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Honda NC700X    N4

There are a good number of bikes out there that offer reduced running costs, and this is good. It is only Honda however that took it upon themselves to create a bike from the ground up where this was one of the main design criteria – thus was born the NC700 family.

For the starting point of this exercise they didn’t look at their current crop of efficient motorbike engines, they sort of went in a totally different direction – over the road to the car plant. When they got there they found a Honda Jazz, pulled out the engine and, as they say in the Midlands, cleft it in twain.

Or at least that is the popular gossip anyway.

N2So we have a parallel twin 670cc engine mounted almost flat with a kind of trellis / spine frame affair and the fuel tank dropped in behind it all. There is nothing else quite like this on the market.

The really clever bit though is how they have completely disregarded the rule book yet given us a good looking and sweet handling machine that at first glimpse appears pretty much like any other bike out there.

The engine is always going to be the main talking point on this bike, and rightly so. It has many characters as you travel through the rev range – a single low down, triple in the midrange, and hammering like a Jaguar V8 at the top end. That redline is soon reached however in the lower gears, and at 6400rpm I found the limiter is abrupt and worth avoiding – use the midrange torque and make good fuss-free progress.

N5The second most talked about feature is the storage system – this is just genius. At 21 litres it will take a full face helmet and some shopping, a meal for four from the local curry house, or a beautiful 3 year old girl, and its location being where the petrol should be means even loaded up it does not have a major detrimental effect on the handling either.

Eventually however the conversation will move on to just how the bike rides, and on this front too the NC could not be faulted. At 218Kg it is not the lightest bike around but the weight is low down and never caused concern.

You know how your bike handles best just before the fuel runs out? Not on this bike, it handles brilliantly whatever the fuel load and poor road conditions do not upset it like you would find on many more focussed machines – 6am, pitch black, lorries leaning on me in 50mph gusts and raindrops like golf balls. Waterproofs that were a lie and drips inside my visor – my only thought was that there was nowhere id rather be.

The brakes were also excellent except for linked system locking the front briefly on a wet manhole cover, a decent chassis rather than amazing skill sorted this out and stopped it becoming a disaster story.

Grip was also more than enough for the power and handling – the tyres never really got warm, but never let go either. I found the Bridgestone BT023 sports touring tyres well suited.

Suspension too does a fine job with the front end running true over poor surfaces and the rear behaving itself although the ride was a tad firm from the backend.

Given the handling and the characterful engine this bike makes an economical and relatively legal hoodlum of you – I averaged 78 mpg during my time with the NC and thoroughly enjoyed myself doing it. This is a marginal improvement over Honda’s official figure of 75mpg and may be down to the awful weather I had during the test. Either way I see it a great return on the effort invested; much fun was had.

N1My only issue with the bike was that the screen does almost nothing, 85mph (on a closed road) was no more comfortable than on a naked bike, but a larger option is available and highly recommended. The headlight too is a little weak and yellowish but tolerable, easily upgraded with a good quality replacement lamp for a few quid.

You do occasionally get reminded that this is a low revving and frugal motor, 6th gear is for cruising, not for fast overtaking. If you are sat behind traffic at 70mph just stay there for a while, enjoy the comfort and the scenery and plan ahead – there are two things this bike lacks – outright top speed, and a name (Maybe the Frank Skinner? It made me smile and certainly doesn’t drink much.)

A spirited ride on the NC is as invigorating as a cold swim or brutal massage, it is probably healthier though. You do have to focus on your gear changes while you are new to the bike, but once you have acclimatised most other bikes feel kind of agricultural and a little uncouth – this bike is spearheading a very civilised rebellion.

The price too is amazing, I mean £5850 for all this and Japanese built Honda quality too – it is ridiculous, different, daft, desirable and doesn’t drink much, you need one of these. why are you still reading?

Technical bits                      N3

  • 51 bhp

  • 75 mpg

  • 210 miles range

  • 121 mph

  • 4.9 sec

words & pics – Mark Wolens