Honda revives an all-terrain legend with the 2023 XL750 Transalp
After 12 years of absence from Honda’s lineup, the Transalp returns based on the same engine platform that debuted with the 2023 CB750 Hornet. It's designed for all-terrain performance and comes with a lush electronic arsenal similar to that of the Africa Twin 1100.
First introduced in 1987, the Honda XL600V Transalp belongs to an elite group of motorcycles credited with the foundation of the modern-day adventure bike segment, next to pioneering icons like the BMW GS, Honda Africa Twin, and Yamaha Super Tenere.
The Transalp remained in production until the 2011 model year, evolving over three generations that gradually grew to 647 cc in 2000 and 680 in 2008, before Honda turned its focus to developing two new engine platforms, the CB500 and NC700 inline twins. While these are still in production, Honda introduced a new high performance engine in October, which debuted in the 2023 CB750 Hornet.
This new two-cylinder engine is employed in the revival of the XL750 Transalp, having skipped the V in its name since the new twin follows an inline architecture, instead of the 52-degree V2 that powered the previous three generations over a span of 24 years.
The 755cc inline twin is mechanically almost identical in both new Hondas, apart from the electronic throttle (ride-by-wire) which is tuned for a softer response on the Transalp. Other than that, the output is exactly the same in both cases: 90.5 hp at 9,500 rpm and 75 Nm (55.3 lb.ft) at 7,250 rpm.
The electronic management of the engine allows for extensive customization, as the rider can choose between four preset riding modes that tune engine power, engine braking, traction control and ABS. On top of the usual sport, standard, rain and gravel modes, Honda includes a user-defined mode where the rider can save any combination that isn’t covered by the presets.
A 5-inch color instrument display provides the interface for controlling the electronic kits of the new Transalp, featuring a familiar arrangement that’s similar to any other contemporary Honda equipped with a digital screen. The same goes for the handlebar switches, and especially the left-hand side cluster where most of the screen controls are housed.
Honda designed the new Transalp to be slender and tall, with a front fairing that looks quite similar to the CB500X, a body that follows the Africa Twin’s figure, and graphics that vividly echo the very first generation of the model from the late 1980s.
It is equipped with non-adjustable suspension that provides adequate travel for riding off-road; 200 mm (7.9 in) for the Showa SFF-CA forks and 190 mm (7.5 in) for the rear Showa monoshock. The ground clearance is also hefty enough at 210 mm (8.3 in) to keep the bike’s underbelly relatively safe from rough terrain, although it would have been better to include a bash plate in the bike’s standard kit.
The selection of a 21-inch front wheel is a clear indicator for Honda’s intentions with the new Transalp, and marks the return to the model’s roots; the first two generations rode on similarly sized front wheels, whereas the third evolution of the model, the 2008 XL700V Transalp, turned to a 19-inch front wheel that was becoming sort of an industry standard in the adventure class.
This time though the rear wheel’s diameter measures 18 inches, for the first time in the model’s history, reflecting the character of the 2023 Transalp that appears to be better suited for off-road riding than ever before.
Despite the motorcycle’s tall stance, the seat rises to a comfortable 850 mm (33.5 in), accessible enough for most people and creating a riding position that visually appears to sit the rider more “in” the bike rather than “on” it, as is usually the case with off-roaders. Convenience is a strong prerequisite for the new Transalp, as it needs to be friendly enough to appeal to a wide audience, uncompromisingly serve everyday duties and be hospitable for long-range touring.
Honda has furnished the Transalp with a wealth of electronic safety and support systems, as apart from the engine’s electronic features it also includes a Bluetooth communication unit that enables Honda’s Smartphone Voice Control system, Emergency Stop Signals and self-canceling indicators.
On the other hand, there’s plenty of equipment that’s surprisingly missing from the basic kit of the new Transalp, such as a bash plate, a main stand, knuckle guards, even a cruise control system that’s usually standard in touring motorcycles. Most of these, and even more, can be retrofitted from the list of extras, which is conveniently structured in specific packs; urban, touring, adventure, rally, comfort.
The retail price of the 2023 Honda XL750 Transalp will likely be the decisive factor that will determine the relative importance of the non-adjustable full suspension for each potential customer, as well as the missing components that will probably have to be purchased at a later time to complete the adventurous nature of the new model.
For the time being there’s no official word on the Transalp’s pricing, but if the new CB750 Hornet can serve as a guideline, then there’s hope for a very appealing price tag. In Italy the Hornet has recently been priced at €8,240 (approximately US$8,290), which surprisingly is €1,000 ($1,006) cheaper than the aging Honda CB650R in the same market.
If this can be considered as indicative of Honda’s intent, then a potential sub-€10,000 price for the new XL750 Transalp would in turn pose an intriguing new question: could the 90-hp Transalp actually become a serious threat from within to the higher-priced, 101-hp Africa Twin 1100?