Running around Europe for the last decade or so was a touring motorcycle with a woeful name–the Honda Deauville–but an appealing skill set for the solo sport-touring enthusiast.
Powered by a venerable Honda V-twin that has roots that trace back to ‘80s cult-favorites Honda Hawk GT and Transalp and forward to the high-technology DN-01, the 2010 Honda NT700V is nearly magical motorcycle, save one flaw–but we’ll get to that later.
For those who think the Gold Wing is too stodgy and the ST1300 is too unwieldy, the NT700V takes touring back to basics. Lacking extensive technology, the NT exists as a motorcycle with a simple goal–get you there comfortably and competently.
It is a bike that’s as at home commuting to work, utilizing its narrow-profile integrated saddlebags to facilitate lane-splitting, as it is on challenging back roads that reward agility and good suspension.
Feel free to take it on wide-open interstates, as the 700 has plenty of power to hang with 18-wheelers and SUVs.
The NT700V’s torque spread is as wide as its operating range, making the five-speed transmission adequate, though we’d love to see a sixth-speed overdrive. There are neither hits nor dips as it powers up from idle to an 8500 rpm redline.
It’s an electric feel, though the 680cc, SOHC, 4vpc, V-twin has enough power pulses to remind you that internal combustion is happening. With full bodywork and a large, triangular muffler, propulsion noise is minimal.
Seating is just south of upright on the NT, thanks to a slightly extended reach to the wide bars. It’s a perfect semi-attack position that reminds you of the sporting slant of the 700.
The NT is not the kind of bike you anticipate throwing around like a CBR, but neither is it handicapped by too-limited cornering clearance or odd handling quirks.
If anything, the NT700V can be criticized for being as dull as the name it carries overseas. By dull, I mean that there are no surprises. Everything that the chassis and motor dishes out is 100 percent predictable and expected.
Nothing comes in from left field. There’s no push or oversteer in corners. The tires never threaten to break loose. Wobbles and wiggles do not exist. The NT is extremely stable in a straight line, but not at the expense of cornering competence.
The Honda’s suspension can’t be described as plush, nor is it firmly sporty. The units are clearly not top-of-the-line, but they acquit themselves nicely in less than five inches of travel at each end.
There’s no excessive diving when pulling in the brake lever firmly, actuating both the twin 296cc front discs and 276mm rear. Interestingly, all three calipers are six-piston designs.
One reason for the lack of dive is the Combined Braking System that links all three discs together, cleverly actuating the different combinations of pistons when you actuate the pedal or lever.
I came to appreciate the ease of using only the foot pedal in all cases except when I was making time in the canyons. There’s also an ABS option, but this bike did not have it.
At 562 pounds with the 5.2-gallon tank full (claimed weight), the NT is light for a touring bike, and much of its weight is carried low.
Considering its intended use, it’s quite agile. If you are carrying around a passenger, a large knob makes changing the preload almost as easy as pushing a button.
To make it across the country on a bike, comfort is mandatory. The NT’s seat is wide and supportive without forcing you into one position. Vibration from the V-twin is there, but not overly fatiguing. Wind doesn’t upset the bike much.
The windshield is manually adjustable to five positions, though most of the time most people will probably prefer the lowest setting. The controls are light and have good feel. The mirrors give you a good accounting of what is happening behind you.
Styling is sufficiently non-descript, giving it an under the radar feel that will likely match the quiet confidence the typical buyer will have in his choice of motorcycle.
Although the NT will be most appreciated by an experienced rider, it’s also perfect for a newer rider (who isn’t interested in customs) looking to dip his toe into the touring market.
As a bonus, there are some plastic tip-over protectors that can save the bike from expensive damage if the bike falls down at low speed–an unnamed junior staff member tested this feature during a photoshoot and the protection system did its job nicely.
So, I’ve established that the Honda NT700V is a near-perfect touring machine, with a chassis and suspension that appeal to both straightliners and canyon sightseers.
Given that, you’d think I’d hop on the bike tomorrow and ride from the Pacific to the Atlantic without a second thought. And, I would, except for that fly in the ointment that I alluded to in the opening paragraph.
The NT700V’s bags seem to hate me. This is particularly annoying because there are a number of good things to be said about the bags. On the good side, the bags are beautifully integrated into the bike, keeping it nicely slim. They have a decent capacity, and a pass-through tube so you can carry something long and narrow–like a loaf of French bread. Great.
The problem is in the latch system. It’s highly complex and quite persnickety. On three different occasions, I had latch failures–and the failure was different every time. One failure scuttled a holiday trip, as the bag keyhole hung tightly onto the key, as it won’t release it unless the bag is latched shut, which it wouldn’t do due to a broken spring.
A second failure occurred out in the middle of nowhere. In that case, the spring slipped off the latch, so it wouldn’t click shut. I had to ride back to civilization with the bag hanging open.
Finally, and this was the last straw, it simply popped open on the freeway, and a $5000 camera was dangling by a strap. The latch lever wasn’t functioning properly in this case–it feigned being latched, but it was not.
Looking at the design of the Honda NT700V bags, it’s hopelessly complicated, especially compared with something like an Aprilia Mana GT 850, where all the hardware is external.
The bags are beautiful to behold, but there is no way to be sure the puny latches and springs are in place and doing their job. A reliability issue like this is very un-Hondalike, and makes it difficult to feel confident loading anything in the bags (which could also use a liner). It’s a problem that we would very much like to see addressed.
Bags aside, the Honda NT700V is a perfect solo touring motorcycle. It has great comfort, adequate power, predictable handling and a very presentable appearance.
It’s certainly not the most exciting Honda touring bike, but it is one that many riders would do well to not overlook–but just keep an eye on those latches.
2010 Honda NT700V Specs
Engine type…680cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin
Bore And Stroke…81mm x 66mm
Induction…PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit; 40mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors
Ignition…Digital transistorized with electronic advance
Front suspension…41mm telescopic fork; 4.5 inches travel
Rear suspension…Single shock with spring-preload adjustability; 4.8 inches travel
Front brake…Dual full-floating 296mm discs with CBS three-piston calipers
Rear brake…Single 276mm disc with CBS three-piston caliper
Front tire…120/70 ZR17 radial
Rear tire…150/70 ZR17 radial
Rake… 28 degrees, 50 minutes
Seat height…31.7 inches
Curb weight…562 pounds (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel, ready to ride.)
Fuel capacity…5.2 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve
Estimated fuel consumption…50 mpg
Colors…Metallic Red, Metallic Silver
2010 Honda NT700V price: $9999 MSRP