Honda CTX700 Launch

Words: Zac Kurylyk Photos: Honda Canada
Words: Zac Kurylyk Photos: Honda Canada

What’s new

The CTX 700 models are based on the NC700 models Honda introduced last year, which themselves are based on a motor largely derived from the Honda Fit. The CTX700 comes in a T (for touring) variation, defined by a bagger-style frame-mounted fairing, and there’s a less pricy N model, without bodywork.

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Both CTX models have been modified to become more cruiser-like. They have forward controls and pull back bars, as opposed to the mid-controls on the NC series; the under-seat gas tank has been moved, to allow for a lower seat height (now, you pop open a cover on the faux gas tank to reveal the fill cap for the real tank) meaning that the luggage space in “the hatch” has been greatly reduced, and the bodywork has been changed a tad.

The CTX models both have a 719 mm seat height; that’s a little higher than Honda’s VT750 Phantom (655 mm) but lower than the NC700X (830 mm0 and CBR250R (775 mm). They’re only the first models in the CTX lineup; Honda says they’re beginner bikes, so the next CTXs will likely be larger.

The Ride

I’d spent a fair bit of time aboard an NC700X last summer, so I knew what to expect from the CTX’s motor. I figured I’d be hitting the rev limiter frequently, but only bounced off it once, when I was concentrating more on making a pass than I was on my engine note.

Here's what the CTX700T looks like with accessory saddlebags (also available in a colour-matched version) and optional taller windshield.
Here’s what the CTX700T looks like with accessory saddlebags (also available in a colour-matched version) and optional taller windshield.

Other than that, the motor was more of the same. While it’s true the bike has plenty of parking-lot torque, I found that I was better with a quick downshift on the highway, instead of waiting for the roll-on power to catch up. It’s certainly not sluggish, but it’s heaps more fun if you keep it on the boil.

The main difference between the CTX700 series and the NC700 series is the forward controls.
The main difference between the CTX700 series and the NC700 series is the forward controls.

It’s too bad that boil hits the redline so quickly … some people say that low redline is necessary for good fuel consumption, but I’ve ridden plenty of other bikes that get similar, or better, fuel mileage, and they didn’t start making nasty sounds at 6,500 rpms.

Still, once you’re used to the powerband, it’s plenty of fun to work your way through traffic with the machine, as it has more than enough power for anybody who wants to ride responsibly with the odd overtake. It’s also a fairly smooth motor, meaning you can see a clear reflection in the mirrors at all times, unlike some of the cruiser competition. Really, this is the perfect application for this motor’s powerband.

Handling, as on the NC series, is excellent, thanks to wide-ish bars and the fact the bike carries its weight down low. Parking-lot figure-8s are plenty of fun; I wouldn’t have minded trying these bikes out on a cone course, as they handle so nicely at slow speeds.

Honda's designers raided the parts bin for the CTX700 series. That's an NC700S headlight on the CTX700N.
Honda’s designers raided the parts bin for the CTX700 series. That’s an NC700S headlight on the CTX700N.

This bike doesn’t mind mid-corner corrections, unlike some heavier cruisers that would rather put their 800 lbs in the ditch than lean over further. This machine should put a smile on your face, instead of making you change your underwear.

The gauges will be familiar to anyone who's ridden an NC700.
The gauges will be familiar to anyone who’s ridden an NC700.

The rear suspension is adjustable for pre-load only. I thought the rear shock felt a little under-damped, as I felt a little pogoing in some particularly bumpy sections, and from what I could see, the riders in front of me were also bouncing around a little. However, I didn’t experience a single bone-jarring jolt, which is better than some other new-for-2013 cruisers.

Unlike most cruisers, these machines seem to be designed with cornering clearance in mind. During their presentation, Honda even noted the machines’ smooth underside (just like a baby’s bottom), which is supposed to reduce the chance of hard parts catching. You’ll likely drag your heels before your drag your footpeg feelers, thanks to the position you’re locked into aboard the machines.

From the fuel tank backwards, the CTX700T and CTX700N are basically identical in stock trim.
From the fuel tank backwards, the CTX700T and CTX700N are basically identical in stock trim.

The riding position, sadly, is the CTX’s greatest failing. While some cruiser riders may disagree with me on this, every serious rider I know will tell you a foot-forward position may be comfortable for a while, but sooner or later, having all your body weight resting on your tailbone makes for a sore back. At the end of both long rides I did on the CTXs, journos were contorting their bodies all over the motorcycles in efforts to relieve the pain.

Floorboards, instead of footpegs, might have improved the riding position a bit, by allowing riders to adjust their legs back and forth.
Floorboards, instead of footpegs, might have improved the riding position a bit, by allowing riders to adjust their legs back and forth.

The problem could be partially solved if Honda had used floorboards instead of footpegs.

I can’t imagine that would have driven the price up much, and it would have allowed for riders to hang their heels off the back of the floorboards and change their riding position just a bit. I also think floorboards are a little easier to work with than footpegs when you’re using forward controls, as they’re easier for your feet to find.

These bikes both raided the parts bins not only for the motor, but for other components. The N model shares the headlight off the NC700S; it has no resemblance at all to a traditional cruiser headlight (it looks a lot like something Judge Dredd would approve of, but I can’t see Sonny Barger giving it a thumbs up).

The tiny flyscreen atop the CTX700N's headlight does a good job of blocking wind.
The tiny flyscreen atop the CTX700N’s headlight does a good job of blocking wind.

However, it does a great job of breaking the airflow, and unless you’re traveling in gusty wind, you’ll be fine. There’s a bit of windblast on the highway, but it’s tolerable, considering it’s a naked bike.

The short windscreen and fairing on the CTX700T command a higher price, but don't block the elements as well as you'd hope.
The short windscreen and fairing on the CTX700T command a higher price, but don’t block the elements as well as you’d hope.

The standard windscreen on the T model is another story. This model’s fairing (with headlight ripped from the CBR250!) and short windscreen look Sons of Anarchy-approved, but I thought they did a disappointing job of blocking the elements, considering the extra cost.

Honda sells a taller accessory screen, and I’m puzzled as to why this isn’t standard; it adds another $220 to a machine that’s already $500 up on the base model. It does a far better job of blocking wind and rain, and makes the bike look like what it is – a machine with decent touring capability, instead of a half-bagger, half-standard mash-up.

Both bikes benefit greatly from a gas tank that’s sculpted to curve over the tops of your knees. This setup is similar to Honda’s CB500, which also does a great job of cutting wind, without needing a fairing. Honda should find the bright lad (or lassie) responsible for this and slip a few extra yen in their Christmas bonus.

The seating position is classic cruiser, but the styling - not so much. There's a lot of bodywork, and the headlight lacks that traditional look.
The seating position is classic cruiser, but the styling – not so much. There’s a lot of bodywork, and the headlight lacks that traditional look.

The fit and finish is generally good, but a few plastic parts didn’t inspire confidence. The handles for the accessory saddlebags (side-opening) felt chintzy, and even the gas tank lid felt a little cheap. That’s what happens when you build to a price point. Blame the economic recession for that one. By the way, I rode a bike with black bags, but colour-matched bags will be available.

When you're in the saddle, you feel like you're on a touring bike, not in a cruiser cockpit.
When you’re in the saddle, you feel like you’re on a touring bike, not in a cruiser cockpit.

As with the original NC700 series, the CTX series features standard six-speed transmissions. Automatic dual clutch transmissions (DCT) are available on the bikes in the US, where they’re bundled as an option with ABS. Honda Canada says they’re listening to customer feedback, and if there’s enough interest, DCT may also be available here in the future.

Like most of Honda’s new machines, braking is good. The machines come with ABS as standard (but no linked brakes); that raises the price a bit, but beginning and experienced riders will both benefit from this feature. It’s great to know that, no matter how hard you hammer on that front brake, you’re not going to high-side into a gas truck in the next lane.

When I had the NC700X last summer, I thought one of its greatest drawbacks was the fact you couldn’t easily use generic soft saddlebags or tailbags. That bike’s fuel fill was hidden under the rear seat, which made it tricky to strap anything down back there without a rack (which didn’t come standard; it was a $160 accessory).

The CTX models don’t have that problem, since the fuel fill is up front (although it’s too bad they sacrificed most of the storage space up front as a result). In fact, Honda engineers have atoned for their earlier misdeeds by putting some handy hooks on the tail section – perfect for strapping on some bungees. That’s the sort of practical touch you don’t see much of anymore.

Thanks to wide bars and a low center of gravity, the CTX models are easy to handle at low speed.
Thanks to wide bars and a low center of gravity, the CTX models are easy to handle at low speed.

Summary

I enjoyed riding both of these bikes, but several journos during the launch were scratching our heads and asking … why?

The exhaust note is a bit beefier than the NC700's.
The exhaust note is a bit beefier than the NC700’s.

Don’t get me wrong – the idea of a pocket-sized touring bike is great, and if the optional tall windscreen and bags were standard on the CTX700T, you’d have a decent scaled-down touring bike, with a matching price – sort of a modern-day GL650 Silver Wing.

But, that bike doesn’t come with either of those options as standard. It feels like you’re riding a weird hybrid blend of bagger and tourer.

It has a foot-forward riding position, but when you’re in the cockpit, you don’t get an urge to grow a droopy mustache, buy some chaps and ride to Sturgis. Instead, you’re more likely to order a Roadcrafter suit from Aerostich and try sport-touring, until your backside gives out.

This makes sense: A moderately-priced touring bike would appeal to plenty of folks who can't afford a Gold Wing.
This makes sense: A moderately-priced touring bike would appeal to plenty of folks who can’t afford a Gold Wing.

And, with the S model (sans bags and fairing), sure, you get an easy-to-ride bike with usable power, but it’s not a cruiser. The styling is pure manga, not Easy Rider. It’s an NC700S that’s limited by forward controls, and I’m not sure how many people are asking for that.

The brakes are the same as found on the NC700 series, and the discs are also used on Honda's new 500s.
The brakes are the same as found on the NC700 series, and the discs are also used on Honda’s new 500s.

It gets even a little more confusing when you consider these bikes are ostensibly aimed at beginners, just like Honda’s CBR250, CRF250L, CBR500, CB500, CB500X, NC700X and NC700S – all new models from the past couple years. Some of these bikes have significant overlap between them, and surely they’re going to be competing with their own lineup quite a bit.

But maybe that’s the point. Honda’s done a lot of cross-breeding in their lineup in the last couple years, and many of these machines share so many parts, it’s almost like we’re revisiting the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Big Four all had cruisers, standards and sport bikes based around one common engine.

People poo-poo those old vert-twin and inline-four low riders now, but back then, they sold a lot of them, and sharing all those parts between the models must have gone a long way towards keeping costs down.

The CTX700 series brings back memories of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Japanese based cruisers, sportbikes and standards around the same platform.
The CTX700 series brings back memories of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Japanese based cruisers, sportbikes and standards around the same platform.

So, as always, the question is up to the buyer: Is the CTX700 for you? I’d be a big fan of the T model with a tall windscreen and bags if it wasn’t hampered by forward controls, but can’t see myself buying the naked version, when the NC700S offers almost an identical package, but with a proper riding position.

What will the next CTX models look like? Honda says there are more coming.
What will the next CTX models look like? Honda says there are more coming.

But if you’re the one spending the money, that’s a call you have to make. Remember, though – after a few hours in the saddle, your lower back might strongly disagree with the choice you make, if you go with forward controls.


GALLERY

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.


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  2013 Honda CTX700T
MSRP  $8,999
Displacement  670 cc
Engine type  Liquid cooled parallel twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder
Power (crank)*  n/a
Torque*  n/a
Tank Capacity  12 litres
Carburetion  EFI
Final drive  Chain
Tires, front  120/70-17
Tires, rear  160/60-17
Brakes, front  Single 320 mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Brakes, rear  Single 240 mm disc with single-piston caliper
Seat height  719 mm
Wheelbase  1,529 mm
Wet weight*  n/a
Colours  Red
Warranty  One year, unlimited mileage
* claimed

SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  2013 Honda CTX700N
MSRP  $8,499
Displacement  670 cc
Engine type  Liquid cooled parallel twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder
Power (crank)*  n/a
Torque*  n/a
Tank Capacity  12 litres
Carburetion  EFI
Final drive  Chain
Tires, front  120/70-17
Tires, rear  160/60-17
Brakes, front  Single 320 mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Brakes, rear  Single 240 mm disc with single-piston caliper
Seat height  719 mm
Wheelbase  1,529 mm
Wet weight*  n/a
Colours  Black
Warranty  One year, unlimited mileage
* claimed

18 thoughts on “Honda CTX700 Launch”

  1. The next ones won’t be bigger. They are a beginner bike. The 2014 model in the states is an DCT Automatic. Maybe thats what is coming next in Canada. Check out Honda CTX Automatic on Google for a link to a utube review.

  2. I’m a little surprised that they would do more NC700 models, did the previous model sell well at all??>
    At the last Toronto MC show my Mrs was looking about for a replacement for the 500 Interceptor, took one look at the NC700, said “no way” and that was that.

  3. Looking at all the negative comments and all the people making ’em…for the most part, you guys need to realize you’re not the target market. I think Honda knows a thing or two about bringing in new or re-entry riders. Besides, everyone else is doing the same old shit with bold new graphics, kudos to trying to change things up.

    That said, Zac couldn’t look dumber on that thing…

    1. It would probably help if he got his hands untucked from his boots. And was smaller, and wearing a different jacket. Probably still look goofy though. I suppose some may like the idea of this thing though.

      1. Tough crowd … last year it was the bootcamp haircut, this year it’s the pants tucked into the boots … started doing that years ago because it’s more comfortable with dual sport boots. Gotta wear the jacket, for testing purposes. And the size, well …

        1. Yeah, typed that on my tablet, obviously “hands” was supposed to be “pants”, as you’ve surmised. On most bikes you and that riding gear would probably look fine, but on this you look kind of like one of those circus bears riding a minibike, LOL.

          Good review, but I really hope the people who would consider one of these would at least keep going on to the standard NC700/S models. Of course, the whole cruiser thing, at least of the “barhopper” sized/styled bikes, pretty much eludes me.

          Cheers

  4. ps. I have never hit the rev limiter on the NC. Ride it like a single or low revving twin and you won’t have any problems.

    1. Steve, I’m used to singles, and hit the rev limiter constantly on the NC when I first picked it up. I got accustomed to it quickly enough, but enough people have said the same thing that it’s obvious it’s an unusual motor.

      I think what happens is that riders are used to a lot more vibration and noise when they approach the redline (on cruisers and singles) and that isn’t there on the NC series, as it’s so smooth and quiet.

      1. Zac, You’ve got a point there, it is pretty smooth when approaching the rev limiter. Another factor might be that most of the comments come from people test riding the bike either as potential customers or journalists. Most owners don’t seem to have this problem (reading the owner websites), probably because they’re running their machines in, so are being more careful with them! ;O)

  5. I’ve owned an NC700S for the last year and am very pleased with it. Like the writer, I’m a bit baffled about these new bikes and why they are being offered. Surely the whole point (and only point) of cruisers is that they look cool – these don’t! The S handles pretty well and is also comfortable over short to middle distances. It also has the very handy storage unit where the fuel tank normally sits. Honda appear to have removed many of the NC700S (and X)’s good points and added nothing in exchange.

  6. I have a Sportster, and I would buy a T model if it was available were I live. I´m used to spending long hours on a saddle far worse than that, and like the scaled down F6B looks.

  7. Two DN-01’s mated ant this is the stillborn child. This is so goddam ugly I couldn’t bother to read the text.
    Nice going Honda…again.

    1. spot on, stag. how do they do it again and again? maybe these things appear cool as drawings but in the flesh they look cheap, plastic and appliance-like. a lawn-mower, blow-dryer, hedge trimmer menage a trios. who’s gonna buy these things? all the young guys i know that are gettin into bikes mostly desire old ‘standard’ bikes.

    2. Ugly as all get-out, with a ridiculous riding position IMO. The pictured rider looks quite silly on this thing. I still don’t see the point of this engine design, either – absolutely neutered for the sake of a few mpg. The old 650/750 liquid cooled v-twin that dates back 30 years, and was hardly a rocket in its own time, could outperform this.

      And yeah, we sporty types may have thought all those Japanese “Specials” and “Customs” and “LTDs” back in the 70s/80s were a stupid styling exercise, but they were actually pretty comfortable to ride, unlike this thing which locks you into one position. They were easy to customize, too – you could easily add “crash bars” with highway pegs if you wanted to stretch your legs out.

      1. Agreed on the lowrider bikes, Ry. Most of them were kind of ugly, but they were much better bikes than most people give credit for – remember, the superbikes back then didn’t feature razor-sharp handling (when compared to today’s machines) either, so the skinny forks, etc, are a little forgiveable.

        If you can get past the looks, you can buy those old machines super super cheap, as long as you’re not too embarrassed to be seen on it. I saw an LTD750 in beautiful shape go for a grand a couple weeks ago, looked like it had only been off the showroom floor for a couple weeks. Some guy who doesn’t give a crap will ride that for years without having to make monthly payments on a modern V-twin cruiser that weighs more, has less horsepower, and gets worse fuel mileage, all with a larger engine.

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