Test rides

2017 Honda NC750X DCT – Ride Review

Stalwart machine is good, but not as amazing as I’d hoped

No motorcycle is boring. That’s a description that often gets thrown at the Honda NC750X, so I just want to address it right away. I may not be the biggest fan of the adventure-styled commuting machine, but it is not boring.

READ MORE: Check Out All of TMO’s Bike Reviews

Fact is, I was pretty excited when Big Red offered to let me spend a few weeks with the machine for the purposes of coming to grips with the company’s fabled Dual Clutch Transmission system. Ever since being introduced back in 2012, in NC700X form, the bike has held my interest. Because, as stupid as I am for modern classics and cruisers, there’s something about usefulness that speaks to my heart. And the NC750X, with its voluminous “trunk” where the tank is supposed to be, claimed 76 mpg fuel economy, and optional automatic transmission is all kinds of useful.

In the flesh, it is not the most visually thrilling motorcycle, but few adventure-styled bikes are. In fact, none are; I can think of no ADV machine that makes my heart skip the way a Triumph Bonneville Bobber can. So, the NC750X is no worse than the rest. Note, by the way, that I describe the Honda as “adventure-styled.” It is most certainly not a true adventure machine, despite the fact Wes Siler once went off roading with one for RA. Up close, the bike’s excessive plastic and the affordable nature of its fittings will clue you in to this reality.

You could throw the Touratech catalog at your NC750X, but at what point would it make more sense to spend the money on an Africa Twin?

In the United Kingdom, the starting price of an NC750X is £6,680. That’s evident in the bike’s fit and finish: it looks affordable. Having said that, the bits and pieces are all of reasonably high quality and seem likely to be capable of tolerating year upon year of abuse. Since the bike is targeted at and favored by commuters, that latter aspect is probably what most of the bike’s buyers care about most.

1

Engine

The NC750X’s 745cc parallel-twin engine has been the target of derision amongst sportbike-focused moto-journalists for more than half a decade, so I was surprised to discover that it actually has a very enjoyable, almost visceral feel. Power is delivered assertively and the snarl of the engine is more raw, more mean, than I would have guessed.

“Hang on a second,” I remember thinking to myself. “I actually like this!”

You will probably know that peak claimed oomph is 54 hp (40.3 kW), delivered at 6250 rpm. Redline is not too far beyond that, which is another thing the aforementioned sportbike-skewed mo-jos complain about, because they like revving the nuts off their bikes. With DCT, of course, you’re unlikely to bang against the rev limiter because the system won’t let you.

3

The bike’s numbers aren’t impressive on paper, but in real-world application I had no complaints, regardless of situation. As I mentioned in my DCT story earlier this week, the bike is particularly well-suited to urban applications. It can be fun on curvy roads, though you’ll need to invest a little time working out how to make the most of the bike’s Sport mode. On other bikes I would rely on engine braking when setting up for corners, but the NC750X kept wanting to shift into a higher gear.

READ MORE: Honda’s DCT System is a Very Good Thing

If you plan to spend long stretches on the motorway/interstate, you may want to rethink your plans to purchase an NC750X. There are a few reasons for this, the first of which is the fact the fabled fuel economy goes to hell when travelling for long periods at European motorway speed (ie, around 80 mph). Honda claims you should get in excess of 240 miles from the NC750X’s 14.1-liter (3.7 US gallons) tank, but I found myself needing to refuel on the 180-mile stretch between Cardiff and Gatwick Airport.

And refilling that tank is a pain in the caboose if you have anything strapped to the seat, beneath which the fuel cap is found. There are all kinds of things to love about the NC750X’s fuel tank set-up – it moves weight lower, making the bike more manageable, and creates space for a lockable storage area where the tank would be – but those benefits can be difficult to remember when you’re unpacking your gear at a petrol stop. Especially if extended motorway traveling is forcing you to make a lot of petrol stops.

2

Ride Quality, Comfort and Features

As with fit and finish of the NC750X, its suspension is not bad but it is noticeably affordable. Trundle through the corners of a Welsh lane and you’ll find the bike struggles to stay settled – something made all the more difficult by the inability to rely on engine braking. Again though, these are observations made when deliberately riding like a jerk. For more relaxed getting-from-point-A-to-point-B-style riding, the set-up is vanilla enough for that you can focus on the scenery instead.

The single front brake is also tolerably proficient. ABS comes standard and is pretty rudimentary; I managed a slight lock when forced to cease progress quickly on a wet road. Side gripe: people who put all their driving focus into following their GPS, rather than, say, using even a modicum of brain space to pay attention to their surroundings, make me unhappy.

At gas-guzzling high speeds, the bike’s standard screen doesn’t do much to protect a 6-foot-1 rider from the wind and rain, but good-quality replacement screens are available in the aftermarket. It may be that a better seat can be found, as well, which would be a welcome addition. Whereas having to refuel after 150 miles or so was annoying, I was actually happy to have such a reason to get off the bike and stretch during long hauls.

2018 NC750X

Speaking of accessories, the bike’s tank luggage compartment is pretty awesome, and an especially great place to carry a heavy chain lock, since it puts that weight in a place familiar to a rider. But you’ll want to invest in panniers and a top box to ensure you’re never tempted to strap stuff to the seat.

However, all this accessory talk poses a question: yes, you could throw the Touratech catalog at your NC750X, but at what point would it just make more sense to spend the extra money on a more-powerful, more-comfortable, more-useful, better-equipped Africa Twin?

Verdict

I had been really excited to ride the NC750X and was daydreaming of walking away from the experience thinking: “Yup, time to sell off the Triumph and downsize to this beauty.”

4

But I’m afraid there are just too many little affordability-related quibbles for me to love this machine. Indeed, I think if I were of the mindset that I was happy to put up with budget fit and finish for the sake of a cheerful commuter I’d be looking at the even more reasonably priced Harley-Davidson Street 750, which starts at £5,999 in Her Majesty’s United Kingdom – that’s a savings of £680. Let’s stop and think about that for a moment: Harley is selling a bike of similar quality to a Honda for less than the Honda. Not to mention the Street 750 has more power and torque.

A BETTER BIKE: 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod – Ride Review

Go crazy and spend an additional £65 beyond the NC750X’s price and you could buy a Harley-Davidson Street Rod, which has markedly better brakes, more power, superior suspension, better high-speed fuel economy, better looks, and greater street cred among all those non-riders who work in your office: “Wow, Jerry, you commute to work on a Harley? You are cooler than all of us, including Denise in accounts, who made it to the auditions round in ‘The Voice.’”

Admittedly, none of those bikes have DCT, however. So, you would miss out on the benefits that an automatic transmission can bring in urban situations. For my part, though, I’d probably choose style over substance in this case. The Honda NC750X is a good motorcycle, but not good enough.

The Three Questions

Does the Honda NC750X fit my current lifestyle?
Nominally, yes. I live a car-free life, relying on my motorcycle for all things, and this bike is (for the most part) capable of doing everything I require. However, my regular business trips to London would become far more uncomfortable, as well as slower thanks to additional fuel stops.

Does the Honda NC750X put a smile on my face?
The thought of it does, and I wore a smile of pleasant surprise during my first few hours with the bike – enjoying its DCT system and the small-dog growl of its engine. Long hauls put me in a pretty foul mood, however. Accessories could remedy a lot of my issues, but I think you’d still come up pretty short against an equally accessorized CBR650F (Still one of my all-time favorite affordable bikes, by the way).

Is the Honda NC750X better than my current bike, a 2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer XRX?
No. Not by any measure but price.

IMAGE GALLERY