Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2017. Since then, a number of other good beginner motorcycles have hit the market, so we’ve decided to update this post with some of the newer options available for new riders. The list of is available below.
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?)
Already popular in Europe, the Honda VFR1200X receives important updates for 2016 and will now be available to American customers, joining the previously announced 2016 CRF1000L Africa Twin. Honda also announced that the NC700X and CB500X receive aggressive new styling for 2016, and that the U.S. debut for all four 2016 Honda adventure models will be at the November 20–22 International Motorcycle Shows stop in Long Beach, California.
With this month’s Buyer’s Guides focusing on Touring ( Touring America: Buyers Guide, And Advice, Motorcycle Touring: Do-It-Yourself Touring) concocting a touring-focused Top 10 seemed more than appropriate. Large-displacement tourers are abundant and receive lots of press, especially in our bigger-is-better country. Choosing 10 mid-displacement bikes to shoehorn into the category turns out to be more difficult than one might think. The 10 bikes here represent more of what’s available in the category rather than a rating countdown from 10 to one. So, in alphabetical order we give you 10 sub-1000cc bikes that span a wide range of sporting, as well as, touring capabilities.
Sure everybody wants the Open-class bike, the most power, the most expensive, the one with all the electronic stuff, just like everybody wants the trophy mate with the big cylinders. Then after you’ve lived with them for a few years, the maintenance, the narcissism, the psychic wear and tear of constantly stoking the beast’s ego and keeping up with the Joneses can get to be a drag.
It’s easy for us to get carried away in the spirit of the MOment, no matter what kind of motorcycles we’re testing here at the MO. Manufacturers are constantly showering us with the latest greatest machines: $30,000 six-cylinder sport tourers? We love them. $15,000 retro nakeds? Fantastic! Cruisers? Fresh surprises every year, including the new Indian Scout.
Short for “New Concept,” the Honda NC700X is a utilitarian motorcycle forging a unique path in this landscape. Speed isn’t its main focus. Instead, being the one bike capable of many things is where its value lies. Its narrow profile makes it capable of slicing through traffic, and its 670cc parallel-Twin engine has enough grunt to easily outpace cars trying to jockey for position on the road. The on-board storage compartment proves especially nice if you need to make a small grocery run. Fit the optional luggage (saddlebags and top case), and you almost have enough room for a trip to Costco! Conveniently, at $7,799, the NC700X won’t break the bank, allowing you to splurge at the aforementioned bargain warehouse on 83 rolls of toilet paper.
Less than a decade ago, the motorcycle market was experiencing unbridled success. Manufacturers were updating their sportbikes every two years, and the cruiser market was blazing hot with riders who sought personal freedom via riffs on the V-Twin archetype. Motorcycles sold at unprecedented levels, especially to a baby boomer demographic that was absolutely flush with cash, credit, and/or home equity.
When Honda released the 2012 NC700 series of motorcycles with an optional Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), some members of the riding public scratched their heads. To an experienced rider, operating a well-engineered clutch and gearbox is seen as an asset, not a negative. What the naysayers couldn’t wrap their heads around was that Honda was trying to attract new people to the ranks of riders.