AS I write this, I’m sitting in my ‘office’ (aka the spare room) and I can hear the first MotoGP race of 2016 blaring out from the next room as my girlfriend gets a much needed fix of Rossi and company.
The din of action that’s tickling my eardrums would be more of a fitting soundtrack to a review of a sports bike. Instead it’s accompanying something that exists at the other end of the motorcycling spectrum – the updated Honda NC750X, a bike known for its practicality, economy and user friendliness, and for being a bit on the bland side.
There’s a reason for that – it’s powered by a 745cc parallel-twin engine that's lineage can be traced back to a car, and not even a car that’s likely to get your trousers twitching; the engine has its roots in the OAP favourite Honda Jazz.
Any motorcycle that has the Honda Jazz cropping up in its family tree is always going to be on the back foot – after all, motorcycles are meant to be about passion, wheelies, impressing potential mates, eliciting scornful looks from old people and looking cool, aren’t they?
I think they are, but they’re also quite practical too, and the NC750X is a bike that has practicality at its core, and to make sense of it, it needs to be viewed for what it is – a very practical tool. It’s properly popular too – it was Honda’s biggest seller last year and has been a top 10 best-seller in Europe since its launch.
Honda says this updated 2016 model has got a more rugged look, better suspension thanks to new Showa 'Dual Bending Valve' forks and boasts increased luggage space. The bike also features a new front brake caliper, LED lights front and rear and a new silencer with a deeper sound.
Looks-wise, the NC750X has indeed been sharpened up, and I suppose it does look more adventurous than before. But rugged? The NC750X doesn’t exactly look like Russell Crowe after an all-nighter and a brawl outside Wetherspoon’s. Regardless, Honda’s claim is born out of the fact that the front of the 2016 NC750X has gained some more definition thanks to the new, sleeker LED headlight and a more angular, revised top front fairing. In terms of styling, it’s a sharp step in the right direction.
It’s comfortable too. Plonking my arse on the cushy seat puts me in a very natural position. It’s upright and the bars fall in to my grasp without the needs to stretch, contort or shuffle my natural position in the seat. It’s a nice seating position, and make me feel like I could ride until I'm ready for bed. Thanks to the mass of ‘tank’ (actually a storage compartment with room enough for a full face lid), the stretch to the bars looks like it should be further than it actually is.
The engine remains unchanged from last year: it still makes 54hp, delivered at 6,250rpm and 50lb/ft torque, delivered at 4,750rpm. It revs to just over 6,000rpm – much like the Ford Ka my Mrs drives. The NC750X’s power delivery is smooth, unthreatening and ultimately well suited to its functional purity.
The torque and power curves are linear and ultimately the engine is as exciting as a bowl of cold rice pudding. But by the end of the test ride, I’d begun to accept that this is OK because the motor does everything that’s asked of it without complaint and although it doesn’t have any character, there’s enough midrange power on hand for motorway-speed progress, B-road blasting and a town manoeuvres. The engine is best described as acceptable, doing everything that’s asked of it without complaint. It just isn’t memorable.