Mossy headed to Portugal to check out the all-new Honda Transalp XL750! Check out what he thought of it. Is it as good as the awesome Suzuki V-STROM 800DE?... Photography: Honda
The Transalp has been part of the Honda lineup since the original was launched in 1986, with another two variants coming along in 2000, and 2008. The latest 2023 model is the fourth incarnation of the middleweight adventure bike, and unsurprisingly is the best one yet!
Despite our best attempts, here at BikeReview we aren’t given the opportunity to review Honda motorcycles by Honda MPE Australia, at least not since 2017. However, occasionally we are lucky enough to purchase a launch report or review for you from one of our trusty Euro or USA contributors. We weren’t going to let the Transalp past, so we are stoked to bring you this from Mossy… Along with the trademark light and user-friendly feel and all-round capability which the Transalp has become so well-known for, the 2023 version has some all-important character and personality – qualities not always associated with the Honda brand. At its press launch in Portugal we throw a leg over the new, 91hp, 755cc parallel-twin bike along a wide variety of roads, which certainly help to show it in its best light.
Check out all our adventure reviews here…
Versatility is an obvious and immediate strong point, no matter what speed you ride at, and what type of route you’re navigating, the Transalp feels right at home. It has a very manageable nature, and whether you’re doing slow speed feet-up U-turns in town, or rounding high speed mountain curves and hairpins, its user-friendliness is always obvious. Having an impressive balance helps the 208kg mass an agreeable feel too, allowing you to enjoy the ride, and very much feel in charge while you at it.
Soon after getting on it, you feel the Transalp has that Honda-typical do-it-all personality, which given the sort of adventure machine the 750 is, doesn’t come as a surprise at all. I’ve ridden all the Transalp models and found each of them very likeable and easy to get on it with. Even if they did lack a degree of character.
Leaving the outer suburbs of Faro along cool, wet, slippery looking roads causes no worry, underlining how well-mannered virtually every aspect of the Honda is. Engine power delivery is an especially agreeable virtue, it comes in a smooth and linear fashion, with no dips or rushes to have to take into account. The 270° firing order gives the engine keen response, some character, and an attractive sound – though that’s more evident to those listening from a distance, rather than the actual rider.
With just about perfect fuelling, and very useful overall flexibility, I’m happy enough to leave the 91hp engine in the Sport mode. Housed within a remarkably sorted chassis, equipped with equally user-friendly brakes, nicely controlled, softly damped suspension, and an easy, agile manner, navigating the Transalp through the commuter traffic can’t be much more straight forward.
“A remarkably sorted chassis, user-friendly brakes and softly damped suspension… Navigating the Transalp through the commuter traffic can’t be much more straight forward.”
As we head out onto the quieter roads, I instantly get the impression the adventure bike is going to be yet another fully sorted Honda that’s hard to fault. Trouble is, I also suspect because it’s so damned sorted and polished, it would unfortunately also lack some personality and appeal.
And so that view continues. We up the pace a little more on the still damp roads during the first photo and video point, and with stuff like a good steering lock, nice switchgear, clear and informative 5in TFT dash, useful mirrors etc, etc, I saw no reason to expect that expectation would change. There isn’t, it seems, anything this bike isn’t capable of coping with really well.
But as the roads dry and the routes become more challenging, the real bonus of the Transalp begins to surface. When you rev the engine harder there’s a distinctly more exciting feel to it as the acceleration rate increases and the sound it makes becomes more serious. I certainly wouldn’t call it a sudden pick up in power and pace but combined with that fruity and endearing rise in intake and exhaust noise, the parallel twin really comes to life.
Earlier I found the motor to be all too happy pulling bigger gears and driving me from tighter corners cleanly and progressively. But when you spin it a bit harder, the extra effort is rewarded not just by extra pace, but significantly heightened emotion too. It’s not essential to work the gearbox more, but it’s definitely worth it if you do. An exciting Honda is a very welcome thing!
Fortunately, the increased speed the engine delivery continues to be contained very competently by the chassis parts. Just as they had done earlier in Faro, they provide a very safe and secure ride. Even making very sporty progress along the now totally dry tightly twisting mountain roads caused no worry.
Suspension might be soft, and surprisingly only adjustable for preload, but its travel is managed very well and, just like the Metzeler Karoo Road tyres, helps to provide surprising feel and feedback. Running over rougher sections of roads won’t faze it. Even the 21in front wheel feels secure and planted, which is something you can’t always say of rims of that diameter.
You constantly know exactly where you are on this bike, thanks to this very valuable chassis communication, and it’s another notable feature that really makes the Transalp feel so satisfying and rewarding. It definitely copes well with much quicker riding. It’s thrilling to ride fast.
“You constantly know exactly where you are on this bike, thanks to this very valuable chassis communication… It definitely copes well with much quicker riding. It’s thrilling to ride fast.”
Matters feel a little different when we take it for a brief stint off-road. Not having dried out following the recent rain mean the terrain’s surface, though generally easy in nature overall, became pretty slippery. With the Metzelers designed for road use only, grip levels aren’t massive.
As a keen off-roader, I have definite views on how best to tackle the dirt, and expecting an adventure bike as sizeable and weighty as the Transalp to perform well in those conditions is a big, and unreasonable ask.
I select Gravel mode from the five available (Sport, Standard, Rain, Gravel, and a custom User) which all influence the speed of throttle response (though not the peak power), and intrusion levels of engine braking, traction control and ABS. However, without off-road tyres, riding is always going to feel a bit edgy, and the short run proves pretty inconclusive. Had it been dry, I’m certain I could have made much better, confident progress. And with more off-road focused rubber, the Honda is undoubtedly going to be a half-decent dual-purpose machine, providing you choose appropriate routes and take care.
I’m not sure I like the idea of the tyres being of the tubed variety. An increasing number of manufacturers are fitting this arrangement to their adventure bikes. But given that the vast majority of owners don’t ever take their bikes off-road, and considering just how much more difficult punctures are to sort, I really think moving away from tubeless set-ups isn’t too clever or effective.
Honda fit a lot of aftermarket accessories to the test bikes, including crash bars, sump, and hand guards, and these would be well worth considering if you did want to get a bit more ambitious with your adventuring. There are lots of other things you can also buy and fit from the range of options available including luggage, a quick-shifter, taller screen, centre-stand, fog lights and handguards.
My bike seems to have a lot of these fitted, which undoubtedly makes it weigh quite a bit more than the 208kg it does in fully fuelled, ready to ride, standard trim. Even so, the Honda still feels very flickable and easy to steer, and though I didn’t sit in the comfy seat for more than an hour at a time, I feel just as fresh at the end of the 180km day test as I did at the start.
I’m disappointed to have to finish riding when we did, and I would have loved to have ridden the Honda for a lot longer and explored more of Portugal’s superb road and off-road network. I’m confident it will handle longer trips commendably well. The riding position’s roomy and relaxed, the protection offered by the fairing and screen is excellent, and the 16.9L tank’s suited to longer distance work too.
“Overall, the new Transalp represents excellent value. It’s a really enjoyable, highly versatile bike, regardless of what use you put it to; all typical qualities Hondas have become famous for.”
Overall, the new Transalp represents excellent value. It’s a really enjoyable, highly versatile bike to ride, regardless of what use you put it to; all typical qualities Hondas have become famous for. The new adventure bike’s real advantage though, isn’t something we often expect from the Japanese bike giant, and having the spirit it shows when you get more involved with the gearbox and throttle makes it all the more endearing. A Honda with some attitude, whatever next?!
Having ridden and thoroughly enjoyed the new Suzuki V-STROM 800DE middleweight adventure bike during some more extensive riding just a couple of weeks earlier, I couldn’t help but regularly compare the two bikes while testing the Transalp. One thing I’ll say from the off however, because I didn’t test them back-to-back, I’ll reserve delivering a final verdict until I do.
Check out Zane’s launch review of the Suzuki V-STROM 800DE here…
Before I even got on the Honda I knew it would have to be a very good bike to even match, let alone beat the Suzuki. As it turns out, though plenty is different about the two adventure bikes, it’s their overall personality that distinguishes them most.
The V-STROM’s engine is a gem, pulling keenly from very low rpm, and having such a healthy mid-range, top gear is just about all you need once you’re rolling above 50km/h. By contrast, the Transalp’s motor, though again very useful when you’re being lazy, has a more spirited top end surge to it. Given the make up of the motors is so similar, in that they’re both 750 parallel twins with 270° cranks, they do feel quite different. I’d say the Honda’s extra 8-9hp ultimately gives it excitement and speed, but you need to work the gearbox more to take fuller advantage of it.
On paper the Suzuki’s handling ought to feel relatively lethargic thanks to its considerable extra kerb weight of 22kg. In reality, that didn’t materialise. Honda fitted at least 10kg of kit to several of the test bikes in the shape of official extras, so that made the relative judgement tricky. Both bikes felt pretty agile to me and chucking them around wasn’t physically demanding at all.
Another theoretical advantage, but this time held by the Suzuki is its suspension. Longer in travel and much more adjustable, it should feel appreciably superior to the Honda’s. Out on the road if was harder to split the performance of the pair, though I’d wager with enough time on both bikes, the V-STROM’s kit would get the nod and I’m confident would be better off-road.
There’s an appreciable difference in price between the two bikes, but if you look at their spec and design, the higher cost of the Suzuki is justified. It might not make as much peak power, or be as light as the Honda, but its suspension has greater travel and adjustability, has a bolt-on sub-frame, a bi-directional quick-shifter, sump and hand guards all fitted as standard. The extra three litres of tank capacity will be perhaps more useful to some.
If I’m honest, I’d seriously consider both these bikes if I was in the market for a new road bike. But only when I rode them back-to-back would I actually know which one I’d go for. And I’m not sure if that would take me a few minutes, hours or days. Both are great multi-capable bikes that tick many boxes. It’s just that they deliver their talents in quite a different way.
2023 Honda XL750 Transalp Specifications
Price: Aussie Price TBA
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Colours: Ross White, Iridium Gray Metallic & Ballistic Black Metallic
Claimed Power: 67.5kW@9500rpm
Claimed Torque: 75Nm@7250rpm
Wet Weight: 208kg
Fuel capacity: 16.9L
Fuel Consumption Claimed: N/A
Fuel Consumption (measured): N/A
Engine: Four-stroke, two-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 8-valve, DOHC, 87.0mm x 63.5mm bore x stroke, 755cc, 11.0:1 compression, two-into-one exhaust Gearbox: Six speed Clutch: Wet, multiple disc
Chassis: Frame: Steel-tubed diamond, cast alloy swingarm
Rake: 27° degrees Trail: 111mm
Suspension: 43mm preload adjustable Showa inverted forks, 200mm travel (f), preload adjustable Showa rising-rate shock, 190mm travel (r)
Brakes: Twin 310mm discs, twin-piston axial ABS calipers (f), Single 256mm disc, single-piston ABS caliper (r)
Wheels & Tyres: Metzeler Karoo Road, 90/90-21, Metzeler Karoo Road, 150/70-18
Seat height: 850mm
Max lean: N/A
Instruments: Full-colour TFT dash
Editor’s Note: If you are reading this article on any website other than BikeReview.com.au, please report it to BikeReview via our contact page, as it has been stolen or re-published without authority.