The NC700X slots smack in the middle of Honda’s Adventure line, flanked by the CRF1000L Africa Twin and the CB500X, and is the perfect mid-size bike to cover a lot of bases. With a low redline and broad torque range, the NC700X is an easy, forgiving, and economical ride.For 2016 the Honda NC700X gets some visual and functional updates, from the sportier looking muffler, crisper bodywork and LED taillight, to a larger windscreen and storage compartment, and a utility rail on which you can mount a tank bag. The additions are welcome, of course, but Honda had already done a fine job with the NC700X.
What sets the NC700X apart from other mid-size adventure bikes is the storage compartment in place of the fuel tank, which is positioned under the seat. This is everyday practicality for a bike targeted toward commuters and weekend adventurers. Not only does it give one the convenience of carrying something without a backpack—or the wider profile of a bike with bags—but the new one-liter larger storage compartment can now swallow a full-face helmet.[Visit the Ultimate Motorcycling ADV Review Page]Aside from this unique element, the heart and soul of the NC700X is the torquey power of the 670cc parallel twin. Delivered in an easy and predictable manner that is responsive without any drama, the NC700X is a welcoming ride to novices but is by no means a dull ride for those with plenty of miles under their tires.The NC700X comes in two versions—a conventional six-speed manual transmission, or the automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) version that we tested (aka the NC700XD). It is well worth the extra $600 for the DCT, which includes ABS and linked braking.The brilliance of Honda’s DCT—now in its third generation—is the various options it gives the rider. You can ride the bike in the fully automatic mode, allowing the DCT to handle all the gear changes seamlessly, or you can have nearly full control over the shifting in the manual mode.There are also three sport-mode sub-settings that change where the automatic shifting occurs in the rev range—a great option for different riding conditions or moods.Initially, it takes some getting used to the fact that there is no clutch lever or foot shifter. My left hand felt a bit useless at first, but it was surprising how quickly I stopped snatching for the lever.Default for the bike is the fully automatic transmission mode. The NC700X DCT starts in neutral and pressing the toggle switch on the right handlebar puts the bike initially into the D (drive) mode where the transmission is programmed to shift early for optimum gas mileage.This means you may find yourself in fifth gear while only going 35 mph, but this is also how you’ll take advantage of the claimed 64 mpg. D mode is great for casual riding both on open freeways and around town riding, and the shifting is smooth and seamless.It will take some extra work (and dragging a bit of rear brake) to finesse very slow speed riding in the automatic mode—don’t confuse the DCT (which uses dual clutches working in conjunction with each other) with the CVT (continuously variable transmission) of a scooter. Parking lot maneuvers are therefore initially a bit more challenging.Though the 32.7-inch saddle keeps me a hair from being flat-footed, the NC700X DCT ABS’s 500 pounds (curb weight, and 26 pounds more than the standard version) are carried low thanks to the under seat gas tank and the 62-degree forward leaning cylinders, and thus the bike is very manageable.You can switch between any mode on the fly by rolling off the throttle and toggling the switch on the right handlebar. If you’re looking to tap more torque from the undersquare 670cc parallel twin, there are three sport modes to choose from. S3 is the most aggressive and was my favorite for anything other than open road riding.S3 holds the bike in a lower gear longer before upshifting, and similarly, it downshifts much sooner when it detects a rolling off of the throttle. The NC700X is appreciably more muscular in this mode, and it’s easy to find yourself overshooting the speed limit when accelerating hard onto the freeway. You’ll never hit the rev-limiter, as the DCT smoothly shifts at the optimum rpm to tap the most of the parallel twin’s power.At any point you can use the left thumb and forefinger to paddle shift, over-riding the automatic mode momentarily. For quick overtakes, downshift and power around the laggard car—the DCT will step back in smoothly, taking over once the move is made.Finally, if you choose to dispense with the automatic mode altogether, flick the switch on the back of the right handlebar from A to M and put your left hand back in the game. You now have ‘complete’ control over manual shifting, unless you haven’t downshifted enough, or popped into neutral as you slow to a stop. If the DCT detects that the bike is about to stall, it will smartly override the manual mode.Having an automatic transmission frees you up to spend more time watching the road and enjoying your ride, and the NC700X DCT ABS is a terrifically comfortable ride. The bike’s adventure ergonomics are nicely dialed in.With a secure, seated-in feel, the upright riding position affords a good view from well padded saddle, and the new slightly larger windscreen takes enough of the edge off the wind blast to keep you comfortable all day without hiding you behind a windshield.You can easily ride the 200 miles you’ll get from the 3.7-gallon tank without stopping to stretch your legs as there’s ample room to shift your body, and the ride has that adventure-cush feel.The updated digital color LCD screen is pretty darn cool, once the sun dips down. During the day, the glare from just about any angle makes it difficult to read, but once the color kicks in at twilight, you can enjoy watching the tach sweep change colors as you change gears—though don’t forget to keep your eyes on the road.The NC700X’s long travel suspension adds that extra bit of fun to a sensible bike, giving you a bit more leeway over the kind of roads you can traverse. The 5.4-inches of travel up front and 5.9 inches at the rear do a good job of soaking up road imperfections but works best in a straight line.Though the NC700X is capable of a spirited ride in the canyons, the front end feels less secure the bumpier and twistier the road gets. The limiting factor here is not the Dunlop Trailmax D609 tires, but the suspension.The suspension also keeps it from being a true adventure bike. Yes, you can ride down tame dirt roads, but stay away from anything more challenging. The suspension will be quickly overwhelmed and ground clearance is limited, with the oil sump dangling down unprotected.The brakes on the NC700X DCT ABS are combined—you get some front brake when using the foot brake. It works so smoothly that most riders likely won’t even notice. There is a new brake caliper on the single 320mm front rotor, and with the 240mm rear disc there is enough stopping power for a confidence-inspiring ride.Response at the front lever is tailored to the expected use, nothing grabby and with just enough free play for good feel.If you ride the NC700X like a sportbike, you will feel a little underpowered in the braking department, as well as the power production, for that matter.The NC700X is a great everyday, real world bike—reliable, practical, thrifty—suitable for newer riders, as well as anyone looking for a drama-free experience.The torquey motor provides enough muscle for a run ride, and if you opt for the DCT version, you can ride fully automatic or paddle shift, or a combination of both.The DCT is especially welcoming to anyone who has never used a clutch in any vehicle—something becoming far more common for younger riders.From commuter duties to around town romps and weekend adventures, the 2016 Honda NC700X DCT ABS has you covered. Don’t forget to put on the parking brake! Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style:
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!