Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: South East England, UK
Another UK road test
I just had a test ride of a DCT bike. The bike was the red, white and black one – looked absolutely lovely in the sunshine.
I had an hour on the bike – I could have had a bit longer but it was freezing and I'm predominantly a fair-weather rider so I don’t have full winter gear. Fortunately the bike had a few accessories on it – one of which was heated grips so my hands weren't too bad.
I'm 5ft 11in (178 cm) with a 32” (81cm) inside length and weigh 154 lbs (70kg), I have blue eyes and a GSOH – oh, sorry, wrong website... I could just about flat foot the bike with the seat in the higher (normal) of the two positions. If I were to buy one I might experiment with the lower height as I prefer a more solid contact coming from a non-adventure bike background.
The rider foot-pegs are quite small. They are in the position, more or less, where your legs drop when you are standing so they may have made them smaller to stop them fouling your shins. Or maybe because it exaggerates the slim feel of the bike. The pillion ones are bigger and bizarrely the accessory luxury pillion foot-pegs are bigger again. I would have preferred a bit more room on the pegs personally. If you intend going mad in the off-road wilderness you’d probably want more room too.
The bike had an almost full tank (to start with) and to all intents and purposes felt very similar weight wise to a BMW GS1200. The real difference that seems to make it feel lighter is that your legs aren't splayed out. Taking it off the side stand is not too bad as it doesn't actually lean at much of an angle. I stopped in a lay-by and didn't actually notice there was a slope on the road until I tried to put the stand down and realised it wouldn't support the bike… On the go the weight disappears but you are still aware of it being a reasonably heavy bike when you come to a stop. The balance is lovely though as filtering, trickling and low speed manoeuvres are a joy compared to some bikes I've owned – but then I find that with most adventure bikes I try (apart from the Triumph 800 Tiger for some reason).
I rode a mixture of dual carriageway and A roads. It’s been very cold recently and some more minor roads are a bit dodgy so rather than bin it I thought I’d stick to better roads. As usual in England the road surfaces can be a bit pockmarked but the Honda – on standard settings – seemed to iron them out very well. For reference on a BMW GS1200 you seem to feel far more imperfections than you do from the Honda – which is sort of surprising given the BMW has ESA and all that stuff. Must be the Telever business. The Honda handling seemed excellent – you can think your way round bends or you can push it round them if you want – I wasn't going fast enough to really explore the limits but for my type of riding it was more than adequate. I also didn't notice any pronounced fork dive which some people have. This may be because all the bikes I’ve owned have had forks too or more likely because I wasn't going mad. I don’t know if the suspension had been tweaked or not and I forgot to ask at the end.
The seating position and bar positioning were fine for me – I was on it for an hour in the cold with old knees and wrists and nothing started aching. I tried the obligatory standing position and felt that perhaps the bars were a little low – but I'm new to deliberately off-roading (a virgin about to have a bit of a go actually) so I could well be wrong here.
Speed and acceleration were more than enough for me – it seems to gather speed without you realising it – perhaps because there are no real apparent surges in torque/power as it goes through the revs. The nature of the automatic gearbox no doubt helps here but you just seem to twist the throttle and it soon ends up going very quickly indeed. I'm not sure what you call it on an automatic bike but the equivalent of a kick-down in an automatic car – where you want the gearbox to change down to accelerate faster – needs a fair bit of movement in the throttle in D mode and slightly less so but still not insubstantial in the S modes. But once it does kick-down the performance is almost the same in both S and D modes – i.e. pretty good. No nose bleeds like my old R1s but enough. A lot of the reviews say that DCT won’t appeal to people who really push the bike on the road – fortunately I know I'm not really one of those people any more so it will do me fine. The benefits in general riding (involvement if you want it but otherwise relaxed riding) and what it apparently offers off-road are more than enough to justify it for me. Don’t blip the throttle at traffic lights unless you've put it in neutral by the way – once done, never forgotten. Whilst I remember, the only time I didn't like DCT was when in D mode going round a low speed sharp left turn – there it felt like I was free-wheeling with no engine braking. I mention this as it was weird – I'm sure you’d get used to it or learn to keep a little throttle on or have it in manual or maybe even one of the S modes.
I felt some high-frequency vibes through the footrests in-between 4,000 and 6,000 RPM. Not enough to be alarming but there. The bike had done 180 miles so hadn’t been run in - I would hope that this would diminish with further use. But it wouldn’t be a deal breaker anyway and is unlikely to cause numbness.
I ride in an Arai Quantum helmet using ear plugs and could hear and got a fair bit of buffeting. There was a fair bit of wind blowing at the time (15mph-20mph-ish) which might explain it but nevertheless I would probably get the taller screen and/or an extension piece were I to go any sort of long distance rides or touring. Otherwise the protection from the wind all round seemed very good. It didn’t have the strange add-on deflectors fitted to the fairing so in that respect it was standard.
The bike had heated grips which seemed to work OK – but in the cold weather you need a little bit more than heated grips and I don’t have that so my hands still got cold. They integrate OK with the bike – the switch is nice and handy and the dash shows what’s happening when you press the switch. The bike had the cowl bars and fog lights which I thankfully didn’t need to test. But the fog-light switch is nicely fitted into the dash on the opposite side to the ABS and G switches. The lights themselves were, to me, unattractive and I wouldn't get them.
The fit and finish generally seems excellent – nice paint finish, nothing obviously out of place and so on. I had a crawl round the bike when I’d finished and noticed that the rear shock is a lot better protected than on the BMW GS – which seems to need a hugger fitted and all sorts of other shenanigans to stop spray. The Honda has a plastic shield that goes all the way round. It was plastered with crud from the road but next to nothing had got round to the other side and the shock was clean. A little thing but strangely important to me. OCD, OCD, OCD… Speaking of OCD, the Honda cowl bars, when viewed from the front, had a wider spacing between the bar and the left fairing than the spacing between the bar and the right-fairing. That would cost me a few sleepless nights! Until I dropped it for the first time I guess. And further speaking of OCD, I noticed that the tank sides had slight marks from my leather trousers and previous riders’ trousers. It might be worth investing in some tank protection if you get one of these bikes as it could make the finish deteriorate over time (if you don’t like that sort of marking that is – I don’t like them but I know some people consider all marks as a source of pride on their adventure bike – apart from Starbucks coffee drips it would appear). Other manufacturers seem to have addressed this sort of problem with more plastic than tank - but even plastic can be marked I suppose, especially if your knees have mud all over them!
Lovely bike. Wish it had tubeless tyres…
Last edited by Yromulus; 01-15-2016 at 02:28 PM.