Last weekend saw me at the Gibson/CMM dyno day, and as with my chance to ride an NR750, I had the experience of being inappropriately dressed and taking an expensive Honda for a spin.
This time it was courtesy of my brother Jim, who owns used motorcycle and race bike goodie purveyors Bike-enders007. He’d popped by for a nose, and before leaving to add his Harris YZR500 to the event, he insisted I take the Rune out for a spin. The fact I was wearing shorts, T-shirt and a pair of Converse only added to the experience.
Climbing on board the sizeable Honda Rune in front of onlookers didn’t add much pressure. Luckily once on the move the Rune feels like it weighs less than the bulk of its chiselled metal would suggest. My brother’s adviCe that the back brake doesn’t work too well was ringing in my borrowed Arai as I set off to explore the delights of Romford.
My first impressions were that despite the length and wheelbase, the Rune felt typically Honda and almost ordinary when on the move. That’s despite the visual statement it makes with the LWB chassis and Judge Dredd looks, which are distinctive to say the least! Out on a decent road and I was able to wind it up a bit – the flat six motor quickly hits the rev limiter and forces me to change gear, but as I try and examine the Sega Megadrive-inspired clocks my attention is grabbed by two stray horses on the road.
The thought of sticking a £15,000 Honda Rune into a pair of dobbins gives me a bit of a reality check. The weight might make the back brake less than effective, but the Rune is deceptively fast for a cruiser. I’ve got no idea of the quoted power for the 1800cc flat six six cylinder and shaft drive from the ex-Goldwing engine, but it has plenty of torque and power – like a two-wheeled Range Rover. Whether it’s my shorts or the burble of the futuristic exhausts, I’ve noticed people having a quick peek at the bike and kids turning to watch me go past like a cheesy TV advert – which is a reason to pin it to the rev limiter again.
Within a few miles I’ve really started getting into the Rune, or the Honda NRX1800 Rune to use the proper name. It’s just then I notice the low fuel light flashing, and the prospect of pushing it back to Gibson’s doesn’t really appeal. When I attempt a U-turn down a quiet lane I discover that milk could turn quicker, leaving me paddling back and forth for a good while. So it seems like a good time to return it, and discover it still probably had about 40 miles left in the tank anyway…
I’m left impressed with Honda’s Rune. It’s an example of what Honda does best, by designing and building bikes which can challenge the edges of the motorcycle market, but still work well enough that you find yourself admiring it when you might want to slag it off. Back in 2003 when the Rune was first arriving there were various larger cruisers appearing, but the only real rival was the Triumph Rocket 3. The British bike suffers in comparison with a more agricultural/steam train look, apparently after consumer focus groups hated an initial more futuristic design.
And then there’s the idea of switching from a sports bike to a cruiser. Less than 10 feet away from the Honda NRX1800 Rune was parked a Ducati Desmosedici, and whereas the big Honda has never missed a beat, my brother attempted to commute on his Desmo until it packed up due to a faulty rectifier. Which sums up the appeal of the big Honda – unusual but practical, futuristic but weighty, and able to stick a smile on your face whether you’re riding it or not. (Incidentally, the exact 2005 Honda NRX1800 Rune I rode is currently on sale on eBay if you’re tempted).
The Honda NRX1800 Rune:
The Honda NRX1800 Rune was a departure for Honda in that it put style and sound ahead of technical engineering. But that didn’t stop them from taking the inoffensive 1832cc Goldwing engine and adding new cams, re-mapped ignition and 6 fuel injectors to produce 118hp and 123 lb ft of torque.
Rear suspension is Honda Pro-Link, but interesting at the front it gets trailing link suspension which means it looks raked like a chopper, but actually keeps almost conventional steering geometry. It’s more expensive and probably less effective than a normal telescopic front end, but it does the job.
All of this engineering gives a weight around 850lbs, but can still get up to around 120mph and 0-100 in around 11 seconds. Although Scottie suffered with the back brake, luckily he still had twin 330mm front discs with three-piston calipers to stop himself.
Despite the sizeable cost when new, investing in a Rune can make sense. Secondhand bikes are normally low mileage and in good nick, as you don’t buy this kind of bike to commute, which means prices have held up. The main issue is spares, as Honda lost money on every machine produced, so had to make it up somewhere.