Tag Archives: Honda X-ADV

Quick Ride: Honda NC750X DCT review

A couple of weeks after I wrote this in 2019 I bought one
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I 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
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And 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.
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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.

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We 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 the 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.


Having 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 Dream 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.


Looking 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.

  • 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.

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They’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.


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.

Quick spin: 2017 Honda X-ADV review

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


• DCT transmission
• Brakes
• Low-tuned, 270-degree motor
• Reputed economy
• Adjustable screen
• Front fork
• Tubeless spoked wheels

• Pricey
• Tall for a scooter
• Scooter seating position
• Dreary in silver


Under that bodywork and between those small wheels they’ve slung the low-tuned, 54-hp 750cc twin from the Integra scooter and NC range and best of all, the DCT auto/manual gearbox which – don’t ask me how – gives a real neutral plus a more direct drive, unlike a typical scooter’s mushier CVT and belt drive.
And unlike the NC motorbikes, you stash your lid under the seat not ‘in the tank’. On the ADV that space is the air between your knees, though I was a little disappointed there was no ‘glovebox’ in the frontal bodywork – looks like the air filter sits in there.
And getting on wasn’t so scooter-easy; you need to do an awkward frontal leg swing through the mid-section – I could see the plastics here getting all scuffed by clumsy boots. It’s quite high for a ‘scooter’ but maybe a better technique develops with use and some yoga. The 32-inch-high seat sounds low, but with the wide bodywork getting both feet flat on the ground wasn’t possible without shuffling forward.


One the move, sitting with your feet forward or even right forward ‘highway-pegs-style’, means your unfolded legs don’t take much weight so the bum-to-seat interface becomes all the more critical. Despite the X having a generous bucket seat, I can’t say I fully adapted to this position. Like a lot of riders on regular bikes, once in top gear I find putting your toes on the footrests is comfier for long rides; it pre-tensions the legs and angles you forward to take more weight off the butt. On the X you’re sitting upright, feet forward, like on a chair.

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One thing you can’t grumble about is the near-seamless DCT gearbox. You hear the clicks as it changes, but you rarely feel them. What a pleasure it is to ditch all that clutch and foot-changing business. Some say quick-shifting has rendered DCT redundant. Never tried it, but I can’t see how; you still need to work a clutch and a foot-shift lever. With DCT it’s like an auto, with a Sport mode (higher rpm changes) plus a manual override with paddles on the left bar. It’s the cake-and-eat-it best of all worlds. Let’s hope they introduce DCT on some other smaller trail bikes before we all end up riding electric.

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Just before getting on a motorway I pulled over and cranked up the adjustable screen to the max with the easy-to-figure-out knob (left) on a clever parallelogram hinge. Back on the move I can’t say I felt swathed in a hushed bubble of still air, but at 5°C, without that screen and the frontal bodywork keeping the legs out of the wind, I’d have been freezing, even with the heated jacket plugged into the cig plug under the seat. I bet there are wider, taller screens available and anyway, the X-ADV rolled effortlessly up to a stable 80mph which equals just 4000 rpm.
The engine is another one of those characterful 270° twins as on my XSR700 (and ATs, TDMs, Super Teneres, some Triumphs, the forthcoming BMW 850s and 800cc KTM). The biking world has gone 270-° crazy and I’m all for it. It sounds a lot better on its standard pipe than my XSR, even if its twist-and-go acceleration isn’t as crisp. (One benefit of DCT autos over conventional CVT scooters is the reduced ‘rubber band’ lag.)
The Honda has 30% less power than an unrestricted XSR700 (my XSR actually runs 47hp) and nearly 30% more claimed weight.

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Good thing the brakes are brilliant twin, four-pot radials on the front; you want good brakes with a heavy auto. It wasn’t till nearly back at the shop that I remembered the left lever works the equally meaty back brake and is not a locking parking brake (as on my old 400AT Dream, above). That late 1978 bike was a doddle to despatch round town; a neutral + two-speed clutchless box which left the left hand free to operate a radio, eat a turkey and coleslaw bap or wave cheerily at tourists.

I should have taken the X-ADV down some backlanes but didn’t want to get caught out on a sunless icy patch. Even then, you could tell the suspension felt better than my XSR, especially the adjustable cartridge USD fork (I couldn’t see a way to the rear shock which comes with spring preload only, but no remote HP adjuster that I could see).

Oddly, even in official promo literature no mention gets made of the tubeless spoked wheels; shame the AT didn’t get something similar. What some reviewers described as a ‘fully enclosed chain’ is just a wraparound chain guard; more a chain-spray catcher than a proper crud-cover like an old MZ or a CD175.

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There’s plenty of easy-to-read data spread over the digital display which can doubtless be reconfigured. Fuel consumption was displayed in miles-per-litre; not seen that one before but makes sense in the UK; ‘13.2’ (left) adds up to just 60mpg average, but the NC twins are famously more frugal than that, getting closer to 100mpg is possible if really trying.

I’m won over by the DCT just like I was on an Africa Twin a couple of years back. One day I’ll get a DCT bike, but I didn’t warm the X’s scootery layout like I thought I might. It’s not much easier getting on and off – something that increasingly bugs me with tall saddled dirt bikes. Plus I miss that conventional poise which would feel more natural on the dirt, and couldn’t visualise enjoying riding this bike on my easy Morocco tour dirt routes.

I’m not sure that ‘sat-at-a-table’ seating would be comfy on a long ride either – too much pressure directly on the crumbling old spine, although the bars looked like they could’ve pivoted and raised forward without fouling the screen.


I’ve seen accessory front footrests which bolt on behind the boards around the swingarm pivot (left) and which may enable a better road / off-road stance, as well as possibly being able to grip the seat for better control when standing. Interestingly, all the dust-kicking promo shots below and in the link at the end for the 2018 model have these pegs fitted, but as I found on the XSR, this leg-to-bike contact area needs to be well thought out and comfy if it’s to work sustainably.

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


If DCT is so good but an AT is too pricey, what about the much cheaper NC750X (left; I rode one in 2019)? I’ve thought about that one before, but the only real benefit over my XSR700 would be the DCT. The stock suspension is said to be as basic, and the claimed 220kg weight is 34-kg greater (but 18kg less than the X-cooter), even if it’s positioned lower. Getting suspension right is costly and can be hit and miss.
What would be great is an NC750X-ADV with a 19-inch front and better suspension all round, but that would come too close to an Africa Twin.

Scoot my Dirt
I was recently reminded what would have been fun is a bigger-engined version of the Honda Zoomer or current Ruckus (left). Genuinely hop-on low and light enough to chuck about – sort of in the vein of the fat-tyred Yamaha Ryoku concept.

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

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

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