No, the front tire doesn’t have a tendency to levitate, and the acceleration won’t blur your vision. Honda’s NT700V is a different breed of motorcycle, and one we’re not too familiar with here in the States. Sure, dealers can sell it as a light touring bike— the NT is more than capable of handling weekend jaunts, comfortably—but it certainly wasn’t bred exclusively for that purpose. What we have on our hands here is a versatile motorcycle that can serve as a great commuter, and double as a recreational toy. There, I said it. Now try not to get too excited, that is unless you’re into usability, practicality, and comfort; because that’s what this bike is all about.
But first things first: In case you haven’t noticed already, the thing isn’t too sexy. Its posterior bears an uncanny resemblance to a scooter, and the view from the side isn’t flattering either. The integrated saddlebags are partly to blame, but they also give the bike great functionality right out of the box. With 26.7 liters of capacity on the right, 27.4 liters on the left, and an interesting pass-through channel that connects both, there’s enough room to lock up your riding jacket, some rolled up documents, and a bags worth of groceries, too.
Once I mounted this beauty and started to navigate Los Angeles’ congested streets, I began to appreciate how neatly the saddle bags are tucked in. The NT’s slim profile, light clutch, and low 31.7” seat height made splitting lanes and waddling through tight spots a cinch. Even though the bike is a bit heavy at 562 wet pounds, I felt very comfortable pushing her around, despite the fact that I weigh only 155lbs.
For commuting purposes and around-town errands, the saddlebags are sufficient, but it’s too bad they’re not large enough to hold a full-face helmet. Also, for any extended or 2-up touring, a trunk would be absolutely necessary. Even then, lack of saddlebag space might become an issue. However, if you shell out $150 you can get a set of lids that boost capacity by 17.2 liters overall. The cost of Honda’s optional 45 liter matching trunk, which our test model wasn’t equipped with, comes in at $599 with all the hardware, but if you want one on the cheap, Givi will answer your call.
The liquid-cooled, 680cc v-twin that powers the NT is a gentle little workhorse with smooth and predictable power delivery. The bottom end is a bit soft, but still chipper enough to toast 4 wheelers off the red light, so getting ahead of traffic and maintaining a safety cushion is an easy task. The engine starts to liven up a bit once the needle on the tach passes the 3,500 mark, but power is definitely not this bike’s forte. The gear box on the NT is just as smooth as the engine, and the shifter requires very little pressure to operate. These two qualities, coupled with the light clutch and slim profile, made city riding on the NT easy, and quite fun, actually.
Once we hit California’s freeway system and began our 250-plus mile trip to the small coastal town of Cambria, I noticed how well designed the wind protection was. The windshield provided excellent protection without buffet, and the ergonomically correct ¾-fairing gave me a snug place to tuck my legs behind. The other thing I noticed, and quite quickly, was the lack of a 6th gear, which, in my opinion, is the bike’s only significant shortcoming on the touring front.
The NT cruises smoothly at 70 mph, with rpm’s at the 5,000 mark, but twist the right grip a little harder and the engine starts to get busy. At 75 mph, high frequency vibrations become noticeable at the grips. At 80 mph, with the engine churning 5,700 revolutions per minute, those vibrations become a little unpleasant, and the v-twin starts asking about that missing 6th. The extra gear may not be necessary in Europe, where the bike hails from, but for longer stints on America’s high speed freeways, it really is.
That said, the NT felt very solid and stable on the freeway, and the upright seating position and comfy seat made the long ride very comfortable. Of course, standing up on the pegs from time to time to give the old rump a break was still necessary. The 5.2 gallon gas tank gave the bike a range of 236 miles at a consumption rate of 45.4 mpg, a figure we calculated after a long stint of heavy throttle play. Fifty-plus mpg certainly seems possible if one were to treat the NT more gently.
After clocking hundreds of freeway miles, I was able to take the NT into some of the twisty roads outside Cambria to see how she handled the fun stuff. I have to say, I was impressed. The seventeen inch tires and 58.1 inch wheelbase helped make carving the mountain roads my favorite part of the test ride, and to be honest, I wasn’t bothered at all by the bike’s weight. The NT felt nimble through the turns and fairly quick to lean—she must be hiding all that weight down low. The driver seat is also roomy enough to scoot back on for a more aggressive riding stance and lower cg. This extra space would also come in handy for taller, longer armed riders. The bike’s suspension is nothing extraordinary, but it handled back-road potholes and rough patches well enough. Also, preload for the rear spring is easily adjustable in case you have to pack a little weight on the rear.
At the end of the day, the NT proved itself to be a fun and easy to ride machine. For a rider like me, it’s not quite the ideal bike; I value performance over comfort and don’t mind commuting or touring on something a little sportier. To the more practical rider, interested in a multipurpose cycle, the NT offers many alluring features.
The shaft drive eliminates the need for lubing, adjusting the chain, and tediously scraping crusty gunk off the rear tire and swingarm. The ¾ fairing also keeps your jeans clean on the way to work, and makes keeping the NT presentable an easy task. The center stand comes standard, as does Japanese reliability and low maintenance costs. All these goodies come at a price though, and bring the NT’s base msrp to $9,999.00, or $10,999.00 for a model with ABS. Initially, that figure struck me as a little high, but motorcycle prices are on the rise. The weak dollar, the ever more expensive yen, and reduced motorcycle production in plants around the world have compounded to create a wave of cost increases.
Comparing the NT to other motorcycles is a bit hard to do, since it really is a unique bike. It’s not as good looking or as fast as BMW’s F 800 ST, but it is less expensive considering the extras that are included in the NT’s base price, and would serve as a better all-around bike out of the lot. Compared to Suzuki’s V-Strom or Kawasaki’s Versys it’s a bit expensive, but then again it has superior creature comforts, shaft drive, and bags. This new import from Honda may just fill a niche that those bikes don’t; great for the more rational riders among us who are turned off by the idea of a 700+ pound touring bike or cruiser, and excellent for the novice or thrifty commuter looking for a usable, maintenance-free workhorse. Whether these riders come out of the woodwork to buy up NT’s by the boatload remains to be seen, but I can’t deny the bike is a pleasure to ride.
For additional details and specifications, visit the Honda Power Sports website here.