Honda NT700V Long-Term Test | Review
The Honda NT700V finally became available in the States recently, and it immediately struck us as a model whose time may have come. Previously on sale only in Europe, the NT700V was designed to meet the needs of everyday motorcyclists rather than the weekend riders that make up most of our riding population, but that doesn’t stop the bike from fulfilling either mission. We’ve long wondered why touring motorcycles have to be so big and heavy, although it’s obvious that a reasonably substantial size is needed for stability on the open road, where strong winds can be tiresome on a long trip. A bigger machine can also mount a good-sized windscreen, carry larger luggage containers, and accommodate two passengers comfortably.Still, we thought, it must be possible to reach a decent compromise, with a machine that will haul the freight on a long trip, yet be light enough to manage commuting and pleasure rides. When we attended the NT700V launch a few weeks ago, it occurred to us that this might be that bike. So we arranged a long-term loan to find out. Honda’s middleweight tourer comes with either the usual braking equipment you’d expect on any bike (two discs up front, one on the back), or with an optional ABS and linked braking system, which bumps the base price from $9,999 to $10,999. We got the standard system, since that’s how we’ve been riding all these years, but we did opt for the dealer-installed heated grips option ($64.95), which comes with a tank pad, and the extra 45-liter cargo capacity of the top box ($392.95). Our bike is in metallic maroon, but metallic silver is also available. In fact, the ABS-equipped models are all in silver at present. When we took delivery, the NT had about 750 miles on it, was adequately broken in, and was just about perfectly set for its yearlong stay. The first thing we did was start a fuel logbook, to check overall fuel consumption levels, and the second thing we did was go ride it. It just happened that a friend called and set up a Sunday breakfast ride up Angeles Crest Highway, so that’s where we went. Now, the NT700V is a bit larger and heavier than the many sportbikes that frequent this road on a Sunday morning, but it proved to have enough power and agility to hang on with my friend Keith’s CBR600RR Honda. However, I needed to ride it hard enough that the footpeg feelers were dragging on the surface occasionally. That’s largely because they are hung fairly low to improve rider comfort. The center stand (standard on bikes like this for their extra convenience) has been designed so well that all its various appurtenances are tucked well away from the road’s surface. Once we’d arrived at the fabled Newcomb’s Ranch, however, I resorted to the very handy hydraulic rear-spring preload adjuster, and added a little stiffness. These things are primarily intended to compensate for passengers—who dramatically increase the load—but they are also very useful for dialing in a little extra cornering clearance for 215-pound riders. It helped considerably on the way down, and I didn’t hear the pegs grinding once. Admittedly, the cops were on the mountain by then, and everyone was behaving. I swapped off the NT for part of the descent, and was amazed at how plush and isolated the NT’s ride was when I swapped back. The CBR is not harsh, and its damping is very effective, but you can read the surface texture like Braille on that thing. All that feedback—along with much of the communication sport riders prize—is pretty much absent on the NT. But it steers accurately nonetheless, and it handles sufficiently well to promote good levels of confidence in a rider. Perversely, the fork on the NT that feels so plush in most circumstances can feel a little harsh on cast concrete surfaces. The ride must have been calibrated in Europe and not revisited over here in Concrete California. The standard brakes actually feel very good, with positive lever feedback and good response, and the rear brake feels a lot stronger than on my ZZR600 shuttle. In every other way, the NT is a welcoming mount. The programmed fuel injection meters fuel just about as seamless as it gets, with easy starting and flawless idle speed control. Though it’s a purely mechanical device, the clutch is a light pull, and the shifter is both light and positive in the way it toggles through the gearbox. There are only five ratios on tap, but the flexible nature of the 680 cc V-twin is such that you’re unlikely to need more. The engine is pretty smooth throughout its range, but the vibes pick up enough at high revs to cause some slight numbness in the hands. Or is that just advancing years and reduced circulation? As far as we can see so far, the bike’s well suited to most riding tasks bar perhaps an ultra-intense sportbike experience. The seat is large and comfortable, the riding position relaxed and unforced. Best of all, the integrated bags are narrow enough that you can put them right out of your mind. Do you live in a State where you can share lanes with cars? Go right ahead, the bags are narrower than the outrider mirrors. You won’t even see the bags in the mirrors, but you will see everything else. Their position is among the best we’ve encountered without looking too much like winglets. A good deal about the NT700V is pleasantly functional and unfussy, and all of its equipment—such as a trip computer that calculates range and fuel consumption rates—is useful without seeming gimmicky. Best of all, it’s a bike you can run around on like it was a scooter. It isn’t like launching the Queen Mary every time you need to run down to the store. Okay, so the molded rear bag/fender bodywork makes the bike look a little like a scooter from the back. But who cares, you’re riding a bike that does all a good bike will do, and does it without a messy chain. As the owner of a chain-driven machine, I’m well disposed toward an alternative, whether it is a belt or a shaft like the one on the NT. And this shaft-drive system is completely transparent in operation. There’s no discernible torque reaction as far as I can see. When a Facebook friend saw that SmartCycle was conducting a long-term test of the NT700V, he sent a rude note saying he saw no appeal whatsoever in the bike, likening it to the PC800 Pacific Coast model Honda marketed some years ago. That bike did not sell well, it has to be admitted, but there are still devoted fans who continue to sing its praises. This time around Honda is hoping for a few more of those guys. We’ll let you know more about the NT700V’s progress as the months and miles go by.