Quick ride: Yamaha XT700 Tenere review

t777See also:
Yamaha’s Ténéré travel bikes
Yamaha XScrambleR 700
Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Africa Twin

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the UK, July’s ABR show was the only chance to road-test Yamaha’s much-awaited XT700 Tenere before it reached dealers.
As a Tenere rider from the very start, and a fan of Yamaha’s proven CP2 engine from my XSR 700 (below right), I’ve been looking forward to trying the XT7. The show’s timing also allowed a fortnight before a ~3.5% pre-order discount expired, bringing the cost down to £8400.

In a line:
With the irresistible CP2 motor and legendary branding, the new XT700 Tenere will be a hit.

Modern bikes from established manufacturers are now predictably brilliant, and recent launch reviews raved about the XT700. No great surprise there; Yamaha took their time getting the new Tenere just right while keeping the price down. We’ve all read or experienced what happens when that doesn’t happen. And like Honda’s Africa Twin of a few years ago, Yamaha chose to dodge a ‘because-we-can’ horsepower and tech-war with the KTM790 Adventure with which the XT7 is being inevitably compared.
The new Tenere shares the same CP2 motor with the MT-07, Tracer tourer and XSR retro. Everything else is new or different. Since being introduced in 2014, all three have combined to make one of the most successful model ranges for Yamaha. By now over 100,000 units have been sold worldwide and the XT700 will add to that figure just a fast as they can bang them out.

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They may have saved time by ignoring electronic aids but, crucially, Yamaha didn’t cut corners on the suspension, which often defines budget Jap bikes these days. And the XT OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAincludes one of my favourite gadgets: a 26-click  hydraulic pre-load adjustment knob (PLA; left) on the piggyback shock. It means you don’t have to faff about with C-spanners, or more often, hammers and chisels, to alter preload. It may be right under the mudguard collecting crap off the tyre rather than to one side, but this sort of real-world prioritising speaks to riders like me whose eyesight is now too poor to be dazzled by colourful TFT screens, quick-shifters, cornering ABS, traction- and cruise control plus ESA and over a dozen engine modes. Years of hard-won experience have taught us to simply ride appropriately for the conditions and location, be that 86-tin-taradjelinegotiating a rainy winter’s rush hour, or off-roading alone in the middle of nowhere (left).

Hook up a throttle cable to a CP2 motor and that’s all the traction control you need.

Indeed – just like the old Tenere singles, many commenters (and they are legion) are citing the XT700’s very simplicity including lack of riding aids, as integral to its appeal. It’s kept costs down, doesn’t radically affect the bike’s day-to-day usability, and is one less thing to light up the dash should the electronics play up.
That leaves ABS, which is now mandatory on all new bikes in the EU. Unlike the list above, it’s a safety feature I welcome, and at a standstill, can be disabled for the dirt. (On loose surfaces ABS can cut in too soon and extend braking distances. You don’t want that, though I’ve found at normal dirt speeds ABS on bikes is rarely a problem.)


What they say [source; includes typos]
When you’re riding the new Ténéré 700, your future can be whatever you want it to be. Because this a go-anywhere motorcycle that enables you to live life without limits and experience a new feeling of total freedom.
Driven by a high-torque, 689cc, 2-cylinder engine, equipped with a special optimised transmission that gives you the ideal balance of power and control, this rally-bred long distance adventure bike is built to master a wide range of riding conditions on the dirt
of asphalt.
The compact tubular chassis and slim bodywork offer maximum agility during stand up or sit down riding – and long travel suspension and spoke wheels give you the ability to get to anywhere you want. Just fill up and go! The Next Horizon is Yours.

Yamaha Adventure Brochure

Engine character and response – it’s perfect
• Fully adjustable, plush suspension
• Pre-load adjustment knob
Weighs 205kg (unverified). Same as my 660Z and less than my CB500X RR
• Flat but grippy textured seat
• Brakes feel good, road or dirt
• Brisk and agile on the road
• A display scroll button now on right bar
• 25,000-mile valve-clearance intervals
• Well set up cockpit
• Centre stand – at least an available option
• OMG – no beak!
• Is it such a bargain? Over £2k more than an MT-07
• At 16-litres, the tank could use a couple more
• Top-heavy at a standstill
• Non-adjustable screen
Handguards are plastic
• Screw-in filler cap
• At 34.5″ (875mm), the stock seat is high (but there are lowering options).
• Tall riders will need bar risers to stand comfortably

First impressions
Compared to the original T7 concept from a bike show back in 2016 (left), the production bike looks as good, but not dazzling. According to a tape measure, it has nearly the same dimensions as an Africa Twin (right); in t7rATfact it’s two-inches longer but it sure looks less bulky. (There were loads of ATs at this show. Great to see how popular they’ve become alongside  the You Know Whats).
With a 32-inch inseam and workboots, on the standard 875mm-high (34.5″) seat I was able to get my feet flat on the ground, but with little knee-bend to spare. There’s a lowering kit (£228) which includes a link and, combined with a 20-mm fork drop, lowers the seat height substantially to 837mm (32.9″). Plus there’s a higher, rally seat. I noted coming back to the Yamaha stand one normal-sized bloke struggling to manoeuvre his T7 into place; one foot in the air, the other on tiptoe. I’d definitely consider the lowering kit, even if the seat will probably lose padding and lowering links (‘dogbones’) alter factory-designed suspension geometry. At least the Tenere’s suspension can be easily retuned, should you notice a difference. I also see on this YT video there’s also a two-part seat option (right), and the rear section can be swapped for a rack.
Although the CP2 motor is a slim unit, they’ve maintained that overall impression with a narrow seat and screen. Even the LCD display is in portrait format to suggest lack of width. This is not a wide-arsed GS12 or XT1200Z, and because of that feels less intimidating and more fun to ride on and off road.
t7rdasherThe plain LCD digital dash is a rectangular version of the round unit off my XSR: switchable Imperial/metric speed, gear, fuel and time readouts, plus the same range of seven other metrics in various formats, but with only room to display one at a time. On the MT-07/XSR you reached over and scrolled with a button on the dash. The XT700 has a Select button on the right bar (below) which does the same and so makes it much easier to change the display on the move. Cycling the button seven times hits them all. Neat and simple.

• Ambient temperature (C or F)
• Engine temp
• Average mpg (or other formats)
• Current mpg (ditto)
• Odometer
• Trip
• Another trip?

Up here you also have a power outlet plus a place for another one, and a bar above the display for mounting a navigation aid or even a roadbook at near eye level.

t7rdash

The CP2 (left) may be narrow, cp2-motorbut it’s a tall wet sump motor which makes it less suited to trail bikes in need of ground clearance without getting too top-heavy; there’s a lot of mass above those piston crowns and a fuel tank too. This is partly why four-stroke trail and dirt bikes are traditionally dry sump, with a pump and an oil reservoir fitted somewhere.
While repairing my XSR I remember wondering if I could have realistically reduced the 3-inch depth of the protruding sump, even though it was fairly well surrounded by the silencer box and header pipes. Some oil volume would have been lost.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the XT7, under the skimpy 2mm alloy bashplate (left), it’s the same deep sump, so the longer suspension makes the whole bike top-heavy at parking speeds. It’s nothing new with such bikes, but I did have an … oh shit! moment, lowering the bike onto the stand on an off-camber path to remove dry grass from the hot pipes. It’s a long old way to fall, even at zero mph.

t7rlampThe narrow but steeply raked screen looked like it should do the job. Housed in the rally-style fairing, you’d also hope that, with four-LEDs plus two smaller day-lights, the headlight set-up (left) will do more than just look good once the sun goes down.
Sat on the bike, I liked the high, wide but slim feel and, apart from the saddle height and weight, felt right at home on the XT7.
eclipse-mapFor a bike carrying the Tenere name of the legendary ‘desert within a desert’ (left), only the modest fuel tank capacity spoils the picture. You imagine a sub-205-kg wet weight by any means possible was locked into the design brief, and the easiest way to play with that is tank volume. It’s only 2 litres bigger than my XSR, but if the XT700 averages the same consumption, that will still add up to a range of 420 km (260 miles), or between 330 and 510 km. Right on target for a travel bike.
One easy way of unobtrusively supplementing fuel range on the XT would be to attach flat fuel containers low down to the accessory engine crash bars (right; another 200 quid). Fyi, the bike I rode had recorded an average of 58mpg / 20.5kpl since the tank had been refilled. Not spectacular.

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t7rsidewTenere test ride
The 45-minute test ride – part of the Tenere Tour doing Europe at the moment – was an escorted run. This meant little chance to grab good photos. About eight German-registered XT7s were available, all with a few light scrapes from previous test rides. My bike showed 3800 miles on the clock.
You had to book a time allocation. I arrived before the show gates opened and even then, got on the second or third slot that day. I overheard that by the end of Friday the whole weekend had been booked out.

Initially, the route followed a marked grassy trail around the spacious grounds of Ragley Hall, before taking off on a blast around Warwickshire’s lush, midsummer backroads.
I was told all these pre-production bikes were all destined for the crusher (a common practice). No chance of getting an ex-test bike cheap. Sad face.

On the trail
Tender - 12twin_crank_shaft_anglesPulling away, who can resist the instantaneous grunt of that CP2 engine, characterised by its 270-° crank timing, (left; more here). In the modern era 270 was first used on Yamaha’s TDM900 but has now become almost ubiquitous on big parallel twins. It’s one of my all-time favourite motors, harking back to my XS650 or of course, your favourite 90-° V-twin, whose firing pulse is replicated by a 270-° P-twin crank, but in a much more compact engine. Thanks to revised injection mapping and a new pipe and air box, the XT7’s added low-down torque was noticeable right away and might even have been described as snatchy. The radiator is a little different, too.
According to Yamaha 
t7rpipespecs, the XT700’s 72hp at 9000 rpm is 5% less than the three CP2-engined road bikes, but it has the same 68Nm of torque at 6500rpm. I imagine the XT’s long, rally-style pipe (right) helps deliver that low-down torque, compared to the stumpy XSR/MT-07 silencers (inset).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe way my clutch was adjusted, initially, the unfamiliar bike was a bit of a handful in the slower sections – or maybe it was just a little snatchy at low rpm. This wasn’t helped by the tall first gear and shallow-blocked Pirelli Scorpion Rally do-it-all tyres on the flattened dry grass with all the grip of old lino.
Tubeless spoked rims (as found on the XT1200Z) would have blown the XT700 budget, but I have a hope that the rear rim has safety beads, which make sealing with Airtight or BARTubeless a possibility. On the front that’s less likely, but safety-beaded 21s are available. As it is, a tubeless rear is more useful, as on the road that’s where most flats occur.

Gearing
Riding along in first hand off the throttle at the 1400rpm tickover, the bike fuelled cleanly but the speedo registered 7mph. As with so many bikes in this category, that’s normal but too fast for trickling uphill round gnarly hairpins without slipping the clutch, though I recall the XSR managing that surprisingly well in Morocco. Problems may occur doing that for too long x7-sidein hot conditions, but let’s be realistic: this is a 200-kilo bike. Despite the exuberant promo images (left), the elephant in the adventure-motorcycling room is the belief that bikes two or three times the weight of their pilots are manageable on anything more than smooth gravel tracks. For most, they make fun road bikes with a cool, adventuresome image.
Compared to the MT-07 (and probably XSR), I read here that they’ve added three teeth on the rear sprocket but taken one off the front, ending up with 15/46. That adds up to an identical 0.33 final-drive ratio unless I am very much mistaken, so it may have more to do with chain/swingarm clearance for the longer-travel suspension. It’s actually the taller 18-inch wheel with a 150/70-R18 tyre which increases the overall diameter to raise the gearing. Unless they’ve taken the trouble to modify the internal gear ratios, any mention of ‘… special optimised transmission…’ (as above) is presumably just marketing flannel.

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Sat upright, grappling the wide ‘bars, at least the big trail bike’s commanding seating position makes you feel both in control and nimble; ready to respond with confidence to whatever’s ahead. It’s not a new idea, but squidgy rubber inserts in the footrests (right) also mean you get the benefits of comfort and isolation sitting down, with boot soles compressing the rubber and biting the serrated metal edges when standing up.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoing this, as expected, I found the fatbars an inch or two too low to stand comfortably (me: 6  foot 1). That can be fixed with Yamaha risers or similar, but I did notice that to get the stock bars up, the rubber-mounted bar mounts (left) are even higher than they were on my XSR. Add some risers and that’s getting on for six inches of leverage on the triple clamp mounts when hammering over rough terrain or when the bike falls over (my XSR ones were bent in the write-off crash).

t7rstanley

This may be a red herring and only relevant 2bikesto taller riders who expect to need to stand, but it’s a problem I’ve encountered on projects when trying to convert what’s essentially a road bike into an all-road travel bike – particularly when attempting to Tenerise a TDM (right) a few years back. You can’t just fit some apehangers and hope for the best. At the front, the XT700 is still a low-headstock, MT-07/XSR road chassis (more below).
Who knows what the settings were, but the suspension coped fine on the trail at our modest speeds. It soaked up what few bumps I could find and had it not, there’s preload as well as rebound and compression damping to meddle with. It was hard to make a worthwhile evaluation in our 10 to 15 minutes on the grassy trails, but it’s unlikely the Tenere’s suspension will urgently need the same Rally-Raid treatment which their CB500Xs benefit from. A great motor and good, adjustable suspension is half the battle won.
t7rbrakesThe brakes too had enough feel plus ABS back-up to inspire confidence and stop you embarrassing yourself. I never knowingly actuated the ABS.
It might be an off-road clearance issue, but Id have prefered a powerful single rotor on the front; it saves tententenweight and worked fine on an NC750X I tried later. The XT660Z single (right) which this bike effectively replaces was unnecessarily lumbered with twin front discs. The front wheel on that thing weighed a ton.

t7rriders

On the road
Truly, there’s nothing more I need from a motorbike engine apart from 100mpg: smooth, ambrosia-like power delivery right off the throttle, but with that sweet, characterful lumpiness of warm rice pudding and which can never be called harshness or vibration. Just as it was on my XSR. I bet the manual Africa Twin and some Triumph twins are similar – a KTM790 I rode wasn’t, and it’s what’s missing from Honda’s bland CB500X. Done up with a Rally Raid kit (as mine was), I’d call the CB a contender alongside the T7, especially with the 2019 model’s 19-inch front wheel.
t7rriderOnce on the highway, the escort riders didn’t dawdle unnecessarily and the XT700 took it all in its stride. Potholes and drain covers didn’t faze the springing, the brakes handled sudden bunch-ups well, and the motor just pulled through it all as fast as you wanted to go. I could have kept going all day.
You’re sitting on 200mm or 8 inches of fully adjustable and compliant suspension with USD forks and the PLA on the back. As it’s so easy, I cranked the knob all the way in to 26: the ride was much firmer – ready for some heavy throwovers and a dusty trail. Back at the normal mid-setting, the feel is of being able to hit irregularities with less wincing while – if you know what you’re doing – tuning the damping in both directions as well as easily setting the sag; the vital metric which is more or less 30% of total travel).
Where 60 to 70mph was possible, the blast from the slim screen hit me at nose level but still gave useful protection. I could crouch and get out of the wind, but wearing a Moto III didn’t help the aerodynamics. You’re riding a motorbike; don’t expect a turbulence-free cocoon. Just as since time immemorial, the mirrors shared the rear view with my arms but were blur-free.

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t7rclutchAfter a while I noticed that the plastic clutch plate and arm cover (right; not present on earlier CP2 bikes) pressed into my right shin – and this was without knee-high boots. Maybe I have fat calves but it was never an issue on the XSR7 and at least two other reviews have mentioned it. I’m not sure what it does – stop boot rubbing? It could be easily removed.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe stock bashplate (left) is skimpy, but it’s a start. For 200 quid Yamaha do an optional version (right) which better covers the vulnerable water-pump and inlet pipes. These components were good and mashed following a low-side on the written-off XSR I bought. The engine bars pictured far below will work with the standard bashplate.

Revised chassis
The potential of lively owners grabbing big air required a heavily revised frame on the T7 (left).
Among other things, on the XSR700 etc, the top of the laid-over shock attaches to a lug on the top of the gearbox casing (above right); an expensive repair if that sheers off during a Great Escape (right).
mt07-frameThe XT700 has a different linkage for a vertically positioned shock which mounts to a chassis cross-member which is better able to contain shock loads.
They call it double cradle, but you can clearly see above left, it’s not a closed loop. The new (red) downtubes meet the footrest mounts because, using the same rationale as the shock, a bashplate is better mounted to a chassis than a crankcase.
I didn’t get a chance to remove the seat and panels to eye up the rear subframe, but again, from the image top left you can see the triangulation is much greater, partly because the silencer needs to hang off it. Round the headstock they’ve added additional bracing.
Is that an alloy sidestand? If so I presume it’s solid cast and will be up to supporting the weight of the lent-over loaded bike when oiling the chain or removing the wheel. They do offer an optional centre stand which, having had one for the first time in years on the Himalayan, is a worthwhile redundancy on a travel bike.

t7rblaktenThe first batch of XT700s are being assembled in France right now from parts made in Japan. This must mean the MBK Industrie plant in Saint Quentin, south of Lille. A few early-adopters got their pre-orders in July 2019; the rest got them from September onwards when production resumed after the August factory break.
North America gets bikes shipped directly from Japan some time in late 2020 (as will Australiasia and maybe RSA, following late-2019 deliveries from Europe). The official explanation claims it’s: “Due to differing government regulatory standards and factory production line schedules.”
Either way, the wait of a year ought to help eliminate any teething problems, unlikely though they are with the established CP2 engine, at least. And a Japanese-built XT700 might be something to boast about. After all, from 2020 KTM’s similar 790 is said to switch assembly to… O M G.. China!

t777Summing Up
The XT700 is a hard bike to dislike. It lacks the weight of the 850GS and the added bulk of an Africa Twin, the harshness, blingy complexity and cost of the KTM790R, and the relative blandness and cheap suspension of the CB500X as well as, dare I add, an NC750X. Like the CB-X, it’s a modern-day UJAM, not extreme in any way, be it suspension travel, power delivery, appearance, electronic sophistication or price.
You see reviewers mention ‘only 72hp’ for a 689-cc-engine and you really have to chuckle. It actually makes nearly 15% more power per litre than the 790, if that matters at all, but either way it’ll do 120, cruise comfortably at 80mph, and overtake swiftly uphill and into the wind when needed. How often do you ride much faster, while still being able to hit the trails with confidence?
I came to this test ride fully expecting to love the new Tenere – a bike I tried to emulate two years ago with my XSR Scrambler (left), and which, along with the Himalayan, was one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve had in years.
I was even considering buying one after the test, with all the risks of delayed delivery, teething problems and depreciation. For the price and the weight, nothing else new in the table below comes close once you factor in its genuine off-road ability for its class. But I’ve not bought a new bike in the UK for nearly 40 years; to me it’s just too extravagant with so much good nearly as good used stuff out there. In a way, knowing that it all turned out well for the XT700 is good enough for me. For the sort of riding I still aspire to, I’d be more comfortable with something a bit lower and lighter.


If not an XT700 then…
The man from Honda hinted that something bigger was in the AT pipeline, but right now CRF1000L Africa Twins with about 10,000 miles are going for under £7k. That’s a similarly grunty 270-degree twin (with a DCT option), but in a bigger bike with a lot more weight. BMWs hold their value annoyingly well; used year-old 850GSs with KTM-like tech, tubeless wheels but an AT’s weight currently start at £9k. Meanwhile, there are Rally Raid CB500Xs going from £4300, plain, old-model high-milers from less than three grand and 2019 CB-Xs with the desirable 19-inch fronts from just £5200.
The XT700’s profile and price is pitched midway between the ultra-accessible CB500X and ageing V-Strom, the bulkier Africa Twin and the 790 Adventures and BMs. Even if dynamically you’d assume the 790s must be better out of the crate for hard off-roading (I did try one; not for me), realistically any 200+kg bike can only be exploited by a skilled and fit rider. With talk of a bigger AT, people are wondering if a 7-850cc Africa Twin might spin off from that. Until (or if) that ever happens, the XT700 will have a well-deserved market niche all to itself.

t7render

Posted in AMH News, Project Bikes, Project XScrambleR 700 | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Saudi – a new link on the overland trail?

Saudi Arabia, a notoriously reclusive country, recently announced 90-day tourist e-visas are now available online. This easing of restrictions to non-Islamic foreign visitors is said to be part of the Vision 2030 programme, as the country seeks to wean its saudi-malleconomy off oil. When Saudi talks of developing tourism, they’re probably more interested in groups flying in and spending money in resorts and glittering malls or taking guided tours, rather than overlanders roaming self-reliantly around the desert. It may well transpire these new e-visas only apply to fly-ins leaving from the same airport.

How does this relate to overland travel?
As it is, with overland entry only currently possible from Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula is a dead-end for the overlander. And it’s not as if it opens up a new overland route like Myanmar did, or usefully circumvents a blocked area like Iran (for some). It’s just a new country to explore before ferrying on to northeast Africa, western Asia. or even Turkey.
Once in a while, you heard of travellers transiting Saudi in 72-hours with some difficulty, usually when Egypt or Sudan were not accessible. Vehicles ferried across the Red Sea and were escorted directly to the Jordanian border, or even transported on a truck (RHD cars). Expats with vehicles registered in the Emirates (part of the GCC, see map below) have had an easier time getting out via Saudi. In this post from 2016, the OP was told foreign-plated motorcycles could not be ridden in KSA, though this has obviously been done on a few occasions, right back to 2006.

They may want to issue local number plates, like Egypt.
International Driving Permit probably needed.
Carnet probably not.
Fuel works out 13p a litre.

The thing is, route-wise there is little reason to travel via Saudi except to say you’ve been there. To the south, you might be able to ferry to/from Sudan so dodging Egypt with its protracted entry procedures and CdP. But that aside, Egypt is a fascinating country, probably more so than Saudi.
To the north is Saudi’s current arch-enemy, Iran which some can enter overland from at least five other countries. Like Egypt, on the UN HMI (Historical Monuments Index) Iran has a much higher rating than Saudi. There are ferries from the Emirates to Bandar Abbas, but Brits, Americans and Canadians can’t travel in Iran without an escort.
Though there was talk of it in 2018, currently there is no ferry from Muscat/Oman to Pakistan. (CdP needed for both places). And even then, it might have only ever been intended for passengers, not vehicles.

Is it ethical?
To some probably not, so don’t go there – or any number of human-rights hellholes commonly visited by overlanders. Solo women are allowed into KSA and, unlike Iran, don’t need to wear a burqa, just dress modestly. Expect some gender segregation in public places. It’s worth looking at laws as they apply to tourists, some of which appear shockingly draconian and are bound to get flouted by mistake.

saudimap-2

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Honda NC750X DCT – 1100-mile review

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I tried an NC a few weeks back, liked it as I knew I would, so bought a low-mileage current XA/XD model with an idea of converting it into a budget but high-economy Africa Twin. Plus I wanted to properly get to grips with this DCT mularkey.
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.

tik

  • High 80s/low 90s mpg without really trying. Back off a bit – say 60mph – and it will register a live 26.4mpl or 100mpg.
  • 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 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoccasionally 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; as peace of mind as you’ll get on a long trip

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cros

  • 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!

africatimeTo me an AT (left) is going a bit far. Yes, it would eat all the dirt I was able to feed it but it’s the same weight as an NC with a higher CoG, costs more and has 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.

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Behind a plastic cowling the electro-hydraulic gear shifters look a bit vulnerable. Get a crash bar.

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.

 

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Quick Ride: Enfield Interceptor review

egg-Steve-McQ78-bonnie140While working on next year’s AMH I’ve contrived a new category for my expanded section on overlanding contenders: Feel-good Retro Twins. Doing a trip a la Ted Simon or Steve McQueen’s brief tour of the Swiss border could add a certain old-school frisson to the journey. Or maybe it’s just that this was how the twins that I liked looked in my influential teenage years.
It’s not all down to nosey-hued nostalgia. One dk-fittingsgood thing about retro style (or plain motorbikes) is that a tank is a tank, not a plastic cover held on by 12 zillion screws and fittings, like the Africa Twin (right). It greatly eases maintenance or fault diagnosis on the road and must reduce labour costs. Plastic cladding has become a cheap way of snazzily styling bikes or adapting the look across a model range.
Enfield’s new 650 roadster twin – the Interceptor is one such machine; hat you see is what you get: a low-saddled, low-revving plodder which is light and low enough to handle off-highway excursions across alpine meadows while pulling its weight elsewhere and looking good as only modern classics can. There’s a 650 Continental cafe racer too and they say a taller Scrambler may be in the pipeline.
The twins were largely designed at RE’s UK Technology Centre south of Leicester, assisted by many former Triumph engineers who know a thing or two about twins. It shows and according to re650motorthose who know, internally Enfield’s 650 engine is a very close copy of Bonnevilles and the like, but rides better in many ways, has six gears and costs about a third less.
Talk of a 650 Scrambler would make sense, given the popularity of the Ducatis and positive reception towards Guzzi’s V85TT. The Himalayan was a big step up from the Bullets but was still recognisably RE. On the 650 there are a few cheap components which could easily be replaced, but from the look and the feel, the new twin puts RE even closer if not right among its competitors in western markets. That’s a pretty amazing achievement.


tik
• Great price
• Three-year warranty includes roadside recoveryreintspex
• Looks good, so is the fit and finish
• Very slick gearbox with no drivetrain lash
• Low saddle is comfy enough (and easy to re-foam)
• Engine fuels and pulls smoothly
• Twin shocks easy to adjust or modify. Means no rack needed for throwovers, too
• No complaints about the brakes

cros
For a 270°, motor a bit lacking in character compared to a CP2. A little less silencing may help
Suspension a bit soft (shocks on lowest setting)
Clocks are a bit too retro for me
There are better-looking paint schemes than orange
Felt a bit small for me; taller bars may help

Forum link to a detailed 875mb service manual pdf download (it’s safe).

 

The first thing that struck me pulling away on the 1300-mile-old Interceptor was how uncannily smooth the motor was. It was almost disappointing that the 270° mill’s character had been so well disguised. The other observation was how exceedingly heavy the steering was. Surely not normal. The front Pirelli looked OK, but I know tyres can appear fine and even feel form but be down by 10psi.
The seat height 804mm (31.6″) which is nice and low but the bike felt quite small which made me feel a bit exposed after a fortnight riding a plastic-clad NC750X. The motor ticks over steadily (no ineffective Himalayan-style cold-start aids here, just proper efi). It revs freely and the gearbox is amazingly slick with zero slack or lash in the drivetrain, something that spoils so many bikes. It means once rolling, clutchless upshifts take just the merest nudge from the foot. I’ve never ridden a bike which does this so easily.

Coming down some steep, shady lanes off the North Downs, the bike really didn’t feel that safe, so in Reigate I pulled into a Shell and put 32psi in the front. Aired up from who knows what pressure and with the sun now out, this was much more like it, at least when I got a chance to let the RE run on between clumps of traffic or cameras. As always, you can’t help comparing a test bike to what you’ve been riding recently and the lighter 650 didn’t feel as planted at my NC, nor was the suspension anywhere as good. Up Chipstead Way the bike (about 211 kilos with the 13.7-litre tank brimmed) was bouncing all over the place. But the motor was much smoother, if lacking the NC’s punchbag-thumping torque, and the light clutch and gearbox as unintrusive as they get.

reint-redLooks-wise, the orange tank with an RE badge and liberal chrome/alloy elsewhere doesn’t do it for me. I’ll take the more recently available batch of pinstriped and painted tanks, especially the black and red with added noire (left). And those bars look like something of my old TS185. One journalist reviewer parroted how the 650s go through no less than a ‘1007-point post-assembly inspection’ to make sure everything is absolutely in order and aligned. Maybe it’s just me, but you’d think they could take a couple of minutes to align the handlebar brace correctly (below). Luckily other bars are available and Triumph twin specialists, TEC have produced a range of 650 accessories, some useful, others just cosmetic but including shocks for just £150.

You’re going to enjoy this.‘ said the bloke at the bike shop as he handed me the keys. It should have been my type of machine but, unlike my Himalayan, I was disappointed to find myself under-awed by the Interceptor. Less quiet pipes may help but it feels like they’ve erased much of the character from the twin and reminds me yet again what a great thing Yamaha’s CP2 is – just the right blend of torque, sound and mutted throbbing – but never any harsh vibration. My XSR Scrambler could be a Feel Good Retro contender too.
These days there’s so much good stuff out there that, along with your wallet and looks, all you’ve left to help you decide is your gut instinct. I look forward to seeing how the 650 Scrambler turns out; it might be worth a second look.

reint44

Eeesh! Sort out that crossbar brace!

reint33

Chunky footrest mounts stick out a bit and, as TEC observed, on the left aren’t squared up.

Lots of sump clearance for protection, though header undersides might get a beating.

A classic mid-Seventies rear end.

Easy-to-adjust shocks got a bit bouncy. Only 3.5″ of travel too, but easily lengthened, with about 10mm of fork-top protruding too.

Tools and battery behind a keyed sidepanel. Just off camera top left is a knob to release the seat (I read later).

Ultrabasic clocks true to the era: odo or trip + fuel gauge.

Plastic indicators on rubber stalks and a headlamp right off my ’78 Bonnie.

Big oil cooler, plus double-skinned pipes stops them turning blue.

One big front disc does the job, with an ABS safety net.

Some pre-unit ‘homaging’ going on here. But at least no faux carb bodies.

Not much plastic at all. Honest bare metal castings with nothing to hide.

Get yer motor runnin’. Head out on the highway. Interceptor overlanding could be fun.

 

 

 

 

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Quick ride: AJP PR7 review

ajp1

ajp2Had a short road blat on an AJP PR7 at the Overland show on the weekend and must say, I was impressed. I’ve been aware of these bikes for a couple of years, but looks like 2019 was the year they officially hit the shops.
Looks very well put together and finished, exuding an air of toughness, quality and design integrity which I found lacking in the SWM SuperDual 650X I also tried (same red top six-speed ex-Husky TE630 motor). However, the ~184-kilo SWM (below) costs £1500 less so it’s still a contender.
The ajppSamsung tablet idea might be interesting. It wasn’t online but I think the idea is you plug in your Garmin to display big via the screen – or it has built-in GPS and you load maps on it, plus it must hook up with mobile signals to run online maps? There’s a USB or two on there too. The main dash pod looks like a clone of a Trail Tech Voyager.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 600-cc engine has loads of smooth OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApower for the claimed 48hp (some say 58; there’s a fierce  ’60-hp’ version, too), but it and the gearbox were much less harsh than I expected. I got up to 60 before I realised I was still in 4th (been riding an auto lately) and I briefly saw 80 in top where I noted the screen worked very well.  By comparison the thick but too steeply raked 650X screen (below) felt very in-my-face.
swm650x.jpgThough it was 920mm high and narrow, I also preferred the flat seat to the stepped one Superdual X, even if it was 30mm lower. Amazingly, I can’t say vibration was at all intrusive on either bike, but then it did all pass by in a bit of a blur.
The PR7 feels light too for the claimed 165kg tanked up (again, been riding a 235-kilo NC)The fuel OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfiller is now in a more conventional position compared to the 250 AJPs, but the 17-litre tank remains low and out of the way under the seat, like 650 and 800 BMWs (and an NC, as it happens).
ajp3With only 1.8 litres of oil in the engine, service intervals are 5000km (5500 on the SWM) which include valve checks, but aajjjps you can see on the right (click to enlarge) a few people have already done long overland trips on PR7s.
Price is a hefty £8500 (alongside the SuperDual’s £7k). It’s the same as an XT700, true, but this bike would be a whole lot more fun and much easier to ride in the desert or Far Eastern Russia, for example. Can’t see it being as amazingly economical as the 690/701s – I bet part of the engine’s smoothness is it doesn’t run too lean, but you can consider it an alternative to the two Austrian bikes. It sure looks better.

ajjp.jpg

 

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Quick ride: Fantic 500 Caballero Scrambler review

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See also: Chinese travel bikes

Fantic is another revived Italian brand who’ve lately produced a trio of retro-styled Caballero FTRallysingles: the Dirt Track, Scrambler (above) and taller Rally (left) in 125-, 250 and 500cc variants. Fantic also produce skinny, dirt competition bikes (plus MTBs and eBikes in the US), but with the nine Cabs, they clearly believe that capitalising on the current retro fashion – based rather thinly on their 1980s trials and dirt-racing legacy – is a way forward. Good luck to them; just as fantoldlong as they don’t revive that hideous two-stroke 125 chopper.

The 500s use Zongshen’s NC450 449-cc engine, tuned, we’re told, to Fantic’s specs. Along with Shineray, Zongshen is one of China’s leading moto manufacturers who don’t just pump out 125s and 250s, and have their eyes on bigger capacities still.
With the DR-Z400 unsold in the UK for over a decade, the disappointment of last year’s Honda 450L and my recent Himalayan filling a different niche, I wondered if the Zongshen motor might be the missing link between 250 trail bikes and 500+ twins?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 4-valve SOHC water-cooled NC450 isn’t yet another clone based on a late-80s XBR Honda motor as found in the old WKs, the Mash and many other Chinese 400-cc bikes (under various brands) including the now-discounted SWMs 440s. The NCs are a cut above that and in 2017 Zongshen entered five NC-engined bikes in the Dakar. All DNF’d, but mostly due to crashes.
No surprise then that the compact six-speed NC engine looks more like the 450R in the CRF450L. Could this be a travel-friendly Goldilocks motor CCM should have used in their GP450 (had it been around), and with more realistic service intervals than Honda’s 450L? A quick spin on the Fantic Caballero Scrambler might provide answers.

• Oil capacity: 1.6L
• Oil and filter change intervals: 5000km/3000 miles
• Valve check inter
vals:5000km/3000 miles
• Alternator output: 300w
• Power / torque: 40hp @ 7500rpm / 43Nm @ 6000rpm
Source

Zong450


ZRX4-2019-2In the US, CSC directly import the Zongshen RX4 (right) which uses Zongshen’s NC450. It sells for $6000 but like many Chinese bikes, with prices now exceeding what we’ll take a chance on blindly, manufacturers seek to add value with a lot of clutter extras and bulked-up bodywork which with the RX4 whacks the weight up to over 200 kilos, more than a stock CB500X. More here

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Going for around £6400 new, my Fantic Scrambler had under 600 miles on the clock and riding out of Horley, at cabspecslow rpm felt a bit cold-blooded, with hesitant fuelling spitting pops and bangs out of the pipe. This wasn’t a softly tuned, rattley old plodder like my recent Enfield Himalayan.
I realised: OK, so this is how it’s going to be. The Scrambler 500 likes to be gunned and the noises spitting out of the pipe are part of its character. What a shame then that I was stuck among the leafy, 40-50mph-limited byways of Sussex and Kent, with vans pulling out of driveways, tractors flinging crap in all directions crap and hatchback mums tootling about on errands.
Providing you were a few thousand revs above idle, the motor responded instantly to the heavily sprung
throttle and the snicky gearbox and taught drive train drove the bike forward. The fat-profile 17/19-inch Pirelli Scorpion Rally STRs stayed well inside their comfort zone while 150-OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmm of travel on the 41-mm USD forks occasionally thudded over sunken manhole covers. The twin canned Arrow pipe managed to hit just the right balance between obnoxious din and an over-muffled parp. But high pipes need intricate routing to avoid both cooking and dislodging the right leg. The burning sensation at my right ankle soon cleared once the thermostat opened but stood up, the panel pushed the shin out like a Triumph Scrambler. Looking underneath, there’s room to route it low with chassis rails to take a sump guard.
TOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhe Bybre brakes worked as well as they looked, with little pressure needed to haul on the 320mm ø front disc. A quick stab at the back proving the ABS works like it should.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Caballeros are said to weigh about 160kg with ~12-litre tanks brimmed and the minimal nature extends to the switchgear and a tiny speedo. I must admit I missed a gear-position indicator – there you go, I’ve come out and said it! – but also the not-working (or disabled?) rev counter. It’s integrated a little too cleverly into the periphery of the dial, overlapping the fuel and battery level indicators. Blundering about with the display scrolling came up with trip meters and maybe remaining fuel range and battery charge (again). Even stood still it was hard to tell, but there must be a way to adjust the clock and hopefully flip to kph. Also, the unit looked set a couple degrees off in the housing.

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I pulled over onto a village green for a closer look at the Scrambler. It’s a good-looking machine and the black, all-19-inch, black, Flat Track version (below) is even better (though I might spec the Scrambler’s fatter seat). Big chunks of CNC machined alloy were bolted to the black Cro-Mo frame, the brake pedal tip is replaceable and the gear shifter folds in. I like the rectangular route of the long header with integrated catalyser; a clever way of extending the pipe (long pipes = better torque). It mirrors the big radiator above, capped with a header tank that’s not just tacked on the side for once.FMCabFTOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a feeling of solidness which matches the ride, only spoiled by the odd flaw like the oil filler cap right under the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAscalding header (right), the pillion footrest under the bulging sidepanel /exhaust guard, and some scruffy wiring on the left side of the engine (left).
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At the bars the ABS is intuitively disabled with a button, but the non-self-cancelling indicator rocker switch took a bit of getting used to, and the high/low beam switch is not one I’ve seen OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbefore and might be tricky to flip quickly at night. While doing that it’ll also be interesting to see how that multi-bulb LED headlamp lights up the night. On the back, the tail light must be the legal minimum size, as is the front fender. Get over it; that’s the look! The top of the plastic tank cover has an inset panel and strap slots which I’m guessing is there to evoke the enduro scorecard holder from a 1970s Cab’, but will hold a BLT just as well.

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It was time to head back to Horley, only now with a little more gusto. I’d already decided that in this state of tune, Fantic’s take on the NC450 was a bit too fruity to make an agreeable long-range travel bike. I’d trade a bit less top-end surge for some low-end grunt, plus cleaner fuelling. It reminded me of a hot-cam’ed TT500 with an over-sized slider carb which all only works towards WFO.
But for the moment, let’s just enjoy squirting the Scrambler from bend to bend, van to van and 30-mph-village to Kentish village. Out on Britain’s lonely moorland roads the Scrambler or the Tracker would be a blast. I got up to nearly 80 and the bike and engine still felt as solid as a bell and with more to give. Retuned and in a less Spartan, low-pipe configuration like the Him, it might just plug the hole for a light, dirt able travel bike which Honda’s 450L failed to do.

Many thanks to T. Northeast in Horley for the test ride.

 

 

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Wanted​: Your Trip Reports for AMH8

want1tooWanted: short trip reports from
• Asia
• Africa
• Latin America

(the AMZ) for the new, all-colour eighth edition of Adventure Motorcycling Handbook due in 2020.

The report can be from any time, but the photo needs to be a strong image 4000px high x 2500px wide to print a portrait page (below), or 5000px wide to print across two pages in landscape (left).
Pictures of you doing something, meeting someone, something happening are better than a flat ‘me and my bike by a temple’ pose, unless the background or setting is very dramatic, as below.

Once you’ve thought it over the questions will take 5-10 minutes to answer.

If your submission is printed you will be listed as a contributor on the book’s title page, have an optional bio in the back and will receive a free copy of AMH8.

Looking forward to receiving your submissions.

Chris S

triprep-matt-chile.jpg

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Quick Ride: Honda NC750X DCT review

A couple of weeks after I wrote this I bought one

NC750 - 9I know it’s not fashionable in adventureworld but I do believe the Honda NC750X DCT (…XD) would make a great travel bike. We’re assured the NC is nothing more than a sensible commuter bike, a modern-day Benly combining a high-economy, low-output motor, but with neo-adventurish looks and a capacious ‘tankbox’. NC = ‘No Character’ say some wags, but that has as much currency as ‘TDM = tedium’. Apart from basic suspension, a lot of what the NC-XD has got would make sense on a long ride, including occasional gravel roading:

  • Tubeless wheels75018dctspex
  • Low seat height and CoG for easy low-speed maneuvering, despite the weight
  • Very economical
  • Low-compression motor for low-octane fuel
  • Decent ground clearance
  • Good weather protection
  • 420W alternator
  • New or used; they’re half the price of an Africa Twin

NC750 - 11And then you have the wonderful DCT auto gearbox. I very rarely use the W-word but DCT is the best thing since spam fritters. I first tried it a couple of years ago on the Africa Twin and got it straight away, and again on the NC-engined X-ADV X-cooter. I have well and truly had enough of clutches and gear changing, despite the advent of quickshifters. With a manual override on the left bar, DCT really is the best of all worlds and has been further refined on the latest models (read below) to possibly make it a little more effective on off-road slopes.

The 2018 DCT used in the NC750 models features “Adaptive Clutch dctctCapability Control” that manages the amount of clutch torque transmitted. This adds a natural ‘feathered’ clutch feel when opening or shutting off the throttle for a smoother ride. Further refinements include fast operation of the N-D switch on turning on the ignition and a control system in AT mode for gauging the angle of ascent or descent and adapting shift pattern accordingly.

At the show where I tried it, the NC sat alongside the updated CB500X with more travel and a 19-er front end, and the odd X-ADV which, try as I might to like left-field ideas, I didn’t quite get as a genuine all-roader – well not at the price they want for it.
750xDCTWe set off for an escorted 45-minute backroad circuit with riders on Gold Wings the size of torpedoes, 500Xs and ATs. The DCT quickly came back to me: the start in neutral, shift with right thumb into Drive or shift again for Sport, then twist and off you go. Sport sees it hold on to higher revs before changing up, and there are three levels in S (didn’t get that deep). For manual, flick back a lever with your right index finger and it will stay in gear. To change up and down, use thumb/forefinger paddle controls on NC750 - 15the left bar, just like an MTB. Manual gives you more control and engine breaking which you may appreciate on a fast descent. Flick back into auto any time, on the move or sat still.
Pulling away, the low-rpm grunt is quite impressive; the benefit of an engine tuned for torque before power. Just as I recall on the AT, it seems to shift up and down at just the right moment; you can leave your left hand and foot at home.
NC750 - 8Having tried the brilliant new XT700 a couple of hours earlier, the engine character was similar, if not more torquey off the line. There’s 25% less power than the XT7 but the same max torque of 68Nm – except it’s delivered some 2000 rpm lower on the NC. Because you can’t park in gear, just like my late 1970s tldreamDream 400 AT (right), the left bar has an ugly parking brake clamp if you leave the bike on a slope.
But the NCs suspension and roadholding was nowhere as good as the Yamaha. Two inches less travel must have a lot to do with it which at least contributes to a saddle height of just 830mm (32.7″).
I can’t quite put my finger on it; in bends it stood up a little on the rebound – inadequate damping perhaps? It didn’t feel half as planted as the XT, despite the low CoG. I hit all the manhole covers I could to give it a work-out while noticing the bloke on the CB500X in front was carefully avoiding them. So suspension on the 2019 CB-Xs is no better.
nc-shockLooking at the stock NC shock (left), it’s not something you’d care to show anyone on a first date. Better shocks must be available and fork improvements too. It’s easier and less complicated to fix suspension than a motor, but is it as easy as that? I went through this all before and decided, no.
The single front brake was especially good considering the 230-kilo mass; goes to show one big diametre rotor can be enough. The original NC 700 had linked brakes like 1970s Guzzis (and maybe still). The brake pedal operated front and rear brakes at a given ratio, and the brake lever brought more pressure on the front. As with DCT, it frees up the hands. I loved it on a V50 Guzzi I rode years ago, but it seems there is only so much control you can remove from riders’ cold dead hands before they rebel. Riders claim they prefer conventional separate brakes because they can back the 750 into dirt bends with the rear locked or skidding… yeah, right. Switchable linked brakes, like switchable ABS would suit me,  but maybe that’s too complicated.
On the road in auto, it’s great to have your left limbs liberated into redundancy. Taking pictures is easy, so is eating, waving or any number of other distractions. Sure, an emergency stop is best made with both hands on the bars, but these days we have ABS to modulate our clumsiness. And while it’s certainly heavy, the similar BMW 700GS and even my heavy-for-what-it-was Himalayan both proved in Morocco that because of the low-set weight, both are better than you’d expect for my level of gravel roading biking.


750xdiffs

  • The 750 from 2014. A big improvement over the original 700s (suspension, DCT, counterbalancer, gearing, unlinked brakes and ABS, dashboard, seat
  • From 2016: fatter silencer, slightly bigger ‘tankbox‘, new ‘tank’ sides (usually silver), LED lights, 3 sport modes, a bit more poke,  better suspension.
  • From 2018: new dash, 2-level traction control, higher rpm limit.

This American Honda dealer (who broke the 450L story last year) has unusually comprehensive blurb on the 2018 model. There also an NC Wiki.


NC750 - 7They’ve just announced the 1100-cc Africa Twin, which some hope might also result in a smaller 750 spin-off. Otherwise, I don’t think customers would buy a properly adventurised version of the NC – its image is too ingrained and the weight and power would be perceived as all wrong.
A DIY job could include higher-profile knobblies to gain some clearance and dirt grip, better suspension to maintain it, add a bashplate and, fingers crossed, good to go is what you are.
Fuel access under the back seat could be a pain, and so might be seat comfort (early NC seats were bad). I’d probably end up with a bike not much better than my XSR, but that worked well enough. Both motors have the desirable 270-° crank timing to provide a V-twin throb without the bulk.

twin_crank_shaft_angles
I’m tempted to try one and get to grips with the DCT to see if the novelty wears off in the face of the weight and modest horsepower. What really holds me back is the go-anywhere agility of a trail bike. I’d like to see DCT in a CB500X (along with a 270° crank). It’s safe to say that won’t be happening.

 

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