So we got a new Honda NC700X to ride around on for the better part of a summer so that we can get under its skin, rummage around and see just what this machine can do over the long term.
Assistant Editor Zac took the reins on this one, but also decided to get the opinions of three of his riding buddies – away from the ivory towers of CMG — who were each given the NC for a few days to see how the machine worked for them in a variety of riding circumstances.
Two of the riders – Matt Peachman and Glen Howatt – are professional engineers who do everything on their bikes (a Honda 919 and Kawasaki KLR650, respectively). They commute in any weather, go for aggressive Sunday afternoon rips when they’re able, and enjoy a good tour.
The other rider, Scott Duke, goes out for quite a few two-wheeled rips with Matt and Glen, but also spends a lot of time around bikes as a mechanic; he’s also got a garage full of a wide variety of motorcycles, from cruisers to classics to sport tourers.
When asked to take a new Honda NC700X for a two-week trial run, I jumped at the opportunity, although at first I wasn’t really sure what I was signing up to. A NC700X, what is that?
After a bit of reading online, I figured out that I was the likely target market for the new bike from Honda – a forty-ish type whose main riding is back and forth to work with the occasional Saturday ride thrown in when I can shirk my family responsibilities for a few hours.
The weather cooperated for the two weeks I had the bike, so I managed to rack up a surprising 3,000 km of various types of riding. It included the regular 12km ride to the office, several out-of-town business trips as well as evening and weekend rides.
Sitting on the NC, I found the riding position was much different than my regular Honda 919 ride, with an upright position and outstretched arms. It proved to be reasonably comfortable for the amount of riding I did, without any complaints about wind buffeting at highway speed. I am sure if people are used to being protected behind a fairing, the little windscreen on the NC would not provide the usual amount of protection, but compared to my naked 919, it was sufficient.
With a lowly 6,500rpm redline, learning to shift when you feel things are just about to open up took a bit of getting used to. However, after a few days of riding, it became more natural and I found the best place to shift, without hitting the rev limiter.
The real downside of the NC is its lack of power. I am sure when Honda was working on the concept, they were looking at being completely practical. Who would need to have 100+ hp strapped to a bike? Certainly not a middle-aged person on their way to work. Although I’m sure it is not “needed”, I found the lack of power rather uninspiring.
One of the greatest strengths of the NC in my opinion is the “trunk”. When first reading about the “trunk” — located where the gas tank is normally on a bike — I underestimated its usefulness. After riding for a few days, especially everyday riding around town, I found it indispensable. It easily fit a helmet, gloves and sunglasses. Trips to the store were also easier, being able to toss a full grocery bag in. It also worked well for the Saturday rides to stow a drink, map and other junkets.
The real-life gas mileage of better than 21.24 km/l (60 mpg) was a welcome treat with the high gas prices experienced this past summer. The great mileage seemed to hold no matter how I rode the bike, whether it was around town or burning down the back roads of NB, it was consistently in that range.
The gas tank under the back seat worked well as long as I didn’t need to strap something down, but I could see it being difficult on a trip if you needed to use the seat for luggage.
On several occasions I tried out the ABS (something I’ve not had on a bike to date), including on a wet and muddy road where it performed well, with no slipping, and providing me full control during braking. It will be something I will be looking for in my next bike.
After reflecting on my ride on the NC I’d have to say that although it is as practical bike as a bike can be, if I wanted to be practical, I would sell my bike and drive the car I already own. For me, part of riding is enjoying the performance that a bike can provide without having to buy the sports car.
Overall the bike worked well and met my needs, but failed to give more than that.
When my pal Zac told me to “give your aging high mileage motorcycle a rest for a week or two, take a brand new Honda NC700X and put down as many kms as you can and then tell us what you think about it” I said count me in.
As an “average young professional,” if there is such a thing, with a history of high-mileage trips, evening fun runs and commuting to work in weather which would have some taking mental health days, I thought for sure I would be up to the task of riding the NC and informing the CMG readership how it fits me and my riding style.
I was looking forward to the low-revving nature of the NC and as expected there were a few times early on where I hit the rev limiter in my zeal for more acceleration. However, I soon realized where the redline was and stayed well away. The engine was great for my riding style; however I found I had to run it right in the middle of the rev range in order to have any roll-on power, as I found it a little low on torque at low RPM.
A few quick tests of the combined ABS on both the street and dirt yielded a bike that stopped impressively quickly and would not lock up, which was extremely comforting to me. The stock suspension and handling were ideal for my semi-aggressive riding style and also took care of the numerous imperfections and construction zones on the city streets.
These bumps did seem to take their toll on the bike, as it developed a squeak, which came from the cockpit area and would not go away; earplugs solved that problem, and also helped with my next observation – the exhaust note on the bike is wimpy, to say the least. I am not a proponent of the “loud pipes save lives” philosophy, but I would like something that sounded a little less like a scooter.
The upright riding style of the bike fit my 5’ 10”, 175 pound frame comfortably with the exception of a couple of items. I found the stock windscreen to be lacking in protection where I wanted it most and the shape of the seat made me slide forward into the tank, but neither of these were deal breakers for me rather an occasional brief annoyance which I assume will be addressed by the aftermarket.
Now on to the cargo hold. I could ride to work with lunch, paperwork in a folder and a pair of shoes, park and then switch it up with my helmet, and on one really hot day my full ¾ length jacket and make the 10-minute walk to work.
It was almost perfect; one of my old full-face helmets did not fit and in a couple of cases with the trunk really full, the locking mechanism only partially closed, but in general it did its job.
Also, I found the key switch to be finicky; at a gas station during fill-up or unlocking the bike after being parked all day, there were times when I was pretty sure there was no way the key was going to go back in the ignition. Even on a good day, the key switch feel and position was vague and in the long term might need to be replaced.
Like most motorcyclists who started riding on bikes without a fancy digital fuel gauge and a handy dandy blinking red light to let you know it’s time to give your backside a much needed rest, I like to keep tabs on my fuel consumption and reset my trip meter at every fill up. This wasn’t always possible with the NC, as after my last tank before passing it on, the trip meter reset decided that it had enough and that I should stick to using Honda’s digital fuel gauge instead of my old school method.
At any rate the fuel economy that I was able to document was 3.7 (Low), 4.0 (Ave) and 4.5 (High) L/100km, with the high fuel consumption being a very rare case which occurred during my brief stint on the CMG test track, at which point I was able to obtain my indicated top speed of 177 km/h.
As an inherently frugal person who spends too much time wrenching on his bike to save money, I tried my hand at a chain adjustment and was annoyed to find there was almost nowhere to place my jack to be able to raise the rear wheel. In the end I found a place; it was precarious, but I got the job done. Were this bike to be a keeper, I would be buying or making a set of race stands to facilitate basic maintenance.
Overall, were I in the market for a new ride, the NC would be close to the top of my list. In my opinion, the few shortcomings the NC700X had were outweighed by the fuel economy, storage space and overall rideability right out of the box. Before the check book were to be opened up on this one, however I would like to give the aftermarket some time to address some of the things I mentioned, including the pipe and seat.
As a rider of a clapped-out old KLR, I jumped at the chance to try out this new generation do-it-all bike from Big Red.
First impression? Wow is this thing ugly; it looks like Lyle Lovett with wheels. But, like Julia Roberts I can look past the surface if I think there is something interesting underneath, so I jumped on.
First impressions were of a nice neutral riding position and typical Honda function. Thumb the go switch, and it settles into a somewhat odd-sounding idle. Crunch it into gear and release the light, smooth clutch and we are away.
The first thing that caught me was the shift action. While very positive, it was a lot noisier than I expected, more like that other motorcycle company that starts with an H. It never missed a gear, and was very easy to find neutral.
By the time I got the bike, the tires had squared off considerably, so the handling suffered as a result. Steering was light, ground clearance good, and the ABS brakes were more than adequate. Suspension, while undeniably budgetary, did a decent job on most of our third-world roads here in southern N.B.
Now on to perhaps the most redeeming feature of this machine: the huge storage bin that I have affectionately deemed “the cookie jar”. Hungry? No problem, swing down to your local KFC, pop the lid, dump in a steaming hot bucket of the Colonel’s finest and enjoy a drumstick or three while you huff bus fumes on your way home from work. This is why they make modular helmets people.
You may want to toss in tube of Preparation H if you plan on spending more than a half hour on that thing they call a seat. Not only is it sparsely padded, but it slides your nadular region right into the tank. I could sing two full octaves higher when I got home.
All in all, a good weekday bike for commutes, or errand running with great fuel mileage, and lots of storage. It is also affordable enough that you could probably buy something a little sexier for the weekends.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled parallel-twin|
|Power (crank)*||51 hp @ 6250 rpm|
|Torque*||44lb.ft @ 4750rpm|
|Tank Capacity||14.1 litres|
|Tires, rear||160/60ZR17 radial|
|Brakes, front||Single 320mm disc with two-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|Seat height||830 mm (32.7 inches)|
|Wheelbase||1,540 mm (60.6 in.)|
|Wet weight*||218 kg (480 lb)|
|Colours||Darkness Black Metallic|
|Warranty||1 year, unlimited mileage, freely transferable warranty; extended coverage available with Honda Plus|