Most probably aimed at new riders and commuters, the new Honda NC700X is the first modern motorcycle with an engine designed primarily for fuel economy rather than outright power. But it still has an element of fun and enjoyment of riding a motorcycle. The NC700X is the first of three bikes from Honda using the same engine platform and will probably be the 'sporty' model in the range.
I picked the bike up from my local Honda dealer (Belfast Honda) and headed out of the city to get the feel of the NC. Immediate impressions, despite the claimed weight of 481 lbs, is how light it felt. The weight must be carried very low, no doubt aided by the position that the engine takes within the frame. Combined with the narrow profile, this machine feels like a much smaller bike and more akin to something half the size.
And speaking of the engine, as most know by now, this new parallel twin lump is basically half of the engine fitted into the Honda Jazz. It has been modified, but it also explains why the rev limit is so much lower to what we have become used to these days. There is little vibration, certainly none that would bother you and once you get used to the low revving nature, which I quickly did as I tend to short shift anyway, the Honda zings along with gusto down country roads and it doesn't really feel like it is lacking in power. And in the real world, *being honest, we ride mostly between 40 and 85mph for most of the time on the road which is where this bike excels. I had no problem cruising along at a steady 75mph and the small screen worked amazingly well deflecting the worst of the wind away from my torso. I was also wearing my Arai TourX lid and even up to an indicated 85, there was no real turbulence to complain about. Certainly, the optional taller screen may be a worthwhile addition, but I was more than happy with the stock offering in front of me. Overtaking traffic was easy with the torque available and only when sitting at 60mph and going for an overtake did I feel the need to drop a gear for safety reasons. Apart from the usual clunk into first, I found the gearbox to be very nice with smooth shifts through to sixth gear. I never hit a false neutral and I'd love to try out the dual clutch transmission version when it becomes available.
The riding position is very nice with a comfortable stretch to the wide handlebars. There's good enough leg room and I didn't feel my 5' 11" frame was at all cramped. The only complaint initially was that the seat felt rather slippy and I felt I was moving about too much. I've read of others complaining about the same thing, so it isn't just me. After a while I did wish that the bike came equipped with span adjustable levers as my short fingers didn't feel quite comfortable enough, but it's not a major problem and you have to remember that this bike is built to a budget. And bear in mind, it is built in Japan and not some subsidiary factory elsewhere which I believe shows how important this bike is to Honda. And even saying it is built to a budget is slightly ungenerous as the quality is very very good. The dash layout is simple and easy to understand and is fully digital with the rev counter situated horizontally along the top of the read out.
The roads I rode on were pretty smooth mostly and the NC gave a comfortable ride. I then headed towards a roller coaster road I know well to give the suspension a real work out. On this very bumpy road, the ride got a bit bouncy and I could feel that in these conditions, the suspension was a bit underdamped and choppy. The single front disc was powerful enough and I did try to get the ABS to kick in which took an almighty pull on the lever to achieve and I'd sum up the braking system as being very safe. Overall, the bike handles exceptionally well and I really have nothing but praise for how the NC does its stuff.
Around town, I kept thinking why would anyone spend over £2k more on the likes of the Yamaha T-Max super scooter ? With the capacity of storing a helmet (not a TourX tho') in the bikes 'tank', I'd prefer the feeling of riding a 'proper' motorcycle over a scooter any day. But maybe this is the target where Honda hope to get plenty of sales from ? As a cheap to run working motorcycle, the NC700X has a lot going for it and with service intervals 8000 miles apart and being very thrifty on fuel, maybe we're starting to see a whole new trend in motorcycles. OK, it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I believe Honda have struck the nail on the head and in many European countries where bikes such as this are part and parcel of their transport infrastructure, they'll sell the NC buy the bucket load. It's also a good looking motorcycle and with the many accessories that Honda will supply (and other companies will no doubt design), I think they'll do well enough to reap the benefits of their investment.
All in all, a very surprising motorcycle and as I've said, it may be the fore father of a more fuel efficient breed of low revving bikes than we've been used to of late. With ever rising petrol prices, who's going to bet against it ? Will it become a good choice as an everyday bike, one that you use to get around on while keeping your sportsbike/sports tourer etc for sunny days or foreign tours ? If so, I'll take one in white please.