While traditional touring bikes offer the allure of long-range comfort and cargo capacity, the inherent size, weight and cost of such machines is impractical for many riders. Honda has addressed this triad of uncompromised traits with itsNT700V, a highly versatile middleweight offering the core amenities of much larger touring rigs in a scaled-down package.
New for 2010 to the American market, the NT700V has a well-established road record with 47,000 units sold since its European debut a decade ago. American Honda introduced the bike to stateside journalists with a day of riding on Southern California freeways and backroads aboard several examples ranging from the $9999 base model and a $10,999 ABS-equipped machine, to a fully accessorized version sporting a 45-liter tail trunk ($395) and heated grips ($190).
With its 3/4-fairing and integrated non-detachable hard saddlebags, the NT700V inherits its touring-oriented styling and broad-range function from theST1300. The side bags feature a unique pass-through space at the rear that interlinks the two; a document tube could fit in there nicely, adding “commuter special” to the NT’s qualifications.
During our initial freeway transit, the first thing I noted was the effectiveness of the manually height-adjustable windscreen in its full-up position: It provides a calm air pocket without buffet or undertow as experienced with some touring setups. Lowering screen height can be done while under way by simply rapping on its top edge with a free hand; raising the screen requires a firm tug with both hands while the bike is stopped.
Honda’s venerable 680cc, liquid-cooled, 59-degree V-Twin—sourced from the current Euro-only Transalp—provides the NT with plenty of low-end and midrange torque to accommodate two-up duty with a weekend’s worth of cargo aboard. Vibration levels are subdued, with only a modest pulse felt in the grips as top gear in the five-speed gearbox results in a relaxed 70 mph cruise at 5000 rpm. The natural upright riding position and spacious, well-padded saddle offer a posture-perfect perch for racking up the miles.
Riding a few of SoCal’s twisting canyon roads revealed a hint of sporting ability in the NT’s repertoire. Steering feel is light and neutral, working with ample cornering clearance to peg the fun meter in the curves. The triple-disc brakes are linked rear-to-front and do such an excellent job of slowing the 562-pound machine that the anti-lock option was indeed optional but not mandatory.
It has taken 10 years for the NT700V to reach our shores. Time will tell if American riders are NT savvy, but one thing is certain: Traveling coast-to-coast in comfort and style just got a lot more affordable for a lot more riders.