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Bike test: Honda NC700X commuter

2012-05-15 10:09

HONDA'S NC700h: The bike has the looks - its rugged duallie-like styling is bound to appeal. Images: DRIES VAN DER WALT

DRIES VAN DER WALT

Flying in the face of convention requires a lot of confidence, even if you’re the world’s biggest bike-maker. Honda’s done it with the NC700X.

It’s a bike designed with economy, not high-performance, in mind and now that it’s landed in South Africa rumour has it that its selling like hot cakes. It would seem Honda’s gamble has paid off.

NC700X specifications.

The question is whether Big H has succeeded in creating the perfect commuter, so I asked them for one to find out for myself. I’d done some research on the bike before I collected it so approached the review with some trepidation: I ride a mid-size four-cylinder screamer on a daily basis so was unsure how I’d adapt to a 38kW bike that redlines at six-five.

LOCKING COMPARTMENT

The NC700X may not look sexy but with its adventure bike-inspired appearance it is certainly attractive. The review bike’s white bodywork contrasted well with the black plastics and fit-‘n-finish were up to Honda’s usual high standard. The instrument pod, apparently inspired by car rather than bike conventions, looked a little odd but proved to be more than adequate in everyday riding.

Image gallery.

The bike’s piece de resistance must be the locking storage compartment where you’d usually a fuel tank. This Honda has its fuel under the pillion seat. Honda says the hole is big enough for a full-face helmet but my own extra-large lid didn’t fit. However, I could comfortably store a loaf of bread and two two-litre bottles in what I began to refer to as “the cubbyhole”.

My fears about the NC700X’s dynamics were unfounded; despite having to concentrate on not hitting the rev limiter in first and second, my first trip on the bike was not as challenging as I’d expected. The reason was not just the fact that the motor produces a respectable 62Nm of torque but that most of it available from just over 2000rpm.

TRAFFIC SLICER

Once you get the hang of taking full advantage of the torque curve the bike becomes a true pleasure to ride. It accelerates rapidly if you short-shift to keep it within the peak torque range and maintains highway speeds comfortably even with a pillion.

Speed, however, is not the “be all and end all” of commuting – being able to negotiate rush-hour traffic effortlessly is much more important.

In this department, the NC700X shines: it’s slender, has high-mounted mirrors and cuts through traffic like the proverbial hot knife through butter. This is helped by its wide handlebars (slow manoeuvres a pleasure) and a low centre of gravity that causes the bike to feel even lighter than it is.

All of these features are augmented by the engine characteristics – the NC700X is particularly well-suited to the quick bursts of acceleration so important in commuting.

SMALL TANK, LONG RANGE

On the downside a lot of cog-swopping is needed to make best use of the torque but the bike’s gearbox makes this almost a non-event: shifts are smooth and precise and few were false. An interesting aside on the cost-saving side of the bike is that the shift lever is formed from sheet metal rather than cast as we have become accustomed to on modern bikes.

Honda designed the NC700X with fuel economy in mind and, with an average consumption around 27km/litre (3.7 litres/100km) it’s clear that that goal has been achieved. The 14-litre tank might seem small but gives a range of well over 350km – a major selling point.

The motoring media folk at the bike’s launch were fairly evenly divided between those who got the concept and those who didn’t. After this review, I find myself very firmly in the former group. There may not be such a thing as the perfect commuter bike but, with the NC700X, Honda’s come as close as any manufacturer (or customer) could wish.

PRICE: R66 000.

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