Big miles review: Honda NC750X
‘Just shy of fourteen quid to ride the best part of 200 miles.’ That’s not even the best bit, as Kev tells us why the Honda NC750X is a consummate mile-muncher; boring, banal and brilliant in every way.
A lot of people have said a lot of good things about the mid-weight Honda, but when it is criticised, that criticism is directed at one thing and one thing only; the engine. It is claimed to be the lump from a Honda Jazz, dissected and shoe-horned into a bike frame. That’s why it gives such excellent mpg and also why it runs out of puff at about 5,000 rpm.
And that limited rev range is, according to some, unforgivable. It makes the bike boring, soulless, a tedious mule for newcomers to the fraternity who want a safe option to learn the ropes before they graduate to a GS.
I disagree, and I do so with thinly veiled contempt. You would have to be an absolute cretin to find fault in this engine, given the purpose of the motorcycle. Only an inveterate bike snob could complain about the way the NC750X goes about its duties. The NC is punchy, but not violent; capable but not ostentatious, fast enough for towns or motorways, but without the risk of jail time if you get carried away.
I am aghast that a motor of such competence could be dismissed as ‘soulless’ because it doesn’t redline at 15,000 and operate in a 2,000 rpm powerband between 9-11 – but then again we live in an age when many motorcyclists need 190bhp at the back wheel, coupled with a terabyte of processing power to keep their machines upright. The NC was not designed with the pub-bragging crowd in mind and it is all the better for it.
You could kill yourself on the NC, but it would have to be a fairly deliberate act or one informed by considerable stupidity. It is true that the engine redlines at six and a half, but that is not a problem; certainly not as much of a problem as I found the engine in my old R6 to be, which would practically stall if you didn’t keep it ‘ticking over’ above 7. Which is more rewarding for most people’s daily ride? A bike that offers usable power at legal speeds or one that only operates screaming its nuts off in the mid-teens? I have ridden both, and I can assure you, day in day out, it’s the former.
There is nothing drab or dull about the NC750’s engine. It is mature but not moribund; smooth, capable and polite, but not to the point of being apologetic. This engine has nothing to apologise for and it doesn’t need me or anyone else to make excuses on its behalf.
Ah, deep breaths Turner…zen…Let’s summarise: this is a good motorcycle engine. There. Time to move on, to discuss the practicalities of owning a Honda NC750X.
This is a comfy bike that suits my (near) 6 ft frame, and it is reassuringly planted at motorway speeds. Cruising at anything up to 95mph is fine, over 100mph wouldn’t be a problem were it not that the fuel consumption tends to drop quite rapidly at that speed (although that is relative, as it ‘drops’ down to the 50 mpg level, as opposed to the 70-80 mpg you get at around 75 – 85 mph).
To put that into some sort of real-world context, my motorway ride from Shrewsbury to Enfield north London, then on to Crystal Palace (South London), though crawling stop/start London rush-hour – a distance of 180 miles, give or take – never costs me more than £14. The main rivals – the smaller BMWs, Kawasaki’s Versys, the V-Strom and Yam’s Tracer – don’t get close.
The other day I missed my exit off the M1 and ended up taking a 50-mile detour; I got 207 miles out of a tank that was far from dry, and it cost me just over £15 to brim it.
Alongside the mpg figures, the storage space where the fuel tank would normally be is a strong selling point of the NC and it is a genuinely inspired concept, certainly no gimmick. It holds my locks, chain lube and waterproofs and frees up precious space in my top box. It does not, however, store my lid, because my particular Arai doesn’t fit. My other lids, an old Shoei and another Arai, do squeeze in, so it’s clearly the size and shape of the Arai (Quantum ST Pro) that is the issue here. Anyhow, the storage space is a genuinely useful and positive feature and Honda should be applauded for having the guts to try something innovative in an age when ‘innovation’ usually involves a different coloured dash or even more traction control settings.
With the tank taken up for storage, the fuel filler is found under the pillion seat, which works well. I read somewhere that it would be a pain if you had your tent strapped across the back of the bike, which is true, but no more so than having to remove a tank bag every time you fuel up a bike with a conventionally placed filler.
Suspension and brakes
The Honda’s ride quality is absolutely fine, but no more. There is no WP or Öhlins sticker on the side of the shock, which will be enough to upset some people by default. For a road bike the suspension is ample and on some of the faster b-roads around my neck of the woods the Honda is excellent fun. The grunty engine gives good traction and the front-end feels planted and secure through 60-70 mph sweepers. It’s not a light bike and the weight will push the front out and induce understeer, but then it’s not an RC45 is it?
It is also a reasonably thin bike, a big consideration when a good chunk of my riding is done threading my way through traffic.
The brakes are duel-linked ABS, which I could do without but this is the standard package. They stop the bike fine, but another disk up front wouldn’t have gone amiss; as noted, it is a heavy machine. That said, I have never felt that a little more pressure wouldn’t haul the bike up before a big impact and while I’ve not yet had cause to try the ABS, I’m sure it does the fine job.
Finally, on the ‘costs’ side, services come at very generous 8,000-mile intervals.
‘Optional’ extras (see links at end of article)
I have spent enough money on the Kawasaki over the years on ineffective non-OEM parts to not want to repeat my mistakes on the Honda. That said, there are a few extras that aren’t really optional, the main one being a centre stand, which should have come as standard. I wouldn’t even think about not fitting one: lubing the chain, checking tyre pressures, checking the oil (dipstick not window), cleaning…all of it is so much easier on a centre stand.
The touring screen is an important add-on, although it came fitted to mine by the previous owner and I’ve not ridden without it so can’t comment on how much difference it makes. I read that it creates buffeting and is a bit noisy, but I’ve not found either a problem. That said, when I stumbled across a screen extender, for a mere £15 on eBay, I thought I’d give it a try anyway. I’m glad that I did. The wind noise and buffeting that I hadn’t really noticed drops to almost non-existent with the extender fitted, so much so that I can ride along at 70mpg with my visor open and not look like I’m free-falling from 20,000 ft.
Fitting it is pretty simple – despite a complete absence of instructions – and it seems well made. It’s adjustable for height and angle and mine is set at almost vertical and maximum height.
The big chunk of aluminium that clamps (no drilling required) onto the existing screen is a little ungainly, but after a while it becomes invisible when riding (who notices their nose, right?) My only concern is that at speeds above 80mph, at the point where the extender fits to my existing screen, the existing screen starts to flex inwards quite severely. It looks like it could stress the screen to the point of damage over time. I may be wrong and despite running at 100+mph now and again there is no sign of damage as yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Otherwise, a tremendous bit of kit that is highly recommended.
I fitted an Evotech Performance radiator cover, mainly because I liked the look of it and a fender extender to keep some muck off the downpipe (don’t worry about drilling your mudguard, it’s a two-minute job and the little rivets look quite tidy). I also banged on an R&G hugger to take the pain off the shock and as somewhere to place performance-enhancing stickers.
Finally, I removed my left-hand wing mirror to make filtering easier (the mirrors sit at almost the exact same height as those on vans). I replaced it with a little bar-end mirror to give me some token visibility on the near side. It works well at lower speeds but tends to fold in a little on the motorway, changing the rear field of rear; it’s not without fault but remains a useful addition.
I also splashed out on a big 46 litre Givi top box. Givi seems determined to make the process of buying their products as complicated as possible. I pestered the team at Sportsbikeshop.co.uk – whose service is consistently impeccable – for advice and they explained in simple terms what was needed to fit it. It is very simple: a plate, some arms and the box. Why not bundle them Givi? Why????? The box is big, but not too big. It’s not intrusive and doesn’t hamper filtering. It locks up nicely, is very waterproof, but does feel a bit plasticky, but that can’t be helped because it’s made of plastic.
What’s not to like about the NC750X – 2015 vintage?
Not much. This is a great all-round motorcycle. Practical, extremely economical, comfy, fast enough for all UK roads; it feels solid and well made. I genuinely enjoy riding it. The horn is in a silly position and sixth gear is long and feels lumpy if you engage it below 70 mph. “Use it as an overdrive,” the guy from Sutton Motorcycles in Bromsgrove said and it was sage advice.
Finally, one small point of irritation; there is no on/off switch for the lights. I appreciate this is likely due to some regulation or other, but it concerns me that in a scenario where I need to escape from baddies at night in the woods, I would be forced to either smash my headlight and taillight (expensive), remove the bulbs (time-consuming….baddies are after me) or cover both head and taillight somehow. In such circumstances, I don’t want to be stumbling about the bracken searching for some opaque material large enough to cover a sizable illuminating area, so perhaps this is something Honda could address in future iterations of its motorcycles.
Bolt-on extras and how easy they are to fit
Fork protectors (Bike It, via Sportsbikeshop) – Dead easy, a couple of cable ties.
Top box (Givi, via Sportsbikeshop) - Easy, takes an hour or so.
Hugger (R&G) - Fiddly but not difficult.
Radiator cover (Evotech Performance) - Simple, just don’t over-tighten the bolts on the arms.
Bar-end mirrors (Alchemy Parts & Accessories) – Harder to get the original bar-end out then to get this one in.
Fender extender (Pyramid Plastics) – Dead easy, don’t be afraid to drill your mudguard, the rivets cover up the holes and look very tidy.
Screen extender – No instructions but pretty simple to fit by looking at the images on eBay; took me about 10 minutes.
Read more from Kevin on his personal blog, The Hapless Biker.