Milan: 2012 Honda NC700X and NC700S DCT

That's NC for 'New Concept'. The all-new motorcycle with Honda's Dual Clutch Technology

WHEN Honda starts talking about reinventing the motorcycle or creating new types of bike a certain level of cynicism is inevitable.

While it's great to see companies, particularly ones as influential as Honda, trying something new, some of the past efforts to pull off the same trick have been less than successful. DN-01 anybody?

The DN-01 was, of course, an attempt to merge several types of bike together to create something that was more capable than any of them. It was a scooter, it was a cruiser, it was a tourer. It was also a failure. Some things, however good they are as stand-alone products, just don't combine well. Steak is great, and so is ice cream, but beef-flavour Cornettos probably wouldn't be a big hit.

So when Honda announced it was making a range of bikes that combine the advantages of scooters with those of motorcycles, it was hard to banish the DN-01 from our minds. Adding that all the bikes in this range would be powered by a 670cc parallel twin with only 51bhp wasn't that reassuring either.

But clear your mind and approach the new NC700S and NC700X without the idea that they're a mixture of other bikes. Think instead that nobody had invented the motorcycle or the scooter before, and Honda was creating something from scratch with modern technology but no preconceptions.

The idea that owners might like some luggage space, for instance, might be high on the list of priorities. Around enough to store, say, a helmet? Yeah, after all, people will probably want to wear one of those while they're riding, but not carry it around when they're off the bike.

What else? Well, if it's just one person and a bike, they'd probably like better fuel economy than a car offers. What's that? 78mpg? Sounds perfect.

Honda even appreciated that different folks might have different preferences in the way their bikes look, or the position they sit in. Hence the NC700S is a straightforward naked bike, while the NC700X is an adventure-style machine. The third model in the range, the Integra, looks like a scooter, but shares everything under the skin with the other models. Even the chassis. In fact, even the head and tail lights, the wheels, the grab handles, are all shared between all three models.

Honda's dual clutch, semi-auto transmission is standard on the Integra and optional on the NCs, making them as easy to ride as scooters, but where the DN-01 tried to combine several types of bike into a single model, the 'New Concept' appears to be to take a single model and spin it into several types of bike.

OK, with all three models weighing over 200kg and only 51bhp, these aren't sports bikes, but as all-purpose transport that can provide a little fun when you want it, they might just make sense if the price is right.