Quick spin: 2017 Honda X-ADV

xadv - 14The reaction to Honda’s category-bending X-ADV ‘X-cooter’ seems to have been positive; most reviewers get it or accept it for what it is. Credit to Honda for trying new stuff, though it’s said good sales haven’t followed, probably due to the £9600 price alongside more conventional maxi-scooters used most commonly as commuters rather than travel bikes. The X-ADV suggests you could do both.

xadvspextik
• DCT transmission
• Brakes
• Low-tuned, 270-degree motor
• Reputed economy
• Adjustable screen
• Front fork
• Tubeless spoked wheels
cros
• Pricey
• Tall for a scooter
• Scooter seating position
• Dreary in silver

Under that bodywork and between those small wheels they’ve slung the low-tuned, 54-hp 750cc twin from the Integra scooter and NC range and best of all, the DCT auto/manual gearbox which – don’t ask me how – gives a real neutral plus a more direct drive, unlike a typical scooter’s mushier CVT and belt drive.
xadvchasAnd unlike the NC motorbikes, you stash your lid under the seat not ‘in the tank’. On the ADV that space is the air between your knees, though I was a little disappointed there was no ‘glovebox’ in the frontal bodywork – looks like the air filter sits in there.
And getting on wasn’t so scooter-easy; you need to do an awkward frontal leg swing through the mid-section – I could see the plastics here getting all scuffed by clumsy boots. It’s quite high for a ‘scooter’ but maybe a better technique develops with use and some yoga. The 32-inch-high seat sounds low, but with the wide bodywork getting both feet flat on the ground wasn’t possible without shuffling forward.
xadvvOne the move, sitting with your feet forward or even right forward ‘highway-pegs-style’, means your unfolded legs don’t take much weight so the bum-to-seat interface becomes all the more critical. Despite the X having a generous bucket seat, I can’t say I fully adapted to this position. Like a lot of riders on regular bikes, once in top gear I find putting your toes on the footrests is comfier for long rides; it pre-tensions the legs and angles you forward to take more weight off the butt. On the X you’re sitting upright, feet forward, like on a chair.
xadv - 1One thing you can’t grumble about is the near-seamless DCT gearbox. You hear the clicks as it changes, but you rarely feel them. What a pleasure it is to ditch all that clutch and foot-changing business. Some say quick-shifting has rendered DCT redundant. Never tried it, but I can’t see how; you still need to work a clutch and a foot-shift lever. With DCT it’s like an auto, with a Sport mode (higher rpm changes) plus a manual override with paddles on the left bar. It’s the cake-and-eat-it best of all worlds. Let’s hope they introduce DCT on some other smaller trail bikes before we all end up riding electric.
xadv - 4Just before getting on a motorway I pulled over and cranked up the adjustable screen to the max with the easy-to-figure-out knob (right) on a clever parallelogram hinge. Back on the move I can’t say I felt swathed in a hushed bubble of still air, but at 5°C, without that screen and the frontal bodywork keeping the legs out of the wind, I’d have been freezing, even with the heated jacket plugged into the cig plug under the seat. I bet there are wider, taller screens available and anyway, the X-ADV rolled effortlessly up to a stable 80mph which equals just 4000 rpm.
The engine is another one of those characterful 270° twins as on my XSR700 (and ATs, TDMs, Super Teneres, some Triumphs, the forthcoming BMW 850s and 800cc KTM). The biking world has gone 270-° crazy and I’m all for it. It sounds a lot better on its standard pipe than my XSR, even if its twist-and-go acceleration isn’t as crisp. (One benefit of DCT autos over conventional CVT scooters is the reduced ‘rubber band’ lag.)
The Honda has 30% less power than an unrestricted XSR700 (my XSR actually runs 47hp) and nearly 30% more claimed weight. Good thing the brakes are brilliant twin, four-pot radials on the front; you want good brakes with a heavy auto. It wasn’t till nearly back at the shop that I remembered the left lever works the equally meaty back brake and is not a locking parking brake (as on my old 400AT Dream, right).autodream That late 1978 bike was a doddle to despatch round town; a neutral + two-speed clutchless box which left the left hand free to operate a radio, eat a turkey and coleslaw bap or wave cheerily at tourists.
xadv - 5I should have taken the X-ADV down some backlanes but didn’t want to get caught out on a sunless icy patch. Even then, you could tell the suspension felt better than my XSR, especially the adjustable cartridge USD fork (I couldn’t see a way to the rear shock which comes with spring preload only, but no remote HP adjuster that I could see). Oddly, even in official promo literature no mention gets made of the tubeless spoked wheels; shame the AT didn’t get something similar. What some reviewers described as a ‘fully enclosed chain’ is just a wraparound chain guard; more a chain-spray catcher than a proper crud-cover like an old MZ or a CD175.
xadv - 12There’s plenty of easy-to-read data spread over the digital display which can doubtless be reconfigured. Fuel consumption was displayed in miles-per-litre; not seen that one before but makes sense in the UK; ‘13.2’ (left) adds up to just 60mpg average, but the NC twins are famously more frugal than that, getting closer to 100mpg is possible if really trying.

I’m won over by the DCT just like I was on an Africa Twin a couple of years back. One day I’ll get a DCT bike, but I I didn’t warm the X’s scootery layout like I thought I might. It’s not much easier getting on and off – something that increasingly bugs me with tall saddled dirt bikes. Plus I miss that conventional poise which would feel more natural on the dirt, and couldn’t visualise enjoying riding this bike on my easy Morocco tour dirt routes. I’m not sure that ‘sat-at-a-table’ seating would be comfy on a long ride either – too much pressure directly on the crumbling old spine, although the bars looked like they could’ve pivoted and raised forward without fouling the screen.
xadvfootI’ve seen accessory front footrests which bolt on behind the boards around the swing arm pivot (left) and which may enable a better road / off-road stance, as well as possibly being able to grip the seat for better control when standing. Interestingly, all the dust-kicking promo shots below and in the link at the end for the 2018 model have these pegs fitted, but as I found on the XSR, this leg-to-bike contact area needs to be well thought out and comfy if it’s to work sustainably.
xadvdirt

The bland 2017 silver ‘Mondeo’ livery didn’t really work for me and may have contributed to my tempered enthusiasm for the bike. The red-black-and-whites look much more like it, but silver is clearly popular in Caterham as the shop had two other low-mileage silvers going used, presumably by commuters who didn’t get on with the genre-busting X-ADV.

nc750xIf DCT is so good but an AT is too pricey, what about the much cheaper NC750X (left)? I’ve thought about that one before, but the only real benefit over my XSR700 would be the DCT; stock suspension is said to be as basic, and the claimed 220kg weight is 34-kg greater (18kg less than the X-cooter), even if it’s positioned lower. Getting suspension right is costly and can be hit and miss.
What would be great is an NC750X-ADV with a 19-inch front and better suspension all round, but that would come too close to an Africa Twin.


zoomerScoot my Dirt
Talking with HondaBigRuckusNathan Millward recently, he  reminded me that what would have been fun is a bigger-engined version of the Honda Zoomer or current Ruckus (left). Genuinely hop-on low and light enough to chuck about – sort of in the vein of the fat-tyred Yamaha Ryoku concept.

In fact there was a Big Ruckus 250 about decade ago (right) more here), but at 160kg, it looks as heavy as it is and presumably never proved as popular as the Ruckus.

I was a bit surprised I didn’t take to the X-ADV for my intended use. Perhaps a longer ride on a warmer day may have made a difference. As a road bike it’s fine, but then so are just about all the other road bikes out there.

The 2018 model out in a couple of months will come in a 34-kw A2 license version (6kw less than normal). It will also have the AT’s G-switch (less clutch slip for off-road traction), as well as lower ratios than other DCT Hondas and switchable, two-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). The engine’s red line is also set 950 rpm higher at 7500 and it will cost 200 quid more.

 

 

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