HONDA — the NC700 bikes in depth… BIKERGLORY

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Honda NC-I

the power and the story…

HONDA – the bikes in depth…

November and 2012, London. As usual days, it’s raining. The wet became default mode for the Honda NC700 tests, out at the fag end of what seemed to have a particularly turbulent year, and not on the weather front.

But in a way the rain was for the machines in the frame, since riding was clearly on the agenda the NC concept was first mooted. is also why we chose to base the NC700S and X in London over an test period (although we sure we escaped from the in order to check out the bikes on open roads – which out to be a significant move).

Easier to than see: spot the engage switch…

Anyone who an interest in bike design be aware of the potential significance of the NC and with the concept. To start that car derived motor: a Honda Jazz lump – parallel twin raked at 62 degrees. The Jazz derivation we’re talking peak at low revs (4k ono) and a low red line at 6k revs, assisted by the SOHC design – which makes for an bike configuration in recent, rev times.

Performance resembles of a turbo diesel four accentuated by a torque spike as low as 2k  Car engine also car tech: variable valve and lean burn management to low fuel consumption – mixed riding should see 60 mpg realised undue fuss: our urban testing never returned than 50 mpg.

Throw in storage facilities – the ‘tank’ away to reveal an area enough to comfortably contain a size lid and gloves, the fuel itself being located the pillion seat – and you see why utilitarian is the key signifier. The design is modular in the that frame and motor the ‘adventure’ 700X, roadster and the Integra scoot. And it is in fact the which provides the key to the NC’s first ethos, because the 700 come with Honda’s DCT auto transmission as an option ABS as standard on UK machines), making the the cheapest new motorcycle to feature auto (with manual options, see below) at £6300 OTR – the prospect of finding new 2012 in 2013 for even less.

How is possible, given that not just talking about a new – but a new design concept? Modularity and components (like the Jazz lump) keep development and costs down, but there is an of loss leader about the Honda need to break DCT on the market, since they see the technology as the way forward, tempting owners up the ladder en route to end products like the Crosstourer. The NC may be down Honda’s retail list, but is right up there it comes to significance.

Saving on helps keep unit down: neither bike is light (215 kerb for the S c/w and the suspension damping – always a away – feels a bit unrefined, if The budget approach inevitably that some components below the highest historical standards.

Let’s get the niggles out of the way: bikes had lock and barrel – probably not helped by the unrelenting – and on one occasion only the assistance of a Fireblade owning chef the bike from being in Portobello Road.  Responding to my take away order, he out from the kitchen with an egg cup of Virgin – WD40 not being on the Job eventually done – but it would been all too easy to bend the key out of

The storage lock was no better. that point on I added lube to the toolkit, and had subsequent to use it. There were a couple of irritants. Fuelling is jumpy off a throttle, although this be down to DCT engaging (see

A decent, easily decoded rev really matters on this courtesy of that low redline, but the above the NC’s segmented bar are simply too small. Petrol out far too easily on refill (see below) – the price to be paid for the 14 litre tank squashed in the pillion seat, making way for the storage space up front. make it almost impossible to these things, but if your NC has more than 130 miles the previous fill up, you should be for a garage.

However, no individual of kit or component design is so poor it compromises the whole project. The thing obviously missing is drive, which fits the profile hand in glove. the presence of chain and sprockets altering the gearing is straightforward, a which may have a particular to the NC (see transmission, below).

has been made of the low centre of a phrase more naive bandy about as though it of itself some kind of panacea: anyone new to biking who their information from the might be surprised to learn it is far from axiomatic that a C of G is inherently preferable to a higher truth is that wherever you weight – forward, back, low – there is always a  down (a mantra all too familiar to vehicle Which pans out like

FORWARD C of G vulnerability:  over rear wheel lateral

REAR C of G vulnerability: under front wheel lateral

HIGH C of G vulnerability: front end under power, rear on braking – less planted at

LOW C of G vulnerability: rear wheel under power, front slip on braking – less at low speed

And wherever the C of G ends up, it be less of a boon when you’re around the best part of 220 on average suspension atop a wheelbase, with minimal braking, no manual clutch and a of digits where a responsive cable should be. Issues come to the fore on both NCs far at low speed, exactly as you would when the weight is carried low

Conversely, once things get and the road opens up with bends coming to the fore, start making much sense. In particular, the lower S alive: its dynamics kind of early Ducati Monsters, also far prefer faster, bends to the constraints of a city The lower bar height on the S compliments its C of G, the feeling more plugged the road as speed climbs.

The small screen does a job of keeping blast at a bay at higher the firmer front end does not for excessive harshness on ill maintained surfaces. But the low set up, which works for the S at at compromises urban agility and any sense of commanding ergonomics.

Big between bars and C of G creates

Production road bikes are compromised – an inevitable consequence of set up to cope with a huge of ride conditions. The X is more at in town, with its greater travel and loftier, wider affording decent leverage, as you charm the bike through and a multi lane, moving course (like the one which outside the Hackney Empire much 24/7 these

However, high bars can be a two way depending on how forces are disposed them. In or out of town, there much sense of connection the X contact patch, like you’re really sure just how grip is available. You want to the bike around, but you aren’t the feedback to help you.

The low bulk wont help NC in the gymkhana ring, but the X copes than the S in the smoke  — and the ride height helps the do the same.

Honda class the X as an bike, which is both tyres, weight problem, low C of G, set up) and a marketing contradiction, since adventure require a higher C of G to start The current trend for manufacturers and to flog anything high (excluding cruisers) as adventure needs to be challenged rather merely accepted.

The NC’s Transalp stable mate is the face of adventure bike although far from an ideal off conveyance, it would … the away from the blacktop. again, the bank account take a concomitantly bigger

A scenario best avoided: the X from tarmac…

For the record, on the rear tyre did slip on a occasions under power on bikes, but it is impossible to say whether was down to the low C of G or surface conditions. the latter, slightly aided by the


Looking at early reviews of the NC range it is that quite a few correspondents didn’t get it. As long as you are to max out speed wise at around NC performance is perfectly acceptable – of course the mpg return will accordingly as you push on. The fact the vast majority of UK bike are normally ridden at speeds below three figures be factored in before dismissing the NC out of

Reviewers also found it to get their heads around a where max torque kicks in doors, ironically something riders had been asking for – was a quality sacrificed on many designs in the search for revs. The with the NC is that it is too much of a in the opposite direction: simply that single cam would plumped the shunt a little squarely in the mid range, thus early shove without quite so much nearer the

Ironically fuel consumption also have been improved, since a torque as low as 2k revs does not help fuel. When summer – summer? – eventually staggers on stage, we reckon that the low will be frustrating even NC owners. We’re not asking for a re-appraisal of performance here, simply suggesting shifting the and torque curves over to the by 1500 rpm or so, no more.

This make the bike feel a lot flexible without emasculating the half of the rev range.

Engine was not a force to be reckoned with, surprisingly so on an under-square twin. riders prefer it that but when you don’t have a either you are sacrificing finer of control, and this really on a relatively heavy motorcycle.

The of bulk with minimal braking and no fine control the clutch can catch out even riders, and slow speed – where fine clutch is foregrounded – is undoubtedly compromised on the DCT  Rather than undermine by loading them with friendly control systems, the might be a safer place if scooter riders learned how to a conventional motorcycle properly in the place, while motorcycle DCT was developed. But that wouldn’t up a new market….

Nevertheless, the NC’s of immediate grunt, ABS and Sports DCT shifting  makes it a proper (if surprising) traffic lights GP weapon in the hands, and some of those reviewers would be amazed to see how an courier  can get the 700 on the charge in the supplying the cornering input the needs around town. The would make a perfect foil to counter the facade of commuting that Honda always used to promote utility bikes. KTM might consider such a strategy: would run a mile…

Once clear of the smoke, the NC will you – just as long as you ride for utilisation rather than and keep an eye on the revs and speedo. On roads the geometry and dynamics much more sense – an where, of the two bikes, the S sells more willingly. The same characteristics that impede start working for the rider, tight twisty B roads ask questions of the chassis and set up.

Larger A are  revealed the NC’s natural and if your commute involves that kind of riding, the bike makes sense as a but keenly priced workhorse frugal consumption.

If you buy into the of automatic transmission for motorcycles switchable manual over possibly because you do a lot of urban then you need to be looking at an NC. You find a better system for the on any other motorcycle – indeed, it be unreasonable to suggest that you wont find a better on any bike, irrespective of cost. But lies the nub of the DCT debate as things right now.

Honda NC-I

You wont find better there are precious few proper out there with any type of transmission, since  — apart – the application is still a new one as far as bikes go. And that means you to ask yourself to what extent you are a test pilot. The fact the principles of this technology been around for some is irrelevant, because cars and do not behave like fully 700cc motorcycles.

Here’s how it The bike reverts to neutral switched off, so when neutral is the default position. A way rocker switch under the thumb allows the selection of N, or Sport modes. Select of the latter and away you go. In Drive, the changes up far earlier than be expecting unless you really up.

 In Sport, revs are held for all round so the up change is delayed. In mode, riders can actuate own up and down changes via switches on the handle bar, or simply let the deal with it. In other Drive and Sport can work in or semi auto modes. a right hand bar switch the rider to fully control all in Manual mode.

This the bike will only change if the rider fails to a low enough gear coming to a That’s it. In practice, selecting mode and using manual as and when seemed best providing the most satisfying preferable to full manual the option of letting auto do the work when things up.

It was tempting in town to simply the bike in Drive and let it get on with selection, but in practice this was The bike inevitably shuttled changes while cornering, and the propensity to get through at least shifts where a conventional 600 or 750 suggest one, became – especially since it seemed purpose: utilising available at low revs on a heavier bike is a business in its own right.

I found longing to hold a gear at especially in Drive (in practice can only be achieved by switching to Manual control, continuous use of kind of defeats the point of an facility in the first place). reviewers have complained of and with some justification; in mode the DCT will only on to a gear when shown the

In other words, shift is not simply dictated by revs – position sensor data a part in dictating change To some extent the ECU can ‘learn’ how tend to ride and factor information into the equation. bite point can also be to optimum periodically by flicking the menu  and ticking the box: it all a million miles cables, grease and a toolkit.) should be cruising mode, but try back it and the NC feels under looking for another up-change you’ve even realised – in reality the problem is more to do ECU management than gearing per se.  be interested in riding an NC with gearing all round, so if anyone out whips out the old gear commander  at change time with an eye on a up from standard, do let us know. shaft drive has its compensations…

By far the biggest problem of DCT as applied to the in whatever guise, is that no actuated clutch means no control: no feathering, no feeding, no You don’t miss these on a scooter, because few scooters the capability of the NC – I can’t remember out accelerating either 700 during the weeks I had with the bikes: it in manual or sport and up to about 60 mph you are at as fast as a sports 600.

the low redline gets in the way soon afterwards – especially in Manual until the pilot gets the of things – but that doesn’t the fact that you can ride the NC for But a large lump of metal and on the move needs all the control it can get, decent ABS notwithstanding. the evolution of clutches in general c/w and shifters, the prospective punter to be think hard about the of auto on a fully fledged – preferably before purchase…

So about the non DCT version? Take the away, and does the bike enough going for it as a multi utility machine to see off Honda’s own new for example?  £4650 has been in the press for the latter, which spells competition for the NC – and in particular the version. The CB makes for an interesting because power output (47 is exactly the same as the NC’s, to for the new EEC wide test regulations.

and weight are regulated, but whereas the CB is on the 175 kilo limit for minimum weight, the NC carries excess  Thus the CB is cheaper and lighter, making identical max power….

more than vestigial and extra lamps to make an

It always feels tough critical of machines which offer a new take on how biking be, especially when a lot of boxes are en route. Bikerglory has traditionally innovation: our support for road TC and ABS raised a few hackles, but if we were new it would take something special for us to ignore options increase pleasure while the risk of pain. When it to the NC700, however, it’s to say that either version was satisfying, while reservations the lack of fine control in context – an inevitable consequence of DCT –

Right at the end of our NC time, the skies for a whole day. Being 1st, the roads were too, and I decided to stick the S in and leave it there for the duration – a bit riding a more conventional with a quickshifter, tiptronic

I soon found optimum points, and by using a touch of brake in lieu of engine – not enough for the C-ABS to noticeably the front – for the first the bike started making sort of holistic sense. It was the fun I had on an NC, but in order to achieve it I was in effect a more conventional machine….

It is possible to enjoy the NC as previously but unlike many Hondas, wise the 700 is something of a one trick and even that is not without a what you gain downstairs last to the top floor. If the machine in the market place, it’s to envisage some tweaking band wise for an updated

Despite the 270 degree crank for V2 feel, we don’t get the soundtrack – so many modern bikes the NC is too courtesy of the many restrictive through which today’s volume production machines pass before final  This is not merely a subjective anyone who has regularly ridden any two powered or otherwise, in a major city will testify as to the of not being heard.

One young man a decent fist of chucking underneath the 700X at night in Road: he simply failed to us, a scenario that should be on any healthy 700cc twin. It was a one. Despite the legislation, it have to be that way. The remain the masters when it to getting new bikes into the which actually sound the way a bike should, rather being a strangled facsimile.

An owner may seek to remedy in the usual manner, although may struggle to find a wide of after market options. We unhesitatingly make some and reckon that the motor play a pretty decent

That – and possibly upping the – apart, there is not much you can do the other issues identified Key dynamic design decisions Honda have come up a bike that feels at home on decent size, roads, whereas the motor has set up to be a contender in less flowing They haven’t quite got it producing a machine with of an identity crisis about it, might explain the divided it inevitably provokes.

It is not yet the broad all purpose scooter replacer Honda had hoped for. Which is not to say the wont nail it in newer – but for that to happen, the NC 700 range sell well in the first months of shelf life. memories of the DN-01 hybrid which the NCs share DNA) and the NC’s first objective is to outperform its progenitor in the showroom.

it will undoubtedly achieve – the DN was over priced – and if in doing so popular enough, we will see evolution.  The dynamics spec) and control issues may customers from a motorcycle but there will be people for this NC fits the bill. The key is whether or not there are enough of to ensure the bike has a future.

Honda NC-I
Honda NC-I
Honda NC-I
Honda NC-I
Honda NC-I


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