2014 Honda CTX700 First Ride Review

  • Easy to ride; agile handling
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Fantastic automated DCT drivetrain
  • Mundane engine acceleration performance
  • Could have more cornering ground clearance
  • The Honda Civic of motorcycles

Have you ever wanted to reap the benefits of motorcycling but have always been intimated by the art of riding? Honda has the answer with its 2014 CTX700 (starting at $7799 plus $310 destination fee). The CTX blends some of the finer attributes of both cruiser and sport motorcycle genres while infusing new technologies, creating the ideal two-wheeled platform for those who have ever dreamt of swinging a leg over a motorbike.

Ease of operation is at the core of the CTX. With its low 28.3-inch seat height, road hugging center of gravity, and optional fully automated Dual Clutch Transmission ($1000—also includes anti-lock brakes) it is tailored to people who don’t have a whole lot of experience behind a handlebar. With its five-foot wheelbase and 494 pound curb weight this Honda is a full-sized machine, making it a perfect fit for riders who still seek a sturdy-feeling mount too. But plop you butt into the seat and it feels more diminutive than the aforementioned specs, and in motion it feels even more svelte. We’ll talk about that in a minute…

Flip the key, thumb the starter button and the CTX’s 670cc Parallel Twin engine fires to life and immediately sets into idle. It’s both quiet and smooth running. Since it’s fuel-injected and liquid-cooled this Twin runs perfectly whether you’re riding in the mountains or at sea level, day or night, hot or cold. It comes equipped with a manual-style six-speed transmission that’s controlled through a cable-actuated clutch lever mounted on the traditional left-side of the handlebar. The set-up is refined and about as friendly as they come, but the real magic lies with its automated DCT.

The cockpit of the CTX is comfortable with a deeply swept handlebar. The forward fairing does an admirable job of shielding its rider from excess wind buffeting at speed.

Honda’s optional DCT/ABS package deletes the clutch and shift lever and replaces it with a series of buttons on the handlebar controls. The DCT continues to impress us with its smooth, seamless functionality and is worth every penny of its $1000 option price.

This flip-up compartment in front of the rider’s seat houses the gas cap and a small storage pocket. 

Despite employing only a single brake rotor at the front, the Honda CTX700 stops with authority. The optional ABS functioned well too and will be a great feature for inexperienced riders.

Instrumentation is basic but legible even in direct sunlight. Strangely, the manual gearbox manual however doesn’t offer the convenience of a gear position indicator like it does on the DCT model.

The optional gearbox removes one of the biggest hurdles for a new rider: learning how to shift gears using a clutch. The DCT set-up deletes both mechanical components and replaces them with a series of pushbuttons on the handlebar controls. There’s also a lever-actuated parking brake. The electronic drive mode selection toggle engages the drivetrain at a standstill and offers two automatic riding modes: D mode (upshifts into the next gear based on vehicle speed) and S mode (sport mode—holds onto gears longer before upshifting and downshifts earlier for more engine braking). It also allows the rider to select gears manually via a pair of videogame like triggers on the left clip-on.

Honda was the first motorcycle brand to introduce dual clutch transmission technology for 2010. Three years later it continues to be the only manufacture offering this smart and new rider friendly technology.

When you press either the up- or downshift trigger, the ECU engages the clutch that operates the requested gear (see sidebar). This shifting exchange happens within a fraction of a second thereby achieving smooth, seamless acceleration. DCT allows this Honda to be ridden with the simplicity of a scooter yet still delivers enough speed for overtaking maneuvers on the expressway. Another plus is how refined the powertrain is with no lurching or clutch shutter when launching from stop signs.

The technology does come with a weight penalty, the set-up adding 22 pounds and increasing its fully fueled curb weight to 516 pounds. But considering how well it functions and the potential stress savings for those who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of working a clutch, riding the DCT option will be a big convenience, allowing them to better focus on their surroundings and the road ahead.

In spite of its heft the CTX’s brakes get the job done and provide easy and surefooted stopping. Braking hardware is comprised of a perimeter style 320mm cross-drilled disc clamped by a twin-piston caliper. A single-piston caliper pinches the smaller 240mm rear disc. Unlike some of Honda’s other street bikes the brakes aren’t linked and can be applied independently of one another– a feature that we like. We had a chance to ride a model outfitted with ABS and it functioned flawlessly and will be a welcome safety feature for all riders.

The engine complements the up-spec gearbox offering a smooth spread of power with peak torque arriving at 4750 rpm, but it lacks the punch of a sporty middleweight or big bore cruiser riders expect. Although you won’t win any stop light drag races it does have enough power to keep up with automobile traffic. We also appreciated the engine’s subdued V-Twin like power pulses, a product of its uneven firing order that just makes it plain more fun to ride. It’s pretty easy on fuel too netting just over 60 mpg during our slower paced ride netting a range of nearly 200 miles based on the 3.17-gallon capacity of its fuel tank.

The way in which the engine is positioned within the chassis further contributes to the handling of the motorcycle. With the cylinders sporting a 62-degree forward cant it has an exceptionally low CG which is evident the first time you swing it into a parking lot or bust a U-turn. It’s simply incredible how agile the CTX is which will be a boon for those that routinely ride in and out of traffic and tight parking spots. With just over four inches of travel the suspension glides over asphalt and delivers a comfy ride. The CTX’s forward fairing offers some degree of protection from wind and road debris, helping to reduce fatigue on longer trips. There are also passenger grab handles and a small storage compartment in front of the rider adjacent to the gas cap.

The ergonomics of the CTX are relaxed similar to that of a cruiser. The handlebar has a deep rearward sweep that is not only cozy but functional too, especially during low speed steering maneuvers. The forward position of the footpegs is also very cruiser-ish and while we appreciated the leg room it hindered ground clearance in steeper turns. The front brake lever also doesn’t offer any position adjustment which could make it more difficult to use for those with smaller hands.

Whether you’re on a strict budget or seeking a more traditional riding experience you should take a second look at the ‘N’ variation of Honda’s CTX700. This motorcycle shares the same running gear as its brother including its 670cc Parallel Twin engine and quick handling chassis but deletes the forward fairing and passenger grab handles. It also carries an $800 less expensive price tag with it priced under seven grand (plus $310 destination charge). Of course, it’s available with the safety and simplicity of Honda’s fabulous DCT and ABS for a $1000 upcharge.

Although the new CTX700 is comfortable, nicely assembled and of course easy to ride, it certainly isn’t for everyone. It lacks the handling and acceleration performance for fast-paced folks and doesn’t have anywhere near the character of an American or metric cruiser. Still for those that have always lusted over the idea of riding but have up until now been tentative to fulfill their fantasy because of the mechanics and coordination required, the CTX could be the machine that finally enables them to experience life first hand with the wind in their hair.


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