Honda Stateline, Interstate and Sabre (Review)

honda canada sabre vt1300

After introducing the Fury, Honda aims to build out the platform with the Sabre, Interstate and Stateline.

Wth the introduction of a new trio of upper middleweight cruisers that reject traditional styling in favour of a clean contemporary look, Honda brings new energy to its VT 1300 platform and continues a 2010 campaign that began with its unconventional early-release Fury from a year ago. While the new bikes are tamer than the Fury, their long, sweeping lines are in the tradition of the stretched chopper—which were a custom builder’s exclusive domain until Honda’s foray into the field. 

Following in the footsteps of the Fury are the 2010 Interstate, Stateline and Sabre. Each fill subtly-defined niches in the cruiser category. As the name suggests, the Interstate is a light-duty touring cruiser model complete with bags, floorboards and a windshield. Minus floorboards and the touring kit, the Stateline is a stripped-down version of the Interstate, while the Sabre is the most aggressive of the three with a larger 21-inch front wheel, chopped rear fender and narrower bars. 

honda canada vt1300

The most striking shared elements between the Fury and the new VT bikes are the stretched fuel tank, the low-slung seating position and the 1312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-Twin motor. But it is necessary to study the bikes side-by-side to appreciate their substantial differences, because at first glance they seem remarkably similar. Really, it is the riding position that most differentiates the group. 

When comparing each of the new bikes to the Fury the rake is less severe, the wheelbase slightly shorter and the steering head much closer to the road. The style becomes more Pro-Street than extreme chopper. The emphasis is slightly more on comfort than dramatic styling while still maintaining the family lines. With any of the new bikes you can feel the difference. The low seat is great for stability and the steering geometry makes for a tighter package. 

The Fury, while surprisingly comfortable, is not intended for long miles. Consequently, Honda has classified each of these new shaft-drive bikes by how far you choose to ride them. 

honda canada interstate vt1300

As with most bikes with long wheelbases, the basics for comfort are there: plenty of legroom and some space to move in the deep saddle that sits only 27 inches off the road. In the Stateline and Interstate, there’s a seating position that allows a relaxed slouch through pullback bars. The Sabre has shorter bars that require more of a reach and place the rider into a more forward riding position. At highways speeds, the Sabre’s ergonomics demand greater effort than the others, while all three trade off rear suspension travel (3.9 inches) for a low seat height. On the highway the bikes are comfortable enough, but certainly not plush. 

Cooling their Twins are radiators that are tucked away as neatly as any on the market. From the side, it is almost impossible to see them, making it difficult to tell that here is a liquid-cooled mill. The curved radiator follows the contour of the downtubes and almost matches them for width. It is a clean look that complements the bikes’ clean lines. 

Honda wanted to keep a visceral feel to this engine—after all, what is style if it doesn’t come with a little feeling? While not obtrusively-so, the counterbalanced V-Twin still pulses while producing power that is adequate if not arm-yanking. The exhaust note from over/under shotgun exhaust is surprisingly loud but adds to the overall lively sensations. 

The five-speed transmission is geared tall enough to make for a loping engine at 110-plus speeds, while shifts are light—and the Interstate is completed with a heel-toe shifter. 

The Interstate’s saddlebags are not large and neither is the passenger’s perch. The bike is definitely a solo touring machine or, perhaps after a joint tour, a soon-to-be single rider’s touring mount. The bags have no visible latches, buckles or tasselled fringes, but you’ll have to leave most of what is not essential at home.

It’s a challenge to put a windscreen on a stylish cruiser, and especially one that does not include a fairing. The Interstate is no exception. But the windscreen is a part of the package because this bike is intended to cross the stateline or, in our case, a few provincial borders. From the perspective of relieving the need to hold on at speed (as you do on the Sabre) the windscreen works, but the buffeting around helmet level for a six-footer such as myself was problematic—even though you do sit low in the bike. The consensus was that the trade-off wasn’t worth it.  Unfortunately, the Stateline wasn’t available at the Savannah, Georgia press introduction
in March, so we couldn’t compare the riding position without the windscreen.

The brakes on all three models include a single 336mm front disc and a single 296mm rear. What differentiates them is that the Sabre and Stateline feature linked ABS. Stomping on the back brake will bring the front disc into play and the bike to a halt without fuss. Not quite so for the Interstate. Pound the back brake and there will be rubber on the road. Undoubtedly though, the ABS and combined system will turn up in the Interstate’s future. 

Honda’s “less is more” theory works as it is applied to its new cruiser family. Clean, stylish and reasonably priced (MSRP $13,299 to $14,449) to leave a few dollars in your pocket for making the bike your own. In a crowded motorcycle market during a tight economy, finding a niche that needs filling is a challenge. But with the new VT1300s Honda has achieved this goal. There are times when the quest for fresh style will compromise function, but Honda has balanced both. Any one of the three would make fine everyday rides, though the Sabre and Stateline may turn out to be the most popular because their niche is more defined and similar options are few. Riding both the Interstate and the Sabre through some of the straight backroads of eastern Georgia the bikes seemed in their element. The freeway, less so. Certainly a cross-country ride could be done, but so could a lot of things. Why not tone it down, relax, and stretch out? Be cool.

 Yeah that’s better.