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For the better part of the last decade, supersports were the heartthrobs of the motorcycle world. Most look drop-dead gorgeous and fast even at a standstill, and then there are the bragging rights that come with ‘taming’ a 200-bhp motorcycle. That said, the world is suddenly in awe with the utilitarian-looking, sub-150-bhp adventure bikes. Is it the versatility of these motorcycles or the #wanderlust bug that has not just swept motorcyclists off their feet but also prompted Honda to get back in the big ADV game with the Africa Twin and now the Transalp? Not that I am complaining, but my time with the Transalp had me pondering over some serious questions.

The ‘bike next door’ appeal?

Honda has kept the Transalp’s design simple… maybe too simple. Come on, this is a 90-bhp-spewing adventure bike. It should have had the visual appeal that would make the newbies weak at the knees and lure the pros to take their shot at it. But the Transalp’s aesthetics are the most unintimidating, and to an extent even diplomatic in its segment. At least, the Africa Twin has that angry-looking face to instil fear in the uninitiated, but this one? This looks as fearsome as a Labrador.

Does size really matter?

Having an ADV with an engine capacity and performance that could shame most four-wheelers plying on our roads definitely caresses my ego, but in all honesty I don’t see much use other than covering ridiculous highway miles at illegal speeds. And on the trails? I would rather have myself fixated on enjoying the experience rather than being at frequent risk of soiling my pants.

And that’s what I love about the Transalp. The 755cc liquidcooled parallel-twin has enough performance on tap to earn the badge of a ‘mile muncher’, yet it is one of the friendliest big ADVs I have ridden in the concrete jungle and on the trails. Oh, and to do any of that, I didn’t have to fiddle with the electronics much.

One of the neatest TFT layouts in the business

Partly because of the ‘good boy’ nature of the engine. It feels playful around 4000 rpm, and post the 6000-rpm mark, I could make the person riding behind me eat dust… literally. Interestingly enough, the punchy mid-to-top range makes for a softer bottomend response which, coupled with the light clutch action is just what I could ever desire from a big ADV when riding through technical sections.

Best enjoyed raw?

The one thing that holds back the Transalp is its electronics. In ‘gravel’ mode, I wanted the traction control to let me fool around with the bike a bit, let that engine bite me back… but no. In that mode, the power delivery is at the middle, engine braking at its max but the traction control is dialled down just one setting from its most intrusive mode. Heck, even keeping it at the least intrusive level doesn’t help. The solution? Switch to the ‘user’ mode and dial the power and the engine braking to the max, keep traction control turned off and the ABS off at the rear wheel. Only then, in its raw avatar, I could truly enjoy the Transalp with its veil of niceness shed.

The 270-degree crank ensures a rorty soundtrack

Can it play naughty?

I am not particularly fond of ‘nice’ motorcycles. For me, a motorcycle should be naughty and scary, even. But the Honda’s engine and electronics have the ‘nice’ vibe plastered all over it. What gave me a glimmer of hope was the ground clearance of 212 mm, 200 mm of suspension travel at the front and 190 mm at the back, a 21/18-inch wire-spoke rim setup and a kerb weight of 208 kg… all the right ingredients to make up for a saucy ADV, right?

And boy, is it one! The Transalp can plough through any and everything I throw at it. Loose sand, gravel or rocks, nothing can slow down this Honda. Out on the highway, with a pillion or with luggage, it felt like riding on marshmallows. No undulation, pothole or speed bump could threaten me to slow down.

It’s roomy yet makes it easy to get the feet down

The tall handlebar, narrow seat and the footpegs’ position made for a very natural riding posture while standing up or even when seated. It is like having a leash on a wild bison. Although, the short distance between the footpegs and the seat can be bothersome for taller riders. That said, this is one of the roomiest and welcoming bikes I have spent time with.

Worth the splurge?

So, it may not be the best-looking middleweight ADV out there, but the Honda Transalp sure is one charming motorcycle. It has more than enough performance for crosscountry trips and for trails, and with its plush and vibe-free ride, there’s almost nothing I can complain about. Almost. You know what is the chink in the Transalp’s armour? Honda itself.

Only if these Dunlops came with tubeless rims

The suspension of this ADV can tackle almost everything, but as I began pushing it harder, I realised it is too soft for the extreme stuff. So, a middleweight adventure bike without adjustable suspension? And let’s not forget that it packs tubed tyres. If that isn’t bad enough, there’s no cruise control or quickshifter, either. Usually, I am not the one cribbing about electronics, but at ₹ 11 lakh (ex-showroom), the Transalp doesn’t come cheap. In fact, being a CBU, it attracts more taxes and demands ₹ 14.20 lakh (on-road) in Mumbai. Add another ₹ 48,000 for the sump guard that will protect the oil sump that protrudes like a pimple under the engine, and you have a seriously expensive purchase. Even if money is no object, the Transalp feels restricted by Honda to keep the potential Africa Twin buyers at bay. Maybe it is time for the Africa Twin to get a real upgrade so that the Transalp gets the updates it deserves.