One of the most ignored and underrated motorcycles of all time, and one of the best, is now gone from the United States! Actually it’s been gone for a couple of years now, but few are aware of what’s been lost. I’m speaking about the Honda CTX700; a boldly styled, touring cruiser introduced here in 2014. Why, you ask, am I lamenting this loss, when you have possibly heard of this dual clutch automatic motorcycle/scooter/ugly (to some) duckling? The bike ended up being discontinued after the 2018 model year, and that year was only offered with the DCT transmission. No one has done a review on the manual transmission model, and that’s a real shame, because it is one of the easiest of any manual transmissions you’ll ever try. The cable actuated clutch has a very light pull, which makes it not only great for beginners, but also for those annoying situations where you end up sitting in stop and go traffic. Certainly the DCT automatic transmission appealed to some riders, but I believe many folks had no idea it was available with a regular, manual transmission. It blew my mind that no one in the motorcycle media bothered to test the cheaper, lighter manual transmission version of the CTX700. As a result the essence of the bike’s goodness seems to have been lost in the micro-analysis of the DCT, being that it is a rare thing on an actual motorcycle. Since then we have seen the DCT appear on the NC700X (introduced alongside the CTX), then the Africa Twin, and now the all new Goldwing. Truly the automatic transmission’s come back (yes kiddies they built a few automatic transmission CB750s back in the 70s) is important in a few ways, but it should not rob a good motorcycle of having an honest and complete review.

Full disclosure, I bought a leftover 2014 CTX700 in 2016, and have been amazed by it. However I am not paid by, nor benefit from Honda in any way.

While focusing on the transmission many reviewers left out talking about how comfortable the motorcycle is; the seat is soft, yet supportive; the suspension manages to erase all except the harshest of bumps from getting through to the rider. The ergonomics are pretty normal for a cruiser, with your feet positioned out in front, but the handlebars keep you upright. The seat is low at just over 28 inches tall, and has enough length for the driver to move around on longer rides…even allowing many riders to lean back while riding — something that seems to get rarer all the time on cruisers.

The front brake is a little unusual. To cut cost and weight Honda saw fit to bolt the front disc directly to the wheel, rather than having a free floating set up most motorcycles have today. To an experienced rider it feels pretty normal, until you have to make a sudden grab on the brake in an emergency stop. In those situations it wants to lock up much easier than a normal floating rotor, but to balance the situation Honda has provided a very strong rear disc brake with plenty of power. A note to experienced riders: be careful when trail braking into a corner as the rear can be a bit grabby at times too. Regardless of these oddities the brakes are very effective, strong and easy to control once you adjust to them.

The engine is a little down on power in its class, but it’s plenty to get you merging on the freeway with ease, or just escaping the cages in traffic. Honestly, it would be nice to have a bit more passing power once up to freeway speeds (65–75 mph), but it’s only lacking compared to much bigger cruisers. From the reports I’ve seen, we’re talking about 45 hp and 44 lbs ft of torque at the rear tire, yielding 0–60 mph of around 5.5 seconds and a quarter mile in a decent 13.9–14.2 seconds. For those who aren’t aware that’s similar to a stock Sportster, and even many larger cruisers; yes you won’t be nipping at the heals of folks on FZ-09s, but you can keep up with your buddy on his Bonneville Street Twin or the guy down the street with an old KZ550.

My CTX700 with optional factory saddlebags latched on.

Perhaps more important to many of us are the other ways Honda differentiated the CTX700 from all touring cruisers before it. For starters I have personally seen no less than 55 mpg no matter how hard I ride the bike, and get 60–65 mpg riding as I normally do, which is only slightly aggressively. The handling is better than any cruiser I’ve ever ridden. The reason is that the 670cc parallel twin is leaned forward 62 degrees in order to get the center of gravity as low as possible. The result is handling that is nearly as telepathic as the best standard bikes out there and walking speed maneuverability and stability that is shocking. At just under 500 lbs without saddlebags, the CTX is a delight to ride whether you are commuting, site seeing, weekend road tripping, or riding cross country. Honda was wise to use 120/70x17 front tires and 160/60x17 on the rear, which adds to the sporty feeling and confidence this motorcycle gives you. Oh, and while (much to my disappointment) the CTX has only a “glove box” where the tank would normally reside, rather than the full on front trunk (frunk) of the NC700X. It’s great to have someplace to put stuff, but there’s only enough room for cell phone, a pair of very light gloves, or whatever else you can get creative and cram in there. However, given the CTX’s mission as a touring bike, it seems a massive oversight to not find a way to incorporate the frunk into the design. Partially making up for this are an available set of hard factory saddlebags, which you can get color matched side panels for, as I did. There are good instructions on YouTube for installing the bags and keying them to the ignition key. They are roughly the same capacity as on the new Goldwing and better yet they are easily removeable. Unlock them with the key, raise the handle and slide them off towards the back. I would love to have had these on a rental bike I took on a trip up and down the PCH a few years ago. It’s like having a pair of suitcases with you that can easily be removed and taken into a hotel/motel room. They are very secure and pretty much waterproof. The bags also survived a low side crash at about 25 mph with the only damage being to the finish of the painted panel.

Maybe there will be a new model in a year or two, but until then I highly recommend checking out the CTX700 with a manual transmission. I like the idea of crossing cruiser ergonomics with aerodynamics that strike a balance between the partial exposure of the engine like an ADV bike, the functionality of a touring bike and styling licks reminiscent of sport bikes. It is truly a cruiser styled like no other. There are many leftover and used CTX700s out there and they are well worth considering as your next motorcycle. There is also an owners’ club, a naked version called the CTX700N and of course the DCT models for those to whom that appeals.

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Brian Hofmeister

Diverse experience in restaurants, warehousing, manufacturing combined with many interests such as photography, science, powersports, R/C, movies, guitar, UFO.