MCN Fleet: What does Keith think of my Honda X-Adv?

Published: 06 September 2017

Since I’ve been riding the Honda X-Adv it’s been a real talking point with fellow riders. No one knows what it actually is and how it fits in with the normal expectations of a bike or scooter.

 My friend, Keith, who commutes into London on a daily basis,  was curious to know what the X-Adv is like to ride. Would he swap both his Yamaha MT-09 Tracer and Honda SH300 for Honda’s scooter-cum-adventure bike creation? The only way to find out was for him to take the X-Adv out for a quick spin.

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He spent a damp morning riding around country roads and pushing through the busy Stevenage town centre. Here’s his thoughts on how the X-Adv performed.

‘Almost inevitably my first attempt at riding the X-Adv started with me pulling in the left lever in as my foot fished about the floorboard for the non-existent gear lever. Quickly realising my mistake I reprogrammed my brain to simply press the D button on the right side of the bars, and then as instructed I feathered the left hand (brake) lever to compensate for the abrupt acceleration that the drive system provides.

As a daily commuter with an even split of open dual carriageway and heavy London traffic I’m used to using both scooters and bikes for the trip, but this covers both categories with its intriguing combination of features. It’s a bike Jim, but not as we know it.

I used the auto box initially while I got a feel for the bike which felt smooth and under stressed from the off.

The width of the seat means that it’s very comfortable but my little legs didn’t appreciate how far this put my feet away from terra firma when making a U turn. It also feels a little heavy when manoeuvring very slowly. Once on the move though it has the stability that no lightweight scooter can offer.

A few miles later I switched to manual mode so that I could shuffle up and down the box at will using the buttons on the left hand switchgear. This quite quickly made me wonder why do you need the manual mode, and would you ever use it?

Using both brakes as you approach a roundabout is standard scooter practice, clicking down through the box with your thumb takes some getting used to. Switch to auto and the X-Adv sorts it all out for you, and even throws in some engine braking as well, especially if you are pushing along.

In manual at 60 mph the shifts both up and down from fourth to sixth are so seamless that you find yourself reading the tacho and gear indicator to make sure they’ve actually happened, but the auto kicks down from sixth to fourth at this speed just as quickly, if not quicker than the manual and the bike happily lifts its skirt s for a smooth overtake.

A gentle approach to a tight bend sees it shift down to second at 20mph. A slightly more enthusiastic approach sees it hook second at 35mph. It reacts to your inputs like some sort of sentient being.

I was worried that the handling would be compromised in some way by the tyres and rear wheel size but it never felt anything other than planted during our brief encounter. I certainly didn’t trouble the centre stand mounted hero pegs, but it’s not that sort of machine. The rear 15” wheel does nothing for the aesthetics though. I was also surprised to see a chain drive passing the power along. Surely a belt or shaft would suit the nature of the X-Adv market better? Or maybe my view of who will want this bike varies from the good folk at Honda. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that little detail caused plenty of discussion over the drawing boards at Hamamatsu.

When I first read about this unit I wondered if it would be destined to replace the T-Max as the object of desire amongst those who, unasked, prefer to borrow other people’s machines, but I think it’s too different and quirky to appeal to them.

In my experience the seats on off road machines are quite literally a pain in the backside by design. The Beyoncé sized offerings for both the rider and pillion on this may be fine for all day comfort but your already limited off road abilities are compromised further by the wide foam. I think this would be fine on a gravel road, just don’t plan on shooting any berms or clearing any tabletops with it.

I encountered some rain on my travels and I was impressed by the leg shelter that the feet forward riding position offered at 60 mph. Not that there’s any lack of space for an oversuit on this bike. My full face helmet fitted very comfortably under the seat or in the top box. Plenty of room for the shopping then.

Another odd feeling is when it’s time to get off, do you go for the step through option of feet over the front, a la Valentino, or the more conventional motorcycle exit of foot over the back? Sit on one and you’ll understand the conundrum.

The keyless ignition system would take a little bit of getting used to and personally I’m not totally sold on the benefits. The type of jammer that blocked my friends Harley ignition in France is one concern, and it seems ludicrous that you can ride off and leave the fob behind. You need to carry a key for the top box anyway, so why not make it part of the starting system?

I’m in no hurry to rush down to my local dealer and part exchange my existing rides for an X-Adv, it’s a little bit too awkward in traffic and I’d miss the instant punch that you get from knocking the MT back a couple of cogs at speed.

If I were a slightly more patient rider who spent less time in traffic then I think it would tick a few more boxes for me.

It’s different, it’s comfortable and it’s practical. I can see this becoming a Honda that earns a hardcore of devoted followers who will happily go on long tours together enjoying an unhurried ride with a relaxed view of the world. That’s no bad thing.’

So, did Keith enjoy riding the X-Adv? Yes, definitely he’d had a fun couple of hours and the chance to experience the DCT gearbox was one he’d enjoyed. Would he be rushing to the nearest Honda dealer and be putting down a deposit? Disappointingly not, for him it lacked punch on the open road and was too heavy for town riding.
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