Cape Town – Within two years of its introduction Honda had boosted the performance of its NC700 ‘scooterbike’ by boring its 670cc car-based parallel-twin engine from 73mm to 77mm.

Apparently She Who Has the Casting Vote wasn’t the only one to describe it as a plonker - albeit a very hansome one - and, in truth, its lack of top-end punch detracted somewhat from a very competent all-rounder.

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Together with second balance shaft and a revised, noticeably more authoritative, free-flow exhaust system, the 4mm increase in piston diameter gives the NC750 45cc more swept volume and a useful 2.2kW (up to 40.3 at 6250rpm) and 6Nm extra (from 62Nm to 68Nm at the same 4750. Then, when it came to making the best use of the added muscle, Honda put in an inspired bit of ‘boxing clever’.

Most makers would simply have specified a smaller rear sprocket, to raise the overall gearing and help the new model maintain its predecessor’s reputation for outstanding fuel-efficiency. Honda, however, built a whole new gearbox, with six percent longer gearing on the first five gears but only three percent longer on top, to give the bike some much-needed additional overtaking cojones.

The Honda whitecoats also re-wrote the algorithms for the dual-clutch, automatic XD variant to improve downshifts and reduce an embarrassing tendency for too-rapid upshifts at small throttle openings.

And it works; there’s less delay on downshifts (the weak point of all dual-clutch transmissions) while upshifts are almost imperceptible in normal riding, except when the engine is cold. That, however, is in response to complaints about early shifting; the first-generation VFR1200D would shift into top at less than 50km/h on cold mornings, and then tie itself in knots when asked to accelerate.

The improvement is salutary indeed; top speed is up from a true 165km/h at 5500 revs to 177 at 5800rpm with 187 showing on the all-digital display for a speedometer error of 5.65 percent. Despite the light steering and instant response common to all NC-series machines the 750 is stable and settled at terminal velocity.

CREDITABLE FUEL FIGURES

Fuel consumption is up from 4.58 to a still very creditable 4.93 litres per 100km; you’ll get more than 280km out of a 14.1-litre thankful without riding like a granny.

Suspension performance over our ride and handling section – at a thoroughly respectable 122km/h where 120 is the threshold for sports bikes – was choppy but predictable, while the all-up weight of 229kg wet and a remarkably plush saddle kept everything (relatively) civilised through our bumpy test section.

Also standard on the NC750 XD are ABS and semi-linked brakes. If you stomp on the single-piston rear brake hard enough to lock the wheel, rather than simply release the rear brake the ABS control module will divert some of the brake pressure to the equally old-school twin-piston Nissin sliding calliper on the front wheel.

Try it on your XD in a deserted car park one Sunday morning; hit the back brake hard enough and you’ll feel the nose dive as the front brakes come on by themselves a heartbeat later. Given that this is the ideal protocol for braking on very wet roads, it can only enhance the NC750’s standing as an all-weather citybike.

Most important of all, you no longer need a week’s notice and a court order to overtake a truck on the National road. Hang back just a little more than you would with a conventional bike of similar engine capacity, give the NC750 a handful, wait just a moment while it sorts thorough its algorithms to find the best ratio for the circumstances, then pull out and sweep by almost as if you were riding a 750cc naked.

Oh wait, that’s right; you are riding a 750cc naked.

VERDICT

And that’s still the bottom line; when Honda introduced the heaviest, most complex transmission ever offered on a motorcycle, the consensus was that it worked better than expected but there was nothing it could do that the manual didn’t do better.

That’s still true, but the gap has now narrowed to the point that, if most of your riding is in heavy traffic around town, the automatic will save you a lot of sweat and swearing, as well as the possibility of stalling the bike in an emergency stop.

If you want to go for a ride, rather than have a relationship with a mechanical mistress – and have somewhere to stash your gear when you get there – there is something to be said for a motorcycle that does most of your thinking for you.

Price: R99 990.

Bike from: Honda Southern Africa.

FACTS

Honda NC750XD

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 electronic fuel-injection with one 36mm throttle body.

Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Dual automatic wet multiplate clutches.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.

Front Suspension: 41mm conventional cartridge forks, non-adjustable.

Rear Suspension: Pro-link with monoshock adjustable for preload.

Front brakes: 320mm petal disk with Nissin twin-piston floating calliper and two-channel Bosch ABS.

Rear brake: 240mm petal disk with Nissin single-piston floating calliper and two-channel Bosch ABS.

Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 160/60 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1540mm.

Seat height: 830mm.

Dry weight: 229kg.

Fuel tank: 14.1 litres.

Top speed (measured): 177km/h.

Fuel consumption (measured): 4.93 litres per 100km.

Warranty: Two years unlimited distance.

Service Intervals: 12 000km.

IOL

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