Since 2012 I have ridden a 1985 Honda Shadow VT500c cruiser style bike. I loved my bike, but always felt that I wanted a different style bike and haven't really tried too many different styles. Scarlet had a standard seating & peg position, not the forward foot controls of most cruisers like the newer Shadows, Vstars, Vulcans & HDs. Scarlet was a shaft drive, so she was quite smooth and had the perfect touring seat, big and comfy. I used to call her my barcolounger on wheels. I could ride her for hours on end and didn't suffer from rider fatigue. She was very easy to manoeuvre and fairly ergonomically friendly. I loved running cones and parkinglot work on her because she fit me and I knew what she could do. But then something changed for me, I'm not really sure why I even started looking at new bikes or even newish bikes. I was feeling the need for an updated version of moto technology, specifically ABS braking system, bigger tank size and actually better fuel economy and lower kilometers on the speedo. With Scarlet around 140kms I would start looking for a place to fill up, she had disc brakes and no fuel gauge, so if I forgot to zero the trip meter all was lost.
A few weeks ago I just started nosing around, but wasn't really in any hurry to get into a big loan situation for a new bike, so I wasn't really serious, or so I thought. Spring means dealer demo days. I am partial to Honda's so thats where I started looking in a seriously unserious way.
THE CONTENDERS: Serious contenders: Honda - CTX700T, CB500X, NC750S.
At first I considered the Honda CTX700T which is a liquid cooled 670cc parallel twin, sohc, 4 cylinder, fuel injected, 6 speed, 12 litre tank, chain drive cruiser made for touring with ABS brakes. It has a 28.3 inch seat height which makes it ideal for those looking for a low slung cruiser with a forward peg position and standard bar configuration. The engine is titled forward to allow for a lower seat height and lower centre of gravity. The weight is about 500lbs wet. The 2015 faired bike retails for about $7999 Cdn, so its not a bank breaker. This bike has been selling like hotcakes on the Island, it is popular with new female riders and older riders looking for an easy ride that's fairly agile, but gets good fuel range (3.3 gallon tank) and economy. The engine and frame are based on Honda's NC700 line that debuted in 2011-12.
I took the non-faired version for a test drive and was kind of 'Meh' after the ride and very undecided and not eager enough to pull the trigger. I seriously considered it, but a few of the things that made me shy away was the extremely forward foot controls. I actually found the reach a little hard on my lower back after 45 minutes of riding and the seat although it looks comfortable, I felt discomfort at about the 35 minute mark and was squirming around trying to relieve pressure points. At times when taking off from a stop I found my left foot felt like it was searching for the foot peg and shifter. I actually didn't like how close the pegs where to the ground. I also wasn't too keen on the naked non-faired version, I felt like I was being buffetted by the wind too much. The digital speedo/tach/fuel gauge was a little hard to read in the sunlight and the tach is miserably small, but that's just being picky and I think I could live with it. It was pretty fast on the throttle and fairly nimble. But again it wasn't singing to my soul, there were no Moto harps or angels singing celestial moto tunes. It's kind of plasticky looking and fairing and tank are huge and chunky looking. I actually found tucking my knees into the tank was a bit difficult. The dealer had a 2014 faired version retailing at $6999, so it was a great deal and thats why I considered it. Honda also offers hard saddle bags, so once its kitted out for touring it actually looks like a mini Goldwing, which would appeal to riders looking to tour and have a lighter weight bike at more affordable price tag.
A few other bikes I considered - Suzuki Gladius 650cc, which still had a tall seat height which would need to be lowered. I couldn't test drive it as they didn't have a demo day and it was coming in around $7999 CDN.
Ducati Scrambler 803cc, which again I wasn't able to test drive, but there were several factors why it was never really in the running, the main one being price. Depending upon the model you choose it ranges from $9299 to $10995 CDN. Also the seat height was too tall. It also brought me into a higher insurance rate class due to the cc's and replacement value. I also sat on the lowered Ducati 696 Monster and I loved it as much as I did in 2011, but again price was a factor coming in around $8000. All of these bikes bumped up the amount to larger than I wanted to get a loan for, factor in the added freight, PDI, sales tax at 12% and then interest on the loan repayment.
So a lot of deliberations and considerations were at play in the process. Then this baby came back into my life, a friend owned her and I used to joke with her on a few occasions we were out riding about her keeping my bike sparkled & polished.
2012 Honda NC700S. The NC stands for 'New Concept' with the urban commuter in mind and touted for great gas mileage of 65mpg (I'm getting about 57-60) Honda created the NC bike line to entice new riders, it shares the same platform as the Honda Integra D Scooter and recent CTX700 and NC750 SA and X versions. The X being a dual sport style and a little longer in frame size and higher seat height. Honda also offers a NC750X DCT (dual clutch tranny) with paddle shifters, the bike can be ridden in automatic mode or standard transmission mode, (model is not available in Canada.) The NC700S is a 670cc parallel twin, sohc, 4 cyclinder, liquid cooled, 6 speed transmission, fuel injected, with linked ABS brakes. (I tested out that feature recently)
The unique thing about this engine is that it's tilted 62 degrees forward to allow for a lower centre of gravity by placing the 14.1 litre fuel tank under the seat instead of traditional tank placement up above. The bike was designed to deliver torque in the low to mid-speed range level. What this means to me as a rider is I have had to get used to 'short shifting', the bike is geared so low that it is a quick shift up to higher gears much sooner than I would have done on my previous bikes or other bikes currently available. In 2013 Honda upgraded the NC engines to 750cc's and made the gear shifting ratio a little longer. The seating position is more of a standard upright position. I considered a new 2014 NC750S which retails for $7999 CDN, but again price, extra dealer fees and loan cost was a factor. The NC750X (dual sport style) retails around $8999 CDN. *The DCT transmission model it not available in Canada, but I hear it adds about $1000 to the package. In following reviews and blog reports from owners who have the DCT, they actually love it and say it improves the quality of their riding skill set allowing them to concentrate more on the road and riding environment than shifting. So who knows maybe Honda is onto something.
So what does all of this mean to me and how does it compare to my lovely VT500C cruiser bike?
The one disadvantage for me is that the Duchess is a little taller, so I do have to compensate for that and am still contemplating a lowering link at some point in the future and possibly a corbin seat. A big driver in the decision process was the linked ABS and fuel injection. The bike feels like it was made for me. I am also looking ahead to my future needs as Scarlet had 31,000 km on the clock so in a very short time her mileage was going to increase exponentially and I already conservatively put between 10,000 to 15,000km per riding season on her, so that was going to be an issue. My new to me NC only had about 4190 km on the odo, so it was barely broken in and essentially new. The 670cc engine keeps me in the same insurance rate class, so I am not paying higher premiums. She was also a private sale with a well motivated seller so was considerably less than what I was looking at getting into monetarily.
Another feature that I absolutely adore is the 'frunk' which is waterproof and has an 11lb storage capacity and will hold a fullface helmet (dependent upon the size or shape of helmet) or good haul from the grocery store. I missed this from my scooter days, truly only a scooterista or scooterist would miss this, but peeps who ask me about this feature think it is pretty cool and wish it was available on more bikes, which seems to be the consensus of what I've been hearing and reading on the NC700 forum. The farkle list is growing, I plan to add a back rack potentially a top case and panniers then will I have complete hauling/touring nirvana. Ram mounts, GPS, and heated grips (which I already have in a box) will be wired in and I want to wire in a charging unit for my iphone. In doing a mental tally for the farkle list so far I am conservatively up around the $2000 mark already.
I have christened her with the name of The Duchess.
So overall I am completely besotted with this bike and am looking forward to lots of adventures, I was very pleasantly surprised that I liked the riding position as much as I do and can say I was ready for the change. Will I miss my lovely Scarlet.
2016 Update - a year of riding the NC.
I lowered the bike with links from Lust Racing out of the UK. I've added Givi V35 monokey bags and Givi mounting rack. Still trying to determine if I actually need or want a rear rack & topcase (probably not). The only other change I am contemplating is a new gel seat, which is difficult because there is not a lot of after market parts for the NC700S in North America, the NC700/750SA are popular in Europe & Asia. If you have the X version there are tons of options. I am happy with the performance and handling of the bike and have finally found some moto zen.