Honda NC750X

Honda NC750X : The gunshots made me cautious. It wasn’t an occasional report in the distance but close and often enough to constitute a barrage. I had apparently stumbled into an impromptu shooting range on southern Vancouver Island. Pickup trucks and SUVs were tucked up among the stumps and slash with enthusiastic shooters blasting away at makeshift targets. To their credit most had moved a few hundred metres off the logging road but one fellow in a Mercedes SUV was parked almost on it shredding a target while standing beside his vehicle. 

I waited until he had spent his clip before riding past, thinking so this is where all the Cabellas purchases are tested. I had been up this particular logging main before and although I had come across a few individuals enjoying the backwoods and on one occasion a still burning campfire occupying the centre of the road this was the first time I was surrounded by quite so much gunfire. Shotgun shells strewn liberally along the side of the road offered proof that many a beer can, bottle, stump or paper target regularly meet their demise here. Why spent shotgun shells don’t constitute littering I can’t understand, but perhaps the nearby clearcut and slash piles are the reason.

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 I was on this road looking for some scenery and to get an idea how much “X” is in Honda’s NC750X. If a model is promoted as being “adventure” capable, it should be able to handle a modicum of mud, gravel and rock. Honda gave the NC750X a beaky nose that is de rigueur in the ADV segment, more aggressive tires, small windshield and accessories including tubular engine guards. It should be able to manage a logging road with ruts, puddles and the occasional gunshot. But before we continue with the story of buckshot, let’s revisit the bike.

Honda’s NC750X is a 745cc parallel twin based on Honda’s canted forward and low slung architecture also found in the CTX700N. That cruiser-esque standard may seem like an unlikely compatriot to a bike with an ADV edge but there are a few advantages to the layout. With the low, forward engine, low slung frame and displaced gas tank, the centre of gravity of the NC750X is very low making for a balanced and easily maneuverable machine. The disadvantage is that tall riders will feel a little cramped on the bike. The riding position, while comfortable, is set within the bike. There is very little wiggle room. The tank is sculpted to allow the rider to stand on the pegs while riding, which is essential in the ADV world, but the reach down to the wide bars is too far to be comfortable if you are taller than six feet or have short arms. Sitting is fine but standing up you will be leaning forward too far.

It would be easy to dismiss the mill as underpowered, but it’s a result of the transmission rather than the engine. The gearing is very tall and easily bogs down the engine if the transmission is shifted often and early. The gear ratios are wide with second through fourth sufficing for almost all riding situations. On our favourite 275-kilometre loop consisting of some 185 km of tight, twisted, paved but old logging roads even at a decent clip above 90 kmh it was not necessary to shift above fourth. The torque available is best served with the revs kept higher which is made far more prevalent and exaggerated on this machine due to gearing. 

On steeper slow sections it was not always easy to balance a gear selection that softened throttle response over rough ground while maintaining enough revs to maintain speed. 

Honda touts the fuel efficiency of the NC750X and other bikes in its parallel twin lineup and it is spectacular but much of it is the result of the very tall gearing. The top gear in this six-speed transmission is essentially an overdrive and virtually unusable unless you are on a highway going over 110 kmh and even fifth seems like a tall selection for most situations—unless you’re really trying to stretch the range of the 14-litre tank which is already easily capable of 300 km between fuel-ups. 

The engine has the requisite power but the other attributes Honda wanted for the engine—fuel efficiency and low emissions—require that the power be found not where you would naturally expect it on other bikes.

The brake combo is a 320mm single front disk and a 240mm rear with ABS as standard, which most agree is beneficial. This brings us back to the “X” factor and that logging road. 

It was a climb from the highway up into the hills. Some of it steep with a loose surface. Fine going up but coming down was another matter that required slow speed and engine braking because descending fast and hitting the brakes would, well, not stop the bike. Loose surfaces and ABS: not a match. This has been a dilemma since ABS was introduced on motorcycles and in particular ADV bikes. Having non-switchable ABS is a nonstarter on an ADV bike. 

Are 90 per cent of NC750X buyers going to spend 95 per cent of their time on the pavement? Absolutely. But what about the other five or 10 per cent? An ADV bike needs to have switchable ABS. It’s a part of the X factor. But then again is the NC750X ADV or ADV-styled?

The idea of styling being in play is extenuated by the cavernous hole that replaces the traditional spot for the gas tank. It looks like gas tank, has a hatch but is a giant 21-litre hole that will easily accommodate a full-face helmet. If you want to fill the bike with gas you have to pop the seat to reach the gas cap. It is non-traditional but that is all it is. The large compartment is “found” space. A conventional in appearance motorcycle that has a “trunk” that isn’t a saddlebag, topcase or backpack. It is similar to one of those traveler’s belts with a secret compartment for your money but is a secret compartment for your helmet, gloves, lunch, laptop or rain gear. Initially I dismissed the idea as gimmicky but as time passed I came to appreciate the convenience. No more backpack. No more wet stuff.  Great.

Ultimately the NC750X proved to be a convenient and effective machine. It takes a while to warm up to its characteristics and could be initially perceived as leaning toward bland rather than adventure as the rider is required to understand the bike before it can be appreciated. 

Yes it is non-traditional and a bit quirky in a thought-out and conventional way, (if that is even possible). It certainly isn’t fun for the sake of being fun. 

I rode the 750X on far more logging roads and in rougher terrain than it was intended. Did it survive? Sure. Did it like it? I am not so sure but it was not overwhelmed. 

Its weakness as an ADV bike is the suspension, which is perfectly acceptable on pavement, but loses ground when the going gets rougher. The suspension is a 41mm fork and a rear Pro-Link single shock. The travel is 5.4 inches up front and 5.9 in the rear. Which is similar to that found on the CTX with accommodations made for a taller saddle and upright riding position. 

The bike is 219 kg, road ready. Add its rider to the mix and that’s a substantial amount of weight when the going gets rough and the limitations of the suspension are apparent. The NC750X isn’t the Swiss Army knife, or perhaps in this case shotgun, of motorcycles, a do-all that make the category so appealing. But at a price of $9,199 it is difficult to find a machine that offers the kind of convenience, comfort and efficiency of the Honda. 

Are any of the machines that fall in this category and price more robustly ADV? Not particularly but it is the look and the comfort aspect that appeals to many and the NC750X does this admirably. 

Can you tackle a logging road on the machine more comfortably than on a non-ADV styled bike? Thanks to the bike’s ergonomics, yes. If you want to see some scenery up a logging road and are going to take it easy, then head for the hills. 

It is a rare, almost nonexistent, motorcycle that is both in the $9,000 price range and is as happy off pavement as it is on pavement, has the power of a 750cc twin and a modern powertrain. There are a couple that can do it but they want to do it sensibly. The NC750X lives up to the ADV ideals on pavement—range, comfort and a little weather protection. That is going to be enough for most riders looking for a cost effective alternative in the segment.

As I was coming back down from the shooting gallery I stopped at the side of the road. The hill is steep and the panorama of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains on the other side was, as always, spectacular. There was a stump cut off at about five feet so I climbed up for an even better view. At least until I heard another shot very close by from a truck and shooter I had not noticed. I decided that being the tallest thing moving around in the clearcut probably wasn’t the best idea and I was pleased I hadn’t decided to wear my bear suit or helmet with the reindeer antlers that day. I jumped off the stump and onto the NC750X both of us reasonably happy to head back to the pavement.