IF there was an award for the oddest new bike of the year, this would surely be a strong contender.
It’s the X-ADV, a machine that you will find in the ‘Adventure’ category on Honda’s website, along with the Africa Twin, even though it is quite patently a maxi-scooter.
It’s in the adventure section, we presume, because of its off-road… how shall we put this? ‘Ambition’ might be the word.
But does that off-road ambition translate to off-road ability? That’s one of the things we sought to find out on our road test. Here’s what we learned.
Loved or loathed depending on who you ask, it makes 54hp and 50lbft in a decidedly sober fashion – peak torque is at 4,750rpm and peak power at 6,250rpm, which is also pretty much where the red line is located.
That means you’d probably find yourself unintentionally bumping into the rev limiter if it wasn’t for Honda’s automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) system. It’s essentially a six-speed automatic box with an over-ride option, letting you choose the gear you want.
There’s a ‘Drive’ and ‘Sport’ mode, with no need for me to explain which tends toward the more aggressive gear selections. If you’re not happy with the gear you’re given, you can change up or down with button shifters on the left bar.
This is the second generation of DCT, so it’s also supposed to adapt to your riding and gear choices.
Or, you can select ‘Manual’ mode and make all the decisions yourself.
I’m not sure why you would. The X-ADV is best enjoyed in Drive when you’re not in a hurry and Sport when you are. That way, you don’t have to worry about the low red line. You just open the throttle and it goes.
And actually, 54hp is pretty healthy by maxi-scooter standards, and a strong relationship of mid-range torque to power is exactly what you want: it means you never have to wait long for it to get going.
The DCT delivers a more immediate throttle response than CVT systems more typical of maxi scooters, because the ratio isn’t constantly changing.
For the X-ADV, Honda has made Drive mode select lower gears than other NC750s, in order to better provide accessible torque when filtering.
The X-ADV has a completely new tubular steel chassis according to Honda, so although it has the engine of the NC750 range, it doesn’t share the frame.
It does, though, feel more like a motorcycle than typical of maxi-scooters, as does the Integra.
The centre-of gravity feels higher and there’s more of a sense that you’re connected directly to it rather than sitting on it. That makes it more confidence-inspiring on the road.
Off-road, on a one-mile gentle trail in Hampshire, it managed to get to the end and not much more.
In fact, even that might be flattering it. At the end, there was deep mud and it didn’t inspire the confidence to do anything except sit down and paddle through.
Standing up, the bars are too close to your legs and the 17-inch front wheel feels twitchy. There’s a sense that things could go wrong very quickly.
The 41mm upside-down fork, Pro-Link shock and 162mm of ground clearance managed – but remember this was just a gentle trail.
A highly-skilled off-road rider could no doubt make the X-ADV do amazing things. In the hands of a more average rider like me, it copes with trails, and that’s all. After four or five runs up and down the trail, I felt I’d be pushing my luck to continue. A wet, slimy surface and the dual-sport tyres (Bridgestone Trail Wings) didn’t help.
The shock is pre-load adjustable and provides 150mm of travel while the fork has pre-load and rebound damping adjustment with 153mm of travel. Where it will be useful is on pothole-strewn city streets.
The front – radial-mounted four-piston Nissin calipers on twin 310mm discs – is pretty high-spec by any standard, never mind for a scooter.
The calipers are similar to the Africa Twin’s, and why not? The X-ADV does, after all, weigh 6kg more than the adventure bike, at 238kg.
The set-up’s more than good enough, with generous bite and progressive power to deal with inobservant drivers on the commute.
On the rear disc you get a single-pot Nissin caliper, and ABS is of course standard.
You lose a little of the practicality typical of more conventional maxi-scooters. For example, the space under the seat (which needs a slam to close) takes one full-face lid and little else. My laptop bag had to go in the optional top box.
Your feet seem a little more exposed, not completely shielded by bodywork, and you get a chain final drive, with all the maintenance and inconvenience that entails.
But you get quite a lot of good stuff. The ignition is key-less and the screen is easily adjusted by turning a knob. At the highest setting it was around neck-level for this 5’9-inch rider.
You also get handguards, a centre-stand and a ‘rally-style’ digital dash. And a hand-brake.
In practice, despite not creating quite the sense of enclosure as most maxi-scooters, the protection provided by the X-ADV seems just as good. On a two-hour ride in drizzle, with motorcycle jeans covering my bottom half, I didn’t get wet.
The seat and suspension also offer the long-distance comfort to match rivals.
Plus, DCT means you can put the X-ADV in neutral, something you can't do with most scooters.
We don’t like
But the riding position doesn’t. The aluminium handlebar is a bit higher than typical of maxi scooters, making a less natural riding position over distance.
Also, the perennial issue with DCT is that it can’t always give you the gear you want. Hold a constant throttle and it may change up, even though you’re waiting to overtake. But it’s not psychic.
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