Honda NT1100 Honest Review

Honda NT1100 Honest Review

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I’m traveling a lot on different adventure motorcycles and here is my review of the Honda NT1100. Broadcasting from Portugal. I've been attentively watching the model from the time they published its first tech specs, that’s why I could see appealing features of the NT1100.

So I started learning how other people would react to it because Hondas never clearly explain what their motorcycles are made for, while journalists usually just put them in existing frames. So I’ve read discussions before the release where people compare it to an RT or an FJR and that was an obvious thought because Honda put the model to their touring lineup, but it’s not one of them and its price is out of the range. The name NT means New Touring.

Having the word ‘New’ in a name is like naming a folder ‘New folder’. NC means New Concept. It's been around for 10 years but it’s still ‘new’. Also, there were journalists test rides in Barcelona, and again, not a word about why the NT1100 is technically creating a new class. It’s important to get a foreword about Honda to understand the model.

Honda is known for a very conservative brand. A reliable, predictable but not spicy at all, that is simply not true. If we learn it a bit deeper we see that Honda is almost the only company that makes extravagant motorcycles again and again.

But they’re exotic inside while having a pretty mediocre appeal. Let’s learn a case. Their lineup obviously has huge gaps, such as a mid-size Adventure bike like a Transalp or a Smaller Africa twin is just not available. Meanwhile, for 10 years there are only rumors that Honda will come and beat all of them. There are also no 1200 touring or full-size crossover.

And a sporty crossover like a Crossrunner is also missing from the lineup. And these are just touring motorcycles of popular classes. So what would any conservative brand do? They would create new models for the gaps based on already existing engines. And we’re not talking about some rare niche models. I mean Multistrada V4, R1250 GS - the best sellers of Ducati and BMW. The Africa Twin with its 21" wheel and long travel suspensions just doesn’t fit in this gap.

Any other manufacturer would bother if they had these lineup gaps but the thing is that Honda is the biggest motorcycle brand in the world, overtaking others with a huge trail between them and others. They own the biggest share of the Asian market. The Asian market is bigger than the other 4 regional markets combined. And it becomes kind of obvious when you consider their population and their motorization level, in some countries over 80% of families own at least one scooter or a motorcycle. But we have a western world mindset, so we believe that everyone is only dreaming of see their stuff in Europe and North America, while most Asian manufacturers just don't give any things about it seeing it as insignificant to start hustling for it.

It’s the same thing as it is with supercars, it’s just a tiny spoiled market. Just to clarify, the US market is the only one big enough western market, consuming about a half million motorcycles per year. Indonesia took about 4-5 millions, tiny Vietnam swallowed 3 millions and India has eaten about 20 millions. This is exactly the reason why KTM is half owned by Indians, or BMW, Triumph, Harley and the Japanese brands try to manufacture and sell motorcycles in India. And about the fact these bikes are cheap we will talk in a few.

Honda owns about a quarter of the whole Indian two wheelers market, while they own about 60% of the scooter market. The best selling scooter in India is Activa. There are plenty of cheaper alternatives and even from Honda this is not the cheapest model. And Honda doesn’t even have the biggest dealer network in the country. Also, Honda is not the biggest brand when you think about motorcycles. It has the second place. The biggest one is Hero.

I know you probably didn’t hear about it but according to some resources they sell from 6 to 10% of motorcycles in the world. The irony is that Hero, earlier known as Hero Honda, was a common project to build Hondas in India. Not so long ago Honda left them but their most successful models are still old ones designed by ex-shareholders with almost no changes.

The biggest seller is the Hero Splendor. Good old Hero Honda Splendor is almost a time capsule. 2/3 of an incredibly huge market of India are Hondas, they just get different stickers. Big piece of a pie, isn’t it? But in other huge markets like Indonesia, Vietnam or Thailand, Honda sells about 75% of all two-wheelers. Yes, there are mostly cheap bikes and scooters, but if you count the money, according to different sources Honda motorcycles earns almost 3 times more than their closest competitors, and the biggest slice of the company profit pie comes from Asia.

And the competitors are Hero, Bajaj and TVS who are not that famous. If you think about it you’ll notice that Maserati is just an addition to Fiat, and Lambo and Bugatti are to Volkswagen and Audi, but the opposite is just not true. One more important fact: Honda spends 1.5 times more on scientific research than Harley-Davidson totally earns.

Of course each year Honda get a few times more patents than their closest competitors, and at least 300 times more than Harley gets, so even wheels designed by Honda are designed to endure and be rigid while Harley choses wheels based on how their look fits into the style of their new adventure model. Or, if for you number of patterns are not the main KPI but the racings are, Honda has the biggest win score in MotoGP. And now let’s speak about the economy. There are about 1000 Honda dealers in the USA. For India these numbers vary from 1000 to 2000.

But in general the numbers are very similar. But salaries are not. On average the difference is 20 times. All other costs like rent, building expenses differ by at least 20 times, and the profit is made not only by motorcycles sales but by sales of parts, maintenance services, insurances, but here the difference is no 20 times but like 5 or 10, so on a long run a day in a dealership in India generates you more profit than one in America. But in real life it’s even more complicated, because western markets are low-margin and unstable, Honda time to time lose money in Europe that are being covered by Asian profit. For example, Russia - the world's largest country, they had 14 motorcycle dealerships before the war.

While just to compare they had 680 shops in Vietnam, 1200 in Thailand. These countries are as small as the average large Russian regions. Corporation-wide, there are no separate European markets, Europe just counts as one thing. Small cheap motorcycles and scooters in Asia make more money for Honda than all that cars and bikes mess in America or Europe. So numbers talk that every fourth or according to other sources every third scooter that was sold on Earth was by Honda.

To explain it even better Honda sells one more two wheeler every 2 seconds. And on top of that a few seconds after that they will sell a boat engine, a generator and so on. Once I bought a new Honda scooter in India.

You literally have to wait in a line at the cash desk to pay it. So let’s just think if Honda’s executives really care if they have any big capacity motorcycles niche open. That even if it gets an incredible success they’ll get about 1% of total motorcycles department gain, while it’s a smaller amount than if they just paint an older scooter to a new color in Asia. Keeping in mind that income might differ from year to another by about 10% just because of external factors.

So here I’m just saying that Honda keep their attention on the Asian market, that’s why they can do to not care about gaps in their lineup, while having opportunities to check if there is a new market segment as in the case with the NT1100. If it succeeds then great. If it doesn’t they’ll just discontinue it and no one would even notice anything is wrong. There are no other manufacturers who can just take as much risk as Honda can. With maybe an exception of Kawasaki who just kid on the European market too.

Knowing all that and looking at what Honda does on the western market it’s hard to ignore that they often just build silly motorcycles. Crosstourer is a weird giant, the heaviest adventure motorcycle that feels like a tank and is built around a sport touring engine. An X-Adv is just nuts, an off road chain driven maxi scooter unlike anything else. NC is a trunk instead of a fuel tank, a long stroke car engine and a car-like robotic transmission, can you find anything like it? Africa Twin is a concept of a huge dirt bike, when it was released only KTM had things like that.

In addition to that it has the DCT on the dirt bike, it is clear it was an experiment, they had to tune the DCT software to refine it for offroad use. The VFR800X. If it was released today everyone would understand it is the only 4 cylinder mid-sized upright sport touring motorcycle with a legendary VFR800F engine with no changes in it, it is a competitor for a Tracer, it is not an adventure bike as they know them. Back in 2011 no one understood what it was built for, journalists tried to measure clearance, off-road capabilities, they just didn't care it had shorter wheel travels than some supersports have. And of course the biggest motorcycle brand just put that suspension there with no purpose, it’s obvious, there are no engineers in Japan.

3 years after that the S1000XR was released, 4 years later a Tracer. CRF 300 Rally feels like something you understand but doesn’t have any competitors. The only bike in a class built on a real dirt-bike platform. There also was a CTX700, a weird looking cruiser. And I’m mentioning only touring motorcycles made for the last 10 years.

Not bad for a conservative brand, right? But the flipside is that if Honda doesn’t care about the Western market and for them these are just only concepts, they usually don’t refine the motorcycle enough, and release a rough product, not from a reliability standpoint but from its ergos and ownership. And now about the NT1100’s strength. It has the best wind-protection among anything with its price-tag. There are just no competitors from the wind-protection standpoint. Tourings are far more expensive while adventures are cheaper around 20 000 € just cannot compete.

For the last 3 or 4 years this is the only stock-windscreen motorcycle that I have tested that lets me open my visor on a highway being 188 cm tall or 6 foot 2. You don’t feel any wind on your face and the helmet doesn’t shake. I’ll tell you more, to film the review I’ve set the windscreen to the middle position to get a better picture for you. And with the middle position I couple open the visor and rode twisties in sunglasses with no wind blowing in my face.

Even in the middle position it worked better than most Adventure windshields. You might complain if you got a Givi windshield and you open your visors on highways as well, but most bikes will create turbulence from the sides anyway, just because Adventure motorcycles want to look either like dirt-bikes or something sporty with narrower profiles. Just to confuse you even more, this motorcycle is neither a classic tourer such as an RT or an FJR nor a sport touring. There is no touring motorcycle with that absorbing suspension and dirt capabilities.

So in fact, it might be a crossover if the NT1100 just had a different look. Versys 1000 owners often tell you how they can stand and ride trails. NT1100 specs say - you can do the same. And this is a highlight of the concept. There are versatile motorcycles grown from the off road direction, times ago it was a dirt-bike, then it got smaller cast wheels and short suspension. We’re used to it.

This is what a dual sport is. While because of a huge weight and compromises to match the suspension and the increased power there’s not that much dual left there, but as a legacy we got things such as weak wind-protection. There are some versatile motorcycles grown from supersports. Good examples are an S1000XR and a Tracer 9. But the NT1000 is the only model on the market that should do the same but was grown from a touring direction. It might be called dual touring, a try to build a versatile bike having touring pros.

As an extra the concept matches criteria of uncommon compact touring bikes, it’s smaller and lighter than an RT or an FJR. So why don’t I like the classic touring bikes while I admit they are powerful and comfortable? They are just too narrow tasks tools. Riding even a dry dirt road causes you problems, forget any dirt, they don’t work on broken pavement and they’re too wide in traffic. The weight is also an issue, so if you want to ride down from a climb even if there is just a gravel trail, you’ll get a few gray hairs. A real life trip starts from a pavement, then it goes over a smooth dirt road, so somehow it’s doable.

Then in a few kilometers the ruts get deeper, rocks get bigger, potholes are more common, the road become narrower and becomes a trail and so on. On a heavy touring bike you might think twice, who knows, the road there might be even worse, do I want to deal with it? Or maybe it is better to just skip that place and go to the destination hotel? And the touring bikes are just too expensive toys. Let’s assume you have 30-40 000 €, so you go get a Goldwing or GTL. Or you can get 2 or even 3 motorcycles that will cover all your needs. You have to admit that riding through traffic in a big city is far better on a mid-sized scooter, even a dirt-cheap Chinese or Korean one. Even that is better than a luxury touring motorcycle.

And here is where NT1100 starts to shine, it’s much cheaper than touring motorcycles, much lighter, and you can easily ride it on trails. Btw it has the same weight as an Africa Twin Adventure Sports. And there are so many guys who say it is a light bike. The suspension better or worse can handle bad roads, ground clearance is the same as big cast wheels adventure bikes get, and it is narrow. It might look like it’s fat but the handlebar or the mirrors have the same width as 650cc motorcycles and it can filter traffic.

And this is one more big advantage of the NT1100. There are no that narrow touring or adventure motorcycles over a liter. Yes, it doesn’t get a drive shaft as touring folks.

Yes, there is not a single reason why a road touring bike might need a chain drive. I’ll tell you more, besides having a no shaft drive the motorcycle has even bigger issues. It got its engine from an Africa Twin that doesn’t match a touring motorcycle. The thing is they just took an Africa Twin, made it roadworthy and voila. You cannot just take an existing frame, engine and gearbox and put a driveshaft there. You’ll have to redesign the whole bike, and that’ll make it pricier.

Let’s try to get a touring bike with an over 1000 cc engine and a drive-shaft for 14 000 €. The only thing you can get for a small extra will be an ancient Super Tenere, that doesn’t match new Euro standards making it available only in North America and countries who have more moderate laws. FJRs and RTs cost 22 000 €.

End of story. So this was my ode to the motorcycle concept and now let’s dig into the details, because there is something to come down on. The NT1100 is 14 000 €. But obviously, you should only get a DCT version. That is 15 000 €.

That is only about 200-300 € cheaper than a basic version of the Africa Twin DCT. The difference between the NT and an Africa Twin Adventure Sports DCT is little bigger than 4000 €. This is significant money, isn’t it? Quickshifter for a manual version costs 350 € so the real difference between a manual and a DCT is just 650 €. Or 4.5% of the price of the bike, I’m making it easier to pay for you. I hope you’re going to splurge on a quickshifter, ain't ya? So I just do not see any reason to buy an NT1100 or a Gold Wing on a manual. They could just discontinue it, and no one would regret it.

By the way, since this year they do not sell manual versions of Goldwings here in Portugal as well an neighboring France, and Spain. Automatics only. And in some countries you can only get DCT NCs for the last few years.

As I see it Honda keeps manuals only for old schoolers, they brought the only DCTs to a motorcycle show in Barcelona. Journalists didn’t even try a manual. From one side a DCT is not mandatory for touring because you don’t spend time in traffic, you don’t switch often on highways, you just carry the extra 10 kg. On the other hand, if the weather in the tour is cold your hand might be cold, your gloves might be thick or maybe both. You’re planning a route to spend an evening in a place so by the end of the day you’re tired and cold.

You cannot filter any traffic having those side-cases, so you just stuck in it in a new city in foreign land. I just don’t believe that there are people who would enjoy pushing and releasing the clutch again and again there just to feel a motorcycle's life spirit and a freedom of choosing gears. There was a reason why they put semi-automatic gears on some FJRs. The next issue is that most reviewers just don’t know how to ride on a DCT. You can choose a "Manual" gearing mode and it’ll act as a quick-shifter and won’t take any biker spirit away, but I do the next way: on a highway by default I choose ‘Drive’.

It saves me fuel and always tries to engage higher gears. When I need to overtake someone quickly I just drop a gear or two with my left finger and done. On the very first versions DCTs didn’t like it and they tried to switch back on the sixths gear asap. The latest Honda DCTs have enough delay for anything before upshifts.

If you just pass everyone or ride twisties, just put it in its ‘Sport’ mode and go balls to the wall, you just don’t want to switch gears differently. If there is a long straight you can just upshift with the button, not wait until it's done by itself. Once again, the first DCTs almost never upshift to the sixth in Sport mode and you just were stuck there on third on straights. The latest versions understand when stretches begin far better so it just upshifts to the last one but when any action begins it downshifts back. And does so very smoothly.

Many people ask to tell them about the new DCTs. Honda just mastered the automatics so I just don’t have any bad words for it. You cannot say that the crop of 2020 isn’t that sweet as the one from 2019.

And the irony is that with this motorcycle a clutch is as needed as a handbrake on a canoe, that’s how smooth the gear shift lever on the NT1100 works. You can count on fingers all the motorcycles that can shift that smoothly. Unfortunately, the motorcycle I got didn’t have a quickshifter, I just cannot say anything here. The automatic transmission is one of the sales boosters.

As an example, Europe took only more than 200 000 DCT pieces, most of them are NC700s, 750s and other mid sized bikes. People just overgrow the NCs after a few years and then demand something quicker and comfier. And because the ocean is red many of them get the Africas, but at the end of the day that motorcycle is built for offroad. In other words it handles poorly on pavement. And there are so many guys who had a dream to ride around the world but just didn’t go anywhere so day after day they just commute on a jelly motorcycle getting a mediocre comfort, while being satisfied with everything else. The only fact the NT1100 exists is just a good proof that the Africa Twin is simply not that flawless and not that versatile.

They had a Crosstourer before, which was placed in between but it scared everyone being sumo-wrestler heavy and thirsty, going twice less miles on a gallon compared to an NC. A Crossrunner didn’t fit either, it just didn’t have any DCTs. And now we get the NT1100.

Something to get after a mid-sized bike when you want to get the same one but a little bigger. The basic version isn’t rich but good enough. It has a cruise-control, side cases, heated grips, center stand, not the brightest but decent LED head and running lights, a touch screen and Apple Carplay or Android Auto navigation. On the other hand there are no electronic suspension or IMU options available at all, they just had to fit the price-tag, while Africa Twins got some. So for many folks a missing IMU will be a deal breaker, especially when we’re talking about a brand new and a pretty expensive motorcycle.

All its competitors, a Versys 1000, a Tracer 9, a 900 XR, a Multistrada V2, a Tiger 900 and even a KTM 390 not being a competitor, have IMUs. The NT1100 also has some minor extras, but none of them is electronics. These are a comfier seat, comfier passenger pegs, a top-case, fog lights and a tank bag. There are no touring bikes available for the price of the NT1100 so I just don’t see much sense to compare it directly with an RT. Technically you could find an alternative for the price, but when you need a long range comfort while getting a decent city bike, the range becomes narrower. First, let’s be honest, there are guys who are just scared to buy Italian bikes or Triumphs so these just won’t even be considered, while my personal choice probably would be a Tiger, because it can filter traffic, and it’s pretty versatile thanks to the great suspension.

Tracers are just afraid of bad pavement and its ergo doesn’t fit everyone. There is a 900 XR that just doesn’t compete with its suspension so not a long-range choice. A V-Strom 1050 has all the downsides of the NT1100 but just doesn’t offer anything else except its price. I would say the main competitor for the NT1100 is a Versys 1000. It gives you a similar comfort but far better engine.

But if we’re talking about city usage, the Honda is a little better there. Firstly because it has a low-revs engine from an Africa Twin that works better in a city, even with no DCT, while having a typical refined Honda gearbox. Secondly, the NT1100 is far narrower than the Versys, making traffic filtering much easier.

And I might surprise you but on a light offroad the NT is a little better than the Versys, we will discuss it below soon. The only question is if you need that sportier Versys’s engine. I wouldn’t say the NT1100 is agile. There’s nothing sporty in it but it’s torqy enough.

If you never owned a liter motorcycle, you’re going to like the NT and won’t even understand what I’m talking about. But if you did, and even more, if it was a four cylinder one, getting an NT1100 might give you a weird feeling raising questions why your 15 years old bike was faster than a brand new Honda. And faster you’re used to ride, bigger the disappointment will be. Of course it overperforms mid-sized motorcycles, but it doesn’t give you any smile.

I often notice that I’m checking that maybe I erroneously switched it to a rain mode with limited power. Sometimes it feels like something is holding you back. Here we come to the fact that people travel differently.

There are many guys who enjoy twisting their throttles. And there still are some others, a minority who create their routes to enjoy sceneries on country roads far from freeways, they like to see landmarks and so on. Or maybe to reach a vacation destination close to the sea avoiding speeding. They enjoy less the motorcycles and the speed but more the views around. If you have the need for speed you Honda is not your cup of tea, for the same price you might get a Tracer 9 or a Versys 1000. The biggest downside of the motorcycle is its engine.

Looking at the Africa Twin having the same engine is almost too much for it, with its all-road suspension, narrow tyres, it’s just not capable of delivering all the engine performance to the ground. But the NT is a different animal, it has a well designed geometry and suspension, it might even carry a bigger engine. The flip side is the engine has a good low-revs grunt, it’s smooth and it’s enough for city rides or even carrying luggage and a passenger if you ride relaxed. So on one hand the consumption is ok, there’s nothing to say about its fuel range.

It gets around 400 kms in an average tempo so it’s enough for touring. On the other hand its competitors have similar fuel consumption delivering 50% more power, and if you’d like to get a rock, not only rolls, the mileage will decrease while you’re not becoming much happier. One more thing that clearly says that this is not a touring engine is its buzz.

It doesn’t cause much problems on an Africa Twin because of the offroad motorcycles class, they’re not built for comfort and compared to a KTM the Africa Twin is pretty smooth. It doesn’t buzz hard but in some riding styles. It feels like something between a liter Versys and a V-strom. Vibrations are not everywhere.

Let's say they are felt a little bit harder around 3000 rpm, it is an engine operating speed on slow twisties and in cities. While at around 4000 rpm the vibrations are the same as before while becoming a one constant buzz, it makes about 120-130 kmph on the sixth gear or fast curves on the forth. If you ride like that the buzzes just don’t take any attention.

If you ride faster than that or just have a more aggressive riding style from 5000 rpm and above, the vibrations just get too rough and harsh. And it is one of the reasons why you don’t want to spin an Africa Twin or an NT1100’s engine. And this is a real con of the motorcycle, because touring guys expect to get comfort, if they would like to feel that motorcycle spirit they would get a Harley.

They’re not that bad and again, they don’t get much attention but after a day in the saddle I felt some numbness on my hands and my feets. It might disappoint you after bigger tourers or other Hondas that typically have smoother engines. There are many guys who would get NTs after NCs so please be ready that your NC on freeways was smoother.

The main competitor, the Versys, has buzziness as well but they’re not annoying and after a day of riding you won’t feel anything on your hands. It might be because it’s a four. In terms of ergos, the NT1100 has a few more degrees forward lean compared to an Africa Twin that has a completely straightforward position.

It’s ok on twisties but on a highway you just feel awkward having an aggressive position on a tourer. Your shoulders are sore with the stock handlebar so you often try to give them a rest holding the handlebar with only one hand or figure something else out in the tour. The forward lean is not critical here, it can be fixed with bar raisers, they’re a must here, irrespective of your height.

And the rises will make the view in the mirrors better. The stock handlebar is low and it’s narrow so you mostly see your own elbows in the mirrors. When you have a motorcycle jacket with protectors on you just don’t see your own line behind you, so if there is a car behind you, you won’t know. What I didn’t expect, there is enough room for a two up, but there is no extra space.

So it doesn’t allow you to change positions freely while riding. You might want a little more but that’s not a Gold Wing so it’s kinda expected, this is a compact tourer. The fit and finish are dirt cheap.

If you take a closer look, the NT1100 might feel the same as a 500cc bike from Thailand. The NT1100 is for those who don’t want to pay a premium. It’s not a case when people buy a moderately priced city bike so its look doesn’t matter. For the price of it you can put a Miltistrada V2 side by side and there you will see where you’ve spent every penny.

When you buy a Honda you should disable your sense of beauty and give it a credit for its practicality, rationality and mumbling something about a used market and a Multistrada that will lose its value faster there. And then you get the Multi you just ride it. But the Honda needs to be jerry-rigged right from the beginning. I mentioned the bar raisers, you should also need to replace the seat. Honda has some comfortable seat but I didn’t sit in it so I’m not convinced. The stock one is medium-hard.

On one hand it’s better than most mid-sized motorcycles have, on the other hand it’s not even close to those you can find on premium motorcycles. It has a good shape, they just saved too much on the padding. You are sore after a couple hours on it. If a motorcycle has a comfortable seat I usually don’t even get off the motorcycle if I make a few minutes stop to make a few notes on my phone or fix my route. In the NT1100’s case I just jumped off at every single opportunity, that is uncommon for liter bikes and usually happens on mid-sized motorcycles.

These are the deflectors that remove wind and splash from your shoes. It doesn’t look stylish but it works. The NT1100 doesn’t have a typical Honda issue when you cannot install a wider windscreen.

So both the Africa Twin and the Crosstourer as well as NCs have handlebar that touches the windscreens narrowing the choice. Here you can set a screen of almost any width. The only practical thing that is missing is a smartphone pocket.

The navigation here works via USB cable. So the phone is connected, where should I put it now? Africa Twin have the same system but at least I can understand why it’s on them. In the end of the day Africa Twin is just a huge dirt bike and a handlebar bag just makes its look even beefier. Why does a touring motorcycle need that? What’s more important is that the solution is cheap, just implement a smartphone-size compartment, and that’s it.

Anyway, you can get a Carlinkit device to get a wireless Carplay and keep the phone in your pocket. These deflectors don’t look sturdy but work well. Worked when I had a ride in summer super mesh gloves that have a super feature: wind goes through all protection inserts.

I had my test in the first days of February and it happened that I spent my nights in the mountains, and in the morning it was usually from -2 °C to a few degrees above it. You can feel a little windflow on your hands but you can live with it. And the heated grips work great, it has more than enough power.

But on freeways the aerodynamics are not as good and you get more wind to your hands. Not a direct windflow but it blows a little, you can feel it when it’s cold. I would say it is a good solution because this is a touring motorcycle that is suitable for city use and lets you save a decent amount of money on a second motorcycle. But I wouldn’t buy it for only the city use, the motorcycle is an overkill in traffic, it’s made for touring. What’s important on long journeys? Reliability? It has some. The frame and the engine came from the Africa, which cannot be insulted even by the big Honda haters when talking about its reliability.

Any serious issue that might make you change your plans on a trip, that just doesn't happen. The biggest thing the you can say is ‘Hey, they have DCT, they might break’. Oh, the DCT. How old are the oldest ones? 13 years? The engine is modern, it doesn’t have any ancient flows born in the 80s, it’s just a normal modern design. The second question is that the engine was built for the Africa Twin and it was designed to ride around the world. And from day 1 it was designed to consume petrol of any quality.

The NT1100 has the same lowest compression ratio from all modern engines and it works on a 91 RON petrol not in some kind of alternative mode but it takes as a recommended fuel out of the box. There are complaints about the engine performance but the fact that Honda built a new engine from scratch with Japanese old rules deserves some respect. The biggest combustion engines manufacturer in the world knows something about motors and probably knows what petrol should be used. The NT1100 gets a slightly different shaped intake to smooth up its acceleration and make low-revs sound better. ‘Supersmooth’ is a quote from their press launch. That’s what I always say, this is a Honda style: make very smooth motors with no jerkiness at all.

For those who like to ride faster for the same price and with the same displacement there are faster motorcycles but for people who just don’t rush, smoothness is a plus. It’s not a low-revs torque beast, it doesn’t have a crazy acceleration, it just gives you a smooth grunt - this is Honda style. Especially with DCTs, there is no such smoothness on a manual, neither with a quick shifter, nor without it. The muffler is set lower than the Africa Twin and when you have your side-cases on, you get an uncommon for tourer exhausts sound lowered by the reflections from the pavement, it sounds pleasant and after like 80 kmph you don’t hear it at all.

You get a decent touring comfort for the price of the basic version. But what’s even more important is that there is room to improve it and get a very comfortable bike for a reasonable price. It’ll be better than most adventure motorcycles that cost more than 20 000 €. There are no motorcycles with that level of wind protection for the price of 15 000 € which are capable of carrying a two up. It should be mentioned that the seat height is 820 mm.

It is lower than any liter adventure motorcycle and it’s a huge plus if you’re shorter than 180 cm. From the other side, a Tiger 900 GT or a Tracer 9 would be even lower and lighter. So the ergonomics in general is very versatile and will suit both mid-height guys to two meters tall ones. The screen adjustment range is huge. It is 16.5 cm in height.

To have a reference most premium motorcycles can adjust the height for about 7 cm having the tallest position much lower. The screen is very tall in the highest position. It’s better to say that any adventure bike I’ve tested has had a lower windscreen. But I have to admit that the Honda has the least convenient screen adjustment from any manually adjustable ones, even having a cruise control turned on I couldn’t raise it with two hands.

I’m 188cm tall and on a highway it makes noise blowing right into my helmet vent on the crown. Just move your head a little lower and it’s perfect. It’s quiet even if you open your visor. No windflow on your face or your eyes, no buffeting or turbulence. If you’re 180 cm tall you’ll enjoy it right from the box. So to enjoy it being of my height, you should either get a little wind deflector on the top of the screen, or a differently shaped screen that even might be as tall as the stock one.

You can leave the stock one too, it works better than any adventure bikes after even using the aftermarket ones. The most important thing is not that it doesn’t blow on your face, the thing is that you don’t get any buffeting on highways. That is why people love touring bikes. If the screen is set up in a middle position, the motorcycle is stable on a highway up to 180 kmph even with the cases. But I didn’t test above that. We shouldn’t forget the NT1100 is a light and relatively short motorcycle, it might just not carry that huge windscreen that bigger touring motorcycles have. If the screen is set to the tallest position you just feel it starts losing grip, unlike bigger touring tankers.

So when you speed up about 160 you feel you’re riding a greasy road and the motorcycle starts smoothly yawing from side to side. When you’re in traffic and a car is driving upfront, even in the next lane, you feel the same even at 120 kmph. So it is worth it to spend some time to try different screens. Because of the advanced wind-protection at your feet, there is a wind-flow pointed directly onto your knees, similar to the one you get on a standard GS. If you have good gear it won’t bother you, but if you don’t, it might be an issue.

And the wind-flow pushes your knee protectors back to your knees, so if they have a shape that doesn't match your knees perfectly, you might get knee pain. The knees themselves are bent at the right angle so after a long ride they feel good. One more thing, I’m talking about wind-protection in 3 cases.

Adventure bikes have much more problems with 3 cases on highway speed. That’s why I usually remove side cases when performing motorcycle tests, and often even the top one is being removed. The reason why I left the cases on the NT1100 was because they’re there from the factory. Everyone is going to have them while traveling anyway.

It also has original barbie-size internal bags for the cases that you can easily mix up some bags for laptops. Stock cases are pretty narrow, they tried to make them not that wide so you can leave them riding in a city, the motorcycle back has more or less the same width as the handlebar and the mirrors, that’s the point. I personally prefer riding in a city having only a topcase. The reason is most helmets will just not fit these side cases, and they are about 5 cm wider than the handlebar anyway. If you go solo on a trip the stock cases will be backed tight and most guys will go with a top case anyway.

I just don’t believe that there is a woman who would pack everything in only one NT1100 case. So this time it had a 35 liters top case. I’d prefer another one, they have an original 50 liter big top case and it doesn't make any issues in a city anyway. The thing is 50 liters is a lot. You can easily pack two full-face helmets in there. There are no electronic locks. But at least you can open all 3 cases with your ignition key, that’s something.

Yep, it doesn’t have any fancy mods such as a radar, a turning lights, an electronic windscreen adjustment, you name it. But it has a cruise-control, a lovely Apple CarPlay and a DCT in a basic version. Yes, the suspension is not electronic. Versyses and Tracers have some as extras, but I didn’t see any reason to pay a premium for those short suspensions anyway.

A suspension with 150 mm of travel is just a sweet spot for pavement touring. So it is already not too hard on a broken road, but at the same time it’s not diving deep and handles fine. I know that you might want to adjust your sportbikes for the exact road conditions but on an NT1100 the only preload adjustment works fine enough. Thanks to the fact it’s built on a well known engine and gearbox from an Africa Twin with no changes, I had only two questions for the motorcycle before I took it for a test. If the wind protection is good enough and if it dives too hard.

And I didn’t expect to get that much from it. Suddenly the NT1100 is great on twisties. The suspension handles corners perfectly, I didn’t have any concerns there. That was the first point. Even in very tight turns and U-turns I just liked it. The second is that the geometry is well refined.

The wheelbase is short enough, the motorcycle is agile at small speeds, but not too short to lift the wheels from the ground. Thanks to its optimal trail length of 108 mm it is stable on the straights being agile enough, I think it is a perfect spec for a touring motorcycle. They chose good wheel diameters and sport touring tires, the same as on RTs or a Versys 1000.

So there is a wide range of the tires and a good cornering grip on twisties. And what is also important on twisties is your brakes. They’re not luxury smooth on the NT but they’re bity enough and have good feedback, you always know how hard you should squeeze the lever to get the needed braking, I just cannot get any complaints about the braking according to the power of the motorcycle. And once more, it has an elastic motor with no power dips and has a perfect gearbox.

So it was a very good ride on canyons. It was smooth, it handled great etc. It’s not that common when you have that much fun on twisties with no downsides at all, especially on a versatile motorcycle. The only thing is I’d like to get a little more power there but if you ride legal speeds it enough. Where it’s better than any touring bike is on bad pavement.

What was a big surprise to me, it’s very good to ride standing. Many adventure bikes are worse, this one is good thanks to the Africa Twin genes. I wouldn’t say you don’t feel any bumps or it’s a pleasure to hit potholes.

You feel everything, even little cracks and the wheel travel is limited. A Multistrada or a Tiger 900 suspensions are better in absorbing bumps, end of story. You feel that the NT1100 is a road bike but you can easily ride over rocks without worrying that the bike will crack in to pieces or hit a bump with the engine. So if a 650 or a 750 cc motorcycles such as Versys, V-strom, 750 GS, NCs, CFMotos, you name it, if they can ride it, an NT1100 will be there just as well, but if you’re tall, the NT is comfier for you. And the fork on it is better than you can see on mid-sized cheap crossovers.

Among touring motorcycles the NT1100 is just a feather, you’re not afraid to take on a trail alone. And it’s also lighter than a Versys 1000 or 1200 cc adventure motorcycles. Let’s talk its electronics. I didn’t ride an Africa Twin for a long time, so I forgot the display they share is so laggy. It’s slow when you’re scrolling screens, but it’s not that noticeable while riding because you’re riding will having one setting chosen. But what’s pisses me off is the welcome loading screen when I turn on the ignition.

For TikTok era it is painfully long. So you start moving sooner than the loading is finished. And then you got a welcome notification this is your fault. Yes, there are many modern cars and motorcycles who have this type of warning so I’m not blaming Honda here. Except everyone understands that this is a formal notice and other motorcycles just hide it after a few seconds of waiting but Honda think there a very important and you should press the button, otherwise you will just ride seeing it. And also these from 1 to 3 scales everywhere, but for real they work opposite.

For example, traction-control and anti-wheelie can be set from 1 to 3 and 3 is the highest intervention. But when it’s the engine power or the engine braking, it has the same 1 to 3 numbers but the highest amount here means 1. If you have a DCT version, gearbox sport mode is also from 1 to 3 and the sportiest mode here is 3. Oh, and the bike has 2 separate screens, you can not describe everything with numbers, you can write everything with words, that’s how much space is available! And of course 2 screens solution sucks.

I understand they tried to integrate Apple CarPlay. And unlike your own implemented navigation feature, the CarPlay works as a TV cable getting full-screen access. So usually people just implement as one screen that is actually 2 independent screens that can be controlled by different sources so you can see you navi on one screen and your speed and other info on the other one. But Honda got a lazy solution having a separate screen your granny had on her 1995 Corolla that shows you some never needed numbers. This is a dead-end road from the beginning and the longer you ride it just gets worse. Human species are lazy and they get used to see the speed on the top screen.

There is a big number that is always there in your viewing area. But as soon as you turn on the navigation you have to nod each time you want to look at your speed. It also misses some basic info like how much petrol is left. This is just nuts, especially when you know there are better solutions like this one from Ducati when you can see the speed right above the map.

There are a few ones but for real there is no reason to use any except the full screen one. Using the full-screen you can configure it to show a few extra parameters but you cannot make it stop being weird. Who knows why they split the parameters into multiple blocks so you have to push buttons to scroll them and if you want to see your average fuel consumption and mileage left, so bad for you, you cannot see them on the same block. The handlebar switches are just overloaded with different buttons.

First, it’s just awkward because of the cruise-control button on the right switch. From the other side, the NT’s cruise control can be disengaged by just turning the throttle in reverse, this is something even a new and fancy Multistrada V2 cannot do. The top speed for the cruise-control is 160 kmph. The speedo is a bit of a liar as on Hondas usually are, so for real it goes about 145. No, it cannot be calibrated, if you want go fix it go get a SpeedoHealer.

But that’s not the biggest thing. The left switch has a bigger issue, the turn switch is placed somewhere deep under the honk so each time you wont to turn you need to carefully move your finger looking for the right place. And it’s even worse with a DCT because there is a gearbox switch under the horn.

So if you want to do anything like change your heated grips power you should be careful trying to feel the button you need. So it’s time for the summary. I just like the concept of the NT1100 itself. I hope this model sells well and other brands will join the competition and stop just putting beaks like on a GS on their road bikes.

The NT1100 is a hater magnet, they’ll call it not stylish enough, not fast enough and so on. I wouldn't say it isn't worth its price. It doesn't have any deal breaking flows. It’s a capable bike, and can be prescribed for some people. For example, if the budget is tight and you cannot swallow a 20-25 000 € motorcycle. Or if you need one motorcycle to commute and have a long pavement ride but you don’t ride it fast.

This is a very popular case to consider one. I don’t see it as your second travel-only motorcycle, for the same price as I’d get a Versys 1000 or a Tiger 900 GT, a DCT is not a must for a touring. Or if you want to get the best weather protection and you’re ready to mod everything for your needs to get it and fix some aero mistakes here.

It’s not that hard to fix them on the NT1100. I'll definitely recommend getting a used one in a few years, that’s when reliability and simplicity will start to matter. Saying that Honda doesn’t have a biker spirit is just another talk for the birds, whatever they do it will be a Super Cub. Simple, reliable, comfy enough, she’s not a dreamboat, she’s not an average Jane. People see a Super Cub and talk that the Spirit is dead since the 50s, long time before the NCs and NT1100s arrived.

Time told us that at the end of the day Honda were right.

2022-10-08 20:38

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