A 300 Mile Test for the NC700XD

The big test day for the NC had us turning 300 miles round trip with heat, then very cool temps, rain, then cold rain, dry tarmac, then tarmac flooded over.

Our group of 12 bikes left Greenville, South Carolina, for the mountains of North Carolina, amid a beautiful, sunny morning. Temps were up, but we knew heading into the mountains, things would cool down quickly. Our first destination: Mt. Mitchell State Park, home of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain peak east of the Big Muddy (Mississippi River) at 6684 feet.

No rain was in the forecast along our entire route according to Weather Underground. So rain gear stayed home. The ride up was awesome! Comfortably fast paced, no Ricky Racer antics by anyone, with the ride leader doing a good job of keeping everyone together. Lunch was at the Mt. Mitchell restaurant, and having eaten there many times, I must say this time the meal was truly forgettable.

Leaving town in traffic, I kept the NC in automatic, Sport mode 2 (out of 3). This was also a good setting for the sweeping curves we encountered on the ride north. Our approach road to the Blue Ridge Parkway was NC226A, a.k.a. The Diamondback Motorcycle & Sports Car Route.

For this super twisty and super fun section of road, I switched the NC from auto, to manual, on the fly. No drama. Whatever gear the automatic mode tranny is in, the same gear is selected by computer for manual mode. Now I was in full control of gear selection. Upshifts and downshifts with the buttons on the left handlebar were fast and smooth as we negotiated the tight curves and switchbacks of 226A. I know I am now becoming one with this motorbike as I only grabbed for a non-existent clutch lever once, and wiggled my left foot for a downshift only once!

Once on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I switched back to automatic mode, but this time in Sport Mode 3. This was perfect for the continuous curves on the BRP.

The stock tires on this bike are great. She is shod with Bridgestone Battlewings, a 90 percent road, 10 percent off-road (????), ok, hard fire road, tire. So far, since getting the NC, I have only tested them in dry conditions, and they are excellent! They grip like nobody’s business, and give really good feedback from the road. Unbeknownst to me, I would get the chance to test their wet road worthiness big time, in a few hours.

At one of our rest stops, we came upon a hopped up Polaris Slingshot in a parking space. For those of you unfamiliar with the Slingshot, it is a three wheeled  (two front, one rear), open cockpit, steering wheel vehicle. Supposedly, it has a pretty powerful power plant right out of the box.

Polaris Slingshot

I have heard it been said by those not enamored with this vehicle, that it has all the inconvenience of a convertible, and none of the fun of a motorcycle. So why? Not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…………….

The afternoon was getting on, and as it was , my ETA home was going to be around 6:30 – 6:45. Beady little eyes will start wandering about in these here mountains looking for supper along the roadside soon, so I split from the group and headed down the hill. Then the skies opened up.

Big time rain! No where to pull over, mostly because I couldn’t see! Thankfully, the bucket drenching only lasted a couple of minutes, then reduced itself to a steady shower. But at least visibility was good now, and, a perfect real world wet test for the Bridgestone Battlewings!

The roads were soaking wet, so I slowed my speed and significantly reduced my lean angles; no Moto GP rain tire leanings going on here! The Battlewings performed admirably. Coming out of curves while rolling on the throttle produced a steady grip of rubber to road as the bike straightened up. No sphincter puckering slippage at all.

Some sections of road were flooded over, not deeply, but enough to see a small current running through the water. Plowing through, there was not the slightest hint of hydroplaning! I was duly impressed with these Battlewings! Now, the only thing to ascertain is their durability through this year. I’ve had them from mile 0, so we’ll see what number rolls up on the odo at the end of the year and what the tread wear looks like.

Not all is peaches and cream with the NC, however. My biggest complaint, and a major one, is the seat. Up to 150 miles or so, it is ok. Beyond that, it gets very uncomfortable. For some reason, Honda developed this seat with a forward slope, which pushes you into the frunk. About 125 miles out, you begin to lack feeling in your nether regions. No bueno! Fortunately, the ergos of handlebar and foot pegs on the NC are similar to the Africa Twin, which allows me to stand up and steer comfortably, and get blood moving again!

I had this problem with my ST1300 as well, but solved it with Beadrider seat beads. Can’t do that with the NC though. The NC’s seat height at 32.7 inches already puts me on the forefoot/balls of my feet. Beadrider adds about another half inch of height, which would put me on tip toes. No, no, no. So, a new seat is on the list of add ons, sooner than later.

I was very happy with this motorbike prior to this road test. Now I am truly in love with this machine. She performed flawlessly throughout the varied conditions of this test. Once the seat is changed out, she will be the perfect bike for me at this stage of my riding career. The adventure continues!



Ancient Bikes In An Ancient City – A Concours d’Elegance Part 2

 A beautiful day in northeast Florida greeted us as we made our way to our favorite coffee house on the island; Amelia Island Coffee. Enjoying a cappuccino as we look out over the harbor, we are excited about spending the day at the Riding Into History Concours d’Elegance in St. Augustine.

History Lesson: St. Augustine, FL

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement within the Continental U.S. With the established presence of Spanish explorers claiming Florida for Spain, St. Augustine was then founded in 1565. Over the centuries, St. Augustine saw as many as six different flags flying over Fort Matanzas: Spain, Britain, Spain again, United States, Confederate States of America (Civil War period), and finally and permanently, United States.

This weekend, many flags are flying over St. Augustine, but this time denoting the country of origin of the many beautiful vintage bikes on display at the World Golf Village and Hall of Fame.

This venue is absolutely beautiful. A large lake sits in the middle of the property with a concrete boardwalk around the perimeter. Upon this boardwalk are hundreds of vintage motorcycles lined up by class, year and marque. The walk around the lake is approximately one mile. That’s one mile of tightly packed vintage bikes! Awesome!

Vintage motorbikes line the entire perimeter of this lake

Arriving at the World Golf Village, we were astounded by the sheer number of motorcycles. It was mind bending. So, we started our perusement of the moto eye candy right in front of the Caddyshack  Grill (a great place for lunch-highly recommended) and started snapping away.




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By now we were hungry and thirsty, and still had only walked half the boardwalk! Lunch at the Caddyshack Grill was exceptional. Beautiful ambience: dark wood interior, golf theme decor, both current and historical, nicely done. Service was wonderful considering the number of bikers invading, the food was very good and the beer refreshing. It was a pretty warm day. Satiated and satisfied, we ventured outside for round two of Riding into History.


(And yes. those minibikes are way cool!)




You know there’s nothing new under the sun, right? I know that too. But, here I am one month after buying my NC700XD automatic/manual transmission bike, thinking I’m the cat’s meow with new tranny technology, when this comes into view:




Nothing new under the sun.


Many years ago I was an avid bicyclist and decent club racer. I had an insatiable appetite for bicycles both modern and vintage, just as I do with motorcycles and automobiles today. Many motorcyclists are also bicyclists, and if that describes you, here is a section of interest:


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If you live in the South, as we do, college football is king. Roo and I, and apparently the gentleman who owns this bike, are Florida Gator fans/alum. However, we don’t go to such extremes…………….. Go Gators!


Now that’s a BMW I can live with! But, this Ducati in Gator colors would look great in the garage:


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And so, after a few hours and having circled the perimeter (me twice, faster the second time around), it was time to head back to Amelia Island to meet up with a friend, a couple of beers, and dinner.

This was an exceptional show, held the third weekend each May. Do see it if you can. You won’t be disappointed.


Ancient Bikes in an Ancient City – A Concours d’Elegance Part 1


St. Augustine, Florida

Roo and I have been wanting to go to this Concours for a few years now, and this year we made it a priority. It did not disappoint. Every vintage marque was here: Harley, Honda, Vincent, Velocette, Merkle, BSA, Ariel, Moto Guzzi, and so many more. Our heads were spinning with all the eye candy surrounding us at such a beautiful venue, The World Golf Village & Hall of Fame in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Our home base for the long weekend is not St. Augustine, but Amelia Island, about a one hour drive north of St. Aug and a stones throw to the Georgia state line. Roo & I have been visiting here for going on seventeen years, and are close to deciding if this is where we will spend our “retirement” years.

The city of Fernandina Beach is on the north end of Amelia, and is a beautiful, quaint and very historic walkable city. Fernandina has been a former pirate stronghold (a real one!), was the only Florida city where a major Revolutionary War battle was fought (the battle for East Florida), and boasts the first Cross-Florida rail line built to Cedar Key in the 1880’s. Amelia Island, compared to the rest of coastal Florida, is quiet and laid back. Island Time is the rule here, and Amelia definitely has a Key West vibe to it.

The Beaches

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The Boats

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The City


The Architecture

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“Don’t mess with me bike, matey”

An evening of chillin’ out at a local hangout with live music and cold beer, has us feeling mellow and slipping into Island Time. Tomorrow we head to St. Augustine to spend the day among legendary motorcycle marques and the legends of golf.

Next post: Riding Into History


The New Concept: Everymans & Womans Automatic

As you all know by now, I am enamored with my new moto purchase. My reasons for buying Honda’s NC700XD were many, but basically the decision came down to four criteria: I wanted to downsize from my ST1300, I wanted updated technology, I wanted to re-introduce fun into my riding, and I wanted a unique motorcycle. Unique you ask? It looks like any other adventure/enduro bike out there. Ah, but the uniqueness is in the technology, not what the eye can behold.

Honda built this bike to appeal to a new generation of riders, while also appealing to experienced motorcyclists. The NC in the designation alludes to the name New Concept, where Honda has introduced a few new concepts to the motorcycling community. Let’s look at a few:

Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)

This is the heart and soul of the NC. The DCT is an automatic transmission with a drive mode and three sport modes. In drive mode, the transmission upshifts quickly, getting into 6th gear by 40 MPH.This is ECO mode, where the best fuel economy is generated. I have been getting about 65-70 MPG in this mode. Switching to Sport modes 1,2 &3 causes the transmission to upshift later, holding the revs higher before shifting. Sport 3 in the twisties shifts spot on for me.This is not a scooter Constant Velocity Transmission. This is a computer controlled double clutch system, similar to what is found in some of Honda’s automobiles. If the engineer in you would like a techno-geek description of the DCT, find it here.

 Neutral, Drive, Sport: Right handlebar array

For enticing new riders to the sport, this is a godsend. For experienced riders, speaking from my experience, not having a clutch lever and foot shifter to deal with has actually enhanced my brains ability to focus more on situational awareness while riding! This can be a huge safety factor!

Look Ma, no clutch lever!

Behind the right handlebar is a trigger, which allows you to move from automatic mode to manual mode and back again. Once in manual mode, you are in full control of gear selection. The trigger and push button for shifting in manual are on the left handlebar array:

Trigger with index finger to upshift on front of left handlebar (note +)

Push button with thumb to downshift on back of left handlebar (note – )

Paddle shifting in manual is a blast, and super fast! There is no need to roll off the throttle to match gearing with engine speed, as the computer does this for you. Not having to disengage, foot shift, and engage the clutch has made my riding in the mountains here more fun, more relaxed, and safer, allowing my brain to focus on setting up for each curve. Only thing that moves while shifting is my index finger and thumb. Fantastic!

Some naysayers may say, “Nah! A real motorcycle has a clutch lever and foot shifter. I wouldn’t be caught dead on one of those scooter things.” Whatever. 

This is Honda’s third generation of the DCT. So sure of it’s performance is Honda, they have even put it on their groundbreaking ADV bike, the Africa Twin. Reviews from dirt enthusiasts (not me), have been overwhelmingly positive about the DCT’s performance off road. Both the NC and Africa Twin are also available with the standard clutch lever and foot shifter. For me, I don’t miss traditional shifting at all, except when I find myself “ghost” shifting my left hand and foot! But that too, shall pass.

Africa Twin CRF1000L

The Frunk. Can you do the frunky thing?

No, it’s not a Cool & the Gang song. The frunk, according to the NC 700X community, is a term used to describe the front trunk. That piece of motorbike that sits in front of the rider is not what it seems. Where the traditional gas tank would be is a huge storage bin; a front trunk or frunk.

This thing is cavernous, having 22 liters of storage space that can hold a full face helmet. After putting everything that was kept permanently on the ST; air compressor, tire gauge, sunglasses, tire repair kit, tools, assorted sundry, there was still more than half the capacity available for more stuff! Who needs a tank bag!

Easy battery access is also through the frunk. I have a SAE lead and USB lead attached directly to the battery that stay concealed in the frunk. When I need them for GPS or battery charging/heated gear I just lay the leads over the side and close the frunk lid. Convenient and clean. Frunky, huh?

The gas tank is under seat with the filler neck under the lockable pillion seat. This may be the only minor, and I mean very minor, fueling inconvenience when traveling with a drybag on the pillion. I tried it with a loaded drybag, tent, and camp chair Rockstrapped to the pillion seat. Simply loosen the Rockstraps, slide the bag, tent, chair as a unit onto the driver seat, open pillion seat, fuel, close pillion, slide gear back and tighten down straps. Easy, peasy. With a 200+ mile range between fill ups, it’s no big deal.

This motorcycle has re-kindled the FUN factor in my riding. Weighing in at 200 lbs. less than my ST, with a super low center of gravity, handling this machine is a breeze. She is quick, stable, nimble in the tight twisties, and instills tremendous confidence in my riding ability. Even if you would never dream of throwing a leg over a Honda, just for giggles & grins, test ride one of their DCT models. You may become a believer!

Enough About My Bike. Let’s Look At…………

2017 Motorcycle Meltdown

As much as I like modern motorbikes, especially with a modicum of useful technology, and Euro styling, modern retro and vintage bikes get my heart racing. These motorcycles, to me, are works of art. I look at these bikes with an aesthetic eye first before segwaying to their performance capabilities, if at all.

And so, after picking up my NC700XD a few  Saturday mornings ago, Roo and I dropped the top on the Miata and cruised up to Hendersonville, North Carolina for the 2017 Motorcycle Meltdown Vintage bike show. This is a grass roots, laid back bike show for vintage and cafe racer bikes, the real deals, from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. A family oriented event, folks from all walks of life attend this show: Oldsters who rode & wrenched these machines “back in the day”, hipsters who are fascinated with these ancient machines and restore and build them today, women riders and enthusiasts, non-riders who just like old bikes, kids & dogs running about, and folks like me and Roo who appreciate the visual appeal and aesthetics of these motorbikes.

Here are a few slides of these wonderful works of art. Enjoy, and, if you fit the age demographic, maybe reminisce?

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