Honda Stateline one of the best looking bikes on the road

The guy in the pickup truck rolled down his window at the red light.

  • Feb. 17, 2011 7:00 p.m.

The guy in the pickup truck rolled down his window at the red light.

“That’s nice,” he said. “What is it?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s a Honda,” I replied.

He probably didn’t get the joke, but, as with most minimally-marked Japanese cruisers, the Honda Stateline was raising as many questions as eyebrows. A little brand confusion was understandable.

My leg was probably blocking the little chrome “Honda” side plate and the only other branding on the bike was the “Stateline” model logo printed on the tail.

Hawg loyalists will deride this lack of tank-badging and branding as intentional identity-blurring, a disguising ploy to sell bikes that are nothing more than Harley-posers.

And they’re probably not far off the mark.

It must be hard to have to build ambiguity into something you’re proud of.

Especially in this case because, for all its generic “chopperness”, the new 2010 Stateline is a distinctive new addition to the Honda cruiser lineup.

Actually, the Stateline is one of three new 1300cc additions to the cruiser lineup, following the lead of the Honda Fury that was released earlier to rave reviews.

And that guy in the pickup truck was probably seeing one of the first Statelines in Canada. There wasn’t one at the lineup launch in Georgia a month before. And this one was shiny, new and fresh out of the box, with less than a dozen klicks on the clock.

The Stateline is the entry-level bike to a lineup that includes a more-chopper-flavoured Sabre and the touring-packaged Interstate.

Despite minor differences between them, the three bikes share a common look and feel. The old blocky “highway patrol” retro styling of the 2009 VTX1300 lineup has given way to a leaner, stretched-out design in the new 2010 VT1300 series.

And it’s more of a low-slung custom cruiser look, rather than the ape-hangered chopper attitude of the Fury. Compared to a 2009 VTX1300, the Stateline is longer, with a 111 mm (4.4”) wheelbase stretch. And that stretch is accentuated by the flowing tank design and sinuous curving frame shape that combine to give this motorcycle a kind of feline, poised-to-leap-forward stance and attitude.

It contributes to the best feature of this bike – the view forward. Sitting well back and deep into the seat, the road ahead is framed by the lustrous flow of the Candy Red tank and the chrome highlights of pull-back handlebars and the elongated, bullet-shaped headlight. Swap in some custom braided lines and it would be perfect.

The handsome styling is supported by an exhaust-tuned soundtrack that is surprisingly brash, the dual pipes snarling to a throaty roar with every twist of the grip.

The 1312 cc V-Twin engine carries over with fuel injection replacing the single carb system. The shaft drive has been moderated to minimize driveline lash.

I took it a little easy on the bike, keeping the brand new engine in mind, but over the course of its initial thousand kilometers or so, the Stateline earned an easy 5.5L/100km fuel economy average.

The seat is firm and low with a deeper, one-piece cradling design. The same tires but with new wheels, and the same brakes but with ABS has been added as standard on the Canadian model.

The new bike weighs a little less than the old one but that’s partially due to the smaller gas tank.

Other styling and dynamic changes include a revised suspension system, raised signal lights, sharper styling edges, all part of the package that gives these bikes a dramatically new look and riding feel.

There are few negatives to note. There are the wimpy horn that expresses outrage with a friendly Roadrunner-like “Meep-meep”, shift and brake pedals that are too wide and force your toes to point outward or hook under, and the usual cruiser complaints of forward pegs and a back-straining riding position over the long haul.

But for the usual cruiser demand of weekend-warrior short rides and blabs, the 2010 Stateline fits the bill handsomely.

The 2010 Honda Stateline starts at $13,299. That may seem a significant bump up and over last year’s comparable 2009 VTX1300R predecessor, listed for $12,199, but don’t forget the new model’s added fuel injection and ABS linked-brake systems.

Canadian customers are somewhat limited by a single-choice colour for each model. But that palette will change yearly.

So, of the three, which would I choose?

Well, I’d pass on the blue Interstate, despite the added floorboards and bags because the windshield creates too much head-buffeting for taller riders. I prefer the more open wind assault and colour of the handsome Candy Red Stateline although, for a mere $100 more, I’d probably pick the slightly leaner and meaner Sabre in basic black.

Either way, either model, you’d wind up with one of the best-looking of a new breed of cruisers on the road—a modern cruiser that offers a new interpretation to the old theme, blending custom-like styling with modern technological content and reliability.

And if anybody asks, it’s definitely a Honda.

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