Honda Interstate and V Star 1300 Tourer Comparison

The happy mediums

We all know that old adage about comparing apples and oranges; they're so different that any matchup would be worthless. But did you ever sit down and really think about that literally? Sure, the taste and texture might be worlds apart, but they're both sweet, seed-delivery devices grown on trees, sold around the world at a handsome profit. So even though experientially apples and oranges are very different, on paper they're very similar.

The same is true of these two bikes. In plenty of concrete ways, these machines have much in common. They're both equipped with fat-ish tires front and rear; the Star with traditional matching 16-inchers, and the Honda sporting a 15-inch rear and 17 front. They're both built-up from standard versions and outfitted for touring-the Interstate adding floorboards, a windshield and saddlebags to the base Stateline model, while the V Star also adds bags and a shield, but ups the ante with a backrest as well (both V Star models have floorboards). Both engines are liquid-cooled, single overhead cam V-twins, though the Star sports one more valve per cylinder. They have the same basic complement of instrumentation, with thoughtful additions of a clock and a second tripmeter, but no tachometer. They even have the same claimed weight of 712 pounds.

Chunky and Clunky vs. Sleek and Minimalist
But it doesn't take a motorcycle enthusiast to tell these two apart. While the two bikes are very similar on paper, how their makers executed their final designs are radically different. The Interstate is a mashup of svelte, swoopy chopper lines, like the acclaimed Fury, featuring a dropped neck and curved downtubes. The V Star 1300, on the other hand, is an evolutionary step from the V Stars introduced in the 1990s. Star has advanced the 1300 Tourer stylistically, but overall it's still parked in 2006 taking a long, hard look at the 1950s. The upright seating position, tall windshield, and equal-size balloon tires harken back to the Wild One. The Honda has full fenders and tires, which, on that sleek chassis, are almost ironic-like an alternative band covering a country tune.

The Interstate has a slouchier, more spread-out riding position, and a seat dropped into the weeds, thanks to the longer chassis. The Honda's stretch gives it a look far outside the norm, and also helps it package its components behind covers for a leaner, cleaner look. That said, the refinement of the V Star is more apparent in the little details; from up close, the real metal parts (compared to the Interstate's plentiful plastic) just look higher quality.

It was quickly obvious in our testing that the two bikes have not only radically different wrappers, but also very different missions. Honda has targeted the younger, cool cats with their new 1300 series customs-or, roughly the same guys Harley is going after with their dropped-to-the weeds Dark Custom line. In other words, style is everything, and suspension is nothing. The Star 1300, however, seems to cater to a more mature audience, with refined suspension, better power, and a more classic look. While the V Star is a true light-to-medium-duty touring rig, the Interstate is more like an around-town cruiser that thoughtfully comes with saddlebags.

The one thing they do have in common, though, is the size of the target audience.

How Comfy?
Taller testers had trouble getting comfortable at all on either bike. The Honda was more ergonomically accessible for willowy types, especially on short stints, but a hard, unsupportive seat does it in on long rides. And while the current V Star is better than its predecessor for larger folk, it's still cramped. The high, wide bar and dished seat work well on long treks though, making it a toss-up between the two. Shorter riders, on the other hand, raved about both bikes, and were ultimately conflicted on which was better.

One quality where tall riders appreciated the Honda was shield height, which fell just under the horizon, while smaller folk were left staring right at the split. The Star's plastic was so high, everybody had to look through it (plus it looked a little dorky). And while a sissy bar can take away from the lines of a bike, it was a welcome addition on the Star, adding plentiful places to strap down excess gear. The Interstate's spare look meant it lacked attachment points to secure gear (and passengers for that matter). Both bikes lack the quick-release windshields common to pricier bikes, but both units come off fairly easily anyway, the Honda's brackets blending with the scenery better than the clunky brackets on the Star. Neither shield created much buffeting for any of our testers.

Cruisin' around town is where the Honda really shines. It's a long bike (and feels like it), but offers a slim profile, and a raucous exhaust note, turning heads with looks and sound. The lightly damped suspension reacts quickly to potholed streets at low speeds, smoothing them out. With the ultra-low seat height and low center of gravity paired with wide bars, the Interstate is easy to maneuver around traffic. The V Star is also a solid city machine, but it doesn't play the part quite as well. It's taller and not as stable with its quicker steering. And as an old-styled cruiser, it simply blends in with other similarly-styled cruisers. Braking, however, is one area the V Star was clearly superior in, with better power and feel all around. The Honda's brakes are adequate for the job, but they don't shine.

Get off the city streets, and the Star cleans the pavement with the Interstate. On the Interstate (the freeway, that is), however, neither bike is truly perfect. The V Star's superior motor and suspension work really well at high speeds, but light steering makes it a bit skittish above 70mph. The Honda's shorter-travel and less-damped suspenders get overwhelmed at high speeds on the washboard roads we have in L.A. Power is solid on the Interstate, but it's not as good as on the V Star. On longer trips, it is nice to be able to splay out on the Honda with its more relaxed riding position, but that seat spoils the party. The V Star is comfortable overall, and as the miles wear on, the plush, supportive seat does not disappoint.

On meandering country roads, both bikes are fairly equal. As long as the pavement is smooth, the Interstate does just fine. The Star's superiority intensifies as the roads get more challenging. On tighter roads with braking, accelerating and turning in the mix, the Star simply shines. It's not only more powerful and smoother, but its suspension is both more plush and more controlled. A feather-light touch on the controls will set it on a new course, while the smooth powerplant blasts you on your way. It's a very different experience on the Interstate, as the chassis flexes mid-corner and any bumps encountered while cornering will completely disrupt your line-unlike the sensitive (but very planted) Star. The Honda's shaft drive, while fairly invisible most of the time, is occasionally noticeable on curvy roads as back-end jacking can change the bike's trajectory slightly. The easy fix is to simply to slow down, but even at lower speeds the Interstate is not very confident if the road isn't smooth. The Honda's saving grace is the very wide ratio transmission, which is mated perfectly to the engine's powerband. The Star is slightly less accurate, missing shifts a couple times, but it's largely irrelevant, as the wider powerband makes shifting mostly optional.

The V Star's upright stance and wide, tall bar may not radiate a "cool-guy" look like the Honda, but it works exceptionally well for flicking this light-steering bike around in the twisties. The V Star might look heavier compared to the sleeker Honda, but it feels far lighter in tight situations and in parking lots. Cornering clearance is roughly equal and adequate for both machines. The Interstate's boards are higher, but its longer wheelbase necessitates more of a lean to turn. On tight roads you may need to slow way down for a switchback on either one of these bikes.

And while that skinny Interstate tank looks pretty sweet (and manages to hold a respectable 4.4 gallons), the larger tank and better mileage of the V Star will net you an additional 30-plus miles of travel between fill-ups.

SPECIFICATIONS
Star V Star 1300 Touring Honda Interstate
Base Price $11,990 $12,749
Colors Red (2011) Black, Blue (2010) Black, Blue (2010) Red (2011)
Standard warranty 1 year 1 year
ENGINE
Type Liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin Liquid-Cooled, 52-degree V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke 1304cc, 100x83mm 1312cc; 89.5 x 104.3mm
Valve train SOHC; 4 valves per cylinder SOHC; 3 valves per cylinder
Compression 9.5:1 9.2:1
Fuel system EFI EFI
Transmission 5-speed; multiplate wet clutch 5-speed
Final drive Belt Shaft
CHASSIS
Overall length 98 in. 104.3 in.
Wheelbase 66.5 in. 70.1 in.
Wet weight 712 lbs. 712 lbs.
Seat height 28.1 in. 26.7 in.
Rake/trail 32.7 degrees / 145mm 33 degrees (overall) / 4.6 in.
Wheels 7-spoke cast aluminum 5-spoke cast aluminum
Front tire 130/90-16 140/80-17
Rear tire 170/70-16 170/80-15
Front brake Dual 298mm discs, four-piston calipers 336mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear brake 298mm disc, twin-piston caliper 296mm disc; single-piston caliper
Front suspension 41mm fork; 5.3 in. travel 41mm fork; 4 in. travel
Rear suspension Single damper; 4.3 in. travel Single shock; 3.9 in. travel
Fuel capacity 4.9 gal. 4.4 gal
Instruments Analog speedometer w/digital odometer, dual tripmeters and clock Analog speedo w/ digital odometer, dual tripmeters, and clock
PERFORMANCE
Fuel mileage 41.6 mpg 39.2 mpg
Average range 203 miles 172 miles

Big Bikes For Smaller People
Look, we're not going to sugarcoat it; in everything from dollars and cents to suspension, handling, range, and braking, the V Star has the Interstate covered. But if you're tired of the same-old, same-old style, the Interstate will probably not disappoint.

More specifically, the city is the Honda's domain, and in that application, the Interstate excels. The convenience and comfort of a windshield, footboards, and saddlebags is a good thing whether you hit the road or not, plus the Interstate is a head-turner and stands apart from the crowd. But the price of radical style (including a 33-degree rake, due to raked triple trees) in this case, is a less refined motorcycle. Which strikes us as odd; the Fury isn't like this. In fact, our Cruiser of the Year went up against more expensive bikes with bigger motors and held its own, while the Interstate seems to be having trouble with a competitor in its own weight class (and priced less, to boot).

The difference might be the Honda's drop-neck configuration coupled with the heavier, fat front tire, which adds pounds of unsprung weight, but we can't be sure.

In any case, most of us voted for the sleek Interstate with our hearts, but we'd pick the V Star 1300 Tourer with our wallets. In just about all the objective categories, it's a better motorcycle.

Riding Positions

Billy Bartels
6'/ 190 lbs./ 33-in. inseam

It's great that there's a class of bike accessible to shorter riders that's not totally entry-level, featuring machines that don't need to be dropped to the weeds. But if you're my size or larger, think twice about this class. Ergonomically, the Honda comes closest; it really just needs a new seat. Riding it around town is fun, but I like my day trips to the mountains too much just to rock this sweet ride.

The Star may not really fit me, but the right seat/bar upgrade might fix it, and everything else about this bike is so good. The way it turns in to corners, stays rock steady through the apex, and motors out is totally fun. Yeah, it's not as cool-looking, and it doesn't sound as good, but it works really well.

On the long haul, the Star's cramped position gets to me, but at least my butt is still blissfully resting on a supportive seat. The new ergos are apparent by the way the V Star doesn't make me want to cry after an hour like it used to, but the shield is still too tall for someone who likes to look over the top.

The Interstate is fine on the long haul right up until your butt catches fire. I like the lower shield, but I don't like the lack of a sissy bar. I solo-tour a lot, and I like to load down the back seat, which is hard without something to strap to.

So the V Star it is for me, though I'd probably prefer the V Star 950 Tourer for less money-it actually fits me better than its big brother.

Ricky Talbot
5'7" /160 lbs./31-in. inseam

Both bikes are comfortable and fun to ride, but I honestly didn't want to give the Interstate back! It fits my frame like a glove and I can actually stand flat-footed at a stop-with room to spare between the seat and myself. Additionally, this bike is a looker, with its aggressive lines and pronounced rake. Not only does it look sweet, but I think it rides great too!

The Star held its own however; it was more comfortable that the Honda, from the seat to the placement of the controls. The V Star's seat is more supportive too, but its width makes for a longer reach to the ground than on the narrower Honda. The Star may have a more "classic" look than the Honda, but it handles better and feels very smooth and balanced. In general, the V Star out performs the Interstate. But while performance is important, it isn't necessarily everything. I happen to really like the Honda's aesthetic, and if given the choice to ride either, I'd prefer the Honda. In fact, I like it so much that I'm willing to overlook some of its performance shortcomings.

The thing is, I feel that both bikes lack stability at freeway speeds. Overall handling is a toss-up-the Star is more responsive in corners, but gets nervous at high speeds, while the Honda handles more loosely and heavier, but it works for my riding style. I liked the sound of the Interstate's engine better too, though it was outperformed by the V Star's (which could chug along in any gear or rev out just as well).

The Honda just works for me and fits me well, but you really can't go wrong with the V Star either, if it's more your style.

Andrew Cherney
5'7"/160 lbs./30-in. inseam

Looks can be deceiving-beyond the Honda's hipper styling, I didn't feel there was much difference between the two. Both are middleweight tourers for riders who like their touring with just the bare necessities. It was only after some serious seat time on the bikes did subtle variations between the two became more apparent.

The Interstate's "custom" style means a big old beach bar that splays my stumpy arms out wide and drops hands low to the tank. The seat is flat and unsupportive, but the floorboards give you a nice spread of foot placement options (and room to stretch out). From a touring perspective, the Honda's ergonomics aren't horrible.

The V Star feels straight-up in comparison. The changed handlebar bend (now almost like mini-buckhorns) puts my hands higher and narrower (and in a better spot) than on the Interstate's. The whole cockpit feels more compact, but the floorboards somehow feel unnaturally high. The configuration didn't bug me much, but I could see where longer-legged dudes might have issues. No question, I far preferred the wider, supportive V Star saddle to the Honda's thin pad. The Yam's revvy engine also felt like it'd be preferable on a long road trip. It spun up faster, had better sorted fueling, and felt more accessible from almost any gear.

But man, does that badass tone coming out of the Interstate's pipes sound juicy. The Honda's engine character is meatier, though fueling isn't as seamless, especially when cold. But because the Honda stretches out and lower, bumps come through the short-travel suspension more harshly than the Star's plush dampers. Strike Two against Honda.

Finally, I couldn't help but dig the better fit and finish on the Star; its flangeless fuel tank, greater use of real metal bits and more comprehensive instrumentation just sealed the deal. I like the looks of the Interstate more, but not enough to overrule all the other things the V Star 1300 does so well.