A Road Warrior for the New Global Economy
By Jon Row
Manufacturers often have highly ambitious goals for new models, especially “New Concept” designs. Honda, a leader in new concepts, knows well the risks and rewards of bringing unique products to market. Think DN01 vs. CBR250R. Taking risks with new motorcycle designs is ever more challenging in today’s embattled world economy. As one of several manufacturers able to effectively share motorcycle and automobile technology on “world platforms”, Honda’s in a position to influence the industry globally. Honda management apparently is convinced that certain big bike categories for developed countries are too expensive. Not too expensive for what they are but for what the markets can bear. Markets historically hooked on steady streams of uber priced performance and bling. More opportunities exist now for OEMs to create value with their techno expertise. Value products though still need to appease the riding public’s perpetual lust for new, more and better.
The 2013 NC (for New Concept) 700X is one of three Honda Motor “world” models derived from an all new global engine and chassis platform. This mid size platform was selected to address the cost, performance and functionality needs of mature markets like North America and Europe. The NC's are part of a broader marketing plan internally coded “VFM” or Value For Money.
For the U.S. the NC700X is an Adventure style machine that combines Swiss army knife versatility with a torque-focused engine and excellent fuel economy at eyebrow raising price points. At $6,999, the base NC700X is a six speed standard shift, which includes Honda’s mechanically combined brake system but not ABS. The $8,999 NC700XD is ABS equipped and packaged together with Honda’s second generation DCT Dual Clutch Transmission. DCT offers manual shifting via finger buttons or two modes of automatic: “D” for normal riding or extra fuel economy and a spirited “S” Sport mode.
Honda’s goal with both units in the mid-size Adventure segment is to attract newer riders but also offer existing owners the affordable opportunity for an additional bike. Typically the Adventure category has been benchmarked by enthusiast-only $12,000 - $19,000 European brands where adding two, three or even four grand more on accessories is commonplace. Honda’s Adventure offering is aimed at wider audiences and intends to be more user friendly and affordable. At their price points they definitely are.
The market for expensive, high-tech, carbon fibred, alloy adorned exotica still exists, but such products aren’t ringing the registers much in most stores. America’s discretionary spending isn’t what it used to be but Honda and their U.S. dealers are seeing positive responses to the first waves of the VFM plan. The $4,099 CBR250R, $1,999 Metro & CRF110 and $4,499 CRF250L are reportedly doing well. Honda’s cost efficient Thailand production capability facilitated savings on several of these models. For the new Japan-produced NC700X however, anticipation of an ongoing 80 yen to a dollar exchange rate likely played a role in Honda using more auto related design and manufacturing techniques to meet their goals. As a bit of contrast, BMW, whose single cylinder G650GS series is arguably targeting the same customers has a loftier base price of $7,850 despite producing their engines in China.
A little scoop on dirt
Honda promo material describes the NC700s as “urban assault commuter, country road explorer, and two-up getaway machine” however they refreshingly avoid advocating harder core off road use for their new bike. Bikeland thinks that’s a good thing - not that we have any doubt this bike can take on gravel roads with appropriate tires. We like Adventure bikes because they’re versatile, functional street bikes with normal riding positions and comfortable day-long ergos. Road warrior owners feel cool wearing all kinds of heavy duty protective gear on them—always a good thing.
Less likable though is some industry pretension that 400-600 pound Adventure machines can provide pure off road bike performance…if one has the skill, training and, of course, enough accessories. Riding dirt roads and riding off-road can be very different things. A Bikeland tip: Even if you have Ewan McGregor’s parts budget, a personal trainer named Ernst and a Congressman’s medical coverage, don’t tempt the laws of physics pushing Adventure bikes off road.
Looking at the Newtonian section of the NC700’s spec sheet before riding one, you might be predisposed to think they’re heavy. Most bikes with curb readings of 474 and 505 feel that way but these don’t. At rest, the NCs feel light and once underway there’s barely a clue. It would normally take Jenny Craig or Houdini to make weight disappear like this. As with a Gold Wing, or Dan Gurney’s Alligator bike, it’s always impressive how low placed mass can transform handling and flick ability. Weight placement is also a key to affordability. The NC’s mass-low layout allowed the development team to forego expensive aluminum on the frame, swing arm, suspension linkage, and other assorted items. Steel, though heavier, is a lot cheaper and works well if you can’t detect the difference.
The NC700X frame is an interesting piece; an extremely low, compressed diamond configuration with clean gusseting. Except for rear spring preload, the suspension is non adjustable, atypical for most Adventure bikes. Unremarkable aside from the use of Pro-Link, suspension travel is plentiful with well over five inches front and rear. The ride is good and the bike handles very well. Steering is very neutral with great line holding ability and no nervousness. It’s an easy bike to ride and a set up that will give new riders quick confidence.
An engine of change
Although using technology and parameters from the Honda Fit auto engine the 700X motor is a clean sheet motorcycle design. An ideal layout for efficient casting, machining and assembly, the liquid cooled 670cc parallel twin is inclined 62 degrees. Compared to other twin layouts, the closeness of the parallel cylinders allows additional cost and weight savings by sharing a single fuel injector, exhaust pipe and camshaft. The crankshaft features a 270-degree spacing, which delivers distinctive power pulses. The resulting exhaust note is mild but probably unlike anything you’ve heard before; somewhat tractor like, as is the torque. A gear driven counter balancer smooths out bad vibes but purposefully allows a non-offensive throb.
The cylinder exhaust ports conjoin to share a common head pipe and 3 way catalytic converter. The cat’s exhaust port-close location increases heat efficiency and allows it to be smaller. The engine abounds with other high efficiency elements: a cam driven water pump, low friction, resin coated pistons and aluminum roller rocker arms, the first use on a motorcycle, taken straight away from Honda’s auto teams. That 62 degree laid down cylinder angle gives the split induction system a straighter shot and helps lower the gravity center while allowing a 21-liter storage compartment where the fuel tank normally sits. 3.7 gallons of fuel carried behind the engine but below the seat also contributes to the low CG and light feel. With the impressive 64 estimated MPG you’re good for well over 200 miles between fill ups. The automotive nature of the engine and its easy-to-access maintenance items, tells us NC700 buyers can expect a low overall cost of ownership.
A 6,250 RPM redline is about half the Honda norm for middleweight fours but the focus here is on usable low and mid range power. Although tuned for torque the overall horsepower is adequate for anything less than two up touring at altitude.
Flywheel effect is strong which is nice for new riders however the revs still build fast when you gas it. Redline comes surprisingly quick and the rev limiter stops your irrational exuberance cutting out sharply as the LCD tachometer bar urgently flashes you to up shift. The torque curve is so flat it can catch you by surprise on the standard shift unit until you get used to short shifting. You’ll adjust to the style more quickly if you’re coming off a V twin vs. say a sport bike. Of course, the DCT version especially in S mode nails shifts perfectly each time and you never even think about it.
Bikeland was prepared not to like the Dual Clutch transmission but found it surprisingly enjoyable. DCT is great for new riders and fun for veterans, especially when using the manual override to bang downshifts for passing or corner strafing in either auto mode. If we commuted much in city traffic DCT would be a no-brainer choice. The system has a self learning function to maximize performance to the usage conditions and will not let you do anything dumb. Honda is not shy about using the term “automatic” to describe the way this revised lighter weight DCT system operates. Coupled with the broad torque engine, shifts are smooth and seamless
The six speed transmission ratios are well spaced and 70 MPH works out to a leisurely 3,500 RPM in top gear with no buzziness and only a slight blur of the mirrors. The braking system(s) feature a single, large 320mm front disc and a 240mm rear disc. Both are progressive and strong.
Comfort wise, the NC cockpit is roomy and the bars are wide. The seat height spec looks tall statically but the bike drops down on its long suspension and the narrow seat allows the vertically challenged a fair chance to get both feet on the ground. The seat initially felt OK but the density and slight pitch forward means the folks at Saddlemen, Sargent and Corbin will have some opportunities with it. Rider foot pegs are located about two inches behind the swing arm pivot which is a little compact for some testers over 6 feet. On the plus side, the shift lever location incorporates an adjustable Johnson rod, which thus allows precise placement for all boot sizes. We didn’t try but the passenger seat and foot peg height looks like they will accommodate friends bigger than Mr. Pedrosa.
Instrumentation is all-digital and fine except the turn signal reminders can be hard to detect in mid-day sun. Clutch pull is light but strangely, the lever distance from the bar is a stretch for regular size hands and non adjustable. Easy to fix but puzzling, given the market target and the irony that Honda probably has more lever & perch part numbers to pick from than other OEMs combined.
Tricking it out
Wind protection from the stock mini fly screen is surprisingly good and we preferred it to the taller Genuine Honda Accessory screen. Other Honda accessories though are well worth considering, especially the high quality quick-detach trunk and saddlebags. The new value pricing strategy apparently extends to VFM model accessories too. Loading up a standard version NC700X with every accessory available including aluminum trim pieces, centerstand, light bar, heated grips etc rings up an SRP of only $9,598.
So what’s not to like? Not much really. Honda may get some flak for not offering a standard transmission version with ABS but having another model choice could have raised the cost of all three. Sure, we’d like adjustable suspension especially if we frequently carried passengers. An air temp gauge could confirm how well the NC's fairing deflectors treat us. An included centerstand would make our occasional chain adjustments and tire changes easier. We know such things cost more as accessories but if including them drove the base SRP’s up past our monthly payment ability we’d feel waaay worse. Yeah we’re spoiled, but its only because we’re still adjusting to this new World Economy thing. With more bikes like the NC700X and XD though we think it’s going to be OK.
NC700X/NC700XD with DCT and Combined ABS
- All-new liquid-cooled eight-valve 670cc parallel-twin engine pumps out plenty of torque in the low-end and midrange for easily accessible power.
- The impressively broad torque curve gives the NC700X an extraordinarily linear and smooth power delivery.
- Purpose-built engine architecture with a relatively long engine stroke (80mm combined with a 73mm bore diameter) and a high-inertia crankshaft add to the NC700X’s extremely tractable power characteristics.
- The 62-degree forward lean given to the cylinder assembly facilitates near-vertical mounting of the single 36mm throttle body for superior intake port positioning and shaping. In addition, special shaping to the combustion chambers further enhances engine combustion efficiency for clean burning and optimal power production.
- Sophisticated and lightweight aluminum roller rocker arms in the valve train (first-time use in a motorcycle) and a special low-friction resin coating on the pistons reduce frictional losses and boost fuel efficiency.
- Engine balancer shaft quells vibration for smooth, comfortable operation.
- Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) continuously monitors numerous variables to ensure the correct fuel mixture for existing riding and atmospheric conditions, thereby delivering optimal performance and remarkably crisp throttle response over a wide range of operating conditions.
- Auto enrichment system is integrated into the PGM-FI system to optimize the air/fuel mixture on cold starts and eliminates the need for a choke.
- NC700X features manual six-speed transmission.
- NC700XD DCT/ABS features a new-generation automatic six-speed Honda Dual Clutch Transmission that uses two hydraulically controlled clutches to deliver quick and smooth gear changes in a choice of three modes: Manual (MT), which allows the rider to shift gears using buttons, and two automatic (AT) modes—S for sport riding and D for everyday use.
- This new-generation DCT has a higher level of sophistication: a “learning function” has been added that allows the ECU (engine control unit) to detect a variety of riding environments from city streets to mountain passes during each selected running mode, and the DCT then automatically performs the most appropriate shift pattern.
- DCT model also features Honda Combined ABS to provide full antilock functionality for powerful and secure braking action.
- A rigid and compact diamond-shape steel frame, low center of gravity plus long-travel suspension help make the NC700X delightfully responsive and agile.
- Brawny 41mm front fork provides a full 5.4 inches of supple travel.
- Pro-Link® rear suspension system delivers an impressive 5.9 inches of wheel travel.
- Open, roomy ergonomics position the rider in a well-balanced seating position for all-day comfort.
- Braking system features a large 320mm front disc and a single 240mm rear disc.
- Fuel tank located under the seat contributes to mass centralization and a low center of gravity, making the NC700X feel remarkably light.
- Large 21-liter secure internal storage area (positioned where the fuel tank typically rests in other models) accepts a helmet or other gear for added versatility.
- Fuel capacity of 3.7 gallons gives the NC700X a cruising range of more than 200 miles.
- Modern adventure-bike styling gives the NC700X the look of an urban assault commuter as well as a country road explorer.
- Windscreen and bodywork route wind around the rider, adding to comfort and reducing fatigue.
- A large array of available accessories allows owners to add just the right combination of capabilities to suit individual preferences and expand their adventure.
- Transferable one-year, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.
Honda Genuine Accessories†
- 45-Liter Rear Trunk, Rear Trunk Liner, 29-Liter Saddlebags, Saddlebag Liner Set, Saddlebag Panel Kit, Windscreen (High), Rear Carrier, Front Side Cowl Panel, Foot Deflector Kit, Leg Deflector Kit, Front Accent Pipe, Heated Grips, 12V DC Socket Kit, Centerstand (Final accessories are TBD and are subject to change without notice)
† WARRANTY: One-year warranty begins on the day accessories are purchased by the customer.
Model: NC700X / NC700XD with Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission and Combined ABS
Engine Type: 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin
Bore and Stroke: 73mm x 80mm
Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Valve Train: SOHC; four valves per cylinder
Induction: PGM-FI with 36mm throttle body
Ignition: Digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: Six-speed (NC700X) / Automatic six-speed with two modes and a manual mode (NC700XD)
Final Drive: Chain
Front: 41mm fork; 5.4 inches travel
Rear: Pro-Link®; 5.9 inches travel
Front: Single 320mm disc with two-piston caliper (NC700X) / Single 320mm disc with three-piston caliper; Combined ABS (NC700XD)
Rear: Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper (NC700X) / Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper; Combined ABS (NC700XD)
Front: 120/70ZR17 radial
Rear: 160/60ZR17 radial
Wheelbase: 60.6 inches
Rake (Caster angle): 27.0°
Trail: 110.0mm (4.3 inches)
Seat Height: 32.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons
Estimated Fuel Economy**: 64 MPG (NC700X) / 61 MPG (NC700XD)
Color: Light Silver Metallic
Curb Weight*: 474 pounds (NC700X) / 505 pounds (NC700XD)
*Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel—ready to ride.
**Honda’s fuel-economy estimates are based on EPA exhaust emission measurement test procedures and are intended for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you ride; how you maintain your vehicle; weather; road conditions; tire pressure; installation of accessories; cargo, rider and passenger weight; and other factors.
Meets current CARB and EPA standards.
Honda Genuine Accessories
Tall Windscreen: The stylish clear PVC touring windscreen increases wind and weather protection. It measures 5.5 inches higher and 3.1 inches wider than the standard windscreen: $169.95
Front Side Cowl Panel: These brushed-aluminum-look cowling panels feature the Honda Wing logo: $89.95
Rear Trunk: With a capacity of 45 liters, this rear trunk is roomy enough to swallow two full-face helmets and more. It features a locking quick-detach mounting system for easy removal once you reach your destination: $299.95. You will need 2 items to mount the Rear Trunk: the Rear Carrier ($149.95) and the Saddlebag Mount Brackets ($149.95).
Saddlebag Set: The NC700X was designed with saddlebags in mind, which is why these aerodynamic 29-liter bags meld so well into the NC700X’s unique look. The saddlebags feature a locking mechanism that utilizes the ignition key so there’s no need to carry an additional key. The saddlebag set is shown with an optional Saddlebag Panel Kit (sold separately): $599.95.
Saddlebag Panel Kit: This kit features the brushed-aluminum-look deco panels that match the rear trunk and side cowl panel kits: $89.95.
Saddlebags require: Rear Carrier/Saddlebag Mount Brackets ($149.95); Saddlebag Support Brackets (not shown): ($199.95).
Lower Cowl Deflectors: These black side-mounted shields deflect wind and cold air away from the rider’s feet: $89.95.
Fairing Air Deflectors: These black side-mounted shields deflect wind and cold away from the rider’s legs: $89.95.
Heated Grips: Warm hands are happy hands, and these heated grips give you three-step variable temperature control. Additionally, these grips feature smart heat allocation, which focuses on the area of the hands most sensitive to cold. An integrated battery-protection circuit helps prevent excessive battery-power drainage: $229.95. Heated Grips Attachment Kit ($24.99), Relay Kit ($9.95) and Sub Harness ($24.95) are also required.
Light bar: The light bar features a tubular steel pipe that enhances the unit’s rugged appearance: $149.95.
12V Accessory Socket: The 12-volt DC electrical socket mounts discreetly on the NC700X and provides power to additional electrical equipment: $79.95; Relay Kit ($9.95) and Sub Harness ($24.95) are also required.
Centerstand: This sturdy centerstand provides secure parking options on variable ground surfaces and simplifies maintenance to the bike’s rear tire: $149.95.
NOTE: Final accessories are to be determined and are subject to change without notice. Prices shown are MSRP—dealer prices may vary.
One-year warranty begins on the day accessories are purchased by the customer.