I’VE HAD the Honda X-ADV for a while now, and I’m definitely getting into its queerly-styled groove. It’s my go-to machine for urban schlepping, by a fair margin, and it’s doing it really well I have to say.
The first thing that strikes me now is how that style gets in the way of understanding the bike really. Sat in the dealer showroom, you get all sorts of mixed messages about being an off-roader, with the chunky tyres and the tall suspension. Now, I’m no off-road god, but even I know that a 238kg 750cc bike with an automatic gearbox and a 17” front wheel isn’t quite the Dakar tool. But just as Honda’s CR-V off-road-styled car would quail at anything more than a gravel car park, yet works great as a normal motor, the X-ADV works great as a normal maxi-scooter.
I say normal, but of course it’s far from that. Half a car engine, with a dual-clutch transmission, an almost-too-tall seat height, a ‘G’ button which apparently makes the powertrain better on the dirt, a large-but-not-large-enough underseat storage area, a handbrake, the list goes on. So it’s a big scooter, but not as we know it Jim.
I’m reminded a bit about Apple and its various innovations when I think about the X-ADV. Like Honda, Apple is big enough to decide to go its own way, even when it looks like madness to us little consumer people. Making a phone without a removable battery in 2007 seemed like heresy – ditto no removable memory card slot. But after a few years, a removable battery seems like the mad idea (we’re still unsure on the benefits of no memory card slot tbf). On the other hand, some recent stuff definitely seems wild. Selling laptops with one small USB-C connector, so you need a load of adapters to connect stuff up – crazy. And dropping the simple, standard, billions-of-them-in-use-for-decades 3.5mm headphone jack from your phones? Are you just trolling us now?
So is making an adventure scooter like making a phone with a factory-fit battery? Or is it a £7k laptop without an SD card slot or Ethernet socket? I’ll confess when I first saw the X-ADV I was in the latter camp. But like most Hondas, things get massively better the more you use them. And every mile I do on the X-ADV makes it better in my head.
Mostly because it’s such a great thing to ride. I’ve grown to really enjoy the handling round town actually. There’s something about the geometry and weight distribution that makes it a joy to throw about. Ten yards from my house there’s a 90-degree bend, and even with cold tyres, I get a real kick out of just slamming the Honda down on its ear. Zipping through traffic, the X-ADV can get through most gaps, and has great balance when you’re trickling along at walking pace. The brakes are excellent, with far better stopping and feel than you’d expect from a big scoot, and the suspension is also proper quality stuff, with smooth progressive damping.
The engine and transmission are also growing on me. The bike was brand new when it arrived, and I think as the miles have clicked up, it’s loosened up a bit, and seems to rev more freely now. There’s enough power for 110mph+ flat out, but it’s not massively pleasant at those speeds, and the fuel consumption also plummets. Ride it gently, and it’s a proper gas-sipper, but ride it like a dick, and the 13.1 litre fuel tank soon runs dry – I’ve been looking for fuel after 100 miles on it when in a hurry.
It also gathers comment from your fellow riders, especially in That London. Good and bad, it has to be said. The good came from a Deliveroo kid on a PCX125, who declared my ride ‘sick’, and said it looked like a Yamaha NMAX, which I suppose it does a little. He was nice. Unlike the crazy man on a brown XMAX near Waterloo, who declared pithily at the lights (and I quote), “You look like a cunt.” Harsh, I think you’ll agree.
Last time I said I’d maybe try some off-roading, and I managed a little bit at Goodwood Festival of Speed last month. I was there to ride some Hondas up the famous hillclimb (see video below of me wobbling round), so the X-ADV was pressed into action. I squeezed my leathers into a bag and strapped it on the back, and set off early on a baking hot Sunday morning for the 60 mile trip to Goodwood. As ever, the A3 was properly ‘meh’ on the scoot, but when we turned off the dual carriageway, it came into its own. The twisty country lanes round here were perfect for the 750 scoot, and the DCT auto box in ‘S’ mode lets you get the most out of it.
The real boon was when the traffic started of course, and I sailed past mile after mile of backed-up cars, and zoomed into Goodwood ahead of the crowd like a VIP. But it was my first time there, and I had no idea where to go. So I finally got some mud on the X-ADV’s undercarriage, as I trooped about the fields, lanes and hedgerows trying to find the media entrance. The car park staff had soaked some of the roadways to dampen down the terrible dust from the baked earth, and it was a bit of a trial in places to get through on two wheels. It’s pushing it to say that a normal road bike would have struggled, but I was glad to have a bit extra ground clearance and some pseudo-knobbly tyres on my side…
The X-ADV then, is winning me over in several important ways. But there are still a few quibbles with it. The DCT tranny is generally very good, but it can get in the way a bit sometimes. If you stop quickly to ask directions or something, and click the killswitch in gear, or put the sidestand down, it puts itself into neutral. Which it has to – because you can’t start it unless it’s in neutral. So when you do want to get going again, you have to start the engine and click back into ‘D’ to get going. Not the end of the world, but those few extra seconds waiting does get annoying.
I’d like a bigger fuel tank too – 13.1 litres is really pretty parsimonious, especially considering the size and weight of the bike. The underseat storage hasn’t got any bigger over time either, sadly, and I still feel the wind protection is rather scant. Oh, and the seat doesn’t lock properly without giving it a bit of a bang with your fist. Fail to do that, and you can return to find your cool scoot has opened up its seat all by itself, like a Nile crocodile opening its mouth for the birds to clean its teeth…