Category Archives: Bikes

‘CRF800L’ Africa Twin

The engine pictured in this mock-up is a CB500, not the distinctive slopping NC.

See also
Africa Twin
Honda CB500X 5000 miles
Yamaha XScrambleR
BMW F750GS

MCN‘s recent claim of Honda’s plans to make an Africa Twin based on the NC750 motor was a rare instance of my wish coming true. When the popular CRF1000L (below) became an 1100L last year – in part to compensate for power losses due to Euro 5 regs – the cry went up for a mini-AT, not least following the popularity of the XT700 and the KTM 790 ‘middleweight’ adventure-styled bikes.

Honda seems to have heard the call and recognises the gap in their current 14-model Adventure category. At the moment, unless you fancy the old VFR 800X Crossrunner which must be close to getting Euro’d, it’s a huge jump from a CB500X (above) to the newest 1100AT at twice the price. Slotting the NC750X into that Adventure category (which also includes the CRF450L) was always is a bit of a reach. An 800L is much more like it.

Right from the start I’ve been a fan of the NC concept: a low-revving, high-economy, low-CoG, big capacity chugger with all the real-world power you need. Last year I ran a 2018 750X, partly to properly try out the DCT gearbox but also with a view to adapting it to an all-road travel bike, as I did with the XSR7 (below) with reasonable success.

The NC750X (below) was a great road bike which loved to corner, occasionally flashed up 100mpg and still seemingly plain suspension was a big improvement on earlier models. But for many obvious reasons it would have been too hard/costly to adapt. As I’ve found with the XSR, it takes more than a set of bar risers, suspension lift and wheel change to turn a road bike into a travel bike. An NC750 may have a low CoG compared to my current AT, but it’s still heavy (my NC-DCT weighed 232kg; my AT is 240kg before add-ons).

There is talk that the whole NC range may be getting an 800-cc makeover, probably for the same Euro-5 reasons. You do wonder it this may mean a more conventionally upright engine as in the mock up, losing the frunk ‘tankbox’ and putting the tank in the normal position, as BMW have done on the 750/850 GSs. Analysing patent designs (as below) may suggest something in that vein.
The Honda designer in the MCN article talks of a budget spec bike, like the CB500X, to appeal to learners with A2 licences. That will keep the price down and, with a good motor, as with the 500X, will be easy for owners or outfits like Rally Raid to offer suspension and wheel upgrades for those who want them. We watch and wait.

 

More Adventure Twins

In last year’s end-of-year preview I wrote ‘… the future looks bright – we’re gonna have twins.’ And twins we got: the long-awaited XT700, Guzzi’s 85TT, a ’19-er’ CB500X, and the KTM 790s. Only the Norton 650s remain stuck in the birth canal while the unplanned Enfield 650 twins popped out later.
It’s time to review what’s new or in store for 2020.


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Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
As a travel bike, the one-litre DL dating from 2002 was always overshadowed by the 650. There was nothing wrong with big Strom but the 650 did it all as well for less cost, weight and fuel and, as is often the case, the smaller engine simply felt better.

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Now, imitating Honda’s Africa Twin and a few others, Suzuki have clad some 80s-style Dakar livery on the DL thou’ in an attempt to recall Gaston Rahier’s 1988 750 desert racer (below) as well as the not-so-successful DR 800 S Big production bike (left) from the same era. The DR 800 may have failed to catch on (can you imagine the vibration?) but was the first big trail bike (as ‘adventure bikes’ were called back them) to feature the now-iconic beak.

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They’re calling the new model the V-Strom 1050 (XT, above left), though capacity is the same 1037cc it’s been since the 2014 makeover. You can see (below left) that it’s not hugely different in profile to the current DL1000: the motor has been lightly upgraded (mostly for emissions) and which now delivers (less) peak torque at a useful 2000rpm less. The headlamp is Katana-ish (another revived 80s classic) and, just like the new 1100 AT (below), it’s been liberally wired up with more electronics than the Hadron Collider: “… the [V-Strom 1050] system incorporates the Motion Track Brake System, Hill Hold Control System, Slope Dependent Control System, Load Dependent Control System, Cruise Control System, Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (SDMS) and a Traction Control System plus a System Control System.” I made the last one up.

The 1050 XT version is spoked tubeless with bashplate, protection and other adv paraphernalia, plus a tool-free adjustable seat and screen, adding up to 246kg. The plain 1050 (above left) currently goes from under £10,000 in the UK and features cast TL wheels, less gear and 10 fewer kilos. Tanks on both are unchanged at 20 litres.
Of course what we’re all actually waiting for is a new,
injected DR650 or DRZ450. Not this time round.

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Husqvarna Norden 901
Just as the KTM 690 begat a barely different Husky 701, it’s no great surprise to see the 790 or now 890 KTM parallel-twin motor reappearing under a Husqvarna badge (owned by KTM’s CEO).
That’s your Norden (left and below) – only a concept right now but you can see it looks both functional and quite good (the two are probably related). Note the virtual sidestand – a first in motorcycling – and what look like nifty fluo tyre valve markers – a smart idea we used to use back in the day (right). Wheels don’t look tubeless but you’d hope they will be, and there’s lots of protection and cladding to keep that motor snug and warm. Feel free to add your own speculations.
Two days later… it’s coming for 2020.
https://www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com/gb/news/int/norden-confirmed/

Harley Pan America 1250

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It’s nearly 2020 and Harley have decided it’s high time to clamber aboard the adv bandwagon with the Trail-Glide Pan Am 1250. Details are scant but the ‘new’ DOHC, liquid-cooled Revolution Max engine claims no less than 145hp, putting it up there with Multistradas and the like, but with oddly less torque than a 1250GS. By current H-D standards it’s hard to think it will weigh less, cost less or go anywhere near as well, but the bloke in the vid below seems to manage OK. It all seems a bit incongruous but who knows, stick some deafening pipes on it and it could be a trans-continental hit.

Honda Africa Twin 1100

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Twenty sixteen’s CRF1000L Africa Twin was a deserved hit for Honda, selling nearly 90,000 units and even tempting a few GS12 riders away from their BMWs.
The new CRF1100L gains some capacity to cover power lost to new emissions standards while, like the 1050 Strom, getting a fuller suite of electronic riding aids and modes. I suspect what some might call gimmickry has now become a relatively cheap way to add value and safety claims to a new model. If any of them were serious about such things, TPMS would be a standard fitting, especially on a so-called adventure or travel bike. The new dash is TFT, it’s lighter by 1.5% and the frame is new.
The jacked-up Adventure Sport version gets a 28-litre tank (up from 19), a better screen, protection, electronic suspension, cornering lights, Christmas lights and best of all: tubeless tyres. And like the 1000L, it’s still a great-looking machine and available in have-your-cake DCT.
Stock screen notwithstanding, all this underlines how good the original CRF1000L was all along. Soon after writing this, I bought one. With discounts and so many around, hopefully used prices will put one of the best, big-capacity all-road travel bikes in reach of more riders. Some even hope it may give rise to a smaller 750 AT or – even less likely – an adventured NC750X. Is that the alarm waking me up?

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Ducati DesertX 1100

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The well-sprung 800-ccc Desert Sled is the best of Ducati’s retro Scrambler range, and now the 19-er shod Scrambler 1100 (right) has been thoroughly jazzed up into the Desert X concept based on – you guessed it – Cagiva’s 900cc  Elefant Dakar desert racers of the 80s and 90s (left or click the link for more Elefant porn) ridden by Serge Bacou, among others. Back then iirc, Ducati owned the Cagiva brand. The suspension is yellow, the front’s a 21″ and the tank is said to be a serious 30 litres. Bring it on!

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Yamaha Tracer 700

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Having liked my XScrambleR 700, I can’t help thinking the same-engined Tracer could make a faintly better travel bike if you don’t want, need, like or can’t afford the XT700. Yes, the front is still a 17 (a 19 can fit, I found) but a Tracer has more weather protection and a 20% bigger tank. I’ve spotted the still pretty fit-looking original model (left), going for just 6000 quid new.
Now there’s a 2020 version with a bold new look, much improved adjustable suspension (the 700 CP2 range’s weak point) including USDs, an adjustable screen but with a wet weight still under 200kg.

BMW F900XR

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BMW have done a clever thing: they’ve bored out the 853-cc F750/850GS motor to 895 and given it the ‘sports adventure’ XR look from the ballistic fours. Behold the F900XR. Being a grunty, 270-degree twin, not a migraine-inducing five-figure redlining four makes it a whole it more desirable and accessible. Yes, like a Tracer it’s got a 17 on the front but call me shallow, it sure looks good. The electronics package looks identical to the 750GS I recently rode, which is more than enough. Perhaps I’m just having a confused Pablovian reaction to the red paint job and XR suffix.

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Husqvarna 701 Enduro LR

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The Husky 701 is amazingly economical for what it is but has now gone Long Range with a 12-litre tank up front adding up to 25 litres with a potential range of 600km. All it needs is a fairing and a seat you can sit on.
As it happens I had a quick spin on a friend’s radically lowered 701 out in Morocco last month (left) and can confirm the current, second-generation model is much smoother than the 701 piledriver I rode a couple of years back.
You’d wish they’d go all the way and make a mini Norden out of a 701, like the old KTM 640 Adventure. I suspect I’m not the first person to have this thought.

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KTM 390 Adventure

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Here, at last, is the 390 Adventure, with a motor based on the unchanged 373-cc, 43hp Indian-built Duke right down to the claimed 15/45 final drive. The rebound-adjustable suspension gives it a lift and adds up to a 170-kilo wet weight with the 14.5-litre tank  – all up about the same as the G310GS I know well. You’d hope the 390 will ride better on the dirt and, being KTM, surely they’ll offer a 21-inch ‘Adventure R’ option alongside the 19-er pictured below.

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See you at the back end of 2021.

BMW GS310s still in Morocco

More about Morocco tours

See also:
G310GS 2200km review
G310GS first ride in Morocco

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Three groups did a similar 1200-km loop, mostly on G310Gs all with around 30,000 rental kms on the clock. The 310 engines and finish are still great in mostly dry Morocco, gearboxes work fine, but neutral is hard to select (as it was on the old Tornados) and the shock damping is not what it was (which was never that much). There are no leaks from the USDs and for wear and tear, that’s about it. The worse mpg was 75, best was an amazing 112 or 39kpl. We got 12 litres into the supposed 11-litre tank with ‘1km’ indicated on the range.

Bike problems over a cumulative ‘21,000km’ (1200 x 3 x 6) included a persistent flat battery on the same bike which we deduced must be down to an intermittent electrical fault somewhere, probably as a result of vibration from rough tracks. There were no punctures on the Mitas Terra Force TL tyres and one smashed front wheel from an unlucky fall which smacked into a square-edged rock. Oh, and another sidestand failure (a known 310 weak point and new frame warranty) literally coming to a halt back in the garage and even though they’ve been strengthened.
So at this rate the 310s seem to be keeping up well with the old XR250 Tornados, but perhaps that’s because renters don’t take them onto the tracks the which Honda could manage easily.

BMW F750GS in Morocco • 1200-km review

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After ten successful years, in 2018 BMW Motorrad replaced the 700 and 800GS parallel twins with all-new ‘750’ and 850 versions. As before, the two models share an identical 853-cc engine but, along with other aspects, are significantly different. According to this detailed BMW press release (click and it downloads; worth reading if this bike interests you) the 750 makes 20% less power (77 / 95hp) but only 10% less torque (83 / 92Nm; see graph, right). It also has a lower seat, a little less weight and suspension travel, better fuel consumption as well as cast tubeless wheels with a smaller 19-er on the front. The 750 will also run stock on 91 RON fuel (unlike the 850 unless modified) and is significantly cheaper: in the UK it currently goes from £8225 vs £9875 for the 850 which makes it cheaper than an XT700.
I’ve ridden the old 700 and 650 twins in Morocco and for me, these lower, mildly less revvy, 19-inch and tubeless shod bikes have always been a better, real-world travel bike option to the flashier, taller 800 and now 850, even if the ‘bigger’ bikes probably outsell them.

Like many P-twins these days, the new engine uses a 270-degree crank to give an impression of more torque – or maybe just because it’s fashionable. They are no longer (or cannot be) engineered to sound like a 1200GS, but even at basic levels, both models come with an array of electronic rider aids and position the fuel tank back up on top, so lifting the centre of gravity.
I rode a bottom of the range 750 (LED dash; no quickshifter, connectivity, ESA and so on) for a week, on winding Moroccan mountain backroads and easy desert trails, covering some 1200kms or 750 miles. The bike had 6300km on the clock (114 hours running time) and was fitted with a thick Givi bashplate, crash bars, handguards and rear racks.
In Adventure Moto World you might say it’s competitors include the KTM 790, Guzzi V85TT, XT700 or just updated Tracer 700, the V-Strom 650 (£6500 discounted new) or a 1000cc Africa Twin. The BMW is cheaper than all of them except the ageing Suzuki and the Tracer, new or old.

What they say

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It keeps your engine running, every day. Your heart beats to the rhythm of the BMW F 750 GS. It’s your ticket to the adventure. Because with the balanced Enduro all-rounder, you will master all paths, regardless of the road surface, and expand your horizons – because you want more. The F 750 GS gives you more power, more comfort, more spirit of GS. Feel the strong-charactered engine and enjoy the ease of handling of the F 750 GS. While you’re off discovering the world, you have the bike with the automatic stability control (ASC) and the ABS safely under control. And with the ex-factory option Connectivity, the 6.5-inch TFT-display shows you among other things which junction you have to turn off at or who is calling you. Clear and concise – without distracting you from the road. The entry into your next experience is – also thanks to the low seat height – easier than ever before.

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  • Compared to the 850, at just £8225 it’s a very good deal
  • Enough real-world power to get the job donef75spex
  • Great brakes with ABS 
  • Great suspension too. HPA shock with rebound damping
  • Stable in corners. Long and low, just like the old 700/650.
  • Turns better than old 700 – must be down to the higher CoG plus rake and trail changes.
  • Tubeless tyres with easy-access side valves
  • Traction control (‘ASC’) plus a rain mode
  • LHS scrollable menu with all the essential metrics
  • Seat – no complaints this time.
  • BMW-style 12-v power outlet on the dash
cros
  • Heavy With the added metalwork mine probably came in at 230kg wet, but only felt it when pushing around or trying to pick up.
  • Windscreen? More a small transparent plate which does nothing much.
  • Engine lacks character compared to a Yamaha CP2 or even an NC750.
  • Fuel consumption worse than the 700 – averaged 70mpg (but only measured twice).
  • The thin digits on the LCD dash were hard to read easily or if not in direct sun.
  • Remaining range (400km when full) proved a little optimistic when pushed to the limit.

Review

As do-it-all gravel travel bikes, the old 650 and 700 twins were both better than most people thought. With some K60s, I took a 650 quite a way out of its (and my) comfort zone back in 2012. So I expected to like the new 750, even if I’d be held back by stock road Anakees.
The 750 retains what looks like a long wheelbase; there’s a cubic foot of collector box packed in behind the engine and in front of the back wheel. Initially, I found the cable-less, electronic throttle lacked damping and the steering had that sports-tourer ‘self-leaning’ thing (like my old TDM). It must be a calculated consequence of weight, rake and trail but as the miles passed by I soon didn’t notice either, instead revelling in the bike’s more positive attributes.


The gearbox has an uncharacteristic slickness for a BMW, easily tapped without the clutch, and I sure appreciated the correctly positioned foot controls after the well-used Sertao I rode the week before which needed foot lifts to brake or change gear. With a few accessories my bike probably weighed not much less than a GS12, but like the 12, it sure feels less once on the move.
A big difference between the 700 was locating the slightly bigger 15-litre tank back up front. This raises the mass of the bike, but as mentioned in the 700 review, too low a CoG can make a bike hard to turn easily. and on the dirt, including loose hairpins, the 750 didn’t exhibit the resistance I felt in the 700.

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The 750 and 850 are oddly fitted with a, to me, anachronistic telescopic steering dampers which I’ve not seen since the 70s and which to me signifies a way of disguising a bike’s instability due to poor frame design. It’s not mentioned under that name as in the long press release pdf. A few years ago there was a new version of the 1200GS which was soon recalled or somehow hampered with an unpredictable steering shimmy fixed by retrofitting a steering damper, iirc. Perhaps the 853-cc twins are set up with the same angles and weight distribution. I couldn’t see any way of adjusting the damper and it didn’t have any electronics attached to it.
Road or trail, out of the crate the 750 retains the same excellent suspension without masses of baffling adjustments. For the first few days I left the rear preload as it was, then gave the HPA (left) several cranks (maybe 5 full turns) which stopped my boots dragging (and even being dragged off) on some bends. (I had the same problem with the Sertao the previous week; I’ve never had feet dragged off the pegs before, but they did point down at 45°). Once firmer up and raised a bit, much less boot dragging though I felt I should have increased the rebound damping a tad, but could not be bothered to meddle as it worked fine.

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One sad day I’ll count them up, but the circuit I use in southern Morocco must have over a thousand bends. By the end of it I was confidently swinging through the less gravelly curves, never needing to rev over 5000 rpm (about 120kph) to make progress at a location-related pace (ie: not going berzerk).
On start-up it produces a cleverly engineered bark, but like the weight, that soon dissipates on the move and there’s little impression of the off-beat crank’s charismatic throb, even if the torque is all there. For a 270°, the motor lack the character of Yamaha’s CP2 700s (which make 10% less power) and even the NC750 I briefly owned.
On one very steep, rough and loose switchback climb I made the conscious effort not to slip the clutch (done to minimise the risk of stalling and then falling over) and the 750 managed to chug its way at walking pace round most bends until I lost my nerve or ran out of space. You’d not manage that on a big thumper, though next week I’ll try the same test on a 310. I only got to log two tanks to accurately estimate the fuel consumption which averaged 70mpg (58.2 US; 25kpl). One reading was 10% higher, the other 10% lower and pretty similar to the 2012 650 (68.2) but much lower than the 700 (81mpg) with 100,000 on the clock. This reading closely matched the displayed average of 4L/100km (25kpl).

This was my second chance to get to grips with traction control (or Automatic Stability Control: ‘ASC’). On gravelly tarmac the TC light fluttered briefly on the dash, and trying to activate it on the dirt, occasionally the power was notably constrained to hold the back-end in line. But this was me throttling on like an idiot; normally I’d exercise my own traction control to keep wheelspin as I want it. On the dirt letting the back-end step out is usually intentional, either because it’s fun or to rear-wheel steer and square off a tight corner. This is as opposed to the front, which once slipping usually ends in a fall. That’s what you’re really trying to avoid, especially on road tyres but there’s no way electronics can manage that; it takes better tyres or less speed.
It’s likely that on a long, steep and loose climb the TC would beneficially constrain wheelspin, but only up to a point. On low-traction slopes of sand, mud or wet grass I bet it would soon tie itself in knots. Only momentum and knobbly tyres work here but would take quite a nerve piloting nearly a quarter on a ton of 750GS.

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It seems to me that TC and modes are nifty but non-essential riding aids which – at negligible weight penalty (unlike ABS) – have become inexpensive enough to throw on to bikes which don’t really need either but which help give the impression of added safety getting more for your money. If they’re serious about safety, I’d sooner see TPMS included as stock, but you can buy a kit for 30 quid. TC and modes might suit riders without decades of pre-electronic riding experience under their belts. As with GPS or smartphones, you either merely find them handy; or you don’t know how or can’t see the point of managing without them.

They say the cast tubeless wheels have been strengthened. Good to know and I like the easy-access valves (left) which eliminate grovelling about with an inflation hose. Fitting a TPMS cap might make it a bit vulnerable to flying rocks, but the valves at least can be easily replaced. On a long trip I’d carry spares.
The ABS was never an issue on the dirt (though I didn’t do any emergency braking). I did find the brakes – or associated fork dive – a bit grabby, but better too much than not enough and the ABS safety net is always here. On the Sertao the previous week, the ill-positioned brake pedal saw me lose the back brake on long descents. No such problems on the twin.

Some LED dash figures like the clock were too thin and therefore hard to read at a glance, but once I got my head around it, the menu on the left bar displayed some useful data including 3 trip meters (including daily), average and live L/100km (hopefully changeable to another metric), ambient and water temperatures and remaining range. I can confirm that the bike I was riding had logged 114 riding hours in 6300kms.
I didn’t cover huge distances in one sitting but the seat on the 750 felt a whole lot better than previous iterations (not hard to do). I think it may even have been height adjustable, but though I took it off a couple of times for other reasons, this was not obvious.

I can’t say the same for the near-useless piece of clear plastic screen (left) which just gives the mounting bolts something to do until you fit something actually useful. I did notice the slimness in the bike’s waistline did make standing up much more comfortable than on the older underseat-tank models. The bars were the usual 2 inches too low for me (6′ 1″). Under the seat there’s some useful stash space, partly because of the skimpy, three-piece toolkit (right).

Summary
On the road and easy trails there really is very little to dislike about the 750GS. I know everyone will ignore me but it’s got enough of everything you need in a travel bike with maybe a little too much weight and electronics. The looks are subjective but I’d say are an improvement and in line with the current humpbacked GS look, all the way down to the 310GS. It’s got a potential 400km range, plus the brakes, torque and stock suspension to do it all. Essential additions would include an actual screen, a centre stand plus pannier racks for your luggage and probably a bashplate and other protection. Having tried it, I could live without TC and a rain engine mode (which I forgot to try) and settle for a similar bike like a mechanically proven Tracer (old model from £6700; 2020 model £7400 claimed) or 19-inch V-Strom for less weight and a lot less money.

Honda NC750X DCT – 1100-mile review

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See also:
NC750
Africa Twin 800

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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 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.

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  • 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 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; peace of mind on a long trip
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  • 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!

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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.

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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.