Essential Adaptation

The little NC that could.

Our epic four-day, 2200-mile sport-touring comparison test took us from SoCal to Albuquerque through some of the most gorgeous and demanding roads California, Arizona, and New Mexico could throw at us. It was cold. Real cold, including an overnight low of 17 degrees in Albuquerque and persistent daytime highs between freezing and 45 degrees. That’s the kind of weather to best evaluate the wind protection of our four test bikes and the BTU-ability of our heated riding gear.

The four prime riders had it easy, but photographer Kevin Wing needed patience and inventiveness in equal measure. Why? Because I put him on my long-term Honda NC700X for the simple reason that we needed to give him a riding platform that also wasn’t one of the bikes to be photographed. The NC, fitted with the full selection of Honda Accessories side cases and top trunk, seemed ideal. He ought to find room for all his stuff, I thought.

Um, no.

He filled the three rear bags (29 liters a side, 45 liters in the trunk), the center “tank” storage bin, and then loaded a tripod case over the passenger seat before donning a backpack large enough to be George Jetson’s jet pack, or maybe an apartment complex for hobbits.
Over dinner each night, Wing told the tale of a modestly powered, overloaded bike trying to catch four big-inch STs. "I would pin it, tuck in, and watch the speedo: 88, 89, 90...oh, then a hill, 89, 88, 87. On one road, with a headwind, the NC wouldn't pull sixth gear at all. It's just not fair." Here, Kevin, have another Jack and coke. (You should probably avoid the seafood, it smells funny.)

At the end of the second day, Kevin had had enough of cold hands. Even though the NC has Honda’s really good heated grips, there’s not a square inch of wind protection. He fixed that. Two one-gallon plastic jugs gave their lives as improvised bark busters. Affixed by the cheapest duct tape on the planet, the Wing Wings (patent pending) nonetheless held on for the rest of the trip, despite several attempts to reconfirm the NC’s terminal velocity when overloaded by about 150 percent.

Kevin made it home by midnight on the fourth day with grudging respect for the little Honda he couldn’t kill, despite trying. Although we did literally push the NC too far. After failing to get gas before attempting a mountain pass—in the highlands of New Mexico in mid December, no less—we had to double back. The Honda gave its last wheeze half a mile from the only gas station in town, and then drank down exactly 3.7 gallons, the precise stated capacity of the tank. Somewhat to Kevin’s chagrin, it started right up and carried on for the next 1100 miles like nothing had happened.

For Kevin, recovery therapy will be a little more involved. He says it needs to include a Gold Wing.