EVERY NOW and then, someone comes up with a new class of bike. BMW arguably did it for usable big adventure bikes with its R1100 GS (the R100 and R80 G/S models were something else I’d say – niche mad things). Kawasaki’s ZZ-R1100 started the hypersports top-speed weapon, Triumph’s Speed Triple the super-naked roadster, Honda’s CBR900RR FireBlade the litre superbike that handled, Honda’s Silver Wing the big-bore super-scooter.
It’s been a while since we’ve had anything really really new like those revolutionary, class-defining machines. But what about this beastie? Honda launched the X-ADV as an ‘adventure scooter’ a few years back now, and it’s fair to say I was a bit unsure about it. It seemed to ask more questions than it answered – and the questions it did answer didn’t seem to be the ones I’d ever heard being asked. If you get my drift... Long(ish)-travel suspension, spoked rims, dirt-style wheels, some extra ground clearance all points to some offroad usability. But the close-fitting front mudguard, 17” front wheel and 238kg-ish wet weight all sort of point against that. It’s all a bit weird, frankly, and the price tag of nearly £10k doesn't help. My mate Dave summed it up when he said, “It’s like looking at a bike after taking a load of acid.” True dat Dave.
Like learning a new language though, there’s only one way to learn more about a bike – especially a weird one – and that’s to ride the bugger. I’d missed out on a spin on the X-ADV up till now, so when Honda offered one for a few months as a mid-term loan bike, I was more than keen. Partly out of curiousity, partly because I do loves a big scooter as a practical set of extra-urban wheels, and partly because I know that Honda has a knack of making bikes which look a little bit pony on paper, but which work really well in reality (see its Crossrunner and Africa Twin as examples of that).
Our man David Miller borrowed the X-ADV first, planning some offroad shenanigans on it (the dirt trail is his arena nowadays), but then hurt his shoulder, so the poor ‘onda sat for a couple of weeks at Miller Towers, unmoving. Luckily I had to return the Kymco AK550 to a very nice man north of London, so could pick up the mighty X-ADV near Peterborough at the same time.
My first introduction to X-ADV living, then, was a flat-out blast back down the A1(M) to get home in time for the school run. First impressions were weird to be fair – we have keyless ignition, DCT automatic transmission, a fairly high seat height, and a slightly fussy LCD dash layout, plus lots of unfamiliar buttons for gearchanges, traction settings, neutral/drive/sport/auto/manual mode, and buttons for seat and fuel cap release.
No matter though – I’m getting used to all this stuff on modern bikes, and so I just jump on and head south. I’ve ridden DCT bikes a few times, so quickly remembered the scoop in terms of the pushbuttons – you start in neutral, then click into D for drive then S for sport. The up and down buttons let you override the auto gear choice, and there’s also a button for full manual operation. So far so good.
Clicking through the dash display, I come across the odometer, which is reading just 45 miles. Eek, a brand spanker! That probably explains the slightly tight-feeling motor and transmission then. I try to take it easy till she warms up at least, then get up to ramming speed on the motorway asap. The X-ADV uses Honda’s 745cc parallel twin, which is (in)famously made from half a Jazz car engine. It’s used on the NC range – the NC750S and NC750X, where it does decent if slightly uninspiring work as a frugal commuter and midi-adventurer. It’s a weird motor – the inlet and exhaust ports are siamesed, so there’s only one exhaust downpipe and air inlet, which confuses at first sight. A single overhead camshaft, with screw and locknut finger tappets takes us back to the 1970s in terms of tech – but it’s all probably fine for an economy-minded engine tune. It sort of clashes a little when we get to the megabucks high-tech DCT gearbox mind, but we’ll let that slide for the moment.
The essence of all this is about 54bhp on tap – not a bad amount for a super-scooter, and about the same as the AK550 I just jumped off (but which felt much zippier) that’s also about the same as a Burgman 650, so they’re all going to hit about 110mph+ flat-out on a high-speed run. The X-ADV was a bit down on this at the moment due to its low miles of course, so we’ll be hoping it picks up in terms of zip and go.
The A1/M25/A3 run didn’t tell me much, except that the X-ADV is a bit scant in terms of wind and weather protection. The adjustable windshield is a good thing but I think if I had one of these full-time, I’d want a bigger screen, especially for winter. The seat is comfy enough, but there’s not loads of space for your legs and feet, which goes against the super-scooter concept a bit.
Rather like the AK550 and Yamaha’s T-Max, the underseat storage has suffered for the sportier styling, and is barely big enough for one full face helmet on the X-ADV. Our bike has the optional city topbox, so you can store another lid, but it’s not a great show. One of the major points of a scoot is storage space, and there’s not enough here – you don’t get any cubbyholes or glove boxes in the front legshields either.
Back in London, I’ve been using the X-ADV for local scooting jobs, putting a kid on the back for deliveries to parties and the like, and popping round to the shops (and my mate Neil Handley's cafe near Box Hill). It’s actually a lot of fun to ride in town, the brakes are very good (twin radial four-potters up front ftw), and the BridgestoneTrail Wing tyres also work well round town, in the current hot dry conditions anyway. It handles well, and the only chassis woes come from the seat being just that bit too tall for me, so I can only really get one tiptoe down at a standstill. It’s fine on the move, but if you’re short and unsteady on tall machines, this won’t help you out much.
The motor has good low-down punch, the DCT helps ease the strain of urban riding and the keyless ignition works a lot better than the recent Kymco one we tried, with the system lighting up immediately when you push the big button on the bike. You still end up losing track of the keys though (well I do). The fuel consumption isn’t amazing, partly because I’ve been flat out on it for most of our time together, plus the engine is still quite tight. We’re averaging about 49mpg at the moment – hopefully that will improve a little.
We’ll be running the X-ADV for the next couple of months, and will keep reporting back on how it’s going. We might even attempt some sort of gentle off-roading antics with it. Or we might not…