Honda NC750X review: Beware of the demon rev limiter

Interesting word, interesting. Take aviation, for my other job as editor of Microlight Flying magazine.

For example, you’re sitting in the clubhouse and another pilot wanders in, puts his headset on the shelf and puts the kettle on.

“What’s it like up there?” you say.

“Interesting,” he says, which can mean anything from mild turbulence to the wings fell off.

In the same way, I had a rather interesting experience when I rode the previous version of the NC750X, which was designed as a sort of commuter adventure bike. Naturally. The adventurous commuter has long been ill-served by motorcycle manufacturers.

Hey ho – It’s off to work we go for adventurous commuters

Anyway, I was overtaking a disturbingly orange Ford Focus on it with a lorry coming the other way when the rev limiter cut in with a vengeance at about 7,000rpm.

It was as if someone had thrown an anchor out, and as I squeezed back into the left lane, I don’t know who was more concerned, me or the lorry driver. It was a couple of minutes before my heart rate returned to below 5,000 beats a minute.

Now – Let’s see when that pesky rev limiter kicks in

As a result, the first thing I did with the new version was check when the rev limiter cut in.

The answer was 7,500rpm, which made sense, since the engine, basically a Honda Jazz powerplant cut in half, now not only makes 4bhp more than the 54bhp of the previous model, but makes it at 500rpm higher.

Apart from that, the changes are mainly the first three gear ratios shortened for a sportier response, a mild restyle, new LCD lights and ride-by-wire throttle, which means you can have four riding modes, namely Rain, Standard, Sport and User for bespoke tweaking, all controlled by a simple toggle switch on the left bar.

With the rev limit sorted, that left me free to admire the well nigh perfect riding position, tiiting you very slightly forward for a hint of sportiness to leave your pinkies resting lightly on the wide bars, the excellent mirrors and an LCD screen which is as dull but informative as a small accountant, giving you the basics of what you need to know at a glance: speed, revs, gear, fuel and temperature.

Neat – the screen is small but clear, and the riding modes are controlled by a simple toggle switch

Tucked away discreetly in a corner are the levels of power, engine braking and traction control, depending on what mode you’re in.

Ignoring Rain as usual, since it’s pointless, I started off in Standard, in which progress is perky rather than astonishing, as you’d expect with 58bhp and 214kg of bike, although it is significantly lighter than the 229kg previous version.

The problem is that the engine doesn’t really get going until 4,000rpm, picks up a bit more at five then six grand and makes maximum power at 6,750rpm – and with the rev limiter throwing its toys out of the prame at 7,500rpm, that leaves you a very small window of opportunity indeed for things like overtaking bright orange Fords.

Handling – A joyful marriage of delicacy and instinct

The DCT version makes less power, an A2-licence friendly 47bhp, but at 6,000rpm, which gives you a bit more leeway. The manual bike can also be restricted to 47bhp for A2 riders.

At least maximum torque of 51 ft lb is at 4,750rpm, or 4,000 on the 48 ft lb DCT version, although it’s 10kg heavier.

As a result of all this, passing anything on the open road needs to be fairly finely judged.

The good news is that thanks to the riding position, low seat height, wide bars and relatively light weight, handling is a joyful marriage of delicacy and instinct.

There’s only one disc up front, but it’s enough, with progressive bite and feel, and ditto from the rear, although I may be the only biker in the world who uses the back brake, for example into downhill corners. The rest of you don’t know what you’re missing.

Vroom – In Sport mode, progress is brisk until you hit the rev limiter

Right, time to try Sport mode, which gives the power delivery and engine braking a shot in the arm, holds onto the revs longer in each gear and reduces the traction control.

Now that was more like it, although the engine having more fun still came across the spoilsport of that rev limiter, like a schoolboy skipping down the corridor only to be met by the headmaster.

Still, within that, Sport was much more perky, and is where I suspect most riders will spend their time.

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Right, time to stick in some fuel and drop the bike back to Kieran at the dealers – which brought the biggest problem of the day.

I vaguely remembered from the previous version that the fuel tank had been replaced by a luggage compartment and moved to somewhere weird, but for the life of me couldn’t remember where.

I turned the key in the usual fuel tank socket, and the lid of the luggage compartment dutifully popped open. The good news is that this has been reshaped to take a full face helmet. The bad news is that it left me no closer to finding out where to put the fuel in.

Aha, there was a fuel symbol if I turned the key the other way, so I turned the key the other way. Nothing happened.

Sighing deeply, and glad of the fact that the bike sips fuel more frugally than a nun drinks sherry, at about 80mpg, since you ask, I rode back to the dealers and asked Kieran my first stupid question of the day. But probably not the last.

“Fuel nozzle? Under the back seat,” he said. Of course it was. Where else would it be?

How I made it from India to Belfast, Chile to Alaska, around Australia and around the world is a mystery to me at times.

Honda NC750X

Engine: 745cc liquid-cooled parallel twin

Power: 58bhp @ 6,750rpm

Torque: 51 ft lb @ 4,750rpm

Colours: Blue; black; red; white

Price: £7,549; DCT version £8,289

Tyred? Knackered, more like

I get invited on a few launches of new tyres, but never thought it was worth going, since all I know about tyres is that they’re round and black, and if you’re unlucky, flat at the bottom.

Geoff and Dominic McIlroy of the Belfast Motorcycle Centre after fitting his splendid new Bridgestone T32s

However, when I dropped my lovely old BMW R 850 R into Dominic McIlroy at Clifton Autos for a service, he pointed out that my tyres were showing signs of age. Bit like myself.

By a nice piece of serendipity, I then got home to find an email from Bridgestone Tyres guru Ben Smallman about the new new Battlax Sport Touring T32 and T32GT. “Excellent grip in all weather conditions, especially the wet, 10% more mileage versus the outgoing T31GT, single compound in the front and a dual compound in the rear, a 13% larger contact patch on the rear tyre, increasing grip and feel and 7% shorter wet braking distance,” he said.

“There’s also greater dry grip and cornering stability and more linear handling characteristics.”

The Battlax Sport Touring T32R

Now, obviously it never rains in Belfast, but they sounded too good to miss, so by teatime a pair was winging its way to Dominic.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a frozen haddock after I had them fitted: acceleration and braking were more responsive, and cornering was significantly more stable, secure and precise, especially in the wet. Remarkable.

So I can tell the difference after all. Heavens, I might even start going to launches now.

They’re around £250 fitted. See or your nearest dealer for details.


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