If you consider medium-sized, non-Chinese adventure motorcycles with 21-inch front wheel – the new Transalp is the worst for off-road riding. Within a minute of riding on dirt, I questioned my choices: “Why am I spending my life riding off-road on a motorcycle that brings no joy?” Its engine lacks bottom-rev torque, it has poor weight distribution with a heavier front that digs into loose send faster, and the ergonomics are terrible when standing. The footpegs are too forward, the seat is excessively wide, and the plastic panels protrude uncomfortably under the hips, especially when shifting weight back. The suspension is not great either. Despite adjustments, I never found pleasure on any terrain; it’s either too hard or has uncontrolled bouncing, with no sense of control.
- Traction Control
- Ground Clearance
- Transalp History
- Transalp Engine
- Transalp Fuel Consumption and Tank Range
- Transalp Engine Sound
- Transalp Weight
- Transalp Wind protection
- Transalp Seat
- Transalp Display
- Honda Transalp for touring
- Transalp Suspension
- Cruise Control
- Transalp VS CRF1000 Africa Twin
- The Bottom Line
The Transalp’s traction control is perhaps the most aggressive in the mid-weight adventure motorcycle class. Even in the weakest setting (one bar), it disrupts smooth riding on gravel by cutting off torque frequently. A slight bump and the bike reacts hysterically as if in danger. The traction control can only be disabled in User mode and resets after turning off the ignition. As a result, you’re left with a twitchy engine on dirt and can only fully disable traction control for easy ascents; otherwise, the bike won’t climb.
Moreover, the Transalp has the lowest ground clearance among all 21-inch wheel adventure bikes. Despite cautious riding, I always scraped the bottom, even with the tightest preload. Sadly, the Transalp performs poorly in any off-road scenario.
There’s a common argument that limited skills warrant a less capable bike for learning before upgrading. This might apply to sportbikes, but not to enduro. A rookie on a KTM will break their knees while jumping on trampolines while a newcomer to the Transalp will still be learning to maneuver around the motorcycle, holding it with a finger, claiming this trains some form of balance.
Consider the Tuareg 660 as an example of a hardcore adventure bike. Riding off-road on such a bike, you’re in a state of flow – not thinking about the suspension, wheels, geometry, engine, or the terrain under your wheels; you ride reflexively. This difference in geometry, suspension, and ergonomics is noticeable even on the simplest dirt road. A beginner on a hardcore Tuareg will ride much better, as the motorcycle doesn’t require constant battling. To achieve anything on the Transalp, you need skills far above average to compensate for the motorcycle’s shortcomings.
In summary, my verdict is: don’t even consider buying a Transalp if you’re planning to train off-road or operate the bike actively on dirt. But there’s another aspect to consider. If you look at prices, excluding Chinese motorcycles, and for now, keeping the BMW in mind, you’ll see the Transalp is priced closer to the V-strom 650 XT than the 800 DE, and it’s even slightly cheaper than the BMW 750 GS. Theoretically, there’s the KLR 650, which is cheaper than the Transalp, but it doesn’t meet Euro 5 standards and isn’t sold in Europe; besides, it’s a single-cylinder bike.
So, the real issue with the Transalp is actually its 21-inch wheel, which misleads you to think of it as an offroad capable bike. A 19-inch wheel setup is what this bike really needs. I like what Suzuki did with the 800RE of their New V-Strom 800. I hope that Honda will release a 19-inch version, perhaps taking wheels straight from their CB500X (NT500X) model and putting them onto the transalp.
Let’s dive into the History a little bit. There were the NXR 750 rally, the Africa Twin 650, and the Transalp 600. The engines of the Africa Twin and Transalp were similar in dynamics, but how were these models differentiated? The Africa Twin 650-750 was a serious touring dirt bike, while the Transalp was a less hardcore, more universal bike – friendlier, better on pavement, and easier to handle. With each new generation, the Transalp became more road-oriented, maintaining a balance of versatility.
Now, no one tries to make it a hardcore machine to compete with the Africa Twin. This is evident in small details, like the positioning of the silencer on each bike: higher on the Africa Twin and lower on the Transalp. Do you think this is a mistake? Honda continues to claim that bikes under 230 kg are great for off-road, a notion Suzuki also seems to believe, with their liter tour-enduros weighing over 250 kg and their mid-sized ones around 230 kg.
Compared to crossovers, the Transalp rides much better. Its engine is more enjoyable than all the 650s and 750s. It’s one of the smoothest engines on the market with very mild vibrations, leaving your hands itch-free even after a full day of riding. I’ve also ridden the 800 DE, which is quite soft, but the Transalp’s engine is softer. Both bikes have two balancer shafts and similar geometry. A Honda engineer explained the nuance at a presentation: Suzuki’s balancers are spaced 90 degrees apart, making the motor more compact, while Honda’s are 120 degrees apart, better dampening vibrations, though it’s unlikely this is the only factor.
It’s a misconception that two balance shafts reduce vibrations twice as much; the second shaft is auxiliary. Often, an engine with one balance shaft runs smoother than a similar one with two, and sometimes an engine without any balance shafts runs smoother than one with two. Anyway, the Transalp engine is surprisingly smooth making it great for long days of riding at various speeds up to 150 km/h.
Apart from Enduro, the Transalp’s engine isn’t bad. It doesn’t have a hard grip at the bottom but is very smooth and even, performing well in the city, on twisty roads, and on freeways. It’s not a high-revving engine, but rather a medium-revving one, which is excellent for an asphalt motorcycle.
Additionally, the gears on this medium-sized bike are set up so that each gear covers a huge speed range, making it versatile in the mountains or in the city, regardless of the gear used. The quick-shifter is better than average, but one might expect more from Honda. For instance, I preferred the quick-shifter on the 800DE. On the Honda, I often shifted quickly even from first to second gear, a practice not recommended on most motorcycles, yet here, there’s no excessive jolt. In mountain and highway conditions, where shifting typically occurs from 3rd to 6th gear, the quick-shifter performs smoothly and without delay. Again, which 650 or 750 cc bike offers a quick-shifter, even as an option? The 750GS does, but its quick-shifter functions notably worse.
For some reason, Honda decided not to offer an option with a DCT on Transalp. I am quite disappointed by this. Honda engineers usually know what they are doing but I just don’t get it. The Trasnalp engine is based on the Africa Twin engine that has DCT as an option, so In my limited understanding, it is possible to fit DCT into this engine making it an even better road bike.
Transalp Fuel Consumption and Tank Range
The engine’s fuel consumption is average. In the mountains, the average consumption often fell below 4 l/100 km, but it’s slightly higher on average. On the freeway, at around 130 km/h, it’s about 4.7 l/100 km, comparable to others in its class. It’s unlikely to cover 400 km on one tank, but it comes close, slightly outperforming the regular Tenere, yet falling behind the Tuareg and V-Strom 800 DE.
Transalp Engine Sound
What surprised me was the sound. It’s rare for non-Italian bikes to focus on sound quality. The Transalp is very quiet yet has a velvety tone. For example, the V-Strom, at the same volume and with a 270-degree crankshaft, sounds like a wheezy scooter, while the Transalp sounds just right. On routes taking about 20 minutes, I often rode on highways without earplugs simply because of the pleasant and unobtrusive sound.
When compared with similarly priced or slightly cheaper crossovers, the Transalp is noticeably lighter. On my first ride, I was pleasantly surprised; it felt featherlight. One thing that cannot be denied is Honda’s excellent work on the weight of the bike.
Another factor is that even its light weight doesn’t make the Transalp enjoyable off-road, but for beginners, especially those of average height, low weight is a significant plus. The Transalp offers greater comfort than similarly priced crossovers and adventure bikes, particularly for tall individuals. Other 650s and 750s don’t match its comfort. While the Tenere is far superior off-road, it’s well known that most adventure bikes are primarily used on asphalt, or what some consider “off-road” is basically a gravel road easily navigable by any road bike. For most real-world buyers, the Transalp will be a better choice. In terms of overall comfort, the Transalp is on par with the V-Strom 1050, certainly more comfortable than the Tenere.
Transalp Wind protection
The wind protection on the Transalp isn’t perfect, but it’s quite good for a stock bike. The windscreen’s shape deflects air smoothly, avoiding harsh wind flow to the head and preventing the helmet from buffeting. With such a screen, riding with an open visor at high speeds isn’t feasible, but it’s quiet inside the helmet, and only a few insects hit the visor during my ride.
The seat is exceptionally comfortable for its price. For instance, the 800 DE offers overall good comfort, but its seat feels a bit firm to me. The Transalp’s seat is both wider and softer than that of the Africa Twin. Most importantly, as an average-tall person (180 cm), I experienced no numbness even after extensive riding.
One oversight on the Transalp, despite its large color TFT display, is the absence of an air temperature indicator. However, the coolant temperature is prominently displayed, reassuring each owner of their Honda’s reliability and their wise choice. I prefer seeing the air temperature so I can see sudden air temperature drops and stop to put warmer gear on. In my experience when I feel cold – it is too late and I need to stop and spend 2 hours inside to warm back up.
Anyway, the Display looks great and has useful info. The possibility to select between 4 different display layouts is nice.
Honda Transalp for touring
In conclusion, I appreciate the ergonomics of the Transalp. Unlike any 650s and 750s, where discomfort in the seat, knees, and shoulders is common, the Transalp offers a more comfortable riding experience. The Transalp offers disproportionately better comfort, and there isn’t the typical Honda problem of having to stretch too far to reach the handlebar. The forward footpegs, although detrimental for off-road riding, are advantageous for straightening your knees on pavement. I see the Transalp’s main advantage as being well-suited as the first motorcycle for tall people, starting from around 175 cm in height. You sit comfortably, without the need to contend with the overweight V-strom 800 DE, the excessive height, or the spartan seat of the Tenere. It has a very friendly and cool engine, obvious reliability, good resale value, etc. Notably, the Transalp has one of the lowest compression ratios in its class. It’s rare to see a brand-new engine with recommendations for 91 Octane gasoline – a significant detail for those who prefer Japanese motorcycles. For instance, the similarly volumed 800 DE recommends at least 95 Octane.
Returning to the topic of suspension, when compared with the 500cc and 650cc bikes, Transalp’s suspension is no worse. First, crossovers at this price point rarely feature any fork adjustment. The Transalp, however, offers adjustable fork preload, which is already a plus. Initially, I set the fork and shock absorber to approximately 70% values for solo riding without a heavy load, thinking it would be sufficient. However, after nearly crashing on one of the first sharp turns, I quickly tightened everything to the maximum. This adjustment made the motorcycle much more manageable.
Despite being an inexpensive motorcycle with large tubed wheels, it’s as manageable as a cheap crossover without adjustments. Or, for example, it’s much better than the 800 and 850 GS on twisties, even with electronic suspension, which tends to become overly stiff when tightened.
Riding along a smooth, twisty road, you can forget you’re on a bike with relatively long-travel suspension like the Transalp. However, this changes on wave-like asphalt or potholes. In the tightest setting, after passing a wave, there are no major complaints about the fork, but the shock absorber continues to oscillate several times on the spring, which is unpleasant. I’d recommend changing the shock first when it’s time for an upgrade – it’s a relatively inexpensive change that significantly improves the bike, though beginners will manage fine as it is.
I’ll reiterate, that it’s rare for cheap adventure bikes to have suspension that excels everywhere. On broken roads, even with mediocre suspension, the Transalp rides better than the 500cc and 650cc – its suspension is more robust, and the large spoked wheels are an advantage.
The same goes for the brakes – they’re adequate and on par with 650 cc bikes, but somewhat vague. The motor’s dynamics are somewhat overstated; I would prefer better brakes, but realistically, they pose no issues.
What the Transalp lacks for complete satisfaction – is cruise control. However, first, the Transalp has an electronic throttle, which is not as tedious to keep open as the cable throttle. Second, none of the competitors in its price range, up to the Tuareg, have cruise control either – not the Tenere nor the V-Strom. The 750 GS does offer this as an option, but it’s one of the bike’s few major advantages, and with cruise control, the GS becomes more expensive, nearing the price of the 800 DE.
I have seen an aftermarket electronic throttle for the 2018-2019 version of the Africa Twin (CRF1000). I believe Transalp has the same electronic throttle unit as this previous AT version so I think it should be possible to fit. Here it is.
Transalp VS CRF1000 Africa Twin
The elephant in the room is the previous Generation Africa Twin. New Transalp costs $9999. Add another $1k for engine guards, skid plate, engine guards, heated grips, and maybe luggage racks.
Used 2018-2019 AT costs around $8000 and will probably have some accessories installed to it. Plus it comes in stock with a skid plate. It has a significantly better suspension that is fully adjustable. Engine, fuelling, and riding modes are pretty much the same. Same tubbed wheels and brakes. AT has better wind protection for legs, and better stock light. Also, AT is available with DCT which is a huge benefit for many riders. AT has significantly bigger ground clearance, and despite bigger weight is a lot better offroad. On gravel roads AT wins Transalp all day long.
The only plusses for Transalp are lighter weight, less vibrations, fancy display, and slightly better fuel economy, yet the range is the same since base AT has 2 litter bigger fuel tank.
So I would go for a used 2018 AT instead of a new Transalp and save $2k-$3k.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, the new Transalp, while offering commendable aspects like a smooth and enjoyable engine, comfortable seating, and good ergonomics for touring, falls short in off-road capabilities. Aggressive traction control, low ground clearance, and unsatisfactory suspension hinder its performance on rough terrain.
The bike’s design leans more towards road orientation, which is evident in its weight distribution, ergonomics, and low-positioned muffler. For those seeking a motorcycle primarily for off-road riding or adventure in remote locations, the Transalp may not be the best choice. However, it stands out in its class for its engine smoothness, comfort, and potential as a touring bike, especially for taller riders.
Its price point also makes it an attractive option, its off-road appearance is misleading due to its 21-inch front wheel. The Transalp’s history as a more universal, less hardcore motorcycle is reflected in its current iteration. While it excels in urban and freeway settings, those looking for a true enduro experience might find it lacking. Its suspension, while adequate, could benefit from upgrades, and the absence of cruise control is notable.
Despite these limitations, the Transalp remains a viable option for riders prioritizing comfort, smooth engine performance, and reliability in a mid-weight adventure motorcycle, especially for those more inclined towards on-road adventures.
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