Honda was curiously missing from the large V-Twin motorcycle cruiser market before the release of the VTX 1800; yet, the company’s smaller Shadow model had been a success, so why hadn’t the big Japanese manufacturer made a greater commitment?
As we all know, bigger is better, especially when it comes to performance cruisers.
Unknown to the public the development of the VTX actually started as early as 1995, the inspiration came in the form of the Zodia.
The Honda Zodia was a wildly popular concept bike that made its way across the world stage from motorcycle show to motorcycle show in 1995.
With its long and low stance with inverted forks, dual-chromed shocks, shaft drive and sleek chrome-hooded headlight, the VTX 1800 was the natural production bike that would follow in its footsteps, albeit slight watered down in terms of its radical design elements.
Five, very quiet years later at the turn of the millennium, Honda unveiled the V-Twin Extreme 1800, or the VTX1800.
The VTX1800 featured the largest displacement production V-twin engine in the world at the time of debut, surpassing the Yamaha XV 1600 and winning the big twin battle, at least for a while anyway.
One of the most formidable production V-twin bikes of its day, according to Honda, the VTX produced 159 Nm of torque at under 3,000 rpm and 101 horsepower at 5000 rpm.
It would only hold this title for a few short years when the VTX 1800 was superseded in 2004 by the 2,000 cc Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 in the ever-going displacement war.
Honda VTX 1800 Review and Performance
A liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-twin engine with 4-inch cylinder bores and 1,795 cc power the brutish VTX 1800. At the time the VTX boasted Honda’s largest-ever connecting rods and cylinders to accommodate the bore and stroke, each measuring 101mm by 112mm in diameter and stroke, respectively.
The cylinder heads each has a single-overhead camshaft operating two intake valves at 36 mm, and a single 45 mm exhaust. Its two 42 mm throttle bodies supply air to the Denso 50-psi high-pressure fuel injectors. The fuel is delivered through 12 nozzle orifices in each injector, producing an atomized fuel mixture that is highly combustible, for maximum efficiency and power.
The 18.8 kg forged steel crankshaft spins endlessly after being ignited by two iridium tip spark plugs placed in each cylinder. A driveshaft is used to transfer power from the five-speed gearbox to the rear wheel.
When compared to a standard one-piece construction, the crankshaft on the VTX 1800 employs bolted weights to reduce weight by 4 kg and narrows the crankcase by approximately 50 mm.
Offset crankpins help smooth out the power relative to the typical single-crankpin engine which allow for a higher redline, a system first used by Honda on the 1983 Shadow to produce the perfect primary balance.
In addition to this Honda also added dual counterbalance weights on the primary shaft and rubber mountings to reduce the rocking couple vibrations to ensure the rider wouldn’t been shaken to pieces from that brute of an engine.
The engine actually produced such strong “power-pulses” during the prototype stage that the exhaust would try to vibrate its way off the bike. Thankfully Honda resolved this long before the bike hit the dealer showrooms.
The gearbox case houses the oil tank inside of itself within a special closed-crankcase dry-sump oil arrangement. The outcome is an engine that revs more freely for more power and has a lower engine height for better rider ergonomics and a low seat height.
Manifold Air Pressure (MAP) sensors were used as part of Honda’s programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system’s induction system until the standard throttle position sensor took over at larger throttle opening values.
Additionally, the VTX 1800 included an emission control system that used air injection and a catalytic converter that was controlled by the ECU to lower hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides to levels that satisfied emissions regulations.
Once the engine starts those handsome chrome two-into-one exhaust system produces a deep baritone of an exhaust note, imagine Pavarotti warming up in a low key. The huge engine has excellent torque down low as you’d expect from a V-Twin and yet, somewhat surprisingly, likes to rev out hard on top.
It makes you question why Honda gave the bike five gears at all because the engine is so adaptable that second gear can manage the majority of speeds for any urban settings and third gear will just let you blast up and past the majority of speed limits even on the faster motorways.
The VTX has the traditional squat, muscular attitude of a performance cruiser thanks to its tubular steel frame. Front wheel travel is 130 mm thanks to a large, 45 adjustable 45 mm inverted front fork and is comfortable yet responsiveness when hitting some rougher road lumps and bumps. While chrome dual shocks with a cutting-edge internal valve system are used for the rear suspension that offers 100 mm of wheel travel for the rear.
To put the VTX’s power to the ground and offer great grip, a wide, low, 130/70R-18 radial front tyre and a more aggressive 180/70R-16 radial rear tyre is mounted on the attractive, satin-finish cast aluminium wheels.
The VTX’s sports prowess is more related to appearance and straight-line acceleration than it is to riding on winding roads. It doesn’t flick into turns like a sports bike does due to its enormous wheelbase.
It turns slowly, and steering feels heavy, but it does corner confidently and keeps a smooth line through bumpy bends as the suspension neatly absorbs the knocks while maintaining the bike’s tracking. Don’t forget it’s a big bike and acts accordingly.
The VTX 1800 comes equipped with a modified linked braking system (LBS) which is linked back to front. Pulling the front hand brake lever activates two thirds of the front brake pistons on each caliper. Stepping on the rear pedal activates both rear pistons, plus the middle piston on each front caliper.
When only the rear brake pedal is used, an inline proportioning valve delivers pressure on the front caliper centre pistons. There’s plenty of feel and feedback, you won’t likely sense that it’s linked, and the system helps you come to a stop, quickly and safely when you call on it to.
The stock seat is broad and well-shaped, a two-piece unit that’s comfortable and dampens any rogue vibrations from Honda’s engine. The passenger seat is wider and serves well as a low back rest and is easily removable if you wanted that clean ergonomic look.
The foot pegs are relatively low forcing the riding position into a more relaxed posture. This, combined with the comfortable seat makes long distance riding feel quite effortless on the lower parts of your body. Though if you are going to spend a significant amount of time on the faster roads then I’d recommend investing in the additional front windshield Honda offers. Your neck and upper back will thank me later.
The VTX 1800 boasts a single sleek, chrome plastic-encased headlamp up front. Follow its lines backward to the unique chromed nacelle on the extended fuel tank. The nacelle incorporates the fuel filler cap and various warning/indicator lights.
Positioning them on the tank prevents the chromed handlebar from becoming cluttered with it just having to accommodate the single dial analog speedometer. The whole thing looks like it came from the centre console of a classic Rolls-Royce, it’s a slick unit and a spectacular thing to look at.
The rear fender rails made of machined billet aluminium with their slots and the chromed cover over the rear master cylinder cover scream of Honda’s attention to detail in all the little touches that make the VTX not just “another big cruiser.”
The chromed bullet indictors with their transparent lenses and amber bulbs seem bespoke. The bespoke street-rod appearance is completed with a silver finish on crankcases and cylinders with machined fin edges. The VTX’s street rod appearance is enhanced further by its chopped front and rear steel fenders.
Having handlebars that are semi-swept allows for a comfortable, upright riding position. Comfortable cushioned large-diameter handgrips with triple-clamp assembly and polished aluminium handlebar switch housings are attached.
Alongside the aforementioned windscreen, Honda offered a huge range of accessories to further that custom look for each owner. A passenger back rest, sissy bar, side racks, soft luggage options, chrome engine guards, a solo rack, highway pegs, mini boards, even twin headlights became available later on. With all these available it’d be hard to see why any two VTX’s would ever look alike.
Honda VTX 1800 Spec
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 6 valve, SOHC, V-twin
Capacity: 1795 cc
Max Power: 107 bhp / 78 kW @ 5,000 rpm
Max Torque: 163 Nm / 120.2 lb ft @ 3,000 rpm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Top speed: 134 mph / 216 kph
Fuel capacity: 15.5 L / 4.3 US Gal
Seat height: 695 mm / 27.3 inches
Wet weight: 338 kg / 745 lb
The amazing thing about the VTX 1800 series was that starting in 2004, each motorcycle in this line-up offered three different trims. Every update to the model, the colour scheme also changes, providing motorcyclists a dizzying assortment of options.
Not to mention that the neo-retro style was initially inexpensive, with even better deals being offered in the second-hand markets. This makes it possible for modern riders to realise their desire of owning an almost fully customised neo-retro motorcycle without having to pay the price to match.
2000 Honda VTX 1800
The original VTX 1800, a big engine and practical machine with a custom look and almost obsessive attention to detail. Honda offered the VTX 1800 first generation in Black, Illusion Red and Illusion Blue.
2002 Honda VTX 1800C/R/S
Three models were released in 2002: the original VTX 1800 was renamed the Classic or VTX 1800 C, and two further “retro” iterations. The VTX 1800 C could be identified by its original two-into-one exhaust system and speedometer, which was still fixed into the handlebar risers.
Both the R and S variants included a bigger radiator and cooling fan, a tank-mounted speedometer, and a staggered twin exhaust system. While the VTX 1800 S had spoked wheels, the VTX 1800 R had the same cast wheels as the C.
All three versions of the VTX were offered in Black, Illusion Red, Orion Silver Metallic and Illusion Blue.
2004 Honda VTX 1800 N/C/R/S
By the end of 2003, Honda had sold close to 30,000 VTX 1800 motorcycles. A new model was unveiled by Honda in late 2003 for the 2004 model year in addition to the C, R, and S models. The VTX 1800 N used the limited-edition Valkyrie Rune’s Neo-Retro design for its inspiration.
It was at this stage that Honda offered three different build variations for each of the VTX models.
Riser and cap extensions made of cast aluminium with a satin-brushed finish could be fitted to the handlebars.
Silver finishes were offered for the crankcases, cylinders, and starting motors.
Brushed aluminium-finished clutch and brake levers.
The matching satin-brushed caps were satin-brushed, as were the inverted fork tubes.
Cast aluminium served as the material for the upper and lower triple clamps. A hairline satin-brushed finish was also present on the clamps.
Hairline satin-brushed aluminium was used to finish the floorboards.
The finish on the switch housings was brushed aluminium.
A glossy black finish was provided on the radiator cover.
The casing for the final drive was finished in a shiny silver.
The cast-aluminium wheels have satin-brushed finishes.
The rear shocks also featured top mounts with a satin-brushed hairline and a dual chrome ribbed pattern.
Glossy black finishes with machined cylinder fin edges were offered for the crankcases, cylinders, and starter motor.
The handlebars could be upgraded with risers and caps made of chrome-plated aluminium.
Brake and clutch levers had a highly polished aluminium finish.
The upper and lower triple clamps were constructed of polished cast aluminium.
The fork tubes could be finished off with chrome steel covers and chrome caps.
The casing for the final drive had a silver finish.
The cast aluminium wheels were satin-brushed.
The floorboards had a hairline satin-brushed aluminium finish.
Switch housings have a hairline satin-brushed finish.
In addition, the top mounts of the rear shocks had a satin-brushed hairline and a twin chrome ribbed pattern.
The radiator cover was finished in a glossy black colour.
Satin black crankcases, cylinders, and starter motor were offered with machined cylinder fin edges.
Risers and caps for the handlebars could be added made of chrome-plated aluminium.
Polished cast aluminium triple clamps, upper and lower were used.
Brake and clutch levers with a highly polished aluminium surface.
The covers and caps on the fork tubes were made of chrome-plated steel.
The switch housings had a hairline satin-brushed finish.
The radiator side covers were made of chrome.
Chrome-plated, highly polished aluminium floors.
Cast aluminium wheels with a high degree of polish were offered.
The axle caps and fasteners on the final drive housing had a satin-brushed hairline finish.
The twin chrome ribbed design of the rear shocks included an A-shaped top mounting hole.
The VTX 1800 models from 2004 came in the following vivid colours:
Kelly Magenta Metallic
Pearl Challenger Brown
Jupiter Orange Metallic
2005 Honda VTX 1800 F/N/C/R/S
Honda added a more performance-oriented VTX 1800 F model in 2005, which had low-profile radial tires on cast wheels with a five twin-spoke design, and also incorporated an LCD tachometer and clock into the tank-mounted speedometer. New colour offerings for the 2005 models were:
Durango Red Metallic
Pearl Apollo Blue
Billet Silver Metallic
In addition to the new colours, the 2005 VTX 1800 again had three different build variations.
Clutch and brake levers were offered the satin-brushed aluminium finish.
Switch housings were offered with a smooth cast aluminium finish.
All other design features of the 2004 Spec 1 trim remain the same for the 2005 model.
The Spec 2 variation of the 2005 VTX 1800 shared all of its design features with the 2004 VTX 1800 version.
The Spec 3 build of the 2005 VTX 1800 was likewise, the same as the 2004 model.
2006 Honda VTX 1800 F/N/C/R/S
Honda launched its VTX 1800 2006 models in the following inspiring colours:
New Dark Red
The 2006 Honda VTX 1800, like its predecessors, was offered in three different trim levels and maintained the same neo-retro styling as the 2005 model. However, the Spec 1 model was the only one with the titanium colour option.
2007 Honda VTX 1800 T/F/N/C/R/S
Another year and another new model. Honda launched the VTX 1800 T in 2007. A Touring model equipped with 24 litre saddlebags each, a windshield and a passenger backrest to diversify the VTX line-up even more.
For the 2007 VTX 1800, Honda only revised the colour scheme to the following:
Metallic Black/Red Custom Art
Dark Red/Red Custom Art
The same three trims and features from the 2006 versions were offered for all bikes. However, the Spec 1 model was the only one with the black metallic finish.
2008 Honda VTX 1800 T/N/S
2008 was the final year for the VTX 1800 and Honda had really cut back on its offering with just the VTX 1800 N, VTX 1800 S and VTX 1800 T available.
The 2008 Honda VTX 1800 was offered in three colours:
Black Custom Art
Dark Orange Metallic
Only the Spec 1 trim came in the black colour. The dark orange metallic, on the other hand, was offered in both Spec 1 and Spec 2. Furthermore, the Spec 2 trim offered the black custom art as well.
The 2008 Honda VTX 1800 was only offered in two separate build variations, unlike the three of the previous models. The following alterations were made to these variations:
Crankcases, cylinders, and starter motor were offered with a satin-black finish and milled cylinder fin edges.
Other features of the Spec 1 variants remained the same as the previous year.
Radiator covers featured chrome side covers.
Polished and chrome-plated aluminium floorboards were used.
The final drive housing featured a hairline satin-brushed finish with chrome-plated axle caps and fasteners.
Highly polished cast-aluminium wheels were offered.
Rear shocks were upgraded and featured a dual chromed ribbed design with an A-shaped top mounting hole and hairline satin-brushed top mounts.
The Spec 2 variants other features remained the same as the 2007 model.
How fast is the Honda VTX 1800?
Honda’s VTX is still faster than many of the stock V-twin motorcycle cruisers on the market today. With its 12.5 seconds at 105.5 mph quarter-mile time the beefy 1,195 cc V-Twin will keep pulling hard all the way up until its top speed of 134 mph!
Many sports bikes will certainly have the legs on the VTX but with a 0 to 60 time of 3.7 seconds, you’ll certainly be giving them a run for their money away from the lights.
Buying a used Honda VTX 1800
The VTX1800 didn’t really take off in the UK motorcycle market despite Honda’s attempts. On its initial launch in 2001 the VTX1800’s RRP was £10,000 and just a few years later in 2003 had a huge £1,300 price cut.
Despite it not capturing the hearts and minds of the UK motorcycle cruiser fans the VTX holds it’s value well, just like most Honda’s do and whereas the prices are not looking to jump up any time soon, if you buy one you’ll have peace of mind that you could probably sell it on again for a similar price that you purchased it in a couple of years if you wanted to.
There are only a few available in the UK at this time with many more in the US. In the UK you’ll be looking around 6.5k – 7.5k mostly dependant of mileage.
The UK only received the VTX1800N model as Honda were unsure of how well it would take to the market and didn’t want to over produce. A good call by Honda it would seem.
In the USA with much more choice the prices are significantly lower. You can pick up an earlier model for less than $4,000!
However, I’d personally get one of the later models, more specifically this one in its fantastic orange and black paint scheme with less than 9,000 miles at $5,999.
Is the Honda VTX 1800 a good bike?
When compared to the original Zodia concept motorcycle from which it evolved, the VTX1800 is a more “down-to-earth” performance cruiser. However, it is suitable for everyday use, reliable, and boasts a fantastically thrilling engine. Although it didn’t last long, it was a great addition to the large motorcycle cruiser market.
If you were in the market for one, you’d probably end up with a one-of-a-kind machine thanks to the hundreds of options Honda provided over the few years it was manufactured (at least in the USA).
However, I can’t see the VTX1800 being a good financial investment because it didn’t catch on, and it’s unlikely that it will become a classic unless there is a revival of the huge cruiser style in the near future.
I recently reviewed the Kawasaki Vulcan S 650 and honestly wasn’t impressed. I’m not really a cruiser fan and the Kwacker really didn’t do it for me, it lacked, well everything. The VTX1800 however, turns things up to 11!
Big cruisers should be just that, BIG, shiny and have a powerplant to match. The Honda does that in spades and is quality built to last. I’m still not a cruiser guy but if I was to start looking the Honda VTX1800 would certainly be in the running.