Review of the 2002 Honda VTX 1800R

A review of a retro rendition

2002 VTX 1800R
Honda put a great deal of thought into the details of the 2002 VTX 1800R.James Brown

This article was originally published in the April 2002 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Honda's big V-twin platform is the 1795cc VTX, molded into two models. The first, the street-rod-styled VTX 1800C, was introduced last year as a 2002 model. It set new limits for displacement for a production-line twin and finally put Honda in the lucrative big-twin game.

The second VTX model, rolled out this winter, restyles the same basic bike with a more traditional look. Instead of the comparatively brief fenders on the C model, the new VTX, informally called "the retro," gets deeply valenced steel fenders. The wide look carries to the beamier 5.3-gallon fuel tank, which holds an additional 0.8 gallon, and the fuller, plusher rider and passenger saddle. Staggered dual fishtails replace the two-into-one exhaust of the C with its large canister-style muffler. The new VTX has floorboards instead of the C model's footpegs and a taller pullback handlebar. Details like a license-plate light that mimics the profile of the rear fender tell you that Honda stylists put a great deal of thought into this one.

2002 VTX 1800R engine
The engine is the same 6-valve 53-degree liquid-cooled V-twin with two pligs per cylinder and programmable fuel injection.James Brown

There are two variations of this latest VTX 1800, dubbed the S and the R. The S model has wire-spoke wheels with bias-ply tires. The 1800R that we tested has cast wheels and tubeless radial tires. Both have a 150/80-17 front tire and 180/70 rear tire, though the R's rear wheel has a 16-inch diameter and the S has a 15-incher. (For comparison, the C has130/70-18 front and 180/70-16 rear radials.)

Beneath the bodywork, all three versions of the VTX 1800 are the same except for the wheels. The engine is the same 6-valve 52-degree liquid-cooled V-twin with two plugs per cylinder and programmable fuel injection. The five gearbox ratios and other internal gearing are unchanged, and the shaft final drive is the same on all the 1800 twins.

The same brakes stop all three versions, with two 296mm rotors pinched by three-piston calipers up front and a 316mm spinner squeezed by two pistons on the rear wheel. The same 43mm inverted fork supports the front end with dual preload-adjustable shock propping up the rear. Though the steering head is welded at the same 32-degree angle, the retro version has an extra 0.6 inches of front-wheel trail, perhaps to make it more stable. The wheelbase is the same stretched 67.5 inches. The thicker saddle makes the new version's seat height about a quarter-inch farther from the road. The changes have added to the tonnage. At 796 pounds tanked up, the R was 38 pounds heavier than the C we tested. Finally, the retro rendition is more expensive than the street rod. The least expensive retro, at $12,999, is $200 more than the most expensive C, which starts at $12,499. If you choose all the high-priced options, including the ChromaFlair prism paint, suggested retail is $13,499. Honda is planning to make about equal number of the street rod and the retro, but because the bikes are made in Ohio, that can change if demand turns out to be different than anticipated.