The First 5000 Miles.

This past Thursday I hit 5000 miles on the ST. Not 5000 on the odometer, but 5000 miles since I've had it. For those of you who may be counting, the bike had 376 miles on it when I got it, meaning I passed 5376 miles on the odometer. (Hey, I knew all that math I took in college would eventually pay off.) Since I bought it in the first week of July, those 5000 miles have happened in about 10 weeks, mostly commuting.

As a whole, I'm very happy with the bike. It's money well spent. I've found it to be comfortable and fuel efficent, which, at this point in my life, are two things high on the priority list. With so many options with the windscreen position, it's almost impossible to not be able to find a sweet spot for the wind. All the way down and you receive a full face blast of air from mid-chest up. Half-way up and the air is directed just over your head with a bit of back pressure on your shoulders. Put the windscreen all the way up and the world goes silent. Quiet enough to hear the engine valves ticking. In addition, the created back pressure pushes you toward the dash, which is a bit un-nerving the first few times you feel it.

The gas milage has been great. It's averaging a respectable 42 miles per gallon. Considering my GS gets in the low 30 MPG range, it's about a 33% increase. Most of the tanks have been fairly consistent, but I've had some oddball tanks in there too, with milages in the mid to high 30s. Interestingly, the three tanks with the worst gas milage, also had the shortest distance between fillups. The tanks that got the best mileage out of them were when I stretched the distance between fillups to 250-300 miles. All I can figure is that it has to do with the weight of the fuel. A full tank weighs more - a lot more - and the mileage suffers accordingly. The mileage increases as the weight of the bike decreases with the draining of the tank. If it's getting in the high 30s with a full tank, it would be safe to assume that it's getting hig 40s to low 50s when the tank is near empty. I don't know if that's correct, but the theory works in my head. Of course, the ST gets the best mileage on the freeway. One run to the coast and back netted 46.3 mpg over nearly 260 mostly freeway miles.

The STs powerband is scary linear. You don't really feel it coming on, but all of a sudden, there it is. All of it. I jumped around a semi a few days after I got it and the engine just burbled along. When I settled back into my lane, I looked down and saw that I was into triple digits on the speedo. The speed didn't scare me as the bike was rock steady; the fact that I got to that speed without realizing it did. Most bikes let you know you're going fast, either with the wind blast or engine noise. (Add semi-knobby tires, like on my GS, and you think you're going fast before you actually are.) Not so much with the ST. Between the lack of (traditional) engine noise and a monsterous pocket of quiet provided by the faring, I'm is fairly sheltered from the outside world. There's not even wind around my legs.

Some people do have complaints about the ST, but I find them to be fairly minor annoyances rather than things to really complain about. The biggest complaint I've read about was the engine heat that roasts the rider's legs. Well, the exhaust headers are located just in front of the pegs and the heat exhaust holes in the lower cowl do direct the heat toward the riders feet, but I wear boots and long pants every time I ride so the heat's not really an issue to me. I feel the heat more if the windscreen is up in a mid to high position. The low pressure vaccuum created by the unfurreled screen sucks the engine heat up toward me. I don't really think it's something to complain about- it's an interesting example of physics and thermodynamics - and I think in the winter, it'll be a nice way to keep warm. It can be annoying in the summer heat, but when the air coming over the windscreen is just as hot as the heat coming off the engine, it's kind of a non-issue.

Some of the other complaints I read about were the snatchy fuel injection and the bike's weight. It is a big, heavy bike. No doubt about that. The heft does disappear on the road, but at low speeds, in an uneven intersection, or just trying to push it up my driveway, I become painfully aware of what 750 pounds of bike feels like. It carries much of the weight low (except when it's fully fueled), and once I found out "where" the bike was, it became manageable. The throttle snatchiness is also managable, but it does require some thinking at times. Every fuel injected bike I've ridden has had some degree of snatchiness to it. Some more than others. The ST is on the 'more' side of that list. If the throttle is closed all the way during a ride, it will jerk a bit when you give it more gas, unless you use the clutch. If I roll the throttle back without completely cutting off the fuel, it doesn't jerk when the time comes to give it more. Use the throttle correctly in conjunction with the clutch and the ST is silky smooth. My only complaint about the throttle comes when riding over rough pavement. The throttle and fuel injection seem to be more sensitive to wrist input than on other bikes I've ridden. If I get shook around, and my throttle hand gets shook around, the bike sometimes begins to lurch making the rough road worse, making the shaking worse, making the lurching worse... and so it goes. A handfull of clutch stops it every time.

A couple of complaints I do have about the ST have to do with the rear "luggage" rack and the handlebars. Even thought the saddle bags are huge, the rear rack is next to useless. It's too small to be of much good and there are no tie-down points anywhere near it to strap a bungie to. A larger, aftermarket rack may have to be installed in its place. While I like the bars risers on the handle bars, and the sitting position they provide, I wish they could be rotated out a bit, maybe 2 or 3 degrees, to a more natural hand position. As they are, I have to ride with my elbows in a bit more than natural to keep from kinking my wrists too far. (It's not as bad as it sounds, but the problem does exist.) Also, I can seen the bars ends, or more particularly, the clutch & brake levers, in the mirrors. I don't know if that problem is created by the bar risers or not. I don't think so.

My biggest complaint, and this is a true complaint, is the speedometer/odometer inaccuracy. Comparing the indicated speed & distance with a GPSr found the ST to be 6%-7% generous. For Honda - or any company for that matter - to make such a high precision motorcycle, they should be able to figure out how to make an accurate speedometer & odometer.

I've long been interested in long distance riding, particularly in long distance bicycle touring. My Cannondale touring rig is very capable of tirelessly chewing up hundreds of miles at a time, however the CDale's motor (me) needs a break now and then. The ability to travel long distances, where the ride is more important than the destination is very appealing to me. I like to be moving. With that in mind, I've wanted to become a member of the Iron Butt Assocation for a number of years now. The GS seemed like a logical choice to do an IBA ride on, but it never happened. With the motorcycles I had prior to the GS, an IBA ride was not an option. At least not a smart one. The ST, like my C'Dale, is a very capable machine. An IBA ride will be happening soon. With a sister that lives just under 500 miles to the east, and a cousin who lives about 750 miles north, I have two turn point around destinations for a 1000mi/24hr or 1500mi/36hr ride. (Both my brother-in-law and my cousin are motorcyclists and understand that it's about the ride, not the destination.)

I have been suprised by the amount of comments I've received from other people about the bike. I'm used to getting comments about the GS. It's an odd bike and most people just want to know what it is. But I expected the ST to blend in and not be noticed as much, but I've found the opposite to be true. Many people think it's a BMW R1200RT, then do a double take when they see the Honda wings on the tank. Some ask if Honda is copying BMW. Maybe, but this is the second iteration of a bike Honda's had since 1990 when BMW was still producing the R100RT. The early ST was radically different from the RT of the same period. I don't think Honda or BMW copied each other, as much as I think that they just ended up in the same place from two very different directions.

I've got a list of add-ons that seems to grow continually. Headlight and radiator protectors, driving & fog lights for the front, LED Brake lights and reflective panels for the sides & rear, and a sheepskin seat cover for my rear, to name just a few. Tires will be needed eventually too, but right now, the Bridgestone Battlax BT020s seem to be wearing very well.

It's safe to say that I'm looking forward to the next 5000.

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