keep up the throttle quite nicely. Valks are really sweet machines too.

      The only bike I’ve ridden that had reverse was a Ural in a parking lot. Pretty cool machine! That said it’s about as impractical as motorcycles get. You’d die of boredom on a Ural if you had to make a long mile ride on an Interstate. Yeah, I know, nobody likes the Interstate but sometimes you gotta’ make time.

      • Greybeard says:

        Interesting that you’d mention the Ural.
        I’ve had the same concerns- “Recommended top speed of 65”? (And Ural riders seem to indicate that’s wishful thinking anyway!
        How much tinkering with that BMW knockoff would ya have to do to make it cruise at 70?
        If you’re interested, (as I AM), the answer may be here:
        http://redlegsrides.blogspot.com/

  5. Tim says:

    Isn’t a goldwing without fairings a valkyrie? They do look pretty cool. I imagine with some effort you could rat-ify it.

  6. Tennessee Budd says:

    I never thought much of what I used to call “Lead Wings”, & I’m a Honda guy. I’ll never insult them again after about 10 years ago at the Honda Hoot in Knoxville, when I saw an acquaintance who’d spent the day grinding holes in the hard bags & seriously altering the profile of the footboards (on his uncle’s Wing!). He rode that thing like a sportbike, & he had the skill to do it well.
    Hope you’re still out there doing it, Fuse!

  7. Dan Kruitz says:

    I enjoyed your musings on the ST1100 – I bought a barn fresh one last fall after searching for months for either that or a 5th Gen VFR. It needed to be a decent low priced project needing nothing too serious. I’m thrilled I got the ST over the VFR because of the bags. Power is good and smooth and it feels like a thoroughbred (even if it is 21 years old.) Yes there is bigger and faster, but it’s just so damned refined, it’s a pleasure to ride!

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