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ADV Bikes2024 Honda XL750 Transalp First Ride Review

2024 Honda XL750 Transalp First Ride Review

After three decades, the iconic midsize adventurer returns to US shores.

Published on 11.03.2023

Honda brings the Transalp (TA) back to life after more than a decade of absence from the world. It’s also been more than 30 years since one has been on the showroom floor in the United States. It made sense to take some time off here in the States as Americans weren’t ADV’ing enough yet. It also sets the stage for a comeback rather than an attempted come-up. The timeframe for the original US Transalp 600 dates back to an era when a video rental from BlockBuster and Pizza was all I cared about on a Friday night.


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Honda North America decided to launch the Transalp on a special piece of the planet. The “hard” parts of the PA Wilds-X Backcountry Discovery Route in Central Pennsylvania. PA has some of the best ADV riding trails in the Country, but it’s also where I learned to ride off-road, and I have over ten thousand miles of off-road ADV riding in this area alone. Imagine hosting a press launch in your own local spot where you know all the roads, trails, gas stations, and post-ride watering holes. The Rusty Rail and the Elk Creek Cafe & Brewery are highly recommended.

Knowing all the trails allows for a unique testing perspective since I’ve ridden everything from my KTM EXC-F 250 to a BMW GSA through the area.

Flashback

Recently, though, I got the chance to ride my little brother’s 1989 Transalp, which he got off Craigslist, and it’s older than he is. It could have had better suspension or brakes. The motor was fun, but it wasn’t fast. The styling was minimal but gave some vintage Dakar rally vibes. It wasn’t anything too special in any one category, but when I rode it, I loved it. With a classic D&D slip-on exhaust that would “BRRRRAAAHHHH” down the street, it was fantastic. The classic red, white, and blue vintage rally bike drew attention everywhere I parked it. It was just “a Rad bike.”

Honda has carried over that feeling from 1989 to 2024, whether they meant to or not, but it feels like they did. With all the updates you’d expect in a modern middleweight adventure bike. Rather than go for an extreme level of performance in any one direction with the Transalp, Honda chose to focus on a well-rounded adventure riding experience for their customers and the bike itself.

The Transalp (TA) is all new, so we will only be going back and forth a little, but the last TA in the States had a 583cc v-twin. For 2024, the 755cc TA gets the machining and parts cost-saving parallel-twin layout, which even has Honda’s Uni Cam (single overhead cam) 4 valve per cylinder head design. Simplicity and reliability are the name of the game for the p-twin. 

The other notable differences between the 1989 and the 2024 TA are the brakes, electronics, and wheel sizes. A set of dual-piston sliding calipers essentially double the front wheel braking package from the old TA. The electronics go from nonexistent to a full suite. The rim sizes have gone from the outdated 21/17 inch setup to the modern/proper 21/18 set of tube-type ADV wheels.

First Impressions

Getting my leg over the Transalp was the only time I thought the 33.7-inch seat height might be accurate, as it was more challenging than it looked to get my knee and boot over the seat. Otherwise once seated, I would have bet my house that the seat height was closer to 31″ as I easily flat-footed it at 6’2″ tall. The single-piece, two-level seat is arguably the best stock seat I’ve ever experienced. It’s truly in the “Goldilocks” zone, not too soft, not too hard, and just the right size. It is fairly easy to move around and adjust your position on the bike. 

The rider triangle only feels slightly crowded around my knees and by my feet while sitting. It’s partly due to the 4.5-gallon tank and the position of the footpegs feeling close-ish to the seat, but that’s if I’m nit-picking. While standing, the gas tank gets out of the way a bit better, and the triangle is perfect for Adventure riding. If you want to open the cockpit up, you could rotate the bar risers 180 degrees and move the handlebar forward for a more aggressive stance on the TA. I would do that and buy new footpegs immediately to set this bike up for myself.

On-Road

On-road, it’s clear I’m too tall for the windshield to do its job correctly, but a shorter journalist noted how quiet the wind noise was, so I turtled in behind the windscreen, and wow! The wind protection is surprisingly good for those under 6 feet tall. Our bikes were all fitted with Honda accessory heated grips, and they worked perfectly against the cool October mornings while we transited between trail systems.

Handling on the street for a budget-conscious middleweight usually needs improvement against my 235-pound Sasquatch-like build. Especially when you consider the only adjustment for the Showa Units on the Transalp is spring preload, both front and rear. But this is where the TA really starts to shine. 

Most budget-minded bikes feel like they start with a good tune for a 170-pound rider and let it get worse as we go up in weight. For the Transalp, it’s as if someone tuned the suspension to work correctly for a wide range of riders with an average starting point of, say… a 200-pound person. Then, they worked their way out from there. No one scraped a foot peg on the asphalt because the TA rides high in the suspension stroke with surprisingly firm, plush, well-damped strokes for the asphalt part of the test.

While testing on the twisty two-lane back roads of Pennsylvania, the short stroke, big bore (63.5mm x 87mm) parallel twin literally roars as you go full throttle from 2nd to 3rd. There is no need to lift off the throttle because the Transalp is fitted stock with a Quick Shifter that works both up and down the gearbox. Up by cutting power when the shifter is engaged and down by rev-matching. Not a single missed shift after two days between us, and the TA has a notably easy-to-find neutral when you want it.

On the top end of the gearbox, fifth gear has enough room to pull highway duty at 70mph, and 6th is truly an overdrive for those of us who will use the TA for touring.

Electronics

The electronics pack is impressive on the Transalp and class-leading at its price point. A 5-inch color TFT display allows you to choose from 5 rider modes, which include “Standard, Sport, Rain, Gravel, and User” mode. Every mode is preprogrammed in a way that makes sense for the power (throttle profile), Engine Braking, Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) with integrated Wheelie Control, and ABS intervention settings within those modes. User mode is the only adjustable rider mode.

You can change from any mode to another on the fly as long as you select it and close the throttle, which includes User mode. Sounds good so far, until you turn the traction control or ABS (rear only) off in the User mode and then turn the key to the off position. Once you key off the bike, the User mode INFURIATINGLY goes back to a factory setting. The menu is intuitive, and turning the traction control or ABS off again isn’t more than 5 clicks and 2 “long presses” away, but the process and the logic behind it all is just a flat-out frustrating experience for a modern ADV bike. 

In my opinion, User mode should, at the least, retain ‘my’ settings when I key off the bike. It could go back into Standard mode from User mode after keying the bike off, and then I would have to go back to User mode but to switch the settings within User mode is almost as bad as this bike’s other big miss. 

There is No cruise control. Not even an option! Just understand the Transalp has wheel speed differential sensing self-canceling turn signals but no cruise control. On a ride-by-wire ADV motorcycle, it’s disappointing but not disqualifying.

The good news is we don’t need cruise control offroad, and once I turned the Traction Control and rear ABS off, I just left the ignition key on and turned the engine off at the handlebar switch to keep My settings where I want them. Thankfully, the TFT display shows battery voltage (and all the other fuel, MPG, trip, and temp readouts we’ve come to expect), and if the voltage were to get too low, I’d bite the bullet and key the Transalp off.

Gravel

Gravel roads in Central Pennsylvania are “crowned” in the middle, and most are “oiled” once a year. The Transalp handles terrifically on these roads. A rake angle of 27 degrees and 4.4 inches of trail gives the front end a lot of stability and improved off-road handling characteristics without feeling slow to turn in on asphalt.

Sitting for the smoother gravel sections on the Transalp like a flat track racer and counterbalancing with body position gave tons of confidence as the 459 pounds (wet) of the TA feels low and well-balanced. Our bikes were fitted with Bridgestone Battlax AX41 tires (not stock) due to the nature of the trails and the intended purpose of the Transalp. The 40/60 on/off-road tires were a great choice and allowed for the suspension and geometry to shine through on gravel sections.

Standing on the pegs, the Transalp opens up, and the gas tank gets out of the way a little better than when you’re sitting behind it. Counterbalancing your weight and executing tight turns are a breeze with an impressive turning circle and high-well positioned handlebars. Feeling light, balanced, and ready for ADV duty from the showroom, the only drawbacks on ergonomics for the TA are that the dashboard requires a lot of effort to look at while standing, and the pegs feel too close to the handlebars for fast-paced riding while standing.

With the engine power delivery set to an aggressive 3 out of 4 bars, gravel power slides, and wheelies were more accessible than expected. A steady throttle hand could dial in “saves” without the frantic chop of the throttle more powerful bikes require. The Transalp has a fantastic motor for all rider levels because you can adjust power delivery profiles within the User mode as well as the Engine Braking.

The US version makes 83hp, vs the Euro Specs 90.5 horsepower. Noise requirements here in the US are holding in the spare 7 ponies via a muffler and ECU tune. While there’s a time and place for peak HP numbers to be a bike’s selling point, the Honda Transalp isn’t it. 

Off-Road

I think I’ve yet to ride an adventure below its (and my) full potential off-road ever before. I always felt like I needed to ride too fast and push a bike to its limit until I rode the Transalp. Can you ride the TA hard? Absolutely, but taking it down a notch and letting the short-stroke suspension do its job makes riding over rocks and down the “hard” level trails more fun than trying to blitz them.

The rockier, gnarlier trails require you to slow down a bit compared to racier adventure bikes and just enjoy the ride. Picking your line at a reasonable pace is rewarded with the feeling of “doing adventure riding well.” The Transalp has 8.3 inches (212mm) of ground clearance, which is also on the low end for ADV motorcycles but also similar to a lot of the bikes I’ve ridden in this area.

There were plenty of rocks for the Transalp in PA, and surprisingly, there was not a lot of dragging from the accessory skid plate or footpegs thanks to 7.9 inches of wheel travel on the 43mm USD fork and a rear shock with 7.5 inches of travel. Without the compression or rebound adjustments on either end of TA, I expected to be bashing the low-hanging parts off the earth regularly, but it never happened. I attribute this to the well-sprung suspension, which benefits from the 21”/18” tubed wheelset, as a larger circle will roll over rougher terrain more smoothly. The simple, well-valved suspension with good damping leaves little room to be criticized at this price point.

Test bikes were fitted with Honda accessory crash bars, skid plate, heated grips and Bridgestone Battlax AX41 tires.

The feeling of “happy” suspension plays right along with the 755cc parallel twin. There’s lots of low-end grunt available while deciding which rock to blip the throttle off of and catch some hang time. The 270-degree firing order, short-stroked, and counterbalanced Honda mill is just the bee’s knees for these trails. Smooth throttle response and plenty of power across the rev range relieve the rider of constantly shifting between the lower gears.

The transmission is a wide-ratio 6 speed with an easy-peasy slipper/assist clutch. Second gear is all you need for a large portion of PA BDR-ing. First gear is short enough to do low-speed drills with the clutch out below 6 mph, and the feathering action of the clutch has plenty of friction zone that’s easy to work with.

The sliding twin-piston Nissin calipers were up to slowing down the TA on-road, no matter the speed. For off-roading, the problem lies in the software, not the hardware. You can’t shut off the front ABS completely, and that’s usually OK for me, but in this case. The front ABS is too sensitive for the rocks and the downhills, and the initial pull and bite can feel very disconnected from the lever at first. 

Just hold on to the front brake lever, and the TA will start to slow down. You can go after the rear brake as the second option for throwing out the anchor, and you’ll learn to cover that rear brake a bit better as you get used to the “freewheel” feeling of the front on the TA. Being realistic, it’s safer to have the front ABS on and prevent a front-end tuck. I wouldn’t expect the TA to act like a top-tier ADV bike with a 6-axis IMU system.

Who likes talking about Traction Control? The Traction Control settings felt too intrusive for off-road riding or even gravel. In the “Gravel” setting, which has parameters for ABS on gravel and TC in gravel conditions, the Transalp feels absurdly overprotective and cuts power to the throttle in a way you’ll feel like you’re going backward. Safe, but unnecessary, So we all just used User mode and shut off the TC and rear ABS.

Honda had a 2023 Africa Twin (AT) 1100 on site for size comparisons, and the BIG AT 1100 feels like a land yacht compared to the Transalp. Clearly, they are in different classes. This, in turn, makes it more fun to ride, less top-heavy, and less daunting, but seemingly still ready for the challenges of being a genuine Adventure Motorcycle.

Value, Limitations, Comparisons

From a value perspective, the Honda Transalp has hit the mark for an affordable, compact, mid-sized Adventure Bike. For $9,999, you can have a brand-new ADV Motorcycle with a warranty, and for around 900 bucks, you can throw the lower crash bars, skid plate, and heated grips on it and start wearing out tires and making memories. With great/reasonable design and Honda reliability, you really can’t beat it.

The hard part (limitations) for the Transalp owner may be that the TA is not an all-out or specialized weapon of an ADV Bike. It doesn’t want to be rally raced or beat up on a dual sport ride full of dirt bikes. Could you improve it to that point? Sure, but from its current standpoint, you will enjoy the TA more if you understand that its limitations are part of its intended use design. Just being a good Adventure Bike.

The Competition

Firstly, the Yamaha Tenere 700:

At $10,799, the T7 looks like the perfect bike for a “shoot out” vs the Transalp, but the T7 goes towards being a totally different animal than the TA. The T7 is for the person who wants to build out a modded hot rod by throwing a lot of cash at it and taking an Adventure Bike to a Dirt Bike race. You might even argue then, why not get a T7 and keep it stock as it will be a better Off-road ADV bike stock or modded? Well, if you’re going to leave the T7 stock, the Transalp might just be more well-rounded than the T7, and the TA suspension will be easier to live with than the stock T7 suspension for anyone over 200lbs. Throwing a leg over both at a dealership might just be all the convincing you need. The TA motor has more character and feels better. It also makes considerably more HP.

Hear me out, The KLR650:

For $7,199 (ABS), you can save a lot of money. The KLR has a lot of similarities, too, like a lack of cruise control, almost the same ground clearance and suspension travel. Unfortunately for the KLR, the Honda has more than double the horsepower, double the front braking capacity, a 6th gear, a TFT display, and an 18-inch rear wheel. The KLR also weighs essentially the same as the Transalp. If it were me, I’d do everything in my power to be on a TA vs KLR regardless of cost savings.

Don’t Forget the Suzuki V-Strom 800DE:

Ringing the cash register for $11,349, you get many features and dang near the same 83hp but a longer stroke from the motor with the 800DE. It has the same brake configuration and a slightly longer suspension travel but tips the scale somewhat heavier than the TA. Having not spent any time on the 800DE, I can’t say one rides better than the other, and I would only go for the nostalgic feel and namesake… and cost savings of the Honda.

KTM 890 Adventure (standard):

It’s as close to 14 grand as it gets; for an additional $1200, you can get the Adventure-R, and for $21,499, you can preorder a 2024 Rally edition… or two Transalps and still have $1,499 left over. There is not much to compare as the KTM is a premium and more competent machine, but a journalist on the Transalp launch just preordered his 2024 890 ADV-R Rally, and the 10K price tag of the Transalp literally triggered some KTM buyer’s remorse. It was fun to see, but he won’t be taking his deposit back as he wants an ADV weapon, and that means KTM.

The Bottom Line

I have a very short list of about 5 motorcycles that when someone says, “I’m thinking about buying X,” my response will be, “Yeah, buy it.” As long as the person understands the bike’s intended purpose, I have no suggestions or ideas for a different choice. Amazingly, the Transalp is on that list because it’s simply a good Adventure Motorcycle, and for $9,999 dollars, it’s a very good one! If someone said, “I’m gonna buy a Transalp.” My response would be “heck yeah!”

When I say I like the Honda Transalp, I mean it. From the suspension, transmission, motor, and ergonomics, the bike works well and has a great feel to it. I wish it came in the white color for its first year in the States because, at that point, It enters the realm of being “a Rad bike,” just like the 1989 Transalp that came before it.

2024 Honda Transalp Specs

Engine Type:755cc liquid-cooled 24.5º inline-two-cylinder four-stroke w/ 270º crank
Valve Train:OHC Unicam; 4 valves per cylinder; 35.5mm inlet valves, 29mm exhaust valves
Bore x Stroke:87.0mm x 63.5mm
Compression Ratio:11.0:1
claimed power output:83 hp (US version); 90.5 hp @ 9,500rpm (Europe)
Induction:PGM-FI; 46mm throttle bodies
Ignition:Full transistorized
Starter:Electric
Transmission:Manual 6 speed
Clutch:Multiplate wet
Final Drive:16T/45T; chain
Front Suspension:43mm Showa SFF-CATM telescopic inverted fork w/ spring-preload adjustment; 7.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension:Pro-Link® system w/ single Showa remote-reservoir shock; 7.5 in. travel
Front Brakes:Dual 310mm “wave” discs w/ hydraulic two-piston calipers; ABS
Rear Brakes:Single 256mm “wave” disc w/ hydraulic single-piston caliper; ABS
Front Tires:90/90-21
Rear Tires:150/70R-18
Rake (Caster Angle):27º
Trail :111mm (4.4 in.)
Length:91.2 in.
Width:33.1 in.
Height:57.2 in.
Seat Height:33.7 in.
Ground Clearance :8.3 in.
Wheelbase:61.5 in.
Fuel Capacity:4.5 gal.
Curb Weight*:459 lbs.
Color:Matte Black Metallic

Photos by Mike Emery and Steve Kamrad

Author: Steve Kamrad

Steve has been labeled as a “Hired Gun” by one of the largest special interest publishing groups in America. His main focus now is video content creation as a “Shreditor” (thats shooter, producer, editor all in one nice, neat, run and gun package). If he’s not out competing in a NASA Rally Race you can find him on the East Coast leading around a rowdy group of ADV riders. Some say Steve_Kamrad has the best job in the world but he’s not in it for the money. He’s a gun for hire that can’t be bought and that’s the way we like him.

Author: Steve Kamrad
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Paul Tannahill
Paul Tannahill
November 3, 2023 10:13 am

That’s a terrific review – thanks! In regard to “tube-type ADV wheels,” I am ready to declare that modern ADV bikes should have a tubeless wheelset. That said, I would still seriously consider the new Transalp as my next bike, and just plan another $1200 or so for a sweet Woody’s wheelset. The lack of cruise control, though… dang.

Steven Kamrad
Steven Kamrad
November 3, 2023 2:38 pm
Reply to  Paul Tannahill

It’s a cost thing, and those tubeless wheels from the factory can be quite heavy. Could it come with tubeless for an option from the factory? Maybe it should but I’ve seen tubeless fail more than tubes lately, then you gotta put a tube in it and most good offroad tires are not tubeless rated and the bead won’t seal properly from time to time. The lack of cruise is really puzzling

Jeff
Jeff
November 3, 2023 7:23 pm

Great review, lucky that it’s right in your ” back yard”.
I still have my eye on the Suzuki 1050DE, esp now that the
2024 will have tubeless F&R.
But that Honda is a heck of deal, and looks like it hard to go wrong with it.Good Job Honda,
only gripe would be that Euro version has significantly
more HP than North American versions.

Bob
Bob
November 4, 2023 12:21 pm

11.0 compression and 83 hp. Is that hp rating on premium gas, at that compression?

Steve
Steve
November 9, 2023 10:21 am
Reply to  Bob

Would you put regular in a motorcycle? I can’t confirm but would assume yes, premium

Rob
Rob
November 4, 2023 2:17 pm

Such a shame it doesn’t have cruise control and tubeless wheels. If it did, it would probably lure me away from my T7.

Steve
Steve
November 9, 2023 10:22 am
Reply to  Rob

But neither of those things should pull you away from the t7 because they’re so different and neither have it, if both had it, which would you choose?

Jeffrey Westfall
Jeffrey Westfall
November 5, 2023 1:36 pm

I wish it came in the tricolor scheme like the Africa Twin. I don’t like the all black color scheme.

Steve
Steve
November 9, 2023 10:20 am

Get one, paint it, I’ll venmo you 20 bucks. Win win

D WD
D W
November 6, 2023 5:03 am

The TA is the perfect ADV bike for me since I am not an all-out or specialized weapon of an ADV rider, lol.
As to the comparison to the KLR650, there isn’t one. I have a 2022 KL650 in the garage next to my TA. I’ve ridden it to Key West, the Black Hills, and all over my local area, and the TA is a better bike in every respect. Save your pennies unless you just want a KLR, which is a totally valid thing like going to Burning Man or marrying your cousin (this is a joke).

Kmsws
Kmsws
November 7, 2023 12:59 pm

Nice review. I think Honda did a good job creating a bike similar to the original transalp. A bike not excellent but good for everything. Let’s hope the new gets the same longevity too. Only thing: older transalp was also 21/18, the 700 lost the 21 on the front

Steve
Steve
November 9, 2023 10:19 am
Reply to  Kmsws

Looks like we’re both right and wrong, the 89 had a 21/17 set up. Good catch

Joe John
Joe John
November 10, 2023 8:44 am

That’s a good deal. Especially when you get honda reliability. Some of these Chinese bikes cost more than that. Personally, I’d still go with a T7 but I can definitely see the market demand for the TA.

Steve
Steve
November 11, 2023 1:57 pm
Reply to  Joe John

Just imagine you go in a barn in 2044 and find a 2025 honda transalp in red white and blue! You’d be so stoked. A T7… I’d be less stoked for some reason

Shawn McLain
Shawn McLain
November 22, 2023 9:12 am

Curious– what was the observed fuel efficiency and ranges?

Steve
Steve
December 4, 2023 1:14 pm
Reply to  Shawn McLain

Unfortunately I don’t observe fuel milage when riding bikes, I’m just a twist and go kinda guy but realistically 40 to 50 mpg will be achievable. I’m just not the guy to test it, or worry about it. At the biltwell 100 (100 mile race) I burn over 4 gallons of fuel in the desert on my tiger 900. At the Sand Blast Rally I get less 16mpg on my scrambler 1200xe and on my dirt bikes 2 gallons is more than enough to wear me out and race for 2 hours at a hare scramble. I’m just not the milage guy.

Keith Dowdle
Keith Dowdle
November 22, 2023 10:27 am

Good job Steve but you hurt me with the 890 Rally comp since I’ve got one on order. I was actually thinking about that comparison well we were riding the TA. Oh well, what’s done is done!! At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Steve
Steve
December 4, 2023 1:16 pm
Reply to  Keith Dowdle

Ahhh you caught that little Keith shout out! You going to Spain for the tiger launch or morroco for the desert x?

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