Although it might not look like a radical redesign, the 2021 Honda NC750X features extensive chassis updates, as well as a rethinking of its function. There is still a standard-shift/clutch 6-speed transmission, as well as the fully automatic Dual Clutch Transmission. We’ve always been partial to the DCT edition, so that is what we are testing first. Let’s take a closer look at the changes and what they mean, and then we go riding.
- Honda has repositioned the NC750X from a quasi-ADV sport motorcycle to an urban/sport-touring blend. The NC750X was never a real adventure bike—a 17-inch front wheel just doesn’t cut it. Still, it had longish travel suspension and handguards, so the pretense was there. Although the handguards remain, the suspension travel has been cut from six inches at both ends to 4.7 inches—pure street bike territory. Honda’s website still has the NC on the Adventure page, but it should be moved to the Standard category.
- In addition to the shorter suspension travel, the frame has been updated. Honda has massaged the trellis-style frame to drop 2.6 pounds and compensate for the shorter suspension travel. Rake (27 degrees) and trail (4.3 inches) remain unchanged, with the wheelbase shortened by 0.3 inches. Urban users will be thrilled to find out the seat height has dropped over an inch to 31.6 inches. The look of the 2021 Honda NC750X is low and sleek.
- The motor and transmission have been altered for improved acceleration and top-end power. New valve timing and exhaust system pump up torque above 5000 rpm to the 7000 rpm rev limit. To boost lower-speed acceleration, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gears are all lower. Put those changes together, and the 2021 Honda NC750X feels noticeably sportier in both urban and rural settings. Honda retained the burbling feel and torquey performance that comes with the 270-degree crank firing. Like the frame, the motor shed 2.6 pounds.
- The NC750X’s new electronics make it easier to use and enhance your ability to personalize power delivery. The NC750X has three preset power modes, plus a user-configurable mode. The adjustable parameters on the DCT version that we tested are throttle response, shifting program, traction control, and engine compression braking.
- The Sport, Standard, and Rain modes are self-explanatory, and noticeably different. The four parameters interact with each other to change the character of the motor.
- Sport mode is aggressive, though not abrupt. The throttle response is most aggressive, and the DCT delays upshifts to maximize acceleration. Engine compression braking is ramped up to improve deceleration, while traction control is minimized. If you’re riding at any pace above unrushed, you will want the Sport mode. While not ideal for tooling around, it’s still friendly enough for casual riding on the 2021 Honda NC750X
- Standard mode is a winner for sightseeing or around town. Throttle response is still good, though it noticeably lags compared to Sport. That smooths things out, and the DCT upshifts noticeably sooner, making the ride less frantic. This mode has something of a scooter feel to it. Note that if you are aggressive with the throttle, Standard mode understands that, and it is lively at high rpm. The lessened traction control and decreased engine compression braking are not significant changes from Sport.
- Rain mode is for low-traction conditions only. Throttle response is very tame, and traction control is at its maximum. Less compression-braking makes it less likely for the rear wheel to lock up on downshifts. The transmission shifts up as soon as possible to reduce torque sent to the rear wheel.
- Things get interesting when setting the User mode, if you’re not satisfied with either Sport or Standard. Throttle response, shifting mode, and, to a lesser extent, traction control are inexorably interconnected on the NC750X. Aggressive riders will naturally flock to the most aggressive shifting and throttle response, and turn off traction control completely—the level of engine compression braking is a bit more of a personal preference. Still, even for the hot-rodding NC750Xer, it’s worth delving into the subtleties of mixing and matching the four parameters—you might surprise yourself with what combination you like best. I should mention that I’d like two configurable User modes—one for urban, one for rural, or whatever works for you. One is excellent, though not quite enough.
- Honda’s UI people did a great job of making it easy to manipulate the settings. There’s a dedicated Mode button on the left handlebar to pick the criteria you want to change. Once highlighted, a select rocker switch is used to make the changes. As easy as it is to use, Honda restricts setting up the User mode to when the motorcycle is stopped—good idea.
- Regardless of how you set up the motor’s electronics, the handling of the 2021 Honda NC750X is outstanding. With the chassis lowered about an inch, the NC750X hugs the ground in corners and at higher speeds. Cornering clearance is not a problem, even as you can ride the NC750X more insistently in the canyons than ever before. The chassis is predictable, stable, and forgiving, inviting you to push a little bit harder than you think an NC is capable of handling. Initiating a corner is purely intuitive, with the NC750X refusing to deliver an unwanted surprise.
- Although there are no damping adjustments on the suspension, it’s not much of a problem. Honda’s engineers set the NC750X up brilliantly, and the suspension handles anything you reasonably throw at it. On the rougher back roads we test on, the suspension refused to lose its composure—impressive. The Showa Dual Bending Valve fork is plush early and firms up as it goes, while the linkage for the spring-preload adjustable shock is quite versatile. Despite not being a highly sophisticated suspension package, it is highly capable of performing the job it’s charged with doing.
- For maximum performance and control in the twisties, switch to the manual shift mode using the M button on the right handlebar. Using your right index finger and thumb, you can control gearshifts on the NC750X. There’s no manual clutch, so it’s basically a paddle-shifter setup—not a bad thing. Although the DCT in Sport does a fine job of delaying upshifts during acceleration, you will find that you’ll prefer your downshift points to the computer’s choice. While downshifting is vastly improved from the original DCTs, it’s still not entirely as predictable and DIY. Most of the time, Sport mode or your User mode should be fine. Still, now and then, when you want the absolute maximum in performance (and effort), go M.
- Braking is initially soft, yet strong enough when you increase your grip. The NC750X gets by with a single 320mm disc in the front, plus a 240mm rear. Both engage with a friendly cushion that doesn’t disrupt the chassis—important for newer and relaxed riders. The progressive action does deliver good stopping power with a firm grasp—you simply have to ask insistently, when necessary. ABS is standard, and unobtrusive. Don’t forget to set the parking brake when you get off the motorcycle—it’s always in neutral with the key off, and it doesn’t take much of a slope to make the NC roll on its own.
- Honda has moved to the almost pure-street Metzeler Tourance Next tires. These are outstanding sport-touring tires that cling to the 90/10 street/dirt ratio, rather than strictly street. For us, they’re street tires that might have a slight advantage on a high-quality dirt road. The Tourance Next tires hook up nicely during acceleration and braking, and you can explore the NC750X’s cornering capability with absolute confidence—the rubber will deliver whatever you require. We haven’t done a mileage test on these tires, but our contacts tell us you should easily get 10k out of a pair on an NC750X.
- Sport-touring on the 2021 Honda NC750X is pure pleasure. You only put as much effort as you want into the proceedings. It’s happy to have you kicking back and enjoying the scenery, and it takes care of you when you’re looking to make some time. The motor has plenty of beans, and is happy to cruise along all day at 80 mph. The neutral, upright seating position is perfect.
- The fixed windshield and new fairing reduce fatigue without intruding on the ride. However, I would like an adjustable windshield for differing conditions—electronic would be nice, since I’m asking. There is an accessory three-inch taller windscreen ($161), though it’s still fixed in its position and requires tools to swap out.
- We tested the 2021 Honda NC750X DCT’s accessory side cases. The locking accessory panniers integrate into the NC750X effortlessly, and it takes less than a minute to remove or install the pair. Unfortunately, you have to ante up for cases ($1000), rear carrier ($400), and pannier stays ($220). At 32 liters in the right pannier and 33 liters in the left, there’s plenty of usable cargo space augmenting the cavernous 23-liter (up a liter this year) storage compartment where you think the gas tank is. If you want to add in the optional $106 35-liter top case, you’ve got an impressive 123 liters of storage for touring or commuting—the Honda Gold Wing Tour full dresser carries just 121 liters. If that’s not enough, Honda has a stylish 50-liter top case that runs a dear $426, escalating the cost for 138 liters of storage to $2046.
- Even if you never leave the city limits, you will love the NC750X DCT. While we cringe at comparing it to a scooter, there is that aspect to the feel of the DCT-equipped NC. You twist and go, and the ride is low and comfortable. Yes, there’s a storage compartment rather than an open space between your legs—some people will prefer that. It’s a low-effort and confidence-inspiring urban ride, with the panache of a motorcycle—no one has to know you’re not shifting. The 2021 Honda NC750X DCT is arguably the best motorcycle on the market for commuting—it can handle everything from lane-splitting at a crawl in cramped quarters to freeways with lead-footed drivers battling for lane supremacy.
- The 2021 Honda NC750X DCT is a huge step forward for the platform, at once incredibly simple and appealingly complex. Honda was wise to jettison the adventure concept, even though the handguards remain. By focusing solely on street performance, the new NC750X is a better ride in absolutely every way. Add in the new electronics package, and you have an impressively versatile motorcycle capable of running to the store as easily as it can take you coast-to-coast.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Signet-X
- Jacket + pants: Spidi Netrunner
- Gloves: Spidi X-GT
- Boots: Alpinestars Radon Drystar Touring
2021 Honda NC750X DCT Specs
- Type: Parallel-twin canted forward 55 degrees
- Displacement: 745cc
- Bore and stroke: 77 x 80mm
- Maximum power: 58 horsepower @ 6750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 51 ft-lbs @ 4750 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Valvetrain: SOHC; 4 vpc
- Fueling: Ride-by-wire w/ 36mm throttle body
- Transmission: Fully automatic 6-speed DCT w/ multiple modes, plus a manual shift mode
- Clutch: Fully automatic dual clutches
- Final drive: 520 chain
- Frame: Diamond w/ steel tube
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable Showa Dual Bending Valve 41mm fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted, spring-preload adjustable shock; 4.7 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front wheel: 17 x 3.5
- Rear wheel: 17 x 4.5
- Tires: Metzeler Tourance Next
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 160/60 x 17
- Front brake: 320mm wave disc w/ 2-piston Nissin caliper
- Rear brake: 240mm wave disc w/ single-piston caliper
- ABS: 2-channel standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 60.1 inches
- Rake: 27 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 31.6 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.8 gallons
- Curb weight: 493 pounds (sans bags)
- Color: Grand Prix Red
2021 Honda NC750X DCT Price: $8999 MSRP