back to back rides of At and NC750X 2016
I posted this on the NC700 forum and thought you guys may be interested in the thoughts of someone who has done 35k miles on the NC750X DCT. I have quite a few questions to ask you about the AT as I am in love with the multicolour version but at the moment I can't see how it's practical enough for me.
The demo rides:
First out was the 750X DCT while my bike was being MOT'd.
I already have a 2014 white 750X DCT which has done 20k miles so I'm seriously thinking of swapping it for either a 2016 750X or an Africa Twin.
Reasons for considering the 750 were - better looks, modified DCT, better suspension and more storage space. I know it's got LED lights and a different screen but it was daytime so I knew I wasn't going to test the lights, and I had a feeling the best I could hope for with the screen was that it wouldn't be a nuisance)
So the plusses first. The DCT improvements are noticeable. If you have an existing DCT bike you may sometimes find yourself putting it into S-mode round town because in D-mode it's just sometimes too notchy. They seem to have cured that and D-mode is very useable in towns. My guess is that this alone will help improve mpg for those who want to use it for economical commuting in a big city. And of course there are now 3 versions of sport mode rather than just the one we have been limited to until now. I should say that I understood the last version (ie the one I have got) was intelligent in that it based it's gear changes in sport mode on the way it detects you have been riding for the previous 10 minutes or so. So to me the idea of having to select one of 3 sport modes sounds like a backward step. Having said that the sportiest of the 3 did seem to make the bike more urgent and it's probably the one that most riders will set as the default (if you don't want to ride hard you can always click it into d-mode).
The second plus is the overall visual appeal of the new bike. It's bound to be subjective, but to me this bike now looks like a very well proportioned bike whereras my white one always reminds me of a porpoise. And I don't like black wheels so the new silver ones are great. Unfortunately though the black model which is the one I thought I wanted looks pretty naff compared to the nice glossy black 700X I used to own. However the dealer reckoned Dream machine would paint the whole bike in the Africa Twin colours (white,red, blue and gold) for about £800 which would certainly make for a very nice looking bike - IMHO)
Third plus was the instruments - after reports that it was invisible in bright light I was pessimistic but I needn't have been. I don't know how Honda have done it but it's amazing. If there isn't too much light about you get a fancy full colour (even changing-colour) screen, and yet when the sun's behind you and hitting the instrument binnacle it changes to a high contrast monochrome display. All the info is in different places but I'd soon get used to that. I preferred the new 750X display to that on the Africa Twin.
Having got the three plusses out of the way I have to say everything else felt just the same - and that's no criticism because I really love my existing bike. I think the standard suspension is perfect for how I want to use it, so the new one could only come out worse - and it may just be, in that I had a feeling it was slightly jigglier on big main roads - and I really don't like jiggly bikes. I once rode to Gothenburg on my Rocket 3 and it jiggled me into near submission by Bremen.
The seat is just as brilliant, as is the riding position, and the back brake is just as appalling (I just don't know why this should be because the Africa Twin and my Rocket 3 - on the way home - both provided ample stopping power with gentle rear brake pedal pressure. The screen could have been worse than my current bike because it's higher and I was worried that it would put turbulent air on to my visor, but it was OK (ugly though). Oh yeah the key is much better.
So back to the dealer and a quick swap on to the Africa Twin. Disappointingly it was a manual version. The dealer said they now wished they'd put a DCT on as a demo as everyone wants them. What a turnabout as both dealers in the north east used to grumble to me that no Geordies (real men) wanted a DCT bike. Notwithstanding my initial disappointment, the manual box proved to be an absolute gem. Probably the best motorbike gearbox I have ever used. And the clutch is ultra light.
The gearbox is great and the engine is a beauty. Easy to ride slow in town with no fuelling glitches, and just the right amount of surging power there whenever you squeeze the throttle. In truth I probably didn't make the AT accelerate any harder than I did the 750X in sport mode, but it feels radically different because in the case of the AT you are twisting the throttle maybe a 1/4 turn whereas with the 750 you are using all there is. That luxurious feeling of there being tons more drive in reserve is wonderful, but you have to ask yourself whether the penalty of an extra £5k and poorer fuel consumption is worth it for that 1% of the time you might want to use it (probably different consideration if you tour two-up).
The riding position is perfect and I did not feel like I was going to drop the AT at traffic lights - unlike the previous demo rider who had done just this and had a £250 excess to pay. Even though the seat (in the lower position was just right for me, it was much more difficult to throw a leg over the seat, and for me at nearly 66 that's got to be a consideration. You are sitting high and mighty but then so is the screen and I found this very disconcerting. Even more so once I started moving. At low speeds it was Ok - good even since I was able to ride with visor wide open even though it was just 3 or 4 degrees. But at 70mph it was ripping the peak off my Nolan N40 and I had to duck down into a hunched position and look through the screen. When I got back to the shop I compared the demo bike with others and realised they'd fitted the high touring screen. So I asked if they'd mind changing it (it's not adjustable). Full marks to Honda newcastle, because they did that an let me go out again. To no avail as it happens because although the view over the screen was much more acceptable, the turbulent airflow was hardly any different and again had the Nolan peak vibrating madly at 70mph. For me this is almost a deal killer so if anyone else is bothered by this you need to know my dimensions - I am 5ft 10 inches and since my inside leg is just 31 inches, my guess is that my trunk length is more like that of a 6 footer. I say it's almost a deal killer because I can see how I could cut the standard screen down to a minimalist one that would put the airflow where I want it - at top of shoulder level. But that would be a 12k gamble as I dont think they'd let me cut down the demo bike's screen. (By the way - the AT with touring screen is very similar in profile to the big KTM bikes - very vertical - and IMHO this is what causes the problem. And if you try to go even higher, then you will be looking through the screen, and it would have to be hugely wide as well because there's no way you can stop the turbulent airflow from these vertical surfaces.
Handling seemed good but of course with a skinny front wheel that's 2 inches bigger than the 750X it was always going to feel more ponderous. My guess is that the tyres too will make it a worse bet for road riding than the 750 - but then the standard fit tyres on the 750 are pretty hopeless and I get the dealer to swap them for PR4s. Dunno whether you can get them for the AT.
There was a new AT owner picking up his bike while I was there. He'd had everything fitted including the Honda topbox and panniers. These did not look top quality, and unlike the 750X, the AT required an ugly plate fitting to take the top box (The 750X top box simply clips straight in to the streamlined rear rack). But the main point was that this guy was tall and probably in his mid 40's and he had a couple of goes at getting on the bike. In the end he had to grab his right trouser leg and lift it over the seat and slide on. Most undignified.
The other thing that I had gone to check was just how much storage there is available on the naked Africa Twin and the answer is zero. This is very important to anyone coming from a NC750 as we have 19 litres of false tank which I once managed to fit a frying pan and a frozen chicken in (just what you need if you are going on a true adventure). NC owners do not need top boxes as most helmets fit in the not-tank providing you aren't carrying load of rubbish in it like me. But I thought as long as there was space somewhere on the bike for some thin overtrousers, a pack-small haversack and some Rokstraps and ideally room for a spare pair of gloves, a cleaning cloth and visor cleaner, and a sidestand load spreader, then I could cope. But there wasn't. There were no compartments in the fairing, and the underseat space was probably less than the NC's.there may have been useful space under the pillion seat but it required unbolting so wouldn't have been practical anyway.
The bottom line is that it will cost me £4k to swap for the 750 or £8k for the Africa Twin (both DCT models). So why am I even considering an Africa Twin rather than a simple evolution into the slightly tweaked new 750X. Well the AT oozes quality whereas the 750 doesn't, and the AT has a presence when you are piloting it down the Scotswood Road, and that multcolour AT is delicious (red, white. blue and gold). But if it's true that I could get a new 750 painted in those colors by Dream Machine, I'd save myself £3200, and have a bike more suited to my style. (I can always go posing on the Rocket3)