by Molly Gilbert
My mom came over the other day and said with unusual awe in her voice; “Molly, did you get yourself another bike?!?” It took me a moment or two to figure out what she was referring to – then she said “You know, that Honda…”
Ah, the Honda! Motoprimo was kind enough to loan us a Honda NT700V. This silver beauty comes standard with built-in hard bags, a windscreen that adjusts (no tools required); a phenomenally comfortable riding position and a full fairing that protects the knees from ever a drop of rain hitting them; but then there’s that motor…
One of the most puzzling things about this bike is the choice of motor. Why a 700cc V-twin for a sport-touring bike that could easily take you from here to Madagascar? And *why* a V-twin that sounds like a ‘cruiser motor’? It is one of the most disconnecting things about the bike. But on to the ride…
I loved it. I loved the way it handled; I loved the great turning radius if you’re in the middle of nowhere (having to turn around a lot on Roads to Nowhere), and you’ll have your memory jogged if you’ve read any of my bike reviews before (Warning: Girl Card about to be played here) I *loved* the integral hard bags! Anyone who carries a purse/backpack/bike bag will know what I am talking about here. It is heaven to have built-in hard bags. And these particular bags, are different than most, as they are almost a part of the frame of the bike. They are integral to its design. “Very futuristic-looking”, I heard time and again from others taking a look at it – and the bags play a big role in that. Unfortunately, full-face helmets won’t fit inside. In addition, there were handy glove boxes nicely positioned within the fairing. One of them locks, perfect for a wallet, camera or nice pair of elk skin gloves.
As is usual for any MMM® bike review, when I picked up the NT700V, the skies let open. It was a downpour, yet the only things that got wet were my helmet and gloves. I had my handy Aerostitch jacket on, which certainly helped, but my knees and thighs were kept completely dry by the lovely design of the bike and its built-in fairing, which lovingly protect the knees from any road spray. Add this to the nifty windscreen and I was kept dry as a bone. I was thrilled.
This bike would be a dream for riding long distances, if not for that smaller motor. I definitely felt the need to downshift to pass. At higher speeds, the motor makes a sound that is somewhat annoying. I didn’t feel an uncomfortable vibration like I expected to. Perhaps this is simply personal preference, but I just didn’t like the way the danged thing *sounded*! You know how you expect to hear a certain sound when a Ferrari passes you? Or, I dunno, a moped? There was a distinct disconnect for me with this machine and the way it’s engine sounded when starting up. I wanted to look around in embarrassment and apologize for it. I mean, this Honda looks so futuristic, that it is just a damned shame that when you start it up it brings you back to 1979. Get the picture?
This brings me to the subject of who this particular bike might be a good fit for. I immediately thought of two categories 1.) Newer riders that can afford it; 2.) Particularly gals; and 3.) Older, maybe retired folks who would like to take a leisurely ride cross-country to visit their kids/grandkids, either solo or two-up. Let me tell you why.
Gals—well, just refer to the above design. But also—it’s a Honda—virtually indestructible, built solid as a rock, everything on this bike is tight. No rattles, nothing to irritate or make a person feel like she has to fix something. When you get on this bike, you just feel confident that nothing will suddenly fall off or break. It’s a peace of mind thing that most (certainly not all) females will understand when it comes to mechanics. If you are like me, you don’t want the fuss. Yes, I love my vintage or collector bikes, but I will be riding them to the coffee or grocery shop, thanks-very-much. If I want to cover some distance, I want it bomb-proof, a luxury many newer riders don’t often get due to affordability and being led down the wrong road by others who have been riding longer. Or, I dunno, maybe by just wanting to emulate Steve McQueen. But if you’re smart enough to realize the value in a virtually maintenance-free bike, you are in for a wonderfully carefree riding experience. One that will allow you to smell the air, enjoy the sights and feel the wind. Due to my own stubbornness as a beginning rider, focusing more on style over function, it is amazing I still like to ride, having spent more time on the side of the road instead of on it, kicking various machines that let me down due to age/make/model/mistreatment of prior owners—but damn they looked good.
The other reason this is a likable machine is due to its comfort level. The dual bench seat is extra wide, making this a perfect bike for a two-up expedition. Many folks riding this bike for longer distances will likely opt for the top case, which would make for a perfect backrest for a passenger. With two handy side grips attached to the rear seat, this is a long-distance cruiser’s dream come true.
Another reason the NT700V is a good fit for newer riders is because these riders really aren’t sure *what* type of bike it is they might prefer to ride. Am I a ‘cruiser’ kind of person? More of a standard seating position preferred? Sport bike rider all the way? Want more of a vintage look and feel? Usually, it is a combination of the above. Like it or not, many of us get introduced to riding from a brother, friend, dad or boyfriend, and whatever it is *they* rode, is often, due to it’s familiarity alone, is what we might choose to ride. So, if your ‘bro rode a Harley or sport bike, you are likely attracted to that type of style or engine sound. Yet, you may not want the expense of the ‘extreme’ cruiser/sport bike positioning. If that were the case, the Honda would be the perfect bike for you! You’ve got that ‘cruiser-sounding’ engine, but the comfort and stability of a sport-touring machine.
Same thing with senior riders. They may have in the past ridden more of a cruiser, but now want to take off with their partner on a long distance trip, two-up. Easy maneuverability, great comfort and wind/weather protection, yet has that different, cruiser feel to the engine. Those were the groups that immediately come to mind with this machine.
Now, there are those that will question Honda as to “Why? Why a 700 V-twin?” Is there a particular need for this in the market? And that would be the ultimate question. I never found an answer to this question. It was a baffler, so it will be interesting to see how this sells.
I loved that the neutral was consistently easy to find, and it tended to sip vs. gulp the gasoline. We saw almost 48 miles to the gallon. There is a real fuel gauge (I love those) and besides throwing my Throttle Rocker onto the throttle, I had no need for any additional after-market comforts. The adjustable windscreen was sampled in each position to find ultimate comfort. Being used to riding naked bikes, I felt like a dork with the windscreen fully extended UNTIL it started to rain. At that point, I was in love with it! All three positions were useful and none of them seemed to affect the riding aerodynamics from my perspective. The Honda NT700V is an all-around utilitarian bike. I can easily recommend it to others – or to own it myself – if it wasn’t for that danged ‘cruiser’ sound coming from the motor!
by Paul Berglund
Whenever I buy a product, I want it to do what it says it does on the box. The Honda NT700V is new to America this year, but it has been sold in Europe for years and its very popular there. So Europeans and Honda (no surprise) speak very highly of this “new to us” lightweight sport-touring bike. Would this be a case of another great bike that America doesn’t get, or would it be the David Hasselhoff of motorcycles?
We don’t get many of the motorcycles that are sold in Europe and Japan. Sport-tourers, adventure bikes, small bikes; we don’t get access to some of the more interesting bikes that are being made and sold in the rest of the world. I waited for years for Kawasaki to update the Concours. I finally gave up when Yamaha decided to send us its “for Europe only” FJR1300 sport-tourer. Soon we had other, excellent choices in the heavyweight sport-touring division. Even Kawasaki woke up from 1986 and built the Concours 14. Life is very good if you want that kind of bike. What if you don’t need all that weight and horsepower?
Honda bills the NT700V as a lightweight version of its ST1300 sport-touring bike. The good people at Motoprimo lent us a NT700V to test. I like the way it looks. When I got on the bike I was very happy with the way it fit me. The layout of the bars, seat and pegs was just right for its intended purpose. It makes a good sound when you start it. The clutch is light and the five-speed transmission works well. I motored onto the freeway, and I was surprised at how good the little Honda moved down the road. It’s nowhere near as fast or powerful as the FJR1300 or the ST1300, but it’s just as good at the other aspects of sport-touring as they are.
It is lighter than its big brother. I was very happy riding down the freeway. It’s not bothered by cross winds or the wake of a semi truck and trailer. Its smallish windshield does a good job. It adjusts manually, no power assist here. In the down position you get clean air coming over the bike and raised to the highest position it takes the brunt of the wind off the rider. I would have liked a taller windshield, but I’m a tall guy and I’m sure the aftermarket will be very quick to supply one. Sitting on this bike as the miles roll underneath, is a very pleasant place to be. A big part of that happiness comes from the best seat on a motorcycle that I have ever ridden. Granted, most motorcycle seats suck. They have for years. The styling department inflicted untold suffering on all those people who bought motorcycles since 1985. Let’s hope that Honda can start a trend here, cruelty-free motorcycles. Soon co-ops will start selling Hondas. That’s a green I can get behind.
When I got to the twisty roads, I stayed just as happy. Steering is light and neutral, and if you use some body English and weight the pegs, it’s flickable. I went looking for the small and twisty roads down along the Mississippi river in Southern Minnesota and into Wisconsin. As I road along the roads got narrower and twister. I even had several stretches of dirt road thrown into the mix. The intrepid Honda took it all in stride. I felt confident the whole time I was on this bike. So it passed that part with flying colors, but what about that engine? Is a 680cc V-twin going to live up to the rest of the bike? I would describe the motor in this motorcycle as being adequate. It’s all you need in a sport-touring bike, but is that enough for you?
I’ve got no problem with its displacement. This basic motor has been in the Honda line up for much longer than the NT700V has. It makes its power the old-fashioned way, the cruiser way. Redline is 8,500 rpms; the sweet spot of torque is from 4,000 to 5,000 rpms. By 6,500 rpms it’s just making more noise and vibration. There is no need to rev it any higher. The handlebar and foot pegs stay calm, but the gas tank resonates with a buzz to remind you to stay calm with the throttle. By contrast, newer-designed V-twins, like Aprilia’s fantastic 750, make more power everywhere. Willing and able to quickly go to redline, it instills joy onto the enthusiastic rider. I can’t say that about the Honda. If you want chest-pounding power in a shaft-driven sport-tourer, have a look at the FJR1300 or ST1300.
I may be a lone wolf crying in the wilderness, but what I want from a motorcycle has changed in the last few years. I sold off my beloved FJR and bought a V-twin bike that makes 60 fewer horses, but weighs 200 pounds less. For me that was a step in the right direction. I stopped looking just at the horsepower number. I still care about that, but the power-to-weight ratio is more important. A lighter bike is a better bike. That’s what I think Honda was trying to do with the NT700V. They’re trying to give you a bike that’s nimble in the corners and relaxed on the freeway. My sampling indicated that it will do both very well and do it without the bulk. Less is more is a good concept, but what should a bike like that cost? I’m sure you’re wondering if you are getting your money’s worth when you downsize?
I’m showing just how old and crabby I am, but a mid-priced bike used to be five or six thousand dollars, now it’s closer to ten thousand. The NT700V lists for $9,999 or $10,999 with ABS. The dash comes with a tach, fuel gauge and clock. It can tell you your current or average mpg. It doesn’t have a gear indicator and its windshield has to be moved up or down by hand when you are stopped. It is fuel-injected, shaft drive and hard bags like the bigger bikes. Sadly neither hard bag will hold a full-face helmet and strangely both bags are permanently mounted to the bike. Our Hasselhoff-loving friends over in Europe have the option to buy replacement bag lids that are deeper, giving you more room in each bag. As far as I know we don’t have that option here. If you want one of these bikes, log onto the Honda website and start complaining now. That’s a glaring error and it should be rectified right away.
Anther thing Honda got right on the NT700V is the centerstand. First, it has one, and second it’s very easy to use. The first time I used it, I squared up to the bike with grim determination and gave it a mighty heave. That was completely unnecessary. A light step on the stand and a gentle tug on the grab handle and the bike glides up onto its center stand. Well done, Honda.
The gas tank holds 5.2 gallons and I got 47 miles to the gallon on each of the two tanks of gas I was privileged to burn through. The dash was more optimistic. In it’s opinion it was getting 51 mpg, but I have a college degree, so it’s 47 mpg that will go into the official MMM® log book. After a fill-up, the gas gauge would sit up at full for 50 or 60 miles then plunge to three-quarters. From there on down it seemed to give good representation of the gas level.
So just who is this bike for? It’s a great sport-touring bike with a small cruiser motor put in it. It’s fun to ride and easy to live with. Will the sport-touring crowd scoff at its 55 horsepower and 42 foot-pounds of torque? Can the cruiser crowd deal with a bike that’s nimble and can go around a corner? And it’s so light, at 575 pounds full of gas, it’s two or three hundred pounds lighter than what a traditional V-twin bike should be.
I didn’t get V-twins for years. It turns out I do like V-twins; I just don’t like heavy, slow bikes that drag chrome on every corner. (I’m not going to name names.) The European-style of V-twin put new life in my motorcycle riding. Aprilia, KTM, and (once I got past my stereotype of their owners) Ducati showed me what a V-twin could be like. If you haven’t ridden one, you should try it. I think that’s where Honda was going with the NT700V, sweet handling with modest power. I was a little let down by the way it makes its power, not the amount. If this bike had a KTM heart beating in its chest, a choir of angels would sing whenever you rode it. As it is, you only get a saint or two. If you’re lucky, one of them will be Ella Fitzgerald.
Here’s my take on this: read the specs and stats on this bike and if you think you’ll like it, then I can safely say that you will. The Honda NT700V does what it says it does on the box.