Part 1

2009-10-15 - Thu - odo: 14,450


This is an account of my life adapting to a new style bike. This is mainly to help myself remember both the good and the bad. I tend to forget my gripes as time goes on. I am making it public because some are entertained by this and it give me incentive to update it continuously.

I bought this 2004 Honda ST1300A Sport Touring bike. It is very different from all the other bikes I have owned. Very different from my Harleys, not a lot different from my Buell or my Honda GL650.

As a long time Harley rider, I have come to grips with the quirks and issues with them. I have done all my own work and will say that they are very reliable up to around 50 or 60k miles. After that, little things go wrong, and sometimes big things. The good news is that most of these things are both easy and cheap to fix if you do it yourself. The bad news is that some of them are a lot more difficult than they need to be mostly because of tradition, trying to keep a certain style. The air cooling is definitely an issue. Cylinders and heads get too hot in heavy traffic, wear and eventually fail. I have owned and driven other non-Harley bikes, but none of them were considered my primary ride.

Now, understand, there are more likely to be negative things here than positive. It is no fun to write *Yep, everything going fine here, yep yep.* Booooring...... So don't look for too many praises. You can find those on other people's sites.

This is the bike, a 1994 Honda ST1300 ABS

2009-10-17- Sat - odo: 14,700


When I picked up the bike, the battery was dead. I was able to jump start it and get it on the trailer. Then, a couple of hours later, after I dropped off the trailer and tried to drive home, I had to jump it again. This was not a huge surprise, as the owner told me he had to charge the battery after not riding it for a year. I expected to change the battery soon. Yesterday I stopped at my favorite shop and they did not have a battery in stock. I thought the battery would last a bit, but even charging it for 24 hours, and after riding it all day, it was dragging after just stopping for a little while. I stopped at a dealer in Mass. for a new one. I hate buying from a dealer, I hate paying Mass. taxes, but because of where I was I would not have a chance to get a battery until the middle of next week, which would prevent me from riding it for a few days. Can't have that. There were basically two choices of battery at this place or my favorite shop. Cheap, aftermarket for $75 or a good Yuasa for $175 (not in stock). I took the cheap crap that was in stock. Maybe good for two years. Maybe.

Note, this bike uses the smallest battery I have ever used. It is smaller than the Harley Sportster battery. Dwarfed by the Harley touring bike battery. Even smaller than the KLR 650 battery. Add to that the fact that when you turn the key on, there are 130 watts of headlight, lots of other lights, fuel pumps, computers and all kinds of other electronic doo-dads to power. Even the manual states that you should use the key to turn the bike off rather than the engine shuttoff swith so that the battery won't be drained. I plan on adding a turn off switch for the lights to reduce reduce some of the non-operation power usage.

The BIG battery is from my big Harley. The tiny one is for the ST1300.

2009-10-18 - odo: 14,900


Once I got some miles on this bike, I noticed that it pulled to the right. This was rather pronounced. My left arm was actually getting tired from the extra work required to compensate for it. This is only the second used bike I have bought. The first being a rather high mileage Honda GL650 down in Argentina. That one had issues also, but then, it had a hard life.

A search of the site showed that this is a known issue. After slogging through tons of useless posts I found some real info. The issue seems to have to do with the way the front tire is mounted. It is sensitive to proper torque and procedure. Here is the basics of the procedure:

1) Put bike on center stand.
2) Loosen up the axle and axle pinch bolts.
3) Re-torque the axle (79 Nm).
4) Re-torque the right side (throttle side) axle pinch bolts (22 Nm).
5) hold the front brake and compress the front suspension several times.
6) Re-torque the left side axle pinch bolts (22 Nm).

Front axle = 17mm allen wrench 22Nm = 16.236 lbs foot 76Nm = 56.088 lbs foot

This worked very well. The front tire is worn on the left side, which I think is causing the minimal amount of residual drifting. I also think that if there is still any left when I change tires, I will look into ensuring the forks are aligned. I have had this same wear issue with the Buell and I thought I fixed it by aligning the rear wheel to the front wheel, even though I did not seem to actually adjust anything. I had changed the tires at the same time, so I must have been more accurate in my positioning of the forks.

I have an idea for checking the alignment of the upper fork tubes that should allow me to more precisely align them than the standard procedure does. Of course, if all else fails, I can just tweak the fork one way, see what that does, then tweak it the other way and retest.

As far as the front tire wearing more on the left side than the right? That is normal. On Radial sport type tires the effect is more noticeable than on non radial touring tires. Although I noticed this on my Sportster when I went to a more rounded profile tire. If you look hard, you can see it on the Touring tires also. Putting together the various Internet guesses, it looks like if you add crowning of the roads with the fact that we drive on the right side of the road, it makes sense. When you drive on the right, you have better visibility through a left turn so are more likely to lean farther and go faster through them. Also, left turns are *longer* than right turn (larger radius) so theoretically we drive more miles leaned left than right. There are two types of riders that I don't think see this much. Those that ride hard in both directions, who usually wear the sides of their tires down fast and those that don't lean much at all, and they wear the center of their tires more.

2009-10-20 - odo: 15,050


If you talk to a lot of Honda riders, they have this almost fanatical view of their bikes, although not as bad as some BMW riders. They believe them to be totally reliable, as if there are no issues. They also tend to believe that Harleys are totally unreliable. Neither of these two views is completely correct. Hondas are mechanical/electrical devices. That means things can and will go wrong, just as with Harleys. And, as with Harleys, the Honda ST1300 has a huge following with lots of on-line information as well as a ton of misinformation. A larger percentage of ST1300 riders put long miles on their bikes, but there are still a lot of Harley riders that also put large miles on. The difference being that there are so many more HDs out there compared to the ST that the large miles riders are not as visible.

One of the differences that I have found is the dealerships. There are HD dealers on every street corner it seems. And although I have not been overly impressed with the dealers or the mechanics in general, they do tend to know their bikes fairly well. But then, when all your bikes for the last 100 some odd years have been basically the same, and engine models last decades, it is easy to know your bikes.

The Honda Dealers often sell generators, ATVs, hedge trimmers and nose hair trimmers. They also tend to sell other brands. I was at a dealer looking for a battery. This dealer sold Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, some Chinese brand, Kawasaki, trailers, trikes, ATVs, snow mobiles etc. One of the big Honda dealers in my area told me they only get one or two Honda ST1300 bikes each year. The mechanics here are NOT going to know the quirks of this bike. The mechanics may or may not be good. No matter what you ride, it is a good idea to get to know your bike and do as much of the work as you reasonably can. If you do find a mechanic that really knows his stuff, keep him employed. Stay as friendly as you can with him. Good mechanics are worth their weight in gold.

2009-10-25 - odo: 15,600


I was beginning to hate this bike. The steering was very heavy with Irene on the back. The back of the bike was so low that it was hard to see out of the mirrors and the handling was less than stellar. I checked the tires and found that the back one was very low. It turns out I had a nail in the rear tire. Needed to replace them fairly soon anyway, but I was hoping to get a couple thousand more miles first.


Another *feature* of this bike (every bike has at least one) is that the thermostat in the radiator tends to fail. Fortunately the failure mode is rather benign for most riders. It fails to close all the way, so the bike will take a little longer to warm up and in cold weather riding it will run much colder than it should. Most riders never even notice this. Mine has failed. This has no effect on warm weather riding, but I don't expect to see a lot of that really soon, so I will get the recommended aftermarket thermostat and change it. This is a long, but easy and cheap job.

Bob L

Last Edit 2009-11-22 ~8pm