You may know that, as of October 1, I started to work for The Yuki Company.
It just so happens that Yuki is based in Rotterdam Centre (Kop van Zuid). Parking facilities are either nonexistent or hallucinatorily expensive, so the initial idea was to drive to a Park + Ride facility on the city’s edge, and then take the metro downtown – at least you get to park for free if you travel to your destination with public transport.
This commute proved to be a wee bit more problematic than I expected. In a best-case situation, it would take me a little under an hour to get to work, but that would imply no rush-hour traffic and a predictable, seamless metro connection. On average, it would take me 75 minutes to get there.
One of my coworkers told me it took him half an hour… and he lives pretty close to me! That stung a bit.
So I asked him how… and he responded “… motorcycle. I park in the parking garage under the office, next to the bicycles”.
Now it just so happened that I do have a motorcycle licence. It’s officially 40 years old now, but it had been gathering dust since 2003. I also still had all my gear.
So, after a heart-to-heart talk with my love, and with her approval, this happened:
Its full name is Honda NTV700 Deauville. In the UK, its nickname is Dullville… and I can understand where it comes from – it does whatever it can to be 100% functional and 0% exciting. 65 bhp against approx. 235 kilos (dry), so not particularly fast. Shaft drive, integrated side panniers, a fairing that does a good job of keeping you comfy without trying to look sleek, neutral handling, ABS, big mirrors on wide stalks so you can actually see what’s behind you (rather than look at your own upper arms), tire sizes meant to be practical rather than try to impress… all practical, no thrills. It’s essentially a medium weight all-out touring machine. Which is a bit of a hole in the market… medium weight tourers don’t come with shaft drive (looking at you, Suzuki V-Strom…!).
Funny thing is… most everyone who considers it dull, really really loves the bike once they get to ride one. To quote MCN:
“The Honda gets a lot of stick for its name – the Dullville anyone? – but while it may be a tame ride, it’s also so competent I even thought at one point it would be worth buying this for a winter all-rounder. […] The screen’s so good barely any wind gets to you and the seat is so plush you feel like it should be in front of your telly. […] It’s an absolutely brilliant bike. There, I said it.”
It did come with the odd problem, which I hadn’t foreseen. The battery proved to be at the end of its life, the rear brake caliper needed revision, and the left pannier had one part needed to close the lid lying on the bottom of the pannier, permanently broken off. New lids will be somewhere in the region of €275… if they’d be available, but Honda has no idea.
But once the battery had been replaced and the bike getting some TLC from Goedhart Motoren in Bodegraven… I have to say it surprised me: it is the slowest, yet the most effortlessly capable bike I’ve ever owned.
The engine is the same V-twin as the last generation Transalp, an engine not in a high state of tune, but reputed to outlive your grandchildren. It comes with Honda’s very sensible Combined Brake System, where operating the foot brake also kicks in two out of six braking pistons of the front brake, and operating the front brake also uses one of three braking pistons of the rear brake. Combined with Honda’s (excellent, state-of—the-art) ABS, that makes braking pretty fool-proof for even the most ham-fisted riders. Or for folks who had their motorcycle riding licence gathering dust for 17 years.
In other words, for someone who will mainly use it as a means of commuting in everyday traffic and having some unadulterated biking fun, it’s ideal. It’s quick enough to be away at the lights faster than anything on four wheels that is not terribly exotic, but accelerating from 100 to 130 might be slower than our stationwagon (which, admittedly, is way quicker than any non-RS-badged Octavia is entitled to be). Top speed is quoted at 190 km/h, which is nothing to write home about… so we won’t.
But it’s enough. It’ll cruise comfortably at 130 km/h (that’s about 80 mph if you’re opposed to anything metric), and I don’t intend to go any faster than that. Been there, done that, burnt the T-shirt.
So… how does this affect my commute?
It did take some getting used to. Not just because I needed to get used to motorcycle riding again, but also because I found out what the wrong time is to get onto the S107 (Maasboulevard/Boompjes).
I found that the first few days I rode very defensively, keeping loads of distance and doing no lane-splitting whatsoever. After a week, I felt my reflexes, which have helped me to cover something like 250k miles on a motorcycle in 20-odd years without breaking any bones, creeping back in… watching a couple cars ahead of me (on a bike, you’re a bit higher up than in a normal car or even an SUV), keeping a safe distance, and trying to avoid sitting behind vans. I also react to seeing traffic slow down ahead of me by going back to the inner lane, presumably because that gives you some extra space on the hard shoulder to get out of harm’s way in case the shit would hit the fan in front of me (if you ride as much as I have done in the eighties and nineties, you would know that this is bound to happen).
And because I had also figured out when the best travel time was, I cut down the trip to the office to 35 minutes, and the trip back home (through pretty dismal weather) to 40 minutes.
Which is, effectively, a 50% reduction!
On top of that, I save €4,20 a day in metro costs, and quite a bit of fuel – the trip to the P&R would be just as long, and the bike uses about 60% of the petrol that the car needs for the same distance.
So… what’s it like to ride?
Quite nice, actually! After having lived with it for a couple months now, I really like it! I thought it would be merely adequate, but it’s actually fun.
I have ridden shaft-driven bikes before (a Suzuki GS850G which I clocked 250.000 kms on, and occasionally also a GSX1100G), so I was used to shaft-drive reactions.
This bike has none. It could’ve fooled me… it rides like a chain-driven bike. There is no noticeable reaction when accelerating or decelerating during cornering. Whatever you do to the throttle when cornering does not affect the neutral handling of the thing. Decelerating in a long sweeping corner? On the GS850G (a shaft-driven bike designed in the late seventies), this would lead to a heart-stopping moment, but not on this bike. Even a quick downshift during cornering doesn’t upset it.
What with me being an old geezer, I’m pretty used to bikes moving about a bit if you cross a white line, or a patched bit of tarmac. To my amazement, there’s nothing of that when riding this. This may be due to motorcycle handling, or tires, having come a long way since I stopped looking… but it adds a level of confidence that I find uncanny.
Of all the bikes I’ve owned, this has the least oomph. But I don’t find it lacking for everyday use. On the GSX1100, you’d tear the fabric of your conscious mind apart with blistering, neverending acceleration, or you’d just put it in fifth gear and then keep in there during the rest of the day to enjoy the apocalyptic torque curve. This 700cc twin wants to be kept above 5000RPM if you want it to respond snappily, so you will need the occasional downshift. That’s a different kind of fun, which Richard Hammond once called “whip the ponies a bit”, but it’s equally rewarding… plus it has that inimitable V-twin “phutphut phutphut phutphut” soundtrack. Not at all loud, but commendably authoritative.
But if you’re just leisurely phutphutting along, the engine is perfectly fine to just be kept above 2000RPM, so you can do most anything you want from second gear up and enjoy that low end (in engine response, but also in terms of its beefy soundtrack).
The way it handles makes you think the bike is lighter than it is. At 258 kilos with oil and a full tank of fuel it’s… pretty much ok for a bike with fairing and panniers and a drive shaft, but when manoeuvring through tight corners, steering feels lighter and more effortless than it ought to feel considering its size and weight. It’s a rewarding thing that likes to be thrown about a bit.
But the main characteristic is that it seems impossible to upset this bike – its handling is as predictable as a well-raised German Shepherd.
On motorcycling gear
When I thought “ooh, let’s go buy a bike”, I thought I still had everything. Leathers for good weather, a rain suit for a summer shower… and, more importantly, a helmet, boots and gloves, and a winter suit.
That didn’t quite work out. One glove had gone MIA, and the helmet, a BMW System 3, lost all of its inner lining when I got it out of storage.
Next to go were the boots – the rubber protection pads (to protect the leather for gear changing) had dried out and crumbled like a fresh cookie.
Next to go were the winter riding trousers. The thread holding the seams fell apart. As soon as Janny had stitched one seam together, the other one went.
In the end, the only survivors were the winter coat and the leather suit. But the winter coat was a typical ‘80’s colour scheme, which greatly upset Janny’s sense of aesthetics.
So I ended up getting all my winter gear new. I got the winter gloves and the winter jacket as a present from Janny. I now look completely contemporary in my winter outfit.
I’m not one who does not tinker. Every bike I have owned, I added stuff to. All of them got a full fairing and a set of side and top panniers. But this already had a fairing and a pannier set (in fact, the side bags are integrated; you can’t even take them off). I’m not fully done yet, but I already added a waterproof phone holder to use my Samsung A71 as a satnav device (using TomTom for Android).
I’ve mounted it so that it’s directly in my line of sight when I’m watching the road ahead, but low enough to be out of the way. What you can’t see in this picture (because it’s not there yet) is a cable running along the dashboard, left of the instrument panel, to a 12V connection with a USB plug in the left “glovebox” inside the fairing.
Still on order are two locks for the left pannier so that I can close it without the help of gaffer tape, and two wind deflector accessories for the fairing, to keep frosty winds and rain off my gloves.
I also intend to replace the headlight bulbs (H7) with LED – if you have only one dipped beam instead of two, you do have issues when that one bulb dies on you while riding, so I’ll take all the reliability I can get.
a report of repair and modifications can be found here!