Monday, May 25, 2015

Deliberations & Decisions - Honda NC700S vs Honda Shadow VT500cdifferent yet the similar

ConchScooter posted on a previous thread suggesting a moto update on my thoughts about the differences between my two bikes.

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. 

The next bike I REALLY liked was the CB500X (471cc) which is a naked adventure tour style bike. This bike was high on my want list, but in the end I ruled it out because of it being 500cc and I already own a 500cc. It would've been a hard sell to the hub, who thought I was trading apples for apples. But the difference in the apple is 32 years of updated technology with ABS brakes. Same digital speedo/tach/fuel gauge configuration as the CTX700. The seat position is a standard upright position with foot pegs straight up & down. Chain driven, DOHC, 4 valves per cyclinder, fuel injected, six speed transmission, 428 pounds wet weight, with a 17.3 litre tank. Seat height on this is 31.9 inches.   There really wasn't much that I didn't like about this beastie.  I found it very fast on the throttle and extremely maneuverable. I liked the seating position and the windshield stopped the buffetting I was experiencing on the CTX.  My wrists did feel a titch achy after riding for 45 minutes. The seat like all motorcycle seats was tolerable, but I think I'd have to do a little adjusting to it & probably go custom or at the very least get a gel seat cushion. The suspension was fairly forgiving.  For a smaller or new rider looking for a light weight adventure tour bike this is definitely an option. It's big sister the NC750X  adventure tour style has a seat height of 33 inches so it makes it extremely difficult for vertically challenged riders to manage, even with a lowering link this would be a stretch for most under 5'5".  The CB500x is retailing with Honda promotion discount for about $6649 CDN. *internet prices and honda deal prices might be out of date.

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? 

I actually love this bike. I love the updated sportier style without having to lean forward onto the tank. The bars still are a little more forward than Scarlet's bars were, but I have learned to compensate for that by using my core and gripping the tank with my knees. Foot peg position is the same as it was on Scarlet, so no big change or adjustment there. The seat however is not as comfortable as Scarlet's and I do miss the suspension and smoothness of the the drive shaft. The suspension on the NC is a single shock, so you do feel the road a little more. I think where the NC leads the race for me is how agile and maneuverable it is. I actually find that she is very flickable and I can throw it around considering she weighs 476 lbs, which is a little less than Scarlet's 483 lbs and that difference is due to the low centre of gravity and the tank being under the seat versus up top. The larger fuel capacity and fabulous gas mileage won me over and that I now have a fuel gauge. 

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.


SonjaM said...

YAY! Congrats to the newest member of the family. Looking forward to your new ride reports.

Richard M said...

Nice comparison between the different models. I thought that the under seat tank and the lockable storage was a great idea. You almost don't even need a top case anymore, I had looked at the NC700 lineup when it first came out but ABS wasn't available in the US without opting for the dual clutch transmission or at least that was what I was told. So it got scratched off of the non-list.

Congrats on the new ride. It sounds like a wonderful fit.

Trobairitz said...

So glad you are enjoying this bike. It sounds like it is perfect for what you are wanting right now.

I've debating getting something other than the Gladius lately. Something with better suspension that has a different seating/handlebar position that doesn't make my hands go numb (they don't on my TW 200). But I just can't bring myself to test ride anything else.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Dar, a lot more here than I expected in "a comparison" but then I really should have known.....nicely done! Obviously a lot of thought, planning and care (plus a bit of luck/timing) went into your decision and it's paying off. The 700 sounds like a custom-fit glove for you.

Now wear that thing out! :)

Robert Wilson said...

The bank is the reason I didn't pull the trigger on getting a new bike myself. I really liked what I saw of the CTX700 that I sat on. I'm a bit taller and heavier than you so I don't know if I would have the issues you wrote about.

I also wanted to stay with the automatic transmission since that is what I'm used to, but that limited my choices as well.

I just wish Florida allowed actual test drives and not jaunts around the parking lot. Pisses me off it does.

Scooterchick said...

Wow! Congrats to you, my friend....:-)
Those are some huge bikes you featured. I think that would be wayyyy too big for me....haha. Have a blast, girl! You are one brave lady....haha

Conchscooter said...

a 45 minute test ride does seem a bit un-Harley Davidson...With so many choices these days we are spoiled and I dare say that's a good thing. I have tried cruisers in scooters and motorcycles and they just don't agree with me. There again I find plastic covered motorcycles not quite to my taste either... so standards it is, and what a selection we have available! Then again I like my Bonneville after 45 years of checking out bikes. It took me a while to find my ideal. You did well to nail the right one, from a friend no less. And by the way 31,000 kilometers is nothing. My Bonneville has 140,000 and is doing fine.

Steve Williams said...

Congratulations on the new motorcycle. Sounds as if you did some serious investigation and soul searching before making the leap.

I look now and again at adding a motorcycle to the garage but deep down I know that I would never ride two machines. I'm too much a creature of habit. So the Vespa will remain until I tire of it.

Look forward to reading of your new adventures!

Dar said...

SonjaM - I am pretty stoked about this bike!

RichardM - Too bad that you couldn't get it, I actually would have liked the DCT tech, but then they didn't offer it here.

Trobairitz - Go for it, numb wrists are no fun, you don't want to end up with carpal tunnel, that would take all the joy out of riding completely.

Coop - Yup I am maybe a little too thorough, but I just wanted to share with you guys what I was looking at and what was in the consideration file. :)

Robert - Do they offer the Honda IntegraD Scooter in the US? If they do it is actually a very nice maxi scoot that shares the same platform with the NC700 line and I like the look of it and its automatic. I can honestly say if it was here it would have been high on my get it list. I was hoping they would have the DCT tranny here, but didn't. Having come from a scooter to manual, sometimes shifting gets to be a bit of a pain, particularly in stop'n'go traffic on daily commuting.

Scooterchick - I think you are a pretty brave chick too! Not everyone needs big cc's bikes or scooters.

Conchscooter - It was an interesting process and it was a surprise to me what my preferences ended up being. Even though it appeared to be a serious search is was more about tire kicking originally and then when I had a chance bump into my friend and asked about the bike, she said it was for sale. Fate it was meant to be.

Steve - I know what you mean about having more than one machine, I couldn't really justify having two and one of them would be sitting there more than the other. As for scoot vs motorcycle, you have to ride what you love and you do some great riding on your scooter and riding through the winter, when mine would be parked.

Dominick said...

It's good to see somebody acknowledge how important it is to find a bike that matches your frame. If it hurts your back or confuses your feet, that just makes it that much more likely that you'll wipe out driving it. Also love those frunks, more bikes should have them. Between that and a backpack, it's amazing what you can haul.

Dominick @ Viva Powersports