2016 Honda NC700X Long-Term Review

John Burns
by John Burns

When I became a man, I put away childish things (in the trunk!)...

The most important thing about the upgrades Honda gave its NC700X for 2016 is that it provided me the excuse to borrow one in order to evaluate them. And you can’t really ascertain whether a bigger windscreen, sharp new bodywork and muffler, and a bigger storage compartment are really what they’re purported to be without some long-term testing, can you? (Unfortunately, we can’t speak to the improvements in the Dual Clutch Transmission since we got the 6-speed manual; maybe we need to borrow a DCT when this one goes back for purely scientific purposes?)

2016 Honda NC700X

Editor Score: 86.5%
Engine 17.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 9.5/10
Overall Score86.5/100

Longtime MO readers probably are aware of the soft spot in my heart for this motorcycle, and how I’ve defended it against all critics and upvoted it as much as possible in every comparison. Usually it loses anyway: Callow testers without my extensive background and discriminating taste, easily distracted by shinier objects, can’t wrap their heads around a torquey Twin that only makes 48 horsepower on its way to a 7000-rpm redline. Now and then the fog clears though.

Here’s Tom Roderick on the 2015 NC in a three-bike comparo last year: “Rider ergonomics of the NC are the epitome of a neutral seating position. There’s also plenty of legroom for taller folk, and a soft yet supportive seat upon which to sit. It’s a motorcycle you can truly, comfortably sit atop all day, not feeling worse for the wear when you dismount. When kept within the confines of each bike’s intended purpose, the NC700X is by far the best urban motorcycle of these three – perfect for the motorcyclist living in San Francisco without a car.”

A bigger windscreen makes the NC more weatherproof. New tanktop rails complementing the rear ones mean you could bungee stuff to the tank too, if it came to that…

The NC finished second to the newly upgraded Kawasaki Versys 650 in that comparo – Editorial Director Sean Alexander’s favorite motorcycle of all time – so you get the idea. People ride motorcycles for a lot of different reasons, but by the time you’ve been riding them for a few decades, the reasons have had time to reduce and purify. TR is right about the NC being perfect for a carless San Franciscan, but it’s also perfect for plenty of other ’hoods.

On its website, Honda sticks the NC into its Adventure category, alongside the Africa Twin and venerable XR650L. It has a beak and feels like it could easily make it to 75% of the places those bikes could get you to on dirt roads, more if you threw on knobbier tires. With its 65-mpg fuel efficiency, it seems like a remote New Mexico ranch wouldn’t be a bad habitat for the NC either. Or the middle of the L.A. megalopolis. Or Texas hill country. I also had a Zero DSR for much of the time the NC was at my house, and I stopped remembering I needed to put gas in the Honda, too, until I’d see its low-fuel light blinking on rare occasions.

The NC was going to make it to the top of Saddleback Mountain easily on its standard Dunlop Trailmax tires, but the Zero DSR’s lack of range that day forced us to turn back. Surprisingly good suspension with 5.4 / 5.9 inches travel seems like enough.

My son rode the NC up the coast to visit his GF over Labor Day weekend on his first motorcycle trip alone; that was frightening, but I felt like I was sending him off with a trusted friend:

As I unpacked my bag I panicked for a brief moment: Oh no, had I forgotten it? I rummaged through my clothes. Thank the lord, there it was before me, my “If you can read this the bitch fell off” t-shirt. It would soon serve its purpose. I was fortunate enough last week to be able to hop on the NC700X that has been sitting patiently at our house – whose very convenient built-in storage had been used mostly for grocery store runs of baby wipes and bottles of wine, my father’s must-haves – for a scenic ride to Isla Vista, CA. I had almost a week off from class and my girlfriend Chelsea had been asking me to come visit for a couple week; the explosive diarrhea excuse was starting to lose its charm.

The NC700X’s large tank storage was perfect for bringing another helmet up for Chelsea, and the utility rails on the back seat made strapping on my heavy backpack for the long trip a breeze. While not the most exciting or sporty bike, the NC made it a pleasant ride with its comfortable riding position and my personal MVP for long rides – the windscreen. I may have been spit on by a passing sportbike or two, and there was a pair of motorcycle cops who I’m pretty sure yelled “pussy” at me, but I wasn’t complaining. This bike looks pretty cool if you ask me, I dig the adventure bike styling. But try ripping away from a stop or quickly getting on the gas to pass a group of cars, and there’s not much there. Is there a version with a sportbike engine in it?

Still the bike cruises along great and it’s tons of fun in the corners. After arriving in Isla Vista, University of Santa Barbara’s beachside college town and Franzia-box-in-the-gutter capitol, I peeled my numb (but sculpted) glutes from the seat and drug myself upstairs for a good night’s rest. It was an extremely fun and well hydrated week in Isla Vista, but the most memorable part (for numerous reasons) was that Sunday, we were able to go for an afternoon ride up the beautiful 154 to famous Cold Springs Tavern for some live music and some amazing barbeque. Get the tri-tip sandwich. Thank you NC700X, for the comfortable ride, abundant storage and restored intestinal health.

—Ryan Burns

When Stater Bros. has 40% off on six or more, a man’s a fool not to restock the cellar. The newly expanded, 22-liter cargo bay means there’s still room for food or baby wipes (or an XL full-face).

Is the NC dull? That’s purely a judgment call, I suppose. All I know is during the time it was hanging out at the house along with a KTM Adventure R, an H-D Roadster and a Suzuki GSX-S1000 (also the Zero DSR), it was the NC I hopped onto nearly every time I needed to be somewhere. I also jumped on it just as often as I got the car out of the garage to pick up stuff I needed: new oxygen sensors for the car at the AutoZone, a tri-tip to throw on the grill, a book to not read from the library, three tomato plants, a bucket of KFC… The other marsupial motorcycle, the Aprilia Mana, carries a warning label not to carry live animals in its pouch, but there’s no reason you couldn’t take the cat to the vet in the NC. If it’s only a few miles I mean.

Middleweight Mash-up Six-Way Shootout

It’s an adventure bike, but one with a seat that seems way lower than the 32.7 inches in Honda’s specs. At 472 pounds all gassed up, it’s also a whole 70 pounds lighter than brother Africa Twin (which is way lighter than most Adventure bikes) – and that lightness is what makes the NC so everyday useable.

Go to lunch, bring home the doggie bag. The new exhaust is a little growlier (though Honda doesn’t claim more power) and adds more personality to a bike which already has plenty.

Yes, it would’ve been nice if we’d gotten hydraulic valve lifters on a bike that only revs to 7000 rpm; as it is, you’re supposed to check the NC’s clearances every 16,000 miles. There are only eight of them, though, they’re easy enough to get to after you drop the radiator, and they’re screw-and-locknut adjustable – probably a fun motorcycle-bonding task, a good excuse for a little garage time.

Yeah, well, the NC is no GS Adventure, but then it’s about one-third the price and 160 less pounds. Cruise control would be nice.

At the end of a few months living with the NC, I confirmed what I already knew: This is the most versatile motorcycle and probably one of the most economical ones you can buy for $7,499. There’s no ABS on the 6-speed, but $600 more gets ABS and Honda’s excellent Dual Clutch Transmission, relieving you of even the need to shift gears. (I lobbied for the DCT version to be “Scooter of the Year” but got shot down.)

Ask MO Anything: New Honda Superbike?

I’m as disgruntled as the next guy with Honda for holding out on the VFR1000RR and other inscrutable things it’s done over the last decade, but bikes like the NC, the CB500 triplets and the new Africa Twin go a long way toward easing my pain, all of them fantastic machines for the proletariat. I’ll be sad to see this one go back. But we do need to sample the new DCT version. The work goes on….

2016 Honda NC700X

+ Highs

  • Rugged individual, ready for anything
  • Cheap to obtain and keep, looks more expensive than it is
  • Yes I can pick up a watermelon on the way home

– Sighs

  • No cruise control
  • No 12-volt outlet in the trunk (but Honda sells the kit for $79.95)
  • Might be the last new motorcycle you’ll ever buy
John Burns
John Burns

More by John Burns

Join the conversation
2 of 71 comments
  • EM FL EM FL on Oct 19, 2017

    I owned a 2013 NC700X DCT for over a year. It is great as a commuter, the low center of gravity really helps maneuvering at slow speeds. There were a lot of things to like about the NC: Easy maintenance, Honda reliability, great mpg, ride-ability. For practical everyday use, very hard to beat the NC.

  • Ramon_Nudal Ramon_Nudal on Jun 05, 2019

    I just bought a new leftover 3 weeks ago & I love it. MUCH lower center of gravity than my Vstrom 650 which I've dropped in the garage a dozen times & can no longer pick up at 62. Lots of low-end torque. It loafs at 70 like it has a bigger engine. I don't shift into 6th until I'm going at least 65. My hooligan days are behind me, no wheelies or stoppies. I don't need 100+ hp. This isn't a track bike but a very enjoyable bike to spend the day on. Still breaking in the engine so I haven't been over 4,500 rpm or full throttle but I leave traffic behind in town.