Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010): Review & Buying Guide


Price: £1300-£4000 | Power: 92.bhp | Weight: 262kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 3/5


Launched at a time when sales of adventure bikes were on the up, Honda’s Varadero (which is named after a beach resort in Cuba apparently...) is very much a road-targeted model with off-road styling cues such as a big front wheel and not much more. A fact underlined by it always running cast instead of spoke wheels. One of those machines that failed to capture many headlines, the Varadero nonetheless proved itself a worthy competitor and fans of relaxed mile-munching tend to hold this V-twin in fairly high esteem. Cheap to buy and run (if you exclude petrol costs...) the Varadero is much more in a similar vein to the road-focused Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Kawasaki KLV1000 or even the Triumph Tiger 955i than the likes of a traditional adventure bike like the BMW GS. If you want a relaxed machine that effortlessly ticks off the miles, the Varadero is a good option but, it has to be said, not one that is likely to inspire much in the way of excitement. A solid workhorse, not a show pony...


Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010) Price

The original Varadero cost just under £7000 in 1999 but the 2003 model upped this to £7499 (plus initially £500 for ABS but soon that was covered by the RRP), which isn’t surprising when you consider how much of an upgrade it was. Nowadays you can pick up an early bike in a private sale for as little as £1300 but really you want to look at paying upwards of £2000 to get the 2003-onwards model. There are a few out there with big mileages on their clocks but most tend to hover around the 20-30,000 miles area, which is pretty acceptable. Dealers will advertise later bikes with full luggage for just under £4000 but realistically you can set a budget of £3000-£3500 and be confident of buying a nice example with full luggage.


Pros & Cons

  • Solid reliability
  • Very comfortable
  • Low price tag
  • It’s quite thirsty
  • Very bland styling
  • Top-heavy handling
1999 Honda XL1000V Varadero Review Used Price Spec_13


Engine and Performance

The first, and most critical, thing you should know when buying a Varadero is that the very first generation (1999-2002) only has a five-speed gearbox where the 2003-onwards bike has six gears. Why does this matter? As well as the obvious ability to reduce the engine’s revs at cruising speeds, the sixth gear also improves the Varadero’s fuel economy, which is its main Achilles’ Heel. More on that later...

Powered by a VTR1000F Firestorm motor, the Varadero’s V-twin is perfectly suited to its role in life as a relaxed-cruiser. Not the most thrilling of engines, it lollops along merrily with minimal vibes and lots of lovely instant V-twin grunt thanks to its handy 72.3lb-ft of torque. During the 2003 update Honda added a fuel-injection system (the older bike had carbs) and the final result is a bike that is very hard to fault when it comes to chilled-out motoring. Also, pleasingly, the exhaust is made from stainless steel, meaning even now most are still on their OE units – lovely old-school Honda build quality...

When it comes to buying used, the VTR motor is pretty reliable with only cam chain tensioners occasionally giving any grief and reg/recs liking to fail. Neither is a huge drama if you catch them early enough. The major service is at 16,000 miles, which involves valve-clearances, but the minor 4000 miles ones are pretty cheap and simple to do at home. Just be a touch cautious when viewing a bike about the state of the side-mounted radiators as they can catch dirt and corrode but in general, the V-twin is pretty much bulletproof – as you would expect from a Honda product.


1999 Honda XL1000V Varadero Review Used Price Spec_17


Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010) Handling & Suspension

Tall and with its 25-litre tank brimmed quite top-heavy, the Varadero is a bit of a handful at low speed, a sensation not helped by its fairly high 838mm seat height and 262kg wet weight. Low speed spills are quite common, so check the bike carefully for signs of this having happened and if you are short in the leg, maybe consider fitting crash protection for when the inevitable happens...

On the go the Honda’s suspension, which disappointingly lacks much in the way of adjustment, is quite soft and spongy. While great news for motorway riding, it does tend to make the bike wallow badly in bends, especially when loaded up with luggage and/or a pillion. One cure is to up the shock’s preload, which can be done provided the adjuster isn't seized, but realistically you are better off buying a new shock and getting the forks rebuilt. There again, do you really want to be carving through bends on a Varadero? Probably not, it is much more a relaxed cruiser in its attitude.

As with the motor, there isn’t much to worry about when it comes to the Varadero’s chassis. The linked brakes (three-piston sliding calipers all-round) aren’t to everyone’s tastes (there are de-link kits available) and do tend to seize pistons with quite regular frequency but other than general fit and finish and checking consumable items such as bearings, suspension linkages, chain and sprockets and tyres, all should be well.



Comfort & Economy

Let’s start with the good news. The Varadero is an extremely comfortable bike to ride and has an all-day riding position with a wonderful seat and relaxed stance. The screen (on post-2003 models) has three positions, which are actually quite effective, but a lot of owners increase its height for extra protection. Most also add brush guards and heated grips, both of which are worth investing in. Now the bad news...

The Varadero has an unwelcome reputation for poor fuel economy. Owners report 35mpg isn’t uncommon with low 40s a best case scenario – which still isn’t great. There again, even at this rate you can still expect around 200 miles range from the enormous 25-litre tank, which is pretty good.



Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010) Equipment

The Varadero is left quite lacking in terms of equipment. Like most Hondas products you get the HISS immobiliser system, ABS was an optional extra in 2004 and standard equipment from 2005-onwards and the 2003-onwards bike has a new style of dash but that’s about it in terms of standard equipment.

When it comes to accessories, Honda sold 35-litre panniers and a 45-litre top box as well as an optional centre stand and heated grips but that was it. In the used market, loads of Varaderos come with luggage fitted (not always Honda, often aftermarket, which is far less stylish and won’t have matched keys or be colour coded to the bike) and it’s not uncommon to see commuter-targeted add-ons such as brush guards, 12V inputs, taller screens and sometimes replacement comfort seats. Aftermarket pipes are rare, so treat any bike with them fitted with caution as that may indicate a spill. Generally, you can expect a used Varadero to be pretty much standard with some kind of luggage fitted, which is exactly what you want it to be!



Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010) Rivals

The Varadero is popular with those looking for a solid, no-frills, commuter that is comfortable, reliable and more than happy to head off on the odd tour or two.


Suzuki V-Strom 1000 (2002-2008) | Approx Price: £1500-£3000

Power/Torque: 105bhp/68lb-ft | Weight: 238kg


Triumph Tiger 955i (2001-2006) | Approx Price: £1500-£3000

Power/Torque: 104bhp/67lb-ft | Weight: 240kg


BMW R1150GS (2000-2003) | Approx Price: £2000-£4500

Power/Torque: 85bhp/71lb-ft | Weight: 249kg



Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010) Verdict

Although the Varadero is a hard bike to really criticise, it is also quite tricky to find much to sing its praises about either. Yes, it is comfortable, reliable and cheap in the used market – but so are quite a few other adventure bike rivals. A machine that doesn’t really stand out for any particular good or bad reasons, the Varadero isn’t a bad bike but it is also quite bland and unforgettable. If you like its styling and are a fan of Honda products it will probably appeal but if you are after a bike to offer something aside from simply getting on with the job in hand, there are more engaging options out there.


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Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999-2010) – Technical Specification

Original price


Current price range




Bore x Stroke

98mm x 66mm

Engine layout


Engine details

Liquid-cooled, 8v, DOHC


92.5bhp (69kW) @ 8000rpm


72.3lb-ft (98Nm) @ 6000rpm

Top speed



Six-speed, chain final drive (five-speed on 1999-2002 model)

Average fuel consumption


Tank size

25 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

194 miles

Reserve capacity

30 miles

Rider aids

ABS from 2005 onwards (optional 2004)


Steel tube diamond

Front suspension

43mm telescopic forks

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension


Rear suspension adjustment

Adjustable preload

Front brake

2 x 296mm discs, three-piston combined calipers. ABS

Rear brake

256mm disc, three-piston combined caliper. ABS

Front tyre

110/80 – R19

Rear tyre

150/70 – R17


27.3°/ 110mm

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2295mm x 925mm x 1500mm



Ground clearance


Seat height


Kerb weight

262Kg Wet


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