Here's the full article.
Road Test: 2008 Honda Varadero
Touring is in its genes
David Booth, National Post Published: Friday, May 23, 2008
The Honda Varadero has a wonderfully smooth engine with little vibration until 7,000 rpmBill PetroThe Honda Varadero has a wonderfully smooth engine with little vibration until 7,000 rpm
SACACOMIE, Que. -Don't ask me where we are 'cause I'm not quite sure. I know we're in Quebec and I know there hasn't been cellphone coverage in a long while and there's also a log cabin-style four-star hotel incongruously located at the end of a gravel path. But, other than that, I couldn't find myself with a Rand McNally and a Sherpa guide. I just zigged when Garmin's new Zumo motorcycle-specific GPS navigation system told me to, followed the little purple line on its tiny LCD screen and I ended up God Knows Where (it's north of Shawinigan but listed only on a very few specialized maps).
But that's what "adventure touring" is supposed to be all about -- discovering new and far-flung destinations and then wondering why you didn't think of coming here before. Or, at least, so says Warren Milner, general manager of Honda Canada and quite an adventure tourer himself. And he's putting the might of Honda Canada behind it, importing Honda's Varadero to Canada without waiting for Honda USA to get on board. That might not sound like a big deal, but, until very recently, no Honda came to Canada without first having been approved for American consumption. Not only that, Milner and the Honda crew have created an extensive marketing program for the Varadero (and its stablemate, the CBF1000) with a wide range of accessories, riding gear and a specialist Web site -- AdventureAwaits.ca -- that encourages Canadian motorcyclists to get their Sir Edmund Hillary freak on.
None of this matters a whit if the new Varadero can't keep up with the BMW R1200GS, the mac daddy of the adventure touring set. And, indeed, the Varadero shares many a trait -- both good and bad -- with the gargantuan Beemer. In fact, the bad can be summed up with that one descriptor -- gargantuan -- as the Varadero is, like the BMW, one king-sized dirt bike. With a seat perched some 836 millimetres off the ground and weighing in at an SUV-like 269 kilograms, the Varadero is for neither the newbie nor the short of inseam. U-turns are a tippy-toe affair and, though it looks ready for the now-defunct Paris-Dakar, its off-road abilities are somewhat limited.
That rather long reach to the ground does have its advantages, though. That tall seat height, for instance, means there's a generous amount of room to the foot-pegs and consequently lots of space for arthritic knees. Combined with a broad saddle definitely designed by someone who spent a lot of time in the saddle, the Varadero is very comfortable for the long haul. Ditto the passenger seat. Throw in its comprehensive, wind-cheating fairing and the Varadero is more comfortable than some full-fledged tourers. If you are thinking of riding down to Tierra del Fuego and are looking for a reason to buy something other than a 1200GS, you've just found it. The Varadero is the most comfortable bike of the adventure touring set.
All that height also means that the Vardero has dirt bike-like long-travel suspension that soaks up the bumps, something much appreciated as the road to God Knows Where was festooned with potholes and frost heaves that make Toronto's mean streets look as smooth as a freshly iced rink. A sportier bike -- the CBF1000 (See Page DO12) -- along for the same ride jarred our kidneys much more.
All that height and suspension travel doesn't affect handling in any adverse way. Though the Varadero will never challenge Suzuki's V-Strom (the other major player in the adventure bike scene and the sportiest of the lot) down a twisty road; neither does it lallygag about. As long as you don't play the late braking and I want to change direction in the middle of the corner game (which upsets the aforementioned long-travel suspension), the Varadero is quite willing to lean way over. The 996-cubic-centimetre V-twin motor, derived from Honda's VTR1000 sport bike, is willing as well though its thrust is blunted by all that weight. Like the VTR, the Varadero has a huge powerband that responds immediately to the twist grip. The fuel injection is well sorted with none of the coughing and spitting of some other large-bore V-twins. The engine is also wonderfully smooth with little vibration until 7,000 rpm, by which time you've skirted past adventure touring into full-bore adventure racing, which is likely to get you into trouble with the good Julian Fantino. Were it called to motivate 20 kilograms or less, the Varadero's V-twin would be one of the great engines.
Indeed, the only thing separating the Varadero from motorcycling perfection is a Slim-Fast diet. Twenty kilograms of tummy tuck or liposuction would free up that motor and make the handling a little easier, the only two improvements the new Honda really needs. As it is, it is every bit a worthwhile challenge to the BMW's hegemony.
The 2008 Varadero costs $13,999, which includes standard anti-lock brakes. Its extensive accessory lineup includes saddle bags, a topcase and heated handlebar grips.