Once again, Honda has renewed the Transalp trademark in the US, and once again, it could mean absolutely nothing. Or, it could be legit news.
For those who don’t remember, the Honda Transalp was a middleweight adventure bike Honda sold from the late 1980s through the 2000s, in various markets at different times. They didn’t have a long run on North American sales floors; US buyers had them around the 189-1990 time period, and Canadians had an equally brief sales window around that time.
However, the Transalp was much more popular in Europe and the UK, where it had a reputation as a very solid road-biased adventure bike. As the series got on, the Transalp became more and more geared towards asphalt riding, but since that’s where most ADVers use their machines, statistically speaking, that’s not a bad thing. The final version, the XL700V, had a 680 cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine; there was also an XL600V and an XL650V, and the Japanese domestic market got an XL400V.
Since the XL700V was canceled around 2012, people have wondered: Will Honda build another? And for the past decade, the answer was no. Honda put its R&D into the NC platform, starting with the NC700X, which has evolved considerably by its latest model update into the NC750X. Given the amount of upgrades to the latest version of that bike, it seems unlikely Honda plans to ditch it.
However, the NC is still a road bike, really; cast rims and lots of non-crashable plastic mean you can tootle down a gravel road at low speeds, but it’s not made for true brush bashing. Neither is the CB500X (although it’s a bit better, with wire wheels). Honda has a gaping hole between the CRF300L/CRF300 Rally and the CRF1100L Africa Twin. The US market still gets the XR650L, but it’s not really available anywhere else.
If there’s growth in any ADV market right now, it seems to be in the 750-900 range, so a Transalp in that range would make sense.
Problem is, Honda doesn’t have an engine to use for such a machine. A few years back, we saw concept bikes built around the 650 inline four, but that seemed more like a one-off idea, not a serious plan. Honda’s already got adventureish machines built around its 500 and 700 parallel twins. It wouldn’t make sense to use those engines for another adventure bike … would it? The latest USTPO filing is probably Honda just protecting its brand. But who knows? If you start seeing spy shots of a middleweight Honda adventure bike, then it’s time to get excited …