2014 Honda CTX700/CTX700N | First Look

You’ll meet the nicest people on a Honda CTX

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Honda, Jim Moy

Honda’s famous “You Meet The Nicest People” ad campaign—and the lineup of inexpensive, accessible motorcycles that ad campaign promoted—introduced thousands and thousands of non-riders to the sport of motorcycling in the early 1960s. By softening the hard edges of the biker stereotype and making motorcycling seem safe and wholesome, countless everyday Americans who had never considered themselves motorcycling material were soon straddling Super Cubs and Dreams.

Now Honda hopes to hook a new generation on the simple joys of two-wheeled travel with its new family of CTX (“Comfort, Technology, and eXperience”) motorcycles. The first two CTX models, the CTX700 and CTX700N, were just released at the Chicago International Motorcycle Show, and we were there to get a first-person impression. Loosely based on the NC700 platform but featuring unique styling, ergonomics, and other detail changes to make these models particularly welcoming for first-time riders, Honda hopes the CTX’s unique combination of comfort and usability will make these bikes the first choice for a new breed of urban and suburban commuters interested not in speed or style, but, rather, in practical, efficient, and economical transportation.

The CTX700 and CTX700N “urban roadsters” are identical save for the frame-mounted quarter fairing that streamlines the CTX700 (the “N” suffix denotes the naked model). Both offer the same laid-back riding position, with forward-set foot controls and pullback handlebars for relaxed comfort. And both are affordable: the naked version will sell for $6999 and the faired version for $7799; the automatic Dual Clutch Transmission/ABS option package adds just $1000 to both. (DCT and ABS come bundled.) These low prices are especially impressive since the CTX machines are made in Japan—not Thailand, like the CBR250 and CB500s—and have the same flawless fit-and-finish as Big Red’s high-end machinery.

American Honda representatives present in Chicago told us their market research shows that new riders and especially non-riders increasingly prioritize function and economy above all else. “It’s not like the old days; not so many new riders are interested in CBR600RRs anymore,” we were told. Accordingly, the CTX utilizes the same mildly tuned, 700cc parallel twin engine from the NC700X, which delivers class-leading fuel economy (expect north of 60 mpg), usable low- and midrange power, and very low emissions at the cost of some riding excitement. The low-slung, tubular-steel chassis is also identical to the NC700, which should mean the CTXes will offer neutral, low-effort maneuverability and excellent stability that makes it easy for even a newbie to master.

The biggest departures from the NC platform are styling and ergonomics. Long, low, horizontal style lines are reminiscent of the much-maligned DN-01, especially on the CTX700 with its body-colored quarter fairing. The semi-clamshell riding position is likewise reminiscent the DN-01, with tall handlebars pulled a full foot behind the steering head and forward-mounted foot controls describing a relaxed, almost-recumbent riding position (though the CTX uses pegs instead of the DN-01’s foot boards).

With a narrow centerline and super-low, 28.3-inch seat height that let even this 5-foot-7 tester flat-foot with a healthy knee bend, the riding position feels natural and will be inviting and confidence-inspiring even for small or uncertain riders. Though forward-set foot controls and pullback handlebars make it look like a cruiser in pictures, the shorter reach to narrower bars and more compact overall dimensions make the CTX700 feel from the saddle more like a step-through scooter than any traditional motorcycle, cruiser or otherwise.

Honda officials are especially excited about the Dual-Clutch Transmission option, which offers riders the choice of either completely automatic shifting or semi-automatic shifting of the six-speed gearbox via paddles on the left handlebar. “Fear of shifting and using a clutch keeps a lot of potential riders away from motorcycles,” American Honda’s Street Media Coordinator, Jon Seidel, says. “The DCT makes this a non-issue, and makes the CTX uniquely appealing to many new riders.” The added security of anti-lock brakes, only available in conjunction with the DCT transmission option, makes the $1000 upcharge even more palatable.

The CTX700 and CTX700N will appear in Honda dealerships in late spring of 2013, as 2014 models. Honda tells us that these two 700cc machines are just the beginning—the manufacturer will soon offer a full family of similar-concept, CTX-prefix machines “of various displacements and engine configurations,” all intended to invite more new riders into the motorcycling fold. The CTX will not replace the NC family: the two families will exist side-by-side, with the NCs positioned as practical and economical options for existing motorcyclists, while the CTX series will be aimed more directly at newbies.

Honda is expecting these new machines will be solid sellers, feeding strong dealer demand for inexpensive, entry-level products. Honda officials wouldn’t share any hard numbers, but did say that dealers have taken essentially every CBR250, CB500 variant, and NC700X they have been offered, suggesting that demand for this general type of motorcycle is very strong indeed. The time for another two-wheeled renaissance in America is long overdue, and who better than those nice people at Honda to kick it off? History, after all, does tend to repeat itself.

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The CTX may not be for the "experienced" rider. Like the NC700X it is intended to draw new riders into the sport or mature riders looking to downsize to an all-purpose ride. If one thinks along these lines I think Honda has a winner in the CTX. As "new" riders mature they my gravitate to the other models in the Honda line-up. Personally I wish Honda would build a 2-up 1000 to 1200 cc touring or sport touring ride with comfortable ergonomics and payload in the 500 lb. range. I do not want a 600 to 900 lb beamouth. So far only Suzuki's V-Stroms fill that niche.
I understand that times are tight but boring is never in style. At least Honda has put some effort into styling the CTXs though performance still seems lacking. My 2008 SV650SF gets north of 60 MPG (ok, it gets 60 MPG highway), looks gorgeous, is very comfortable for my lower back injury, and is still a blast to ride - qualities Honda's 700cc P-2s are not likely to ever have.

Sorry Honda.
Not since 1973 when GM destroyed styling with it's hideous new Malibu, has a major mfg. dumped such a poor effort on the masses and yet not been called out for it. These clamshelled, tube steel framed, harley forward pegs urban roadster designs--is that a clue, urban designers?--need to be called out for what they are. Cheap designs made with mostly bottom rack chinese parts. Any motorcycle made 13 years into the 21 century should not have a flattened pipe for a swingarm, unless the price is less than $5000 and it's being sold at the Pep Boys auto parts store. The king has no clothes.
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