Honda Integra NC700DC
Cigarettes – like motorbikes – are pretty much vital to the people that have got the bug.
The Integra carries this terrible analogy a step further inasmuch as it is frustratingly hard to use when it is wet. My week with the bike included a lot of wet roads and each of these rides was preceded with not a little trepidation.
The schizophrenia is pretty extreme though. In the dry this bike is a nicely balanced and rewarding ride. From 3-5000 rpm the engine feels strong and characterful, reminiscent of the lively Fiat TwinAir motor in this marques smaller cars. The handling is poised and sure-footed, to a point, and you can cover ground in an effortless and relaxed state of mind. The automatic dual clutch six-speed gearbox works near-seamlessly. You can change your own gears but there really is little point; the system works very well indeed.
Throw in some droplets however and it is not at all relaxing; Traffic lights changing a quarter mile away – Emergency Stop.
Greasy little roundabout approaching – get off and push.
I am of course exaggerating, but there was a sense of achievement and relief when completing each damp sojourn without incident.
The reason is something inherent in all scooters – rear bias weight distribution giving reduced front end feel.
Honda have thrown their top engineers at the problem as this bike is meant to embody the best of scooters and motorbikes, not their weaknesses.
To combat this, the engine lies on its front, very low down and only a few inches from the front wheel. Further, the area where your feet live on most scooters actually contains quite a lot of bike on the Integra.
The machine stands on full size 17 inch wheels wearing nice sports touring Bridgestones, grip was never a problem, just the lack of feedback and therefore confidence.
As scooters go, on a dry day this is a comparatively pleasant and efficient ride with a lot of redeeming features. Other road users however seemed baffled by the bike. Young drivers would sit on my back wheel in town waiting for faster roads and an overtaking opportunity, then wonder why their 1.2 Corsa couldn’t pass this pesky little scooter on the open road.
The uneducated masses see the silhouette but not the scale – this is a large machine, quite imposing actually, but if you just see a moped you are in for a shock.
The near 40 Kw engine, famously a Honda Jazz engine lopped in half, can haul the lump up to sixty in under seven seconds, and on to about 110mph. Most Corsa’s cannot do these things. At 238Kg it weighs exactly the same as the BMW R1200 GS as made famous by Jedi Ewan McGregor, but the Integra is actually longer too, this is physically a lot of bike, but at £7699 on the road perhaps it should be.
That price is steep for a practical commuter, but it is justifiable when you consider the tech Honda have poured over the machine. The compact and near seamless DCT gearbox is itself a masterpiece of engineering excellence, but in reality it is still not quite as smooth, fluid or quick as the pulley systems that have been applied to scooters for decades. The godfather of maxi-scooters – Suzuki Burgman 650 – uses pulleys and is better for it.
Further, those 17 inch wheels applied to give it more of a big bike feel do work, but the 14 and 15 inch rims on the Burgman suit the bike more and make for a more reassured and nimble ride.
A scooters trump card however is ease of use, the Integra has this all sewn up.
The bike may offer a busier left thumb than an eleven year old on MineCraft, but apart from that you have an easy life on board. The feet-forward riding position and deeply padded seat are a delight for an hour or more before you get a bit restless. The bars are intelligently positioned and the wind / weather protection is highly effective.
Underseat storage is limited by maxi-scooter standards but will hold an open-face helmet, although not my fullface jobbie, and there is a wallet / phone sized glovebox too, though this is not lockable.
The dash clearly displays the basics, but there is no reserve tank or secondary fuel light. Once the gauge starts all to subtly flashing you have 20-30 miles and no alternative but to push after that, trust me, I know…
The ignition key is another minor irritation – it resides in what is basically a tunnel and is difficult to locate or remove in the dark with gloves on.
Economy-wise this bike stacks up quite well against its rivals. The purchase price is a little bit north of “bargain” but you get a lot of brilliant engineering and can expect fabulous reliability too. Tax for a bike of this size is £78 per year, but the 14 litre tank will typically get you 200 miles, which is very close to 80mpg and markedly better than any of the competitions offerings.
It is harder to put an economy rating on time however – on this bike I shaved a third off my commuting time compared to a car – if you too have a one hour car commute each way this thing gets you over three hours back each week. Tempting?
The question is why buy this scooter over a “proper bike”? You still need your full licence, there are faster lighter cheaper bikes out there, and it is a bit odd. I have the feeling Honda made this bike because they could rather than seeing a gap in the market.
Of course it is personal taste, people like them although I don’t know why. But it has its charms and the dry rides gave me big smiles. I wouldn’t choose it over a traditional bike, but certainly would over a car; subject to the weather.
So back to my lame cigarette analogy; I don’t really see the point but I like it, so I do it anyway.
|Honda Integra NC700DC||Data|
|Power||51.1 hp @ 6250 rpm|
|Torque||62 Nm @ 4750 rpm|