Big, competent and kinda different. But, was Australia ready for the ST1100? Here’s what you must know to buy a used ST.
Honda’s mile-eating tourer, the ST1100 (known as the Pan European in other markets), first found its way Down Under in 1990, gaining slow showroom response at a new price of $13,990.
The Australian bike marketplace has always viewed entirely new models with a little suspicion and the ST was no exception.
After all, here was a bike that was falling smack bang into a sportsbike mad retail atmosphere, weighing in at 288kg and using a longitudinally mounted V4 powerplant. Big and different.
It wasn’t a pretty motorcycle either and a short demonstration ride was never going to sell the bike.
Short of the full dresser-style category and the brand’s GoldWing, the market was a little new to the idea of purpose-built tourers that could be shoved a long at the sort of clip of which the ST was capable.
It was remarkably stable, even at low speeds, but there was no hiding that heft of 288kg dry (298kg for the ABS version).
The upshot was that this was always going to render the ST as a bit of a sleeper, and so it proved locally. The influence of word of mouth changed all that, and before too long, the ST became the thinking man’s long-hauler of choice.
The bike underwent some minor mechanical and superficial body changes over its nine-year model run. Significantly, this included replacing the bank-angle sensor.
The whole idea was that the bike would be switched off if it fell over, which made a lot of sense. While, the idea was good, the execution not so.
There was a recall and replacement program for this (affecting bikes made up to and including 1993) – the engine could shut down unexpectedly with the obvious dire consequences.
Power came from the aforementioned liquid-cooled, 1084cc, DOHC, 90-degree V4 boasting performance figures of 73kW at 7500rpm and 111Nm at 6000 rpm and it is not overstating the case to suggest that the engine was one of the most balanced and poised to ever pop out of the Hamamatsu plant.
Hugely understressed and technically accomplished, while those numbers are not the most impressive when viewed as raw data, the linear and smooth delivery of the power really was second to none, fitting brilliantly in line the bike’s long-haul touring brief.
Lovely, creamy grunt was there right off the bottom and all the way to the 8000rpm redline.
Coupled with the impressive running characteristics, another highlight was its subsequently proven reputation for reliability and durability.
No-one ever came away from an ST1100 complaining about a lack of power and the bike’s well-earned reputation for bulletproof operation was also a great enticement for buyers.
The bike was kind to wallets in other ways too. Indeed, servicing costs were kept to a minimum due to the bike’s unheard of 24,000km major service regimen.
In keeping with the design brief of long-legged touring, the final drive was by shaft, and there was a damper built in to reduce shock load during gearchanges.
The five-speed box showed typical Japanese characteristics of robust and smooth operation, which was, and remains, nice for a bike that was going to be expected to cut out long riding distances.
Cleverly, fuel weight was carried low down in the steel frame, underneath the seat. This aided the bike’s centre of gravity, which was a very good thing, considering the bike’s massive fuel capacity of 28 litres.
Seat height was a very manageable 800mm, but the seat was wide and splayed the legs out, which could render it a bit of a challenge for those for shorter of stature.
From 1995 Honda released the ST1100A locally. Available at the same time as the standard model, it got different wheels, anti-lock brakes using a linked three-piston system, plus traction control. Many consider this to be a more accomplished motorcycle.
In 2002 the bike was discontinued and replaced by the ST1300 which kept the V4 alive, with upped capacity of 1284cc.
While the general report card is very good for the ST1100, there are things to look for when in the market for one.
Look hard at the swingarm. It is known to corrode badly. Seizing brake calipers and poor paint quality are issues which affects older bikes in particular and lighting is only adequate for a bike that will likely be travelling in very dark areas at pretty quick speeds.
Braking on the standard model is reasonable, but not wonderful.
Stopping power is much improved on the A model, though the linked brakes require some adjustment of riding technique for those not accustomed with its idiosyncrasies.
Take into consideration tyre condition. The ST is very sensitive to tyre wear and, if the bike weaves at speed, this is highly likely to be the problem.
The smart thing will be to replace tyres after purchase in any case, but being in the know in this area could see you able to knock the price down appreciably.
If the bike weaves with new or near new tyres, suspension should be your next port of call, but this will be harder to check. In particular, springs can get tired at the front, becoming decidedly spongy. This is not a tough thing to rectify, but any unit with more than 50,000km will want attention in this area.
Nice colour-coded hard bags come as standard fitment and this is a huge plus. They are not particularly large, but they are well made and enhance the look of the bike.
There were two factory top boxes also available for the bike as optional fare. We are guessing they will be hard to come by now, so any used purchase is more attractive if these are in place.
There are aftermarket items available, but they never fit as well nor look as good as the factory stuff. Aftermarket screens are also available for the taller rider, in addition to a range of seating choices.
Another big tick for the ST is that fact that it is the choice for many police forces and paramedic outfits across the globe. That’s going to be based on two things – rider satisfaction and economics – and they are two major elements when buying a used motorcycle.
The ST is a very robust and competent motorcycle. If you are on a budget and looking for a bike that will take from dawn to dusk in comfort with a degree of sporting ability thrown in, well you’ve come to the right place.
The ST1100 was available from 1991-2002.
This is one you can haggle on. Big mileages don’t matter. Look for good service records and drive a deal. You’ll pay $4000 – $5000, but I reckon you could well get a beauty for three grand.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.