The Honda NC700X
($7,499) has been a surprise hit for the Japanese manufacturer, attracting new customers to the brand thanks to its approachable starting price and available dual-clutch automatic transmission. But can the formula translate to the cruiser format? Honda seems to think so, thanks to the freshly introduced CTX700, a bike that takes the NC700X's powertrain and applies it to a lower slung, more street-friendly body. Available in naked form (the $6,999 CTX700N) or a version with a fairing (the $7,799 CTX700), these two variants can bundled with ABS and a dual-clutch transmission for an additional $1,000. But does that give the CTX700 the same kind of magic that made the NC700X a sales success story? Read on.
The Goods: A Lower and Swoopier Interpretation
Though it's not exactly chock full of character, the NC700X's engine
which has been transplanted into the CTX700 has a lot going for it. Displacing 680cc and tilted forward 62 degrees for a lower center of gravity and better handling, the CTX700's mill is estimated at 64 mpg, which allows for an estimated cruising range of 202 miles, or 32 fewer miles than the NC700X.) That engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission on the base model ($6,999 for the CTX700N, or $7,799 for the CTX700), or a dual-clutch transmission bundled with ABS for an extra grand. As with the NC700X, the DCT version can be shifted automatically, or by using "Up" and "Down" buttons on the left handgrip. A "Sport" mode enables more aggressive shift patterns.
The CTX's seat height measures 28.3 inches (a full 4.4 inches lower than the NC700X), and the its mid-to-front mounted footpegs enable a cruiser-like, feet-forward seating posture. 41mm front forks offer 4.2 inches of travel, while the single Pro Link rear shock delivers 4.3 inches of travel. Curb weight measures 494 pounds, and 516 pounds with the ABS and DCT setup.
On the Road: Easy, Breezy
The 2014 Honda CTX700, being ridden two-up.Photo © Honda
If you test rode the Honda NC700X and found its 32.7 inch saddle height too tall for your frame, you'll probably find the CTX700 feels far more approachable and confidence inspiring. My tester was an accessorized DCT/ABS model equipped with saddlebags, a backrest, and heated grips, and it took some time to acclimate to the automatic gearbox's clutchless design, which requires pushing a button on the right handgrip to select "Drive," which can be switched into a more aggressive "Sport" auto mode or a manual override, via buttons on the left handgrip for upshifts or downshifts. The system takes the rider's commands seriously: in manual mode, the engine will bounce at the rev limiter if you fail to upshift, which shows that Honda isn't afraid to leave (some) control in the rider's hands.
If you're a seasoned motorcyclist, the sensation of riding with the dual-clutch gearbox is a bit surreal; unlike a scooter, which has a continuously variable transmission, the gear shifts with the CTX700 occur with a distinct clicking sound, despite the fact that power transfer is smooth and effortless. The transmission switches gears relatively intuitively, though it still some getting used to not being able to grab at a clutch lever while you're riding.
Once you've gotten over the shock of the automatic gearbox, the CTX700 rides like a comfortable, easily maneuverable bike, despite its relatively large footprint. Handling feels light and intuitive, and even though its feet-forward ergonomics aren't typically associated with beginner-friendly setups, this is a bike that encourages newbies to swing a leg over the saddle and pile on the miles. Think of it as the medium-sized cruiser equivalent of its stablemate the NC700X, with a more relaxed layout and a less intense, adventure-like focus. At highway speeds, my accessory windshield-equipped CTX700 still produced some wind buffeting at the helmet and lower legs, making it more of a medium-speed commute machine than an all-out long distance tourer. Nonetheless, its comfort and maneuverability are still assets-- and choices-- given its cruising pretensions.
With its mild engine, relatively simple construction, and hazy categorization (is it a cruiser? a standard? both?), the 2014 Honda CTX700 may not sound like as groundbreaking a bike as the NC700X-- and in many ways, it's not. But for a motorcycle that starts at only $7,000 and offers an automatic transmission and ABS for an additional $1,000, the CTX700 becomes a standout in a field of bikes which cost more and offer less. It may not be the most charismatic motorcycle on the market, but for relatively new riders looking for an approachable, easy to ride bike, Honda once again breaks new ground by thinking outside the box and building something simple enough to earn itself a solid spot in the increasingly difficult-to-fill niche of bikes we never knew we needed.
Who Should Buy the Honda CTX700?
Motorcyclists who aren't afraid of committing to the nebulous niche of modernized, approachable cruisers equipped with a spot of touring capability.
Related: 2013 Honda NC700X Review
The 2014 Honda CTX700's CTXD model, equipped with a dual-clutch automatic transmission and ABS, seen here with an accessory tall windscreen and saddlebags.Photo © Honda