Honda sees the NT1100 as a herald of a new breed of tourers. At first that sounds very much like marketing speak, but on closer inspection, there is something in it. Tastes in touring bikes have changed with the times. We have seen the rise and fall of sports tourers when speed and power were what riders wanted, then the adventure bikes moved the focus to comfort and practicality but perhaps went a bit too big and offroady for many. So, now Honda is bringing sensible and practical touring back, with enough power and grunt to make it fun too. Is that a new thing? It’s up for debate, but the NT1100 promises to be an answer to many riders’ wishes.
Competition in this ‘touring-focused-all-round-bike’ category is ruthless, so the NT needs to offer something special to gain ground from the likes of the BMW S 1000 XR, Yamaha Tracer 9 and Kawasaki Versys 1000. They are all touring bikes with a sporty edge, but with ergonomics and creature comforts to keep them from knackering your knees, wrists and licence too quickly.
What the NT1100 brings to the table is a little more mellow. It doesn’t have sky-high power figures (and fuel economy to go with that), but it has plenty of poke for most riders. It comes with useful features that others often offer as accessories, making it’s £12,500 price tag very competitive. And it’s a very pleasant bike to ride to boot.
What the NT lacks, is sex appeal. Anyone can make an adventure bike look great when you wheelie it across a desert for a promo video, but I pity the ad men at the Honda HQ trying to come up with a concept as compelling for the NT. And the funny thing is: the huge majority of riders will use both styles of bike for the same job – not wheeling in the desert. Still, it’s a damn sight easier to sell tickets to the Adventure Bike Rider Festival than the Sensible Touring Rider Festival.
Regardless of the issues with its frumpy image, the Honda NT1100 is a good motorcycle. A very good and very competent motorcycle. It shares its engine and frame with the Africa Twin, which means a healthy 100bhp and 104Nm of torque pumping out of the well-proven 1084cc parallel twin. Although the bike weighs 238kg ready to ride, it has enough power to accelerate hard and cruise happily at high speeds.
Helping with handling high speeds are a big adjustable screen and a set of top and bottom wind deflectors. The combination directs the wind away from you so effectively that you barely feel the speed. It’s a good job the cruise control is there because otherwise you could easily drift into licence shredding speeds.
Sheltered from the elements, the rider’s perch is a pleasant place to be. Our test bike was equipped with what Honda call the Voyager pack (£1465), which includes fog lights, top box, pillion comfort pegs, and comfort seats for both rider and pillion. It was the seat that made the biggest impression here. I have ridden many motorcycles over the years and can safely say this is the comfiest motorcycle seat I have sat on – no contest!
The NT gets a big thumbs up from me because of the generous selection of features offered as standard equipment. There is no extra charge for a centre stand, heated grips or panniers. That’s how it should be with touring bikes.
The electronics on the Honda are also very impressive. You get cruise control, ride modes with adjustable power, engine braking and traction control settings, and most impressively, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Now, cruise control and ride modes are pretty much expected in this category, but the opportunity to use the mobile manufacturers’ tech to connect your phone to the bike rather than a clunky manufacturer-specific system is a rarity. And it works really well. You can easily hook up your phone and headset with the bike, then use the touch screen or switchgear to access your phone for navigation, calls, music, or whatever it is you do with your phone. It’s something I will seriously miss on any bike after this.
There is a slight fly in the electronics ointment though. Namely, the switchgear. How it ever passed even a rudimentary pre-production test is beyond me. There are 14 buttons in the left switch cluster. And none of them are clearly marked to do a specific job. Imagine trying to use them with thick gloves in low light. Good job there’s the touch screen dash, but that only goes part way to fix the issue. Still, navigating the switch maze is possible if you persist with it – in the end you will succeed, or go mad and stop caring what the dash says.
Ride quality is excellent, with the Showa suspension doing a great job at making the ride smooth without too much wallowing. The 17” wheels and a sharper steering geometry compared to the Africa Twin make the NT surprisingly agile for a big bike, and the generous steering angle makes tight U-turns easy. The seat is a fairly low 820mm, which makes it easy to hold the bike steady at standstill.
Compared to some competitors, the NT is well-priced at £12,500. BMW’s sporty S 1000 XR costs from £15,740, Yamaha’s exciting triple Tracer 9 is only £11,010 in its most basic form, but the higher-spec GT+ model is a lot more at £14,910. A more adventure-styled, if still very much road-oriented Kawasaki Versys 1000 is even cheaper in its basic trim, but over £17k in top spec.
The Honda is a bike that is very easy to get on with, plenty of fun to ride, and will be up for pretty much any kind of riding. It just needs to get the switchgear updated, and have a bit of sass sprinkled all over it. But keep the Apple Car Play, that must stay!
Honda NT1100 Specification
Engine: 1084cc parallel twin, l/c, 8-valves
Power: 100hp @ 5000rpm
Torque: 104Nm @ 6250rpm
Frame: Semi-double cradle (steel) with bolt-on aluminium subframe
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
Suspension: Showa SFF-BP 43mm forks and Showa shock, both preload adjustable with 150mm travel
Brakes: 310mm discs and 4-piston radial callipers at front, 256mm disc and single-piston calliper at the rear
Wheels: 17” cast aluminium
Tyres: 120/70R17, 180/55R17
Seat height: 820mm
Weight: 238kg (wet)
Tank: 20 litres
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Words: Mikko Nieminen
Photos: Too Fast Media Group