First ride: Honda NC750X review

It has all the soul of a coffee maker and it’s exactly what motorcycling needs

Posted: 6 February 2014
by Steve Farrell

HONDA'S NCs are an unusual range of motorcycles.

For a start they’ve got an engine based on a car’s. The starting point for the parallel-twin design was half a Honda Jazz engine.

They have the character of a car engine too, with a bland power curve to a lowly 6,500rpm red line. 

They’re a diverse family of machines consisting of the naked NC750S, the adventure-styled NC750X and a maxi scooter called the Integra, somehow all sharing the same engine and rolling chassis, or ‘platform’. The very idea induces revulsion in some riders, who say bikes should be based on passion, not platforms.

The motorcycles in the range have a luggage compartment where you’d normally find the tank.

And then there’s the optional automatic gearbox using Honda's Dual Clutch Transmission system, with computer gaming-style shifter buttons on the left bar. Cue paroxysms of rage from said riders. What’s wrong with a normal clutch and gears, for God’s sake?

At the launch of the NC750X, the adventure model, in Athens, journalists argued over this exact point. For 2014 the NCs have been given a 75cc capacity boost, from 670 to 745cc (they used to be called NC700s), and a corresponding power increase from 48 to 54hp. We were to ride the DCT version the following day. What’s wrong with changing gear in the conventional way, someone asked. It’s part of machine control, part of motorcycling.

There’s nothing wrong with conventional gears. But imagine yourself on a semi-automatic bike, like the Aprilia Mana 850, with a foot shifter. Would you change gear yourself or let the bike take care of it? If there’s a chance that the answer is the latter, then, like it or not, you do have a use for twist-and-go transmissions.

Honda’s DCT is probably the best twist-and-go system available. Most automatic scooters and motorcycles have Continuously Variable Transmission. It effectively creates an infinite number of gears using a belt spinning between two pairs of cones, which move together or apart to alter the ratio. Imagine front and rear sprockets which can instantly change size. That’s more or less the effect. Unfortunately, CVT can be heavy, comes with power limitations and does not lend itself to a direct throttle response.   

DCT, on the other hand, features six gears, just like most other bikes, and gives a throttle response just as direct. There's an automatic box and two clutches. One clutch is responsible for odd gears, the other even. As one disengages first, the other instantaneously engages second, and so on.

It makes for extremely smooth shifts. Acceleration doesn't come in a series of surges between gear changes. It's much more constant, punctuated by shifts so smooth you hear them as much as feel them.

DCT is only one part of the explanation for this. The other is that bland power curve. The rev counter is a flat, horizontal line across the dash, an unlucky coincidence because that’s how the power curve feels. There’s a lot of torque at the bottom end. It builds a bit. Then it hits the low red line before you know what’s what. Coupled with those button shifters on the left bar, it adds up to confusion about when you need to change gear.

The buttons work well insofar as you can use them to change gear without shutting off. Even shifting down with the throttle open doesn't result in a jerky change. You just feel and hear the revs rise, along with an increase in engine braking.

But they don’t give the same mechanical connection to the gearbox as a foot shifter. It’s like changing gear by remote control.

That's why the system is best enjoyed in automatic mode. There are two twist-and-go settings: ‘Drive’ and 'Sport'. Drive is too lazy. No doubt it helps Honda achieve the claimed 81.6mpg but it tends to sit in a gear or two higher than I would choose. When you open the throttle to accelerate, there’s little response until it shifts down. 

This is the second generation of DCT, which Honda says has a new ‘intelligence’ allowing it to adapt to throttle input. So if it detects that you’re getting a bit more lary, it will too. It seems to work. Even in Drive, if you accelerate hard, then shut off, it doesn’t immediately change back to a fuel-saving gear. It holds a low one, expecting you to roll on again. If you’re next throttle input is gentle, it will then revert to saving the planet.

It’s still just better in Sport mode, because its default gear selections are closer to those of the average sub-octogenarian, giving you more instantly accessible drive at most times.

Like any automatic gearbox, it has its limitations. When you open the throttle to accelerate, it sometimes has to change down; with a conventional gearbox you’d change down first. And like Drive mode, it can hold a low gear for too long after you roll off.

But whenever you feel like it you can override it by pressing one of those shifter buttons. This is where the system starts to work best; letting the transmission take most of the decisions, but occasionally correcting it.

Ridden hard, it gives you most of the 54hp most of the time, and the NC750X becomes fun. The increase in power is enough to make it feel just a bit more of an animal than the old one. There’s more torque across the range. At low speed, it doesn’t need to change down to accelerate hard. 

Switching between modes doesn’t require shutting off the throttle, like some traction control systems. You just press a button on the right bar with your thumb and it’s done.

The suspension can feel like it’s not doing enough to cushion bumpy surfaces, but that could be down to false expectations raised by its adventure looks. It’s really just a road bike. It copes well with corners at speed and the wide, high bars make it easy to lean and point.  

The brakes are surprisingly good considering there’s a single disc up front. It’s not so powerful that the nose dives as soon as you touch the lever, but you won’t have any trouble stopping. ABS is standard.

Basically, every feature seems designed to be as user-friendly as possible. Considering its quasi-adventure nature, it’s the polar opposite of big adventure bikes like BMW’s R1200GS. They are made to look intimidating as a proposition to ride. The NC750X’s raison d'etre is to be unintimidating.

The throttle response at walking pace is the smoothest I’ve felt on any automatic motorcycle. Most CVT systems give an on/off jerky response. Tickle the NC750X’s throttle and it creeps forward as smoothly as if you were slipping a clutch. Together with the upright riding position, and those wide bars, it aids low-speed control, making tight U-turns easy.

It's fuel-efficient. Ridden how I wanted, it achieved 58mpg. The dash tells you your average fuel consumption but I calculated it from a petrol receipt, just to be certain. The filler cap is under the pillion seat, which is hinged, with a handy arm to hold it open.

It's practical. At a squeeze, the luggage compartment proved just big enough for my full-face HJC helmet. The seat is low enough for me to get both feet flat on the ground, and I'm 5’9”. The screen is just tall enough to afford fairly generous protection without going overboard. It's comfortable and there’s a useful handbrake on the left bar. 

Detractors of the NC range say they are like kitchen appliances. Motorcycles for people who want to keep their hands clean. I think it’s true to an extent. Why has Honda made plastic covers that look like engine cases and put them over the real engine cases?

However, one of my favourite possessions is a kitchen appliance. I don't care if my coffee maker shares a platform with other models. It makes nice coffee. And I like coffee, so that's something to get excited about.

NCs are the perfect welcome for those cautiously returning to motorcycling, who may want a proper, big bike, but don’t need 100hp. Or for people who want to reap the congestion-busting benefits of two-wheeled transport, and have a bit of fun, but not annoy the neighbours with a loud exhaust, or use unnecessary quantities of fossil fuel.

It’s a fact that motorcycling is not favourably viewed by all. It doesn't receive credit for the environmental benefits of reducing congestion. It’s seen by some as selfish, while cyclists are saving the world. It’s under pressure over emissions. TV likes to make occasional shock documentaries focussing on irresponsible riding.

On top of which, big bike sales are down and rider numbers are under pressure because it’s more difficult to get a licence. What better time for bikes to be inviting to novices and lapsed riders, and look more socially acceptable to the rest of the world? If the NC range are like kitchen appliances, maybe they are what motorcycling needs. 

Model tested: Honda NC750X DCT

Price: £6,899 (manual version £6,299)

Power: 54hp

Kerb weight: 229kg (manual version 219kg)

Torque: 50lbft

Seat height: 830mm

Colours: Red, black, white, silver

Availability: Now

Read our Honda NC700X first ride review

Review your Honda NC700X



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Discuss this story

if this becomes motorcycling then I will stop, thank you Yamaha for the mt07 which on paper looks far better and cheaper than this monstrosity .

Posted: 06/02/2014 at 17:28

Totally agree simon,This is typical honda marketing bull which mcn will always promote as the advertising buck is all important,Motorcycling is a about fun and bikes need character something utter lacking in this boring lump.

Posted: 06/02/2014 at 18:15

Yes - completely agree with simon. The MT-07 (and Yamaha) to me are moving in a better direction. The MT-07 is much lighter in weight (88 lbs LESS than the NC750X!!) Hey...smart, light-weight designs can promote fuel-economy too. While also preserving exciting performance, handling, and intoxicating redlines. These are the bikes that I WANT, not necessarily the ones that I need.

Posted: 06/02/2014 at 19:19

Ha...Well I'm waiting for my second NC which I'm collecting on the 1st March (NC750S DCT). My first was the NC700X DCT.
I don't care whether some of you scoff or not, but these machines have proved themselves immensely popular all over Europe and other places around the world. And I'm sure with the introduction of the new 750 it's popularity will continue. They are incredibly long lasting engines. Even though they've only been out a couple of years there's a chap in Japan who's already done 95,000kms.
This bike is built for a purpose after Honda conducted major research into the buying public. At the end of the day there's a market for this type of machine whether some of you like it or not.

And for the author of this review - the plastic covers on the right hand side house electronics for the gearbox.


Posted: 06/02/2014 at 20:09

Let me qualify my previous statements by saying that I simply don't feel that this bike is for me. However, that doesn't mean that I don't believe it will serve as a fine motorcycle for others. I hope Honda sells a boat-load of them. Unfortunately, I just won't be one of them.

Posted: 06/02/2014 at 21:11

@Nanabijou - a good honest reply. The NC certainly isn't for some people and I fully accept that.
I initially purchased the NC700x DCT because it was a little different from what else was around. I rode it for awhile and it was a reasonable bike - nothing too special, but the Dct gearbox does grow on you. I then went through a stage of wanting something else, but in the end I was slowly enjoying the bike more and more, so I decided I was going to keep it. When the 750 was announced, I just knew I had to have the red NC750S DCT.
I did look at the Yam MT07 at the bike show. I know it's going to be a great bike, but somehow some bits just looked a bit cheap on it. It will run rings around the NC in performance etc I'm sure, but the NC ain't a bad bike at all and when you add ABS to the MT07 the price difference isn't so great.

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 00:31

I'm quite tempted to see if the Integra can replace both my 800GS and Burgman 400. Haters best step back, the future of biking is here.

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 08:09

The NC series of bikes are on the market for a specific pigeon hole. That is a brilliant commuter or workhorse in my mind. It is the most practical bike out there and the storage in the non-tank is a stroke of genius.

You can have loads of fun on this bike as bikes by their very nature are exciting I can have loads of fun on my mates KTM 125 Duke.

Harley riders, BMW types doesn't matter whatever suits your riding but its gotta be fun.

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 11:30

Forgot to mention for me a bike has always got to be a manual, helps you bond with your metal rather than twist and go .

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 11:31

If this bike starts every morning & gets you where you want to go it has a big plus over any Yamaha MT (having owned an MT-03 on which I was "doing too many miles" according to the servicing staff).

As it is I have an F800... 87bhp & I can't get it to drop under 50mpg even on the short high speed commute I currently do... longer trips return just under 60... it is around a grand more expensive tho'.

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 13:12

im a red blooded Ducatisti I own 3 of the things but i have ridden the NC700 auto and am intrigued by the DCT as i have severe shoulder nerve damage which if not treatable may preclude me using none auto bikes in the future and also moving the twist grip to the left hand bar , so The NC 750 may be the future for me , if i was consigned to a car and traffic jams I would commit suicide so a passion reduced Honda NC 750 might be my salvation ,,,or penance a DCT vfr would be better if they do it on the new 800 as the vfr 1200 is so ugly and fuel guzzling

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 13:28

If you are a commuter who doesn't like having your best shoes scarred, you might like it. Also if you have an injury that makes gears difficult.

No-one's forcing anyone to buy one, who cares? Remember the CB400 Auto Dream, it failed due to lack of bulk sales but there were plenty of commuters who fancied one.

Posted: 08/02/2014 at 15:28

This bike is being sold on economy and ease of use, so anyone wanting a crotch rocket or track day tool will need to look elsewhere.
I like bikes which are different from the crowd, and this looks sufficiently different to get my attention.
Unfortunately the usual criticisms apply. As with all new bikes it doesn't have enough practical features like easy maintenance, adequate weather protection, etc.
Cars are so bloody popular because they're so practical. Bike manufacturers don't seem to have cottoned on to this aspect yet.

Posted: 08/02/2014 at 20:06

The first three posts on this thread were the usual suspects, with blinkered views. I had the chance to test an NC700, belonging to my friend,when we swapped bikes in the Yorkshire Dales. He went to buy a Bergman type scooter which he could handle on to a trailer by himself, as he's 'getting on a bit'.The cunning salesman lent him the NC for a couple of days and that was it for the scooter.
Anyway, he is a former bike instructor and knows the goat tracks like the back of the proverbial, so takes some keeping up with. I got on the thing and just flew; a very impressive machine and not at all 'scootery'(I don't mind scooters either). This was the manual change, not the auto but I looked at that on a Crosstourer because I too had nerve damage that might stop me riding a traditional bike. I'm lucky and it didn't but the game's not over yet.
Not for you? Maybe but don't knock it just for the idea...Garlic bread?!!
PS. The first time I saw my friend he was wellying a nearly new Golden Arrow; right up Tobias & kneedown's street; we weren't born old you know.

Posted: 21/02/2014 at 01:25

While I'm on, I posted a query about Bridgestone Trailwings being referred to as 'Death Wings', which is a bit strong for 'not very good'.
Not had any replies as yet; anybody had anything to do with them? I don't want to finish up eating gravel at the start of the season.

JK

Posted: 21/02/2014 at 01:31

Almost forgot, don't know how an extra 50cc can make so much difference, but my witness of the NC700, not hanging around, was 70- 80+ mpg.

 


Posted: 21/02/2014 at 03:10

Jack, it's 75cc not 50.

Posted: 28/03/2014 at 21:56

in the fast east they have just slashed the price of old model NC700 by by 50% from £14,000 to £7000 to sell the shed loads of unsold bikes as the new model has also arrived ,,,,, at £11,000

Posted: 10/04/2014 at 08:14

I would like to ride one (the manual version; screw the DCT one). But I have no desire to own one. I have a 2012 Suzuki V-Strom that I consider a vastly superior bike.

Posted: 27/04/2014 at 04:38

I like this bike simply because it is so appliance-like. There is a market for this—it seems half the courier riders in London have traded in their trusty Hornets for the NC7xx-series.

They are non-threatening, accessible bikes, perfect for beginners (which can only be good for the wider community) and experienced riders who no longer care about tearing up the tarmac and want something on which to waft about—with the consumption of a 300cc bike.

Maybe not the best bike for a transcontinental journey, but someone in that market would be looking elsewhere anyway.

I don’t understand why so many people view this bike as a scooter, simply because one model spawned off this platform is designed to resemble a scooter, or because it’s offered with an option DCT... scooters are a completely different concept.

Posted: 27/04/2014 at 21:36

I've just ordered one of these with the DCT. I am a biker and always have been but unfortunately I'm getting creaky and can no longer work a clutch lever in traffic without excruciating pain. I test rode the NC700 but it did not have the oomph that this has. I still have my VFR800 for when my hand is not too painful. I just wish they'd put this system into a VFR 800 as that would be a perfect bike for me. (Before anyone says, I've tried the VFR1200 and Crosstourer and they are too heavy for me)

Posted: 29/04/2014 at 16:18

We all choose different bikes for different reasons. I see no point in people slating one just because it doesn't appeal to them.
Shame this review just gave the pros as I'd be interested in the not so good points too. And for those who are DIY minded. These have valve adjustment screw&locknut style and easy access to the rocker cover. Something very few bikes are built like nowadays.

Posted: 08/05/2014 at 11:49

I'm pretty excited about the NC range. I'm not a thrill seeker and I currently ride (every day) a mid-size cruiser that gives me all the kicks I need and can get 400+ km from a 20L tank. The days when bikes were generally more fuel efficient than cars are long gone, and the bike industry dropped the ball big time in this area during a 20-year horsepower battle. They're finally catching on, but only under massive pressure. The future of biking is electric, but that future will only happen if biking is still seen as a viable mode of transport (and not just a recreational activity). Bikes like the NC range can ensure that that happens.

I've only spoken to one NC700 owner and he was an experienced 40-something who simply raved about it. I've seldom heard an owner more happy with their choice. And I'm quite tempted myself, especially with the capacity/power bump. 50-odd bhp is more than enough for all practical (and some not-so-practical) purposes if you have plenty of torque.

And Phil w 6, that info about valve adjustments is priceless.

Posted: 10/05/2014 at 22:39

after loads of big fast bikes I have just done 1500 miles in a week on my new NT750 AUTOMATIC . With 40 years of bike riding the big different is this allows you to think about the journey and scenery -not YOU v the road! A friend put it succinctly - "I bet we missed seeing some lovely scenery on that ride"

So boys if you want to pit yourself against the road -well that's where most of the manufacturers are.But like the Harley rider said to me "Don't knock it until you try it" I did, but not for me thanks.

We bikers are a funny lot- I phones yes but suggest belt drive,different front suspension,auto transmission or anything to improve the basic bicycle  design and we start complaining UNLESS it wins the TT!  Get real and try one

 

bazza

 


Posted: 06/06/2014 at 06:56

I have owned dozens of bikes over the past 40 years riding, 33 of those years on the road. My flat bar R1 was awesome! but my riding now is less attack and more enjoy. I looked at the Yamaha MT09/07, I really liked the concept but thought they missed meeting the needs of riders by a mile, having to stop every hundred miles for fuel rules them out for touring, pillions would not thank you for a lift, no luggage carrying ability, clocks that cant be seen when a tank bag is fitted. they got it so wrong!! This Honda NC750x has hit the jackpot as far as I am concerned! the power is adequate, you cant hoik one up without a clutch so you will never miss the little extra power we liked in reserve just for wheelies. Good storage, amazing economy, decent tank range, clocks nicely positioned, low centre of gravity, the list goes on, some will say it is down on power, but when was 110mph not enough? The economy on a trip to the Med would save more than the road tolls and ferries cost! This is the bike real world user motor cyclists have waited for and I shall be buying one. Yamaha gave us the brilliantly executed great looking badly thought out good for nothing MT range. Honda hits the nail on the head.

Posted: 08/06/2014 at 21:36

after 2000 miles in a month on this automatic bike I love its "lack of commitment".After the "Go for it" KTM the Honda is a lazy ride! It's as revolutionary as the Cub- making riding a bike fun but at motorway speeds! Forget the testosterone ,rev your round things off performance -that's where everyone else is! Enjoy the ride and if you want to scrape your pegs -not a problem but with a decent set of tyres ( don't take one from  a dealer with Dunlop 609s on) .But do laugh at the fuel pumps -mine does over 70mpg and I cruise at 70 +..Hated the normal gear change version -far too many, with the low red line -so DO try the auto and be amazed! Yes the suspension is basic and I will be improving it -after being used to WP anything else is less!


Posted: 02/07/2014 at 07:25

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