The Japanese company’s latest user-friendly tourer, a road-biased version of the popular Africa Twin, has all-day comfort, polite road manners and the secret of keeping biking couples happy as they ride into the sunset together
Honda has just invented a new relationship counselling service.
It’s called the NT1100, and its clever features to keep couples as happy as bunnies in a warm warren include:
* A pillion seat as well-padded as Kim Kardashian’s bum, but better looking.
* A comfy back rest on a top box big enough to take a week’s supply of shoes.
* A Dual Clutch Transmission version for silky gear changes, therefore no clashing helmets, divorce and justifiable homicide.
Oh, and before I forget, it’s also a motorbike. Giving a nod to previous Honda tourers such as the Deauville and Pan European, it’s basically an Africa Twin with a slightly lower seat, slightly sportier steering geometry and riding position, shorter travel suspension and 17in wheels for sharper handling than the Twin’s 21in front and 18in rear for its off-road aspirations.
Mind you, I suspect like Range Rover drivers, most adventure bike owners’ idea of off-roading is parking on the pavement.
The bikes we were riding on the launch in Spain were all fitted with DCT, that very clever piece of Honda engineering introduced on the VFR1200 in 2010.
It’s a very Japanese system – one clutch handles first, third and fifth gear, and another second, fourth and sixth, and before they hand over, they bow deeply and exchange business cards.
It works brilliantly on some Hondas such as the Crosstourer, and less so on the Africa Twin, where I’d found it snatchy at low speed, so it was going to be interesting to see how it worked on the NT1100.
The answer was, not surprisingly, the same as on the Africa Twin – a bit snatchy at low speed and completely useless in Drive mode, which changes gear so early that you’re in sixth at just over 40mph.
It also refuses to change down when needed, for example overtaking or going into corners, leaving the engine chugging at 2,000rpm like a frustrated tractor. Or even worse, it changes gear halfway around hairpin bends, leaving you slightly discombobulated.
The answer, as with the Africa Twin, is to switch to Sport mode, where the middle of the three settings is the best combination of smoothness and oomph.
It’s still reluctant to kick down a gear for overtaking, mind you, although you can do that manually with the + and – paddles on the left bar, or just change from auto to manual mode completely.
Since more than 50% of all European Africa Twin sales are now DCT, riders obviously like it, and I suspect one of the above is what they do if they’ve any sense.
Oh, and on the subject of the left bar, it has the same number of buttons as the Africa Twin – 17. Someone at Honda obviously has a disturbing button fetish. Still, better than thrashing your granny with a feather duster.
Anyway, having got that sorted, time to admire the other good points of the bike, such as the splendid 6.5in TFT screen, with a letterbox version below with basic info if you’re using the main one as a sat nav connected to your phone.
The mirrors are good, as is the five-position manually adjustable screen, although you can’t do it on the move, since it requires a bit of brute force and ignorance with both hands.
As expected, the seat’s all-day comfortable, as I suspect the pillion is, the handling’s effortlessly neutral, and both front and rear brakes have nicely progressive feel and bite. I am aware that I may be the only biker in the world who uses the rear brake for trailing into downhill corners, especially in the sometimes soggy conditions of the launch.
The 50-litre top box and 65 litres of pannier space are enough for an around-the-world jaunt with your better half, and although Honda claims a 250-mile range, that’s optimistic, since after 149 miles of spirited riding on the launch, I was down to one bar on the fuel gauge.
So all in all, it’s very Honda – easy to ride, no vices, satisfying grunt once you sort out the DCT and comfort for both rider and pillion – although personally, I’d save a grand and go for the manual version.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just nip out and buy a bottle of wine, since my wife’s cooking dinner. That also works for keeping relationships happy, and it’s cheaper than a motorbike.
Engine: 1084cc liquid-cooled parallel twin
Power: 101bhp @ 7,500rpm
Torque: 77 ft lb @ 6,250rpm
Colours: Metallic grey; white; black
Price: £11,999; DCT version £12,999