2013 Honda NC700X Review

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What’s Bad:
Off-road, there’s two main concerns with the NC700X: its wheels and sump.

Those wheels are street-sized, 17-inch items made from cast aluminum. Most dirt wheels are 21 inches in diameter and made from much-stronger (but heavier) steel spokes and rims.

The sump hovers much closer to the ground than on other adventure bikes and no one makes a protection plate for it yet. The oil filter is also low and exposed on the front of the motor. A plastic shroud hides it, but offers little actual protection.

A set of Continental TKC80s went a long way to curing the wheel issue. They obviously don’t make that front any taller, but they do deliver commanding grip on pretty much any surface on-road or off. Airing them down from 36/42psi stock pressures to 27psi at both ends gave a reassuringly larger footprint while still offering protection for the wheels against impact. But, even with them fitted, I had to take it easy over obstacles like rocks and lips and the front didn’t deliver much confidence in deep rocks or sand.

My biggest moment came while crossing a gravely wash, as the wheels sank in, the bike skidded sideways, threatening to pitch me over when I hit the climb on the opposite side. Throwing my weight on the outside peg pulled the bike back straight just in time though.

Deep sand entering the dunes also defeated the 17-inch wheels, even with those TKC80s. The front just doesn’t deliver much control over direction in those conditions. At least at my moderate skill level.

Still, I was able to go everywhere Sean did on a DR-Z400S, just a little slower and more carefully. Even backing into and sliding out of corners, just again, with a little more care and a little less speed.

For off-road riding the radiator is a little exposed, wearing no cover and protruding from the sides of the frame. SW-Motech crash bars cure that problem and make the NC feel positively crashable, something we weren’t able to test, this time.

Perhaps the NC’s biggest problem is its lack of excitement though. While just competently doing whatever you ask of it sounds perfect to us, the lack of huge power or sexy graphics or fancy components fails to deliver a sense of “machine lust,” to quote Brammo, a company that worked hard to re-instill a feeling of the analog back into its electric sportsbike.

The Price
This is where the NC700X comes back into its own. Prices are up $500 for 2013, but at just $7,499, still deliver an unbelievable bargain. Compare that to the bikes it was equally capable to on Taste of Dakar: the $12,090 BMW F800GS, $15,800 R1200GS and even the $18,350 R1200GS Adventure. One of those BMW riders would inevitably wander over while walking off a sore knee or whatever from their latest fall, ask about the unscathed Honda, then hobble off looking distinctly sour after hearing the words “seven thousand bucks.”

Fuel economy is a factor here too. 64 mpg is equivalent to Honda’s own range of 250cc single-cylinder road bikes, just here with plenty of performance. Your fuel bills will feel like they disappear. On the 700 mile trip, I spent about $40 on gas.

The only fly in the ointment comes with the (not tested here) DCT/ABS package. By bundling the two together, Honda adds (in 2013) $1,000 to the bottom line. That ABS should come as standard, without requiring an expensive and unnecessary transmission.

What Others Say:
“It’s not the überpowerful or omnipotent bike of adolescent dreams, but with this impending era of two-wheeled functionality looming large, the Honda NC700X answers a whole lot of questions Americans never knew they had about modern motorcycles.” — Autoblog

“Judged on engine performance alone, then, the NC700X might seem a bit vanilla; but thanks in large part to its chassis, the Honda is a really fun bike to ride.” — Cycle World

“This is probably the easiest motorcycle available today to get on and just ride.” — MCN

“…the most friendly beginner mount on the market.” — Motorcycle-USA

“…finally giving a large number of riders a bike that suits their real world needs rather than conforming to the fantasy performance template forged by sports-oriented bike journalists.” — Kevin Ash

The Verdict:
The NC700X isn’t the fastest motorcycle on the market. It’s not the sexiest either. Or even the cheapest or the most broadly-capable. Instead, it’s simply capable of going anywhere any other motorcycle can, at an affordable price, using very little fuel and excelling in practicality.

All-day comfort combines with outstanding control (thanks to that low center of gravity), low running costs and the ability to carry stuff with you to create a motorcycle that simply doesn’t need to be anything more than it already is. The perfect do-it-all bike for commuting, camping, hauling, trips, just having fun or even epic desert adventures. Or, all the above, in one affordable motorcycle.

RideApart Rating: 10/10

Gear:
Helmet: AGV AX-8 Dual Evo Tour ($450)
Hydration Pack: Kriega Hydro-3 ($140)
Jacket: Dainese Teren ($600)
Pants: Dainese Teren ($400)
Gloves: Racer Sicuro ($240)
Boots: Dainese Carroarmato ($370)
Tailpack: Kriega US-10 ($100)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.e.cormier Jason Evariste Cormier

    Big problem I foresee round my parts is that you are getting all the mind-blowing excitement and practicality of a scooter… With the high insurance and registration costs of a big 700cc bike. And in Canada the X is 9000$, which puts it head-to-head with a lot of pretty good, much more exciting bikes (SV650, FZ6/8, Ninja 650).

  • http://twitter.com/AmericanSahara J. Brandon

    Nice job, Wes. This is the first real dirt test ride I’ve seen on the NC700X. I got to spend a week riding it in a Cycle World event a few months ago. If I was shopping for a new bike on a budget of less than $8,000, I’d buy one.

    • Stuki

      What about less than 9 grand? I’m asking since that would include it’s most natural competitors, the VStrom 650 and the Versys; as well as it’s own abs/dct equipped stablemate. At a hard limit of <8gs, there's really nothing else comparable.

      • http://twitter.com/AmericanSahara J. Brandon

        If I had a another $1,000 in the budget I would buy the NC700X with the DCT transmission. That thing is a ball to ride. Last year’s pricing with the $2,000 uptick for the DCT and ABS was difficult to swallow. New pricing structure makes it an easy choice — if you can get some real seat time on the DCT first.

  • George Roberts

    I’m really impressed with the abilities of this scrappy little thing, but i’d take a DL650 or Versys over it any day. For less than a grand more, you get significantly more motorcycle.

    But i do love how your $7500 streetbike was pwning the GSs out there…

    • Mark Desrosiers

      I mostly agree with you, but still, 64 mpgs on a do-it-all 700cc bike…that’s tough to pass up!

  • Speedo007

    Nice review. Great rational bike!

  • dale gray

    i have a nc700x set up as a adventure bike with a skid plate and all the accessory, for of road use, it works very good very nice test

  • Chris Davis

    So very Honda.

    To an experienced rider that tackles some of the more extreme aspects of the sport, I’m sure it seems vanilla, but compare it to driving a car. That’s what a lot of the Integra family riders will be comparing it to and they’re going to have a blast because they will have more confidence than they would if they were on almost any other bike.

    My wife’s bike would be an NC700S w/DCT if Honda would make it available to us.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Why the S over the X?

      • Chris Davis

        Style, but I wouldn’t totally rule out the X. Just never been fans of the woodpecker look.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emsmith29 Eddie Smith

    Something about 4.7″ of el cheapo suspension being up to the task an not bottoming makes me skeptical. I’m sure Honda’s got some nice bumpstops on there but I would expect the rear to pack up and kick on a good line of sand whoops. Is there really any substitute for wheel travel off road?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Damping.

      • Stuki

        And, perhaps, a slower pace?

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          How slow is slow? I rode faster than most of the GS guys and was on-pace with people riding 690 Enduro Rs.

          • Stuki

            If your 690 enduro guys are like the ones I know, that means the bike (and you) are capable of going way faster than I would want to, off road :)

            I have some experience on a 650 VStrom (owned one for a few years), which is another bike you seem to like. What would you say are the pros and cons of that one vs this Honda?

            Off the bat, I’d say hard luggage is superior on the Honda, given it’s front storage, low exhaust and narrow panniers. With soft luggage perhaps a plus on the VStrom, since you don’t have to remove it to refuel, and can hang tank panniers over the tank. ABS without maxicomplexity gear box also gos to the dl. Until this review, I would have assumed the same about off/soft roading, given 19″ vs 17″ front wheel. But I guess that was premature. But what about general comfort, quickness in dense traffic, stability on highway, wind management (both have the option of Madstads now, I see) etc?

            • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

              The V-Strom is a little faster everywhere, but isn’t going to be as novice-friendly. It’s also a little unwieldy in dense urban traffic, where the NC continues to excel.

              And yeah, that Suzuki luggage is terrible.

              • George Roberts

                More on this soon…

          • http://www.facebook.com/peter.mcleod.758 Peter McLeod

            C’mon dude, seriously? No hating but call a spade a spade. The 690r is a race bike and saying the Honda was on pace implying it is either as fast as – or no slower than the KTM is a long, long draw. Most will empathise with your enthusiasm however and understand the capability multiplier the engine and basement CoG provide for a very very average rider.

            • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

              Oh, the 690R is a way faster bike. Just saying that I was keeping up with the guys riding them, not pussyfooting.

              Most of the time, I was riding with Nick on a DR650 and Sean on a DR-Z400. They were faster and could ride a little more…expressively, but I went everywhere they did without falling behind and enjoyed the ride.

              • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

                umm, about that.

              • HoldenL

                The message I’m getting from Wes’s review is this: The NC700X isn’t a substitute for a supermoto. But if you’re going to own one bike, and you’re going to use it mostly for commuting and errands, but every once in a while you would like to take the bike to go camping, you might wonder: Is there anything that’s dependable and affordable (i.e., Japanese) that would meet my needs besides the VStrom and Versys?

                Wes’s answer clearly is yes. I doubt the Honda is as fun to ride on the street as the Versys, but it looks like it’s more capable offroad than the Versys, and it gets that wonderful mpg.

                My wife wishes the NC700X’s saddle were lower. Maybe there are lowering kits available now. In a perfect world, she would like a saddle height of 28 inches or lower.

                • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

                  That’s pretty much it. And it’s actually better on the road than the Versys, it’s a seriously fun bike once you get used to riding the torque instead of chasing peak power.

                  No lower seats for the NC i’m afraid, due to the underseat fuel tank. Have her try on, the seat is very narrow at the front and I think she’ll feel pretty confident on it.

  • Stuki

    Would it be too much, to ask for width measurements across handlebars, mirrors, pannier mounts and panniers on motorcycles? Especially for ones as obviously aimed at commuting in traffic as this one.

    The reason I’m asking is, the GS seems all kinds of nice, until you try to wrangle it, with the BMW OEM panniers, through tight traffic. The handlebars are seemingly about 40″ wide, and the panniers even worse. And that’s the normal one. The Adventure is even worse.

    Jesse bags do narrow it in the back, at the cost of having hard corner metal bags that will hook on anything, and are affixed hard enough to rip apart both themselves and the bike (and whatever you hook them on) before yielding. And it seems all the other big adventure bikes are trying to outwide the German guy. And then there’s the dl650, whose factory fitted pannier mounts (to clear the exhaust) makes it rational to talk not about the bikes width, but rather it’s wingspan.

    The NC has exhaust in a sane place for a sane motorcycle, and looks narrow in pictures. But it would be nice if at least one magazine would measure it, as well as it’s competition. It at least ought to be an important detail on a practical motorcycle.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Bars are 31.5 inches wide, I just went out to the garage and measured for you. I don’t have the panniers on this bike, but I used them on the launch back in August and they’re considerably slimmer than the bars.

      • Stuki

        Man, I think I need to go look at this bike! That’s slimmer across the bars than the BMW F800 st. And infinitely slimmer across the panniers. Compared to other Japanese bikes, the non racy engine and vanilla componentry should make it less of a theft target, as well. Which is one thing I’ve always liked about BMWs. Having a bike you can’t leave anywhere for fear of theft, really kills it for me, no matter how fun it is to ride.

  • yipY

    A 17″ front wheel and home brand forks on a trail with soft sandy holes to swallow it? Get DRZ400 or a KLR.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      the point isn’t that it’s better off road or a better value than those bikes, it’s that this bike is also capable of this should you already be considering it for other reasons.

      • yipY

        Q:”My biggest moment came while crossing a gravely wash, as the wheels sank in, the bike skidded sideways, threatening to pitch me over when I hit the climb on the opposite side. Throwing my weight on the outside peg pulled the bike back straight just in time though.Deep sand entering the dunes also defeated the 17-inch wheels, even with those TKC80s.”. It seems a new definition of “capable” is at play.

        • George Roberts

          Try the above on a CBR or a Harley. That is the definition of capable. Bikes like the NC700, the DL650, the Versys, etc. allow you to do so much more than the standard type of bike that the vast majority of riders in the U.S. tend to buy.

          • yipY

            The heavy “adventure bike” phenomenon is nonsense.If a bike cannot be picked up easily from laying in mud it just a recipe for broken bones or tank-slapping worse.Encouraging people to ride heavy bikes ill designed for the conditions is daft.BMW’s later GS dirt lumps do what the designers intended:for fat Frenchmen and fat Germans to tear down the highway tarmacadam and the occasional cobblestone laneway.Every adventure doco I’ve seen with these ridiculously heavy fashion items has a Charlie or a Ewan falling off for no apparent reason at very low speeds,that I’m sure amuses the natives no end who would ride along at similar speeds with a brace of young pigs in a big basket on a step-thru scooter with no stability issues whatsoever.If I want dirty fun I’ll ride an XR100,If I want to play Dakar on dirt roads I’ll ride my KLR650 and if I want to go get a burger I’ll do it on my 400 Burg-man.Taking this NC700X off road makes as much sense as taking an accordion to a knife fight at Carnegie Hall.

            • MSF rider coach

              Your klr would run out of fuel and you would be pushing it to a gas station.

              • IRS4

                Too heavy for what? I’ve ridden mine in dozens of dual sport events mostly populated by 250-400 cc dirt bikes, including two Barstow To Vegas runs. She’s slower and more work for sure, but being the in-flight refueling supertanker for the little KTMs has its benefits in free dinners. As does having the rack space to haul a good backcountry camping set up.

  • Jim Priest

    When I go camping I have gear piled all over the rear seat, rack. Isn’t that where the gas fillup is? When I commute I usually have my backpack/laptop bungied to the rear seat/rack.

    Having to undo that to fill up seems like a pita.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Unstrapping the bungees from the milk crate was a total PITA. The stock Honda luggage is great though, which I’d had that.

      • Gabriel Torres

        It must also be mentioned the rear rack that is required to mount the OEM luggage extends the rear a good 6-8 inches, if not more. Odds are the milk crate could have mounted to that and allowed access to the fuel tank.

    • http://twitter.com/AmericanSahara J. Brandon

      Remember that the bike has 21 liters of storage up front. That’s bigger than a 5-gallon Jerry can. Imagine what you can stow in that much space.

  • yipY

    Q:”It’s this kind of riding that most adventure riders dream about”.

    Nobody dreams of this:

    Q:”My biggest moment came while crossing a gravely wash, as the wheels sank in, the bike skidded sideways, threatening to pitch me over when I hit the climb on the opposite side. Throwing my weight on the outside peg pulled the bike back straight just in time though.Deep sand entering the dunes also defeated the 17-inch wheels, even with those TKC80s.”.

    • Scott Jameson

      I don’t know, this , “…Throwing my weight on the outside peg pulled the bike back straight just in time though.” reads like some of my dreams,

      : )

  • socalutilityrider

    I have a question, and no I’m not joking. Could someone tell me if the DCT would be good or bad off road or just different?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Good question. You’d lose the ability to lift the front with clutch, but other than that, it might actually work quite well. Easy shifting, idiot-proof walking speed control for climbs and obstacles.

      Anyone else care to chime in?

      • George Roberts

        DCT may not be the best accessory for slow off-road work compared to a manual clutch, but YMMV. As for ABS, none of the Japanese OEMs include an ‘off’ switch, but you can always work around that by pulling a fuse or doing the centerstand trick.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Scott.jones.876 Scott Jones

        I Haven’t ridden a DCT bike but I used to own a CRF450 setup for hare scrambles with a rekluse auto clutch and I hated the setup. I imagine DCT would feel similar to me. For someone who starts out on a DCT bike it probably wouldn’t matter, but for anyone who is used to being able to control the clutch will need to make some serious adjustment to their riding style. For me, I’d just go for the regular version without ABS and DCT.

        I’m really impressed with this bike. I’ve been looking for a good all around bike to have as a second bike and the NC700 just may be the best fit overall. Thanks for a quality review.

      • http://www.facebook.com/michael.howard.9889 Michael Howard

        Auto clutch pretty much sucks at low speeds. You have no control over the engagement point and basically have to ride the rear brake to keep the power up. Most people assume CVT scooters are easy to ride but, at walking speeds, they’re actually harder since you have practically no control over the clutch engagement.

        • yipY

          A Dual clutch setup is not anything like a CVT in use or its trans action.I’ve got a 400 Burgman so I know what a CVT is like in use.The trick with a CVT is to apply big throttle to get the clutch to bite hard and avoid gentle slipping all the time.I think a CVT or DTC would be useless off road.The use of a clutch is vital for dirt riding prowess.

          • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

            We’re going to be seeing DCT-equipped dual sports and similar bikes in the near future.

          • http://www.facebook.com/michael.howard.9889 Michael Howard

            Yeah, my comment was comparing auto vs manual clutches, not DCT vs CVT. Please try to keep up. ;)

            • yipY

              In reply to this guy: socalutilityrider .

          • Crim

            yipY says: “The use of a clutch is vital for dirt riding prowess.”

            Don’t tell that to all of us satisfied Rekluse customers.

    • Stuki

      I also wonder how the abs brakes that come with the dct would fare in conditions as severe as sand dunes.

      • socalutilityrider

        I forgot about the ABS. Hopefully there would be a way to turn it off easily

  • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

    you have something besides the triumph? I would have invited you!!! I’m sorry man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.s.power.9 Michael Skiny Power

    great article.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Thanks dude.

  • Scott Jameson

    Spied first of these on the road today.
    Enjoyed, thank-you.

  • TarBroil

    I ride the heck out of my NCX. I got the bike with the understanding
    that the machine was designed for efficiency and I wasn’t expecting it
    to perform so well. I have to say that it’s just about perfect, just a
    tad slow on the acceleration. It’s nice to see people enjoying this bike -TarBroil

  • jem777

    Looks like fun! Im dying to try it.

    big island helicopter tours

  • Jonathan Curran

    I just bought the 2012 nc700x and just love it. I bought a 22 inch oversize windshield from parabellum that provides great wind protection and some soft bags from cycle gear that work quite well to round out this gas miserly bike. I get about 74 mpg. I recommend this bike to any who like a quick, practical, and well-weighted bike to go about town or the sometimes out of town weekend adventure.

  • Steven Barwick

    I must add the DCT transmission, which is the bane of most riders, is my required for my specific needs. I do not have the ability to shift with my Left Foot and have issues with my thumbs,,,It is my sincere wish the NC700X will fill a long drought of design considerations for the active disabled.

  • Julian

    I’ve just returned to this excellent article, do you think Honda’ll let take the nc750x to this venue? PS with the extra weight I think it’ll have ABS for the US this time.

  • 670cc

    Have had the NC700x for over a year now. Truly an outstanding design that lives up to the hype. The engine is incredible for adventure touring with the easy to manage torque and powerband. I can see why journalists who live in a world of spec sheets don’t like it, but there’s a reason this bike has broken sales records in several different country’s. Give the seat time to break in and don’t rush to replace it. Traded in my 650 V-Strom for it and glad I did. The V-Strom had a strong top end but felt anemic by comparison on the bottom, very top heavy, mediocre gas mileage, and horrible job for valve adjustments and even changing the air filter.