Confession time: It may seem like the result of careful planning, but serendipity often plays a big role in our ability to create good magazine content, meet deadlines and still have time to get out and ride regularly. This story is a good example. I wanted to do a reasonably long tour test of the latest version of Honda’s NC700X, in part because I believe the bike to be underrated as a traveling mount, but also because it’s available with Honda’s automatic dual-clutch transmission. A case of lateral epicondylitis, a.k.a. tennis elbow, in my left arm had left me unable to squeeze a clutch lever without making it worse, so the NC700X DCT model’s lack thereof let me continue to ride as well as heal up.
But that bit was planned—the serendipitous part occurred when I was invited to ride a new motorcycle model in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, the same month, which happened to be the perfect destination for a quick 3-day tour on the Honda. I could take the “high road” to Havasu via Barstow, California, skirting the Mojave National Preserve on Interstate 40 and hopping on and off parts of old Route 66, which parallels or is overlaid by I-40 all the way to Oklahoma City. Lake Havasu is a large reservoir formed by Parker Dam on the Colorado River, which does double duty as the border of California and Arizona. After the intro, I could head southwest from Lake Havasu City toward Joshua Tree National Park in California—always good for a scenic lap in winter—before heading home.
When Honda’s twin-cylinder NC700X debuted in 2012, we gave the DCT ABS model a full review in the November issue, loaded with Honda accessories like a 29-liter saddlebag set, 45-liter top trunk, centerstand, heated grips, light bar and more, boosting its retail price to more than $11,000 from the $8,999 base that year. For 2016, not only did the bike’s cost come down considerably, Honda also updated its adventurous styling with a smaller, lighter pentagonal muffler that sounds better, a sleek LED taillight in place of the former brick and revised bodywork. A new 2.76-inch-taller windscreen increases protection, and storage capacity in the front trunk or “frunk” (a deep integrated storage compartment where fuel would normally go; the fuel tank is under the seat) is up 1 liter to 22. The bike also has an adjustable brake lever now, and the DCT ABS model gets the latest version of Honda’s dual-clutch 6-speed transmission, which offers automatic shifting with Drive and Sport modes and manual shifting with buttons on the handlebar. You can also change gears manually within the auto modes, and select from three levels of aggressiveness for Sport mode.
Although the base model is just $7,699 for 2017, unless you simply don’t want to spend the extra $600 or find a clutch lever indispensable, the $8,299 DCT model is the way to go with the NC700X. The automatic transmission is convenient and fun, and choosing this model is the only way to get Combined ABS (C-ABS), which applies some front brake when the rear is applied and keeps the wheels from locking. The latest version of DCT shifts smoothly and only a little more noisily than a manual transmission, and in Sport mode closely mimics normal shift points. Drive mode shifts quickly into higher gears for fuel economy, which takes some getting used to since it’s in 6th by 40 mph. But you can override the selected gear with the shift buttons, and it will kick down automatically under heavy throttle. I’ve become so used to the DCT that I rarely took it out of Drive on this ride.
This time around I wanted to try the NC700X in full budget mode, with no accessories, to see how it does on a long ride as-is. The waterproof frunk on the NC700X is extremely convenient, since it holds a medium full-face helmet or the equivalent in groceries, lunch bags, gloves, tools, etc., and the lid locks and closes like a car trunk. But the frunk necessitated moving the fuel filler under the locking passenger seat, complicating the addition of soft luggage, which I would need with rain likely and temperatures predicted to be anywhere from 35 to 80 degrees. In the end a large pair of Chase-Harper soft saddlebags served pretty well, since I could just undo the two back buckles and slide the bags forward out of the way to gas up.
Despite its smallish 3.7-gallon fuel tank, fill-ups aren’t usually required more frequently than bikes with larger tanks, since the NC700X’s liquid-cooled, SOHC parallel twin was designed to sip dino juice. A single 36mm throttle body, roller rocker arms in the valve train, unified exhaust port and single catcon for the two cylinders increase efficiency, and the engine’s long stroke maximizes low- and midrange torque. A high-inertia 270-degree crank and counterbalancer also give it a nice loping feel down low without vibes at higher rpm. The engine does have an unusually low redline of 6,500 rpm for its 670cc size, which can have you slamming into redline when shifting manually, but it’s not an issue when the bike shifts for you. The new exhaust adds more rumble to the overall experience, and gives the bike a nice bark when it’s revved out. Overall the twin makes power levels similar to a mid-size cruiser (we can’t dyno DCT bikes), and jibes nicely with the NC700X’s concept of versatility, accessibility and fun, with fuel economy and a price that removes the barrier to a full-size motorcycle.
After leaving Camarillo in the rain, before long the skies cleared and I was dodging giant puddles on Pearblossom Highway, snug in my electric jacket liner despite the 45-50 degree temps. For hooking up accessories, the NC700X’s battery is easily accessed under a panel in the frunk; a 12-volt socket is an option. The new windscreen keeps more wind off your chest, though I really missed the optional hand guards and heated grips. The bike’s seating position is mostly upright, neutral and relaxed if a bit short on legroom, and taller riders than me at 5 feet, 10 inches may find it cramped. Since it’s narrow in front, the seat feels lower than its 32.7-inch height spec, and I was surprised to find it plenty comfortable for long stints..
From Barstow, had I stayed on I-15 north, I could have been sipping a cold one and playing video poker in Sin City in a little more than 2 hours. Instead I hung a right on I-40, where an official highway sign at the start of the third longest Interstate in the country reads “Wilmington, NC, 2,554 miles.” I’d only be on it as far as the Arizona State Route 95 turnoff just east of Needles, California, with a stop for a photo on old Route 66 just east of Newberry Springs at the Bagdad Café, location of the eponymous 1987 movie. Since it’s paralleled by the Interstate, Route 66 is not maintained here and the road is very rough—I had to slow way down to prevent getting beaten to death. Although the NC700X’s suspension is well-damped and sprung for corners and dips and the bike handles very well on its Bridgestone Battle Wing adventure-sport tires, it is surprisingly firm and harsh over sharp bumps, and lacks any adjustment other than inconvenient ring-and-locknut spring preload in back. The suspension handles heavy loads well, though, and works adequately for most riding.
Although the NC700X DCT was getting as much as 64 mpg at times, as the day grew long I needed to push the speed up to stay on schedule. Riding uphill into a cold headwind at 80 mph dropped its fuel economy into the low 40s, and I was running on fumes by the time I reached Needles. Long stretches at high speed do make that 3.7-gallon tank seem too small.
After the new model intro in Havasu, I left on the NC700X determined to see Roy’s Motel and Café in Amboy, a famous Route 66 landmark. So I looped around the reservoir through Parker to the south, laid eyes on Parker Dam for the first time in years, then veered north at Vidal Junction to Needles and I-40, west this time. If you’ve never seen the Mojave Desert in this area, the spectacle of it is breathtaking—expanses so vast between mountains they resemble oceans, with small hills and rises here and there that could be sea monsters plying the ripples.
Kelbaker Road took me to Amboy on Route 66, a.k.a the National Trails Highway in California, where I sucked down a cold soda at Roy’s before making a beeline south to Joshua Tree National Park past the surreal sights of Amboy Crater and Bristol Dry Lake, which is mined for calcium chloride. The northern loop through Joshua Tree is a wonderland of unimaginable rock formations and ancient Joshua tree yuccas, with a stunning viewpoint at Keys View. By now I had put more than 800 miles on the NC700X, and if it hadn’t been so cold and windy I would have added another detour before heading home. It’s the kind of motorcycle that a lot of riders have been asking for—a versatile, economical yet fun and exciting ride at a reasonable price.
Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
Jacket: Olympia Richmond
Pants: Olympia X-Moto 2
Boots: Dainese Long Range
2016 Honda NC700X DCT ABS Specs
Base Price: $7,499 (2017 $7,699)
Price as Tested: $8,099 (DCT & C-ABS; 2017 $8,299)
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Bore x Stroke: 73.0 x 80.0mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 8,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI w/ 36mm throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.6-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic (as tested)
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Ignition: Digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
Charging Output: 420 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 12AH
Frame: Tubular-steel diamond w/ engine as stressed member, box-section steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 60.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 27.0 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm telescopic fork, no adj., 5.4-in. travel
Rear: Single linked shock, adj. for spring preload, 5.9-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ 3-piston floating caliper & C-ABS (as tested)
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston floating caliper & C-ABS (as tested)
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 4.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Wet Weight: 500 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 432 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 932 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gals., last 1.3 gals. warning light on
MPG: 87 PON min. (low/avg/high) 45.3/56.5/64.2
Estimated Range: 209 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,200
Couldn’t agree more that the Mojave Desert in this area is breathtaking. As a frozen Canadian I’ve ridden this area three times and God Almighty it’s stunning!
However, I couldn’t agree less that the Honda NC700X DCT is the kind of motorcycle that a lot of riders have been asking for; in my opinion, it’s an answer to a question few riders have asked. I’ve not spent days on the bike, but I’ve spent hours – enough time to form an opinion that a comparatively priced Versys or V-Strom is a much, much better bike in almost every way imaginable. Unless, perhaps, if an injury prevented me using the clutch?
Please note the 2 piston front caliper plainly seen in the front wheel photo. The 2016 DCT/ABS model has ABS, but not combined ABS. I believe that was dropped after the 2013 model year.
Also, the Honda recommended valve adjustment interval is now 16,000 miles.
WRONG greg,,,,just go to honda’s web page and read for yourself…COMBINED linked brakes !
Sure you are not talking about a 745cc instead of a 670cc ?
You could have given more information on how the engine performed and power specifications.
I don’t understand the hate certain individuals have for this bike. I just bought a 2016 after a twenty something year hiatus from riding. My last bike was a 1985 Honda vf1000R, so I understand the attraction to fast bikes. This bike has surpassed my expectations in every way. I was hesitant to go with the automatic, but so glad I did. Especially commuting, stuck in highway traffic this morning, the auto clutch was awesome.
I’ve never ridden a vstrom or versys, but I can’t imagine the fun factor being any better than this bike.
What hate are you referring to?
Maybe hate is too strong a word.
Certainly many blogs/reviews I’ve come across on the web dismiss this bike as an underpowered scooter pretending to be a motorcycle.
I researched the hell out of bikes before I decided on the nc700x.
I even expected (performance wise) to be a little let down.
Fortunately so far, I haven’t. Just the opposite.
I just want to state I never had intentions of using this bike off-road.
On a side note, I’ve also seen it mentioned that these bikes aren’t selling well in the United States.
Just my 2 cents,
Have a safe riding season.
Anthony, as you know Honda uses this engine in a few models. The real uggo in my opinion is the CTX700N. I kind of like the NM4 for its unconventional futuristic looks.
This article was one of several that inspired me to purchase a 2016 DCT, just like the one pictured, but with a rear luggage rack.
I’m getting 60 mpg commuting to work and running errands and am no longer having to shift into neutral while waiting in traffic to avoid the strain on my clutch hand. I use my tank bag from my previous bike (Ninja 650R) and it fits right inside the “frunk” loaded with groceries.
I do miss the Ninja’s power and the ability to just go full throttle to merge onto the freeway, overtake slower traffic, etc. I really need check the mirrors to judge the speed of faster cars if I’m stuck behind slow-moving cagers. But it’s such an easy-going bike.
Sport mode works well for most trips and it downshifts better than I ever could. In D mode it kinda goes into neutral when off the throttle, which means there’s little engine braking. When the stoplight turns green it’s weird that it will shift into 3rd gear before I’ve even gone through the intersection, and it has a lot of a lugging feel to it, but I’m reading that this is normal.
I’ve added the Puig Touring screen and a radiator guard (both musts) and next is a top case and maybe a better seat.
Riding this bike is so fun (it IS a Honda after all) and after my commute home I almost just want to change and hop back on the bike and go for a ride up the coast.
Because I was torn between the versys 650 and the nc700 dct but was leaning towards dct..
I’ve put about 8000 miles on my 2016 Honda NC700X DCT, 90 percent of that commuting the 15 miles between my home near Golden Gate Park to work in Downtown Oakland. Its nimble enough for lane splitting in town and on the freeway, yet large and powerful enough to feel secure zipping over the 5-mile long Bay Bridge in high winds. I am totally spoiled by the DCT. In heavy traffic, its a huge safety and convenience feature and, frankly, it shifts much better than I do, not withstanding my 40 years of experience motorcycling. I used to always choose manual trannies in my sporty cars, too, but then I came to own a 250 hp VW GTI with a dual clutch automatic and shift flippers on the steering wheel. Probably only because I learned to appreciate it in the VW, I was willing to try a DCT on a motorcycle. I love and can’t imagine negotiating San Francisco traffic and hills without it. I do have a big complaint. The seat is hard and you tend to slip toward the tank, tightening your pants around the crotch. The problem is exacerbated when you have a passenger. I’m planning the 3 hour drive to Corbin for a custom seat. The Frunk is awesome. My helmet never leaves the bike. I used to have a V Strom, which I liked much better for long rides. The VStrom has a much better seat and is much faster than the NC700. But it is not as nimble in traffic and, of course, doesn’t come in a DCT. In sum, this is a great commuter bike, great urban adventurer. And great for day trips to Santa Cruise or up to Tahoe. But its not good for long trips, especially two up. Its just a fact of life, we need more than one bike! I’m looking for a the Yamaha Star Venture for those long tours.
When I was looking for my first bike two years ago, all my research lead me to the NC700X despite all the bad press about it. But after buying a 2016 and riding it for a while, I found that most of the people don’t like the bike because they want it to be another type of bike. Its a COMMUTER bike, which should be its own class. In reality the NC700X is a STREET bike with off-road capability baked in. It has more power than most Kawasaki Ninjas but without the back aches. It lets you sit upright with the ability to lean forward when you get it up to speed. It handles curves well without dragging its butt like a Harley. It weaves in and out of traffic quickly and can pass when needed. The DCT means I’m not looking for gears at a light and the ABS means I can stop almost on a dime. Its strength is not in its speed or power but in its balance between the two and its conservative use of fuel. As a new rider the NC700X was the perfect bike for me. Not fast enough to get into trouble but not a cruiser where I would get easily bored. The front trunk or “frunk” was an unexpected bonus. My helmet can’t fit so I added a top box but everything else I need goes in it. I feel that this bike is safer than a crotch-rocket and a lot more exciting than a cruiser. More “new” riders should look at this bike.
My gut tells me that most of the cynical reviews of this bike come from former crotch rocket riders looking to step into the touring series bike. This bike definitely isn’t a crotch rocket, but even as underpowered as it feels, it will still go fast enough for the average rider. I’ve ridden bikes all my life. I’ve ridden touring bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers, and even tried a crotch rocket once. I didn’t like the fact I practically had to ride in a on my hands and knees position. I bought one of the NC700x dct bikes and love it. It’s got enough power to get the rider into trouble and enough power to get out of trouble while being one of the more comfortable bikes of the series. It’s light, nimble, and very low rev for a bike this size. In fact, most touring bikes are low rpm bikes, which is why they are comfortable to ride not being strung out at the top end. The chief complaint I’ve heard is it only runs 140 mph. If that’s not fast enough, then I’d suggest going back to a crotch rocket because 65 will smear body parts a half a mile on asphalt. That’s plenty of power for me because I have no need for them to be sweeping me up five miles down the road.
You don’t need power to get into trouble on a 2-wheeled vehicle, or any other for that matter. Just get into traffic and you have all the trouble you need. ’nuff said.
I didn’t buy the DCT, I own two 2012 NC700X, I also own 7 other bikes. I have been riding for 55 years, have owned 107 BMW motorcycles and many other brands. The Honda NC 700, both models, is the most satisfying motorcycle that I have ever owned. The actual top speed is 115 mph, my gas mileage on 2 lane roads at 55 mph is between 70-80 mpg. Interstate riding at 75 mph is 60-65 mpg. I got 102 mpg on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 48 mph. Both of my Bikes have over 40,000 miles without even looking at the valves or spark plugs. I have done 1000 mile days and 8000 mile trips, I think this is a good long distance bike for one person. Good points – light weight, 450 lbs feels like 350 lbs. Good Low RPM torque.
Excellent comfort if you raise the handle bars, install a good seat and get a decent windshield. If you want to see how good these bikes handle, make a “Brisk” run through Deals Gap on one, you will be amazed! One person commented that the 650 Suzuki is much faster, I disagree. My riding friend rides a 2017 VStrom, we have raced several times, both bikes are even to 90 mph, then he pulls away. God bless and may you have many safe rides.
You must not like BMW’s since you only kept one for six months, if my math is correct
My son and I each have a 2015 NC700X and we live in Colorado with affords us a mix if metropolitan riding in Denver, mountain canyon carving, long straight highways and we even ride them on basic dirt roads. So far they have performed better than expected in all cases. We like taking half and full day trips from the Denver area to the mountains of CO or the desert of New Mexico. Very happy with the bikes so far.
After almost fifty years I’m back to riding a silver and black Honda twin. My first was a 1967 CL160 that I bought from my brother in the early 70’s. Top speed was about 60 mph with a good tail wind. I recently bought a used 2016 NC700X DCT with 1612 miles on it. It now has just over 3000 miles. I still reach for the clutch and my foot looks for the shifter. Its a funny feeling not finding them. After a few 250 and 300 mile days I realize that shifting with a hand clutch and foot shifter is over-rated. I’ve used Drive mode, Sport mode(s) and Manual mode. I’ve used them in combination down shifting and upshifting as I like with the hand controls. Freeway speeds seem normal on this bike. I haven’t exceeded 85 mph yet but the bike has plenty more in it. I’d say it out performs my Triumph 900 triples. And there is no buzzing from the handle bars. The bikes maneuverability flows naturally. Riding country roads is a pleasure and slow speeds which I was concerned about are effortless even with the automatic transmission. Riding the bike brings a smile to my face and that to me is what matters most.
I echo everything you say about this bike Terry. I bought this same model and color as a leftover two summers ago. Hadn’t rode in over twenty years. This bike is seriously underrated, especially the dct for commuting. Unfortunately mine was stolen last summer. Reading your review brought back some good memories of my short time with this bike. I may have to look at the new model.
The next time someone talks about fuel economy on a motorcycle, and I mean ANY motorcycle, they out to be taken out back and shot without a blindfold. Calculate the cost of owning a bike: purchase/depreciation, plates/registration, insurance, helmet/jacket/gloves/boots etc., service, and accessories and you’ll see that the money you save on fuel will almost NEVER cover the expense of owning a motorcycle!
So please shut up about the mileage they get!!
Thomas before you shoot people who think differently than you (I get your sarcasm) consider that for many people it is NOT just about money such as your illustration. Fuel economy means to many people, not using so much fossil fuels, not polluting our environment as much and not contributing to the 6th great extinction from sending so much C02 into our atmosphere. I love riding but all of this concerns me greatly so I try to find the very most fuel efficient machine I can that can still do the trick. Personally I find it offensive poor engineering that so many motorcycles get worse fuel economy than many cars on the market.
Chuck, I’m with you. How is it possible that your average motorcycle gets worse mileage than a car 3 times its weight! And I share your concern for the emissions issue. I’ve moved up from the NC 700x to the 2018 NC 750X DCT. Noticeable power improvement and same mpg.
Its Spring time. I’m so ready to ride my NC.
I bought the NC 750x DCT mostly for the excellent fuel mileage and practicality, low maintenance etc. I had a 1700cc cruiser it was expensive on insurance, ate expensive tires, 850lbs and got 30mpg the same as my SUV. Here in Canada with the hi cost of fuel and insurance it made sense to downsize. The NC is a very forgiving bike I have some physical issues mostly my left wrist ! I can now ride without pain and more safely. I think the bike is beautiful to look at and fun to ride. I have added givi top box /rack larger screen, heated grips and hand guards. But yes you are not saving money by owning a motorcycle it’s an investment in what makes you happy and your return on that investment are the memories you make and the people that you meet.
Also worth saying is that a bike that gets great mileage with decent size tank allows you to explore backroads areas or “scenic routes” without the added stress of “fuel anxiety”. At the end of the ride it won’t matter much if you bought 2 vs 5 gallons of gas but being relaxed and enjoying it is priceless.
Appreciate the reviews from owners that enjoy the bike for what it is.
Given the crazy high cost of fuel during the Build Back Better era, it makes perfect sense to purchase a bike that gets 50 – 60 mpg vs one that gets the same as a large SUV.