Hartebeespoort – Honda’s unexpected success story, the parallel-twin NC supercommuter series, has gone mainstream.
That’s the only way we can describe it. What was previously a distinctively understated, rather pretty naked bike has been re-invented as an all-rounder with a strong ‘weekend getaway’ component, and restyled to look more like the VFR1200X Crosstourer and VFR800X Crossrunner.
The line-up has also been simplified; the scooter-styled Integra has been discontinued, as has the street-fighter S variant; South African NC buyers now have only one model to choose from, the NC750X, in either manual (R99 999) or dual-clutch auto transmission (R109 999) format. LED headlights, bundled with ABS, are planned as an option from November 2016.
Opinions are divided as to whether the new look, with its complex, fragmented styling - very much in the ‘adventure’ idiom - is an improvement. It is, however, very practical in a number of important ways.
Its signature ‘storage tank’ has been enlarged from 21 litres to 22 with internal bungee hooks and purpose-built rails on its lid for a tank bag and provision for panniers and top box (available as aftermarket accessories). The screen is 70mm taller, with a ‘postbox’ slot in front of the instrument pod and tiny winglets at shoulder height to reduce wind noise.
There’s also an LED tail light and a new, rather gimmicky, colour liquid crystal instrument pod, which can be set to change colours according to the ‘eco’-ness of your riding, as a shift warning, or to indicate in which mode you have the dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The software for the self-shifter has been re-written again, this time with five separate sets of algorithms, rather than just Drive, Sport and Manual. The ‘S’ mode now has three levels of varying aggressiveness and higher shift points, while the rev limit for downshifts in ‘M’ mode has been raised.
In addition, a new sub-routine mimics the way a human rider changes gears, ‘feathering’ the clutch on the incoming gear to obviate most of the jerkiness common to dual-clutch transmissions. Due to world demand, the DCT models were still a month away at the time of launch, so we can’t (yet) tell you how well it works, but we have been promised one for a formal road review. More then…
The manual version also gets a new dogleg lever and revised linkage to make the clutch pull feel lighter (it works), while both models have a shorter tailpipe that’s half a kilogram lighter and speaks with an impressive basso profundo rumble, albeit without lending any extra muscle.
That’s unchanged, listed as 40.3kW at 6250 revs and 68Nm at 4750rpm, but there are new forks by Showa with dual-bend valves for smoother response and, for the first time on an NC, adjustment for preload on the rear suspension. The single front disc brake has also been upgraded with a more powerful calliper by Nissin.
Raised handlebars make the seating position slightly more upright, as befits an adventure tourer, but the ergonomics are almost perfect, giving each of the riders at the launch the feeling that the bike had been specially set up for him, without needing such expensive gimmicks as adjustable seat height or footpeg positioning.
The new screen is quiet and does its job of keeping wind pressure off the rider without interfering with visibility, the new infopanel is legible even in direct sunlight (I’m sorry, but that really is the best thing we can say about it!) and the seat is firm but wide and flat, good for at least a couple of hours of Sunday morning cruising.
The combination of crisper braking and more accurate front suspension engenders confidence in the front end, even on dirty Gauteng roads where traction, especially at intersections, is often at a premium. The handling is neutral, predictable, and stable, all very commendable on a machine aimed primarily at newbies and born-agains – and very usable for more experience riders who have reached the age of (relative) sanity.
Aceleration, at Gauteng altitudes, is uninspiring, and overtaking opportunities have to be planned rather than seized, but the NC is capable of cruising all day at thoroughly naughty speeds, while its efficient car-type engine and long gearing deliver surprising range for its 14.1-litre tank capacity.
The gearbox on the NC I rode was very positive in action but intrusively notchy; in its defence, the bike had less than 250km on its odometer at the start of the launch ride and could be expected to improve, given some more kilometres under its wheels.
Soichiro Honda always demanded that motorcycle bearing his name should be all things to all riders and the 2016 NC750X comes closer than most. It may not be quite as perfect a commuter as its predecessor but it lends itself much better to weekend leisure riding, earning it the Miss Versatility title in this year’s two-wheeled beauty pageant.
Honda NC750X (DCT in brackets)
Engine: 745cc liquid-cooled parallel twin.
Bore x stroke: 77 x 80mm.
Compression ratio: 10.7:1.
Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 40.3kW at 6250rpm.
Torque: 68Nm at 4750rpm.
Induction: PGM-FI digital electronic fuel-injection with one 36mm throttle body.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch (dual-clutch automatic).
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 41mm Showa dual-bending valve conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link with monoshock adjustable for preload.
Front brakes: 320mm petal disc with Nissin dual-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 240mm petal disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 160/60 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 830mm.
Kerb weight: 220kg (230kg).
Fuel tank: 14.1 litres.
Fuel consumption (claimed): 3.5 litres per 100km.
Price: R99 999 (R109 999).
Warranty: Two years unlimited distance.