2024 Honda Transalp Test On BDR-X PA Wilds Route

Going on a manufacturer’s launch of a new adventure motorcycle is always something of a, well, adventure. We always have to ascertain just how dirtworthy an adventure motorcycle is. The manufacturer is welcome to its ideas, but we draw our own conclusions based on the ride. Then there’s the route the manufacturer selects for the ride—it could be plenty of pavement, lots of dirt, easy unpaved roads, or something a bit more challenging. So, with all that in mind, the fall colors of central Pennsylvania beckoned, along with the all-new 2024 Honda Transalp and the PA Wilds Route, which is part of the Backcountry Discovery Routes’ BDR-X system.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Price

For those not familiar with Backcountry Discovery Routes, it’s an organization that puts together long-distance off-pavement routes in various states. There’s a focus on the west and the Rocky Mountains, though the Mid-Atlantic Route is popular. The routes provide riders with information on stops for gas, food, and lodging, often in collaboration with towns along the way. If you want to ride an adventure bike from Mexico to Canada, or vice versa, BDR has you covered with the California, Nevada, and Idaho BDRs.

In response to a demand for shorter rides, BDR has expanded into abbreviated BDR-X routes, and that’s where the 2024 Honda Transalp I was testing was headed. The 502-mile PA Wilds Route is a spur of the longer Mid-Atlantic BDR, which runs over 1000 miles from the Tennessee/Virginia border to the Pennsylvania/New York border. Not coincidentally, the Mid Atlantic BDR is “presented by American Honda Motor Corp.”

The 2024 Transalp I was riding was not stock. Most notably, the standard pavement-oriented Metzeler Karoo Street tires have been replaced with dirt-ready Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tires.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: MSRP

The AX41s are knobbies rather than big-block ADV tires, so I got a sense that the 2024 Transalp is more serious about off-road riding than I thought. Admittedly, the 21-/18-inch wheel combo and the inverted Showa fork should have tipped me off. However, I wasn’t alone.

Honda positions the Transalp as less dirtworthy than the CRF300L Rally and the standard Africa Twin, though more ready for off-pavement action than the Africa Twin Adventure Sports, CB500X, and NC750X. Honda also installed its accessory stainless-steel engine guard ($324 with attachment kit), aluminum skid plate ($426), and hand guards ($146/pair) to protect the bike from falls and the rocky portions of the PA Wilds Route. Honda Accessories’ heated grips ($161/pair) were welcome additions in the morning.

After an overnight stay at the rustic BDR-friendly GodSpeed Events & Lodging facility in Port Matilda, the two-day ride got underway under falling red, yellow, and orange leaves—we were sampling Section 4 of the PA Wilds Route’s four segments. The weather was perfect—no rain, morning temperatures in the 60s, rising well into the 70s by midday. As a lifelong Southern Californian, I’m admittedly spoiled regarding weather.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: For Sale

It didn’t take long for the ride to exit the pavement, which meant digging into the TFT dash’s menu—a simplified version of the Africa Twin’s complex display. With my left thumb, I pushed a few buttons and transferred from the Standard mode to the Gravel mode. “Gravel” seems to be an ADV buzzword these days, as Suzuki emphasized “gravel” when describing the capabilities of the new V-Strom 800DE I tested on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia earlier this year.

As it turned out, gravel is exactly what the 2024 Honda Transalp saw for most of the two days. The portions of the PA Wilds route I rode were mostly high-quality gravel roads, and the Transalp loved it.

The Gravel Mode slows the power delivery of the all-new 755cc parallel twin engine a bit, cranks up engine braking to the maximum, ramps up the traction control (level four of five), and engages Off Road ABS.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: BDR

Honda’s software engineers nailed the Gravel setting on gravel roads. The power comes on predictably, robust engine braking means less use of the disc brakes, and the traction control imbued confidence during acceleration in the damp portions—it had rained earlier in the week to keep the dust down. The longer I rode the Transalp, the more impressed I was with the Gravel setting on these smooth gravel roads. Even when getting aggressive, it was difficult to make a mistake.

The 2024 Honda Transalp’s chassis is beautifully balanced with the power delivery. The standard quickshifter doesn’t have the smoothest action at lower rpm, so you learn when to do clutchless shifts and when to go manual with the clutch. The Off Road ABS is unobtrusive, and I rarely thought about it or felt it. The Transalp’s relaxed and forgiving handling doles out confidence quickly on the gravel roads, something those new to the ADV game will love.

Having said that, the Bridgestone AX41s were a big part of the off-pavement experience. Rather than having to tip-toe around wet corners, the AX41s let me ride the Transalp more like I would a dual-sport bike. I wasn’t constantly worrying about front-end push or the back end coming around when braking or accelerating boldly. Tires make a huge difference, as we’ve learned from Matt Spears, who makes videos of dirt-biking a Honda Gold Wing with huge knobby tires. Rest assured, I would have been riding entirely differently if the standard Metzeler Karoo Street tires were on the aluminum rims.

Honda outfitted the new Transalp with Showa suspension. In keeping with its positioning as a moderate off-pavement ADV bike, the damping is soft. To match the sub-$10k base price, the suspension is only spring-preload adjustable, so what the suspension testers at Honda give you is what you get.

In this case, the soft suspension means plenty of comfort and a willingness to settle in for good traction. This is not the suspension you want when pushing hard. When I did, the suspension went through the travel—a bit less than eight inches at both ends—fairly easily. On the upside, the damping is consistent and reliable through the stroke at both ends, and bottoming isn’t alarming. The suspension is as gravel-road-ready as the Gravel mode setting. As is so often the case with Honda, it’s all about balance.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an off-pavement ride without a few challenging sections. In the case of the BDR-X PA Wilds ride, that means sections with sharp rocks embedded into the road, often slippery with any combination of mud, leaves, or water. A few puddles and logs added to the excitement, and I was glad I have decades of dirt bike experience.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross Tires

My initial foray onto the more technical roads, which would require a high clearance 4×4, wasn’t as rewarding as the gravel experiences. The suspension was fine; I wasn’t bombing through the obstacles, and the soft damping let the bike settle in comfortably while floating over the nastier spikes—again, at slow speeds.

The fly in the ointment was the traction control setting in the Gravel mode on the slipperier, rockier roads. When the rear tire would slip momentarily, the motor would spin up. Then, when the traction control engaged, it did so abruptly, immediately re-engaging my wrist’s throttle setting. This would then cause another spin-up and re-engagement process. The Transalp bucked and jerked as it fought to decide what to do.

A consultation with Honda personnel resulted in a dive into the personalizable User mode, which takes full advantage of the ride-by-wire technology. The User mode doesn’t simply let you develop your own configuration of electronic rider aids—it also gives you access to settings not found in the preset modes.

I was good with the softer power delivery and heavy engine braking—those were unchanged from the Gravel mode. However, you can disable traction control in User mode, which I was advised to do. Also, ABS can be fully defeated, and I took advantage of that option.

Note that the ABS and traction control can only be fully turned off at a stop. It re-engages when restarting the bike, so don’t switch the key off. That’s a “safety” feature I can do without, but that ship has already sailed, thanks to bureaucrats and lawyers.

In the next rocky section, the personality of the 2024 Honda Transalp completely changed. It now motored through the rocks with complete confidence. Yes, the rear AX41 slipped here and there. However, I was able to manage whatever was thrown my way. The confidence the Transalp instilled on the gravel in Gravel mode returned in User mode in the technical sections. That’s an impressive transformation, and a reminder of how vital setup is.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Backcountry Discovery Routes

Running with my personalized User mode on the smooth gravel roads added a new dimension of fun. I could confidently slide the rear wheel into a turn, then steer through the corner with the power on, adding a bit of drifting to the equation. The Transalp chassis was up to the challenge, and I rode much faster than in the Gravel mode, hitting 80 mph on one stretch. Of course, if I were in a sightseeing mood, I’d return to the Gravel road, as it offers an extra margin of error.

As I was riding and thinking about the Gravel mode, it occurred to me that the Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tires may have been confusing the electronics. The software engineers calibrated it for the stock street tires, and the knobbed AX41s are a far cry from that. That’s why we will still do a traditional test of the 2024 Honda Transalp in stock configuration. The knobby tires are a wild card in the deck. Fortunately, the software package is flexible enough to compensate for the AX41s, even if it requires my intervention.

The pavement stretches through Amish Country—yes, there were horses and buggies on the roads—were delightfully twisty. The presence of leaves almost everywhere was occasionally alarming, and moisture was part of the traction equation in many places.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Adventure Motorcycle

Impressively, the 2024 Honda Transalp worked quite well on the paved portions, even with the AX41 tires. I switched between the Sport and Standard modes most of the time, going with Rain mode on a few substantially wet stretches.

While the Sport mode gives you the most aggressive throttle response, the short-stroke Unicam motor still isn’t particularly responsive. Acceleration is deliberate rather than exciting. However, that could have been partially due to the AX41s, as the traction control is at its lightest-touch setting.

Standard mode is perfect for highway cruising, as it softens up throttle response some, while still delivering full power at full chat, which is true of all four power settings across the four preset modes. There’s a bit more engine braking on hand, which I like, and the traction control is stepped up a notch, though it didn’t make its presence known.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Adventure Touring

For the slick sections, the Rain mode has a noticeably lazy throttle response—precisely what you want. Traction control is at its maximum, of course, and the engine braking mirrors the Standard mode. This is a safety mode, making the Transalp as forgiving as it can be in difficult conditions.

The On Road ABS setting is the same in all three pavement modes, and worked well most of the time. There were some odd interventions at slower speeds, though I attributed that to the AX41 tires and their lower level of pavement traction. We’ll see when we test the Transalp with the Metzeler Karoo Street rubber.

Regardless of the conditions, the 2024 Honda Transalp is a stable ride, whether it be in the twisties or on the Interstate. Nothing happens too quickly with the engine or chassis, so you can ride confidently—perfect for adventure touring.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Touring Motorcycle

While you’re not penalized for minor errors, neither does inch-perfect riding get rewarded. The Transalp is fun and enjoyable to ride, making it easy to return the frequent friendly waves of the Amish folks encountered along the way.

As someone at Honda clearly realized, the 2024 Honda Transalp is the perfect motorcycle for casually exploring BDR routes. It’s not for someone who wants to ride at a race pace—it is about the experience. It’s capable when needed, especially with the right tires, yet easy to ride for all but the newest motorcyclists—even the 33.7-inch seat height can be lower with a Honda Accessories saddle.

2024 Honda Transalp Test: Backroads Riding

Adventure motorcycle riding means many things to many riders. It ranges from someone who rides pavement almost exclusively to those who like to take on the Erzbergrodeo. Finding the right ADV motorcycle is as much a journey of self-exploration as it is deep research into the different models.

The 2024 Honda Transalp sits in the middle of the Honda ADV motorcycle range, casting a wide net to satisfy a broad swath of riders. It is neither intimidatingly large nor powerful, making riding on technical unpaved roads easier. But, even if anything other than the highest-quality dirt road is on the owner’s to-ride list, the Transalp is an agreeable street touring mount that makes it easy to rack up the miles. That’s a lot of flexibility and capability in one adventure motorcycle.

Action and static photography by Align Media
Static photography by Don Williams


• Helmet: Arai XD4

• Communications: Sena 50S

• Jacket + pants: The Trek by Tourmaster

• Back protection: Cortech SAS-TEC

• Gloves (cold): Tourmaster Mid-Tex

• Gloves (warm): Tourmaster Trailbreak

• Boots: Tourmaster Trailblazer

2024 Honda Transalp Specifications


 Type: Parallel twin w/ 270-degree crank

Displacement: 755cc

Bore x stroke: 87.0 x 63.5mm

Compression ratio: 11.0:1

Valvetrain: SOHC; 4vpc

Transmission: 6-speed

Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions

Final drive: Chain


Frame: Steel diamond

Front suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable Showa SFF-CATM 43mm inverted fork; 7.9 inches

Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted, spring-preload adjustable Showa remote-reservoir shock; 7.5 inches

Wheels: Wire-spoked wheels

Tires: Metzeler Karoo Street (Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41, as tested)

Front tire: 90/90 x 21

Rear tire: 150/70 x 18

Front brakes: 310mm wave discs w/ 2-piston calipers

Rear brake: 256mm wave disc w/ single-piston caliper

ABS: 2-channel (rear wheel defeatable in User mode)


Wheelbase: 61.5 inches

Rake: 27 degrees

Trail: 4.4 inches

Ground clearance: 8.3 inches

Seat height: 33.7 inches (low seat optional)

Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons

Curb weight: 459 pounds

Color: Matte Black Metallic

2024 Honda Transalp Price: $9999 MSRP ($11,056, as tested, plus tires)

2024 Honda Transalp Test Photo Gallery