‘Africa Twin 800‘
Update: I read the 2021 NC750s lost some weight and seat height, but also got less suspension travel and clearance (click image left). Have Honda finally stopped pretending it’s any type of all-terrain adventure bike? Maybe, but it’s still a great travel bike, though if you want more clearance and travel, get a pre-2021. Could this ‘road-isation’ mean the mooted ‘Africa Twin 800‘ may become a thing? We shall see.
I tried an NC a few weeks back, liked it as I knew I would, so bought a low-mileage XA/XD model with an idea of converting it into a budget but high-economy ‘Africa Twain’. Plus I wanted to properly get to grips with this DCT malarkey. Judging by Google search results (right), I’m not the only one.
I picked it up near Leamington, rode straight down to Cornwall, then over a couple of days headed back to London via the Dorset Coast. Here’s what I found.
- High 80s/low 90s mpg without really trying. Back off a bit – say 60mph – and it will register a live 26.4mpl or 100mpg. With the 14.1-litre tank, at 88mpg/31.1kpl that would give a range of 438km or 272 miles.
- Plenty of real-world power to get the job done. Fifty-four hp really is all you need
- Thumb/finger manual changes slicker than my MTB
- I like the manual override on auto
- And the auto downshift override when in manual. They thought it through
- Suspension – what a surprise! I assumed it would be poor, like a CB-X or XSR7. Far from it. I rode an RE Interceptor recently; it’s better than that, too
- Corners really well. Not had such a planted road bike for years
- Right-engle tyre valves. No more struggles with inflation nozzles
- Tubeless tyres
- TFT dash – also new on me and the way to go
- Despite low-speed lugging, day to day preferred the smoother D mode. Settled occasionally on S1. Higher S levels felt more jerky.
- Tank box (but even open-face lids can be a squeeze; right)
- Seat was actually pretty good; sore over 4 slow hours, but not in outright agony
- For a modern bike, the slabby space ship look is less bad than some
- Nice crobba-crobba thudding noise as the 270° mill pulls away.
- Average mpl display was pretty accurate – 5% under at fill up
- You pull in, flick down the sidestand and it switches off. Remove the key and walk away.
- It’s a Honda; peace of mind on a long trip
- Heavy – on the home scales it came very close to the claimed 232kg wet. Holds you back on some rough bends.
- Lumpy pulling away at town speeds. That was my impression hopping back on the bike after a couple of weeks. A bit more lumpy than you’d assume is good for the engine, but it’s only a 750, not a huge Harley. It may well smooth out when warm.
- Harshness – noticed this as soon as I pulled away from the seller’s place. Could be part engine, part transmission (on the move). The test bike I rode a month earlier felt notably smoother, but this wouldn’t be the first time a Honda-sourced (not dealer) test bike felt better than what you buy. It mostly cleared after 1000 miles – maybe old fuel stood for months and needed a good blast? But it’s not as smooth as modern injected twins can be, cf: Interceptor.
- The engine on my XSR700 was much nicer – and it was 47hp restricted, not the full 72hp. But the XSR only averaged 74mpg over 4000 miles. Can’t see an NC ever dropping below 80. I do wonder if extreme leanness – either to gain economy or pass emissions regs – can spoil an engine’s feel.
- Still a bit auto-clunky at low speeds, not seamless like an auto car despite the so-called Adaptive Clutch Capability Control.
- Rode mostly in D but felt like it lugged at times, especially up steep hills and despite ‘a control system in AT mode for gauging the angle of ascent or descent and adapting shift pattern accordingly’. Got into manual downshifting. Auto downshifted better on downhills. Maybe it would have adapted for uphills in time?
- Maxed it out but the TFT dash was still a bit dim in daylight. Plus would have liked engine/ambient temp info on there, too
- No 12-v power outlet. I thought there was one in the tank box?
- I know it’s how we fill up in the UK, but would have preferred other metrics besides Miles per Litre – a new one on me but you’d learn soon enough. (I assume it shows kpl or L/100km if you flip the speedo to kph). Older models had mpg – maybe I didn’t RTFM enough.
- Like other bikes I’ve had lately, trip distance total (for true mpg calcs) is annoyingly lost when it resets to reserve towards E (or I didn’t work out how to dig it out)
- Screen is of course too small
- No centre stand. I bought one before I even picked it up
- Traction control was a new game for me. I played with it on mid-road gravel patches and the steep track down to my Cornish mate’s house. But unlike ABS, I can’t really see a real-world use for it on a fat-tyred, 54-hp bike like this, assuming you ride alert and sensibly. Corner too fast in the wet or hit oil and the front might go just as fast. TC just seems to be a brake on applying so much power you lose traction. How often do you do that on the road ?
- The TC switch on the left bars is a clumsy afterthought. Same could be said for the parking brake, tbh.
At the Overland show, organiser Paddy Tyson told me he’d covered 38,000 miles on a manual NC and wondered ‘why isn’t everyone using these for overlanding?’ It was a good question. Manual or auto, an NC is a practical and exceedingly economical machine which carries it’s weight low while easily keeping up on fast highways. I’m pretty sure even in stock form it could cover the tracks on my Morocco tours, and with tyres to suit would have easily managed what I rode on the Himalayan in spring, but without the need to be truck to Malaga. And it would have used 15% less fuel too. CRF250-like mpg but with the grunt to tackle headwinds and hills and the power to sit comfortably at 70+ is not something you get on most bikes. That makes the NC sound like a pretty versatile machine but as is often the case, some bikes fail to catch the buying public’s imagination. The NC is a big seller among commuters, but I’ve barely heard of travellers using them. If DCT is so fabulous, it seems the much flashier Africa Twin is the bike of choice from what I’ve seen at shows lately. Just like BMW’s F800GS trounced the 650/700 version, despite my avowed pronouncements to the latter two’s superiority!
To me an AT (left) was going a bit far. Yes, it may have eaten all the dirt I was able to feed it but is even heavier an NC with a higher CoG, costs more and had much inferior economy. I’d like to see DCT in a lighter bike like the CB500X, but maybe that just cannot be achieved, yet. Or a sub 200-kg 750 Africa Twin as has been mooted now the 1000L is becoming an 1100.
Low-speed clunks apart, it’s great not have to concentrate on stalling or heavy clutches or agricultural gearboxes or miss-shifts while still having manual control for slowing down into fast bends or steep hills. It allows you to concentrate on other things, and that includes gnarly climbs with steep, clutch-stressing hairpins which in auto or manual 1st would be easy work on the DCT.
I’d bought an unusually nice (for me) late model which would be easy to shift – at ~£5k the most I’ve ever spent on a bike. In the end, I decided the 750X was too nice a road machine to meddle with weight-adding protection, longer travel suspension, higher-profile tyres and maybe a 19er front (I suspect the front wheel from a 2019 CB500X would fit). At over 230kg it was too heavy for my sort of gravel roading and the lack of smoothness compared to similar motors was surprisingly off-putting. How spoiled we’ve become!
I lost 100 quid selling it back on ebay; a reasonable sum for a fortnight’s rental. While selling the NC I took Enfield’s 650 Interceptor out for a quickie. Read what I thought about that one here.
I found the AT DCT quick and easy to ride but no match for the S10 as a dependable, all-day, comfortable distance bike. Both are tall and heavy, especially when loaded up, and, getting older, I wanted something more manageable but as appealing as my original XRV750.
I originally changed the AT for a new CB500X, on a whim, and a Beta for off-road use, but I didn’t like the CB500X at all: it seemed to have no suspension and the smooth engine went AWOL at motorway speeds. I swapped within weeks to the NC, not having considered one, but it’s great. I
It’s still quite heavy and not especially sexy but just feels like a less powerful but much more manageable and practical version of the AT – more comfortable and with great suspension too.
I can happily spend all day on it and the economy is astounding. And it slows me down a bit.
Nicely summed up.
Hi, interesting discussion. I have a tdm900 and can’t decide between these 3 bikes. I’ve ridden a dct 750x and liked it ( less oomph than Tdm though). Sat on a s10 and surprised how unintimidating it was. I liked the wind protection bulk at the front and I expect the weight would be a plus passing lorries and in side winds. The AT felt tall and Uber tech somehow! My gut feeling is that although my head says Honda , the s10 would have better suspension and ability to long tour ? What are your thoughts especially on the S10 and the suspension quality of the nc? I also favour economy. Horses for courses as usual I suppose!
Unless the price is great, for me an S10 is way too much bike for my needs & prefs.
(As I expected and have found with the AT.)
I have not ridden an S10 long enough. It obviously has enough grunt to see off any road but I recall economy was poor.
I prioritise weight (low CoG), comfort and economy over power. Comfort can be easily improved. The other 2 less so. Great to have a choice ;-)
Just got NC750x and ride S10 regularly. No match on highway and longer commutes in bad weather, or two up, S10 every day. City ride? Other way around. Wind protection on NC750x is not good, I hope that a madstad screen will improve the situation. Gearing and engine character is kind of similar but with half the torque and power. Both feel nimble for their weight IMO. All dimensions are way smaller, like seat to pegs pretty short on NC. But the S10 is to big and heavy for me to be good allround. I guess tank range is kind of similar, filled up 18L today, some while after fuel light lit on the S10.
Thanks for your helpful comments. Unfortunately the S10 looks like it is not going to work for day to day duties. Perhaps the AT might be more of an all rounder, the NC also but probably less good on motorways/highways. If the rumours are true about an 850 AT twin that might be better but you can’t be sure how budget the suspension will be. The r1200rs might work too but the only bmw I’ve had’s engine failed at 23k (f800st)but my Tdm is going strong at 62k miles! So I’d rather stick with Yamaha but they don’t seem to quite make the bike for me!
From what i understand the smaller AT will have budget springs – but that is a lot easier to improve than an engine!
Our dream bikes are always just out of reach but I bet a 1200RS is a nice ride – and those boxers don’t tend to pack up (mechanically, at least).
Tiger 900 may be an option. I would have bought it if I had the funds. It feels light and handles well, suspension is good, engine is fantastic, lots of equipment, wind protection good, I had no buffeting at highway speeds when I tested it.
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I’ve just downsized from a DCT Africa Twin to a DCT NC750.
Having owned an original AT I was looking forward to the new model but, despite a positive test ride, never really enjoyed the ownership experience, finding it just too unwieldy and rather lacking in character: I much preferred the Super Tenere which it replaced, despite it being a far bulkier machine.
I don’t really notice the NC’s power deficit to the AT, despite the similar weight, and it’s less bulky, more comfortable, extremely smooth, handles well and provides amazing economy: the other benefits (purchase price, running costs, tank trunk, tubeless etc.) sealed the deal. And it looks great in blue and a well-resolved design next to the fussy AT.
The only negative was the savage AT depreciation but it also confirmed I needed something much lighter for off-road work in order to avoid damage to man or machine and a Beta has filled that gap.
Interesting conclusions. Can’t see me preferring a heavy XT1200 over a not-quite-as-heavy AT, but I missed trail bike agility on the NC. Even with depreciation, I can’t see me ever going for a massive AT and depreciated XT700s may be a while coming. Can almost see me going back to an XScrambleR.
I much preferred the Yamaha as a road and distance bike but struggled equally badly with both off-road, especially loaded with gear (given my competencer at least): both end up the wrong side of 250kg.
I never dropped either but my old AT weighed in about 210kg 25 years ago and I could only just about pick it up then. It cemented the view that anything over 200kg and a certain seat height ruled out regular off-road use for me, and both those factors decrease with age and with the more time I now spend green laning: it took three of us to right a fully fuelled GSA that capsized on a muddy lane this weekend just gone.
I never gave the NC a second thought but have concluded is a better road bike than the AT for that purpose.
But what I would really like would be a Euro compliant Honda CTX200 AG bike together with a modern version of the shaft drive XLV750F…collection complete!
Another thing that puts me off the S10 and AT is the fuel consumption – the price for all that extra power which I’m not sure is always needed on a travel bike. Yam I imagine would rarely exceed 60 and Honda 65?
Yep, 200 kilos is a benchmark and the older I get the more annoying tall saddles become for getting on and off – sen on light bikes. It’s one reason I pensioned off my old leather trousers.
You know they have the XR190L AG now; the old Bushlander with efi and snazzy 21-st century styling.
Less than £3 grand in Ozzie.
Air-cooled and 140 kilos wet.
But not all farmers seem thrilled by the fuelling or gearing.
Shaft drive and big trail bike?? That’s never going to work ;-)
I don’t think I ever got near those numbers – the Yamaha would do about 54mpg and the AT around 48mpg: the NC does 79mpg on the same run. All that’s missing is shaft drive. The biggest surprise has been the tank trunk/glovebox – how did I manage without one?
I thought the only shaft drive adventure bike was the S10? Are there others?? ;) David Silver has a tidy XLV750RF for sale – I know it doesn’t really make sense but I so-want-one.
48? – not had such a juicy bike since the 80s but then desert biking has made me a bit obsessed with mpg. Interesting the S10 was better. Shame the new AT has gone all gadgetry-bling. Will make the 1000s all the more desirable to some.
Iirc wasn’t there some weak spot on the XLV at the time – or maybe just heavy and low and now rare?
I guess the reason that most people prefer the Africa Twin is because it looks and feels exciting. If a bike doesn’t make your heart skip, it’s just transport.