Wrist: Marc Cook
MSRP (2012): $6999
Almost the best part of an amazing bike: The NC’s weatherproof, integrated storage bin is
In the same month that fuel prices grazed $5 a gallon here in California and I, thankfully, got rid of my obscenely thirsty pickup truck, the Honda NC700X joined our long-term fleet. The events were coincidental. Bringing the NC into the fray made a ton of sense even without those breathtaking fuel prices. For starters, it’s an important bike beyond even its ability to go easy on the dead dinosaurs. (About that: The average so far is 64 mpg, with high of 76 and a low of 58. Sounds like a Southern California weather report.)
Honda is toying with some interesting concepts here. First, will consumers accept relatively low power in return for impressive mileage? On our SuperFlow dyno, the manual-transmission NC turned out 47.1 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 42.8 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. That’s down 15.1 bhp from a Suzuki V-Strom 650, but the NC beats the Wee Strom in peak torque and has a commendably flat torque curve. Second, will those consumers consider such scooter-like features as integrated storage worthwhile?
In the first 711 miles, I can say for sure the convenience items are a huge plus. There’s room for all my Boy Scout stuff in the not-a-gas-tank bin. On the way to work, my iPhone sips from the 12-volt plug in there. I do see that you can latch the lid without a key in the lock—hope I don’t have to call Honda with an embarrassing request this year.
Normally, we start with stone-stock bikes and work from there. But this NC had already been dragged through Honda's accessory catalog. It came with hard saddlebags, 55-liter top trunk, associated racks, light mount (don’t call it a crash bar), centerstand, tall windshield, heated handgrips, and upper and lower wind deflectors. To get a feel for living with the stock bike before going farkle crazy, I removed everything but the luggage mounts (because some stock components are removed when they’re installed) centerstand, heated grips, and “brushed alu-look” cowl accents. Over time, I’ll add them back and report how they work.
With DCT you get ABS. The non-ABS brakes, minus the extra piston and rear-to-front linkage
So far, I have no regrets going for the manual-trans version instead of the Dual Clutch Transmission automatic—even where dreary commuting is concerned. I would like ABS as a standalone option, though. I’d happily support a $500 bump for ABS where, personally, I wouldn’t drop the $2000 needed to get ABS and DCT. At a buck under seven grand, the basic NC700X strikes me as a screamin’ good deal. At $8999 to get DCT/ABS, I’m thinking Kawasaki Versys. But that’s just my way of thinking.
So here I am, happy as a clam with the base model. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to get an ear for the low-redline engine, only occasionally smacking it off the 6500-rpm rev limiter. Actually, I was doing better before spending time on the CRF250L and Ninja 300. Frantic is not the NC’s bag. Indeed, at the typical freeway speeds around here, the NC’s parallel-twin engine is a faraway hum between my toes. It feels relaxed because it is, though the payback is syrupy roll-on performance in sixth.
It’s rare for me to start a relationship with a bike and not instantly think of mods such as a pipe or a fuel-injection box, but the Honda’s fueling is extremely good as is, and I’m just not sure how much more power lives within this tame, small-port engine. More likely, I’ll commit suspension work, looking to firm up the soft shock and get some of the sharp-bump thwack out of the fork. But that’s for later. Right now, I’m reveling in the NC’s competence as a commuter and seeing the tripmeter roll up 200 miles knowing that I’ll put around 3 gallons of unleaded in it—that’s seven cents a mile, baby.