machine". The danger here is that it could have ended up a bit of a ‘master of none’, although one only has to look to our friends in the four-wheeled business to see that the mix of 4x4 space, size and a sprinkling of non-tarmac-surface-based ability has redefined the family truckster. Yes, ‘soft-roaders’ have become the urban bus of choice, and the hardware is built with this in mind.
Fact is, things like Ducati’s Multistrada are more the new Honda’s competition than the R 1200 GS or KTM 990 Adventure. Think of a biggish tourer that will offer a degree of light off-road competence and you’ll be on the money. Of course, there are many GS owners that will never hit the trails, but love the fact that they can. This is where the Crosstourer will pinch market share, because it really is a very competent touring machine. Off-road? Well, we’d like to tell you, but Honda was pretty insistent that our launch ride be kept to the blacktop, citing a sensitivity centring around keeping testers upright. Hmmm… We’ll get the bike ourselves and report back on that front.
Suspicion suggests it will do a fine job of taking you most places, in comfort, using a very technologically advanced engine and well-engineered chassis package to do it.
Where the bike does shine is in its point of difference via Honda’s choice of powerplant. The 1237cc V4 engine – derived from the much-vaunted, road-going VFR1200F – has been remapped for better low to midrange response via camshaft revision and altered valve timing.
The donk uses a combination of a 76° angle between the two banks of cylinders and a crankshaft with 28° phasing between the crankpins to virtually eliminate vibration. This takes away the need for a power-sapping balancer shaft. The result is a higher output together with a noticeable absence of vibration.
It’s a big fattie on paper, tipping the scales at 265kg dry, although that weight is allayed at low speed by the manner in which the engine is configured. The rear two cylinders are inside the line of the front pair, narrowing the bike significantly. This allows the front of the seat to be narrowed in turn, effectively making for much less leg-reaching. It’s damned clever, and will bring shorties into the equation.
In a further effort to slim the thing down, channels in the fairing at the front of the bike reduce frontal area while directing cooling air into the radiators.
Further contributing to the engine’s compact dimensions is Honda’s Unicam technology, borrowed from the CRF range of single-cylinder motocross machines. This employs a single-overhead-camshaft configuration to reduce the size and weight of the cylinder heads and optimise combustion chamber shape.
The Crosstourer is also equipped with TCS traction control. This system monitors rear wheel speed, looking for fluctuations that could suggest imminent loss of traction. If the system believes wheelspin is likely to occur, engine power is momentarily reduced, maintaining traction. The system can be switched off for rear-wheel steering antics, if desired.
Tyre sizes – 110/80-R19 at the front, 150/70-R17 at the rear – serve the bike well, but we’d love to see a 21in front for a more competent off-road option.
Both ends have reasonably plush, long-travel suspension. The 43mm upside-down telescopic forks are pretty much standard fare. The front-end feels planted and points well – the spring rates are on the soft side, but do the job nicely.
The rear features a Pro-Link set up that is well matched to the bike’s likely usage. At no stage was there any bottoming and the rates here are spot-on. Both ends are adjustable for both rebound and preload.
At the back there is a neatly integrated luggage carrier and grab rail to which the optional panniers attach directly.
Honda’s Traction Control System (TCS) and Combined ABS (C-ABS) are part of the deal, although the ABS is non-switchable – again pointing the bike away from any sort of heavy off-road going. The brakes are primo kit, with radially-mounted three-piston Nissin calipers gripping dual rotors. The back is attended to via the usual set-up of a single disc with two-piston Nissin caliper. Absolutely top-end stopping package there. Welcomed also is the maintenance-free shaft final drive.
The LCD-based instrument cluster is neat, although fuel and engine temperature readouts disappear when the rider wears polarising sunglasses, as does the incremental tacho that runs transversely across the head of the binnacle. The speedo readout is large and easily read, however.
Further information includes an odometer, two trip meters, remaining fuel, fuel consumption (both actual and average), range to empty, a gear position indicator and a clock. Fuel capacity is pretty reasonable at 21.5lt, offering a real-world range of around 320km.
You get off-road-inspired knuckle guards to provide welcome wind and weather protection and the adjustable windscreen has been shaped using computational fluid dynamics analysis to lessen buffeting. It works very well indeed.