MCN Fleet: It’s a quick upgrade package and a set of new shoes for the NT1100

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It’s been a month of swaps and changes for the Honda NT1100, which have made a difference to the handling, made for a more comfortable ride but has definitely been a costly set of upgrades.

I’ve covered over 4000 miles, mostly on motorways, so the OE fit Bridgestones have squared off, so time for a change me thinks. Speaking to Chief Road Tester, Neevesy, he’s always saying the single most important thing to keep right on your bike is the tyres and, with his endorsement, I’ve opted for a shiny new set of Michelin Road 6’s.

From the first ride out of the office car park I can feel the difference, the profile of the tyres is such that they bike tips into corners more easily and feels more agile and nimble to ride.

Honda NT1100 top box

I’ve also taken a trip to Honda HQ to have one of their bespoke packages fitted. There are three to choose from and I have opted for the top spec Voyage package. It’s costly at £1465 and includes fog lights, deluxe pillion pegs, top-box with liner bag, tank bag and a plush, velour covered seat plus labour costs to fit.

It took around four hours of workshop time, most of this was spent dismantling and removing all the fairing panels to fit the fog lights. These wire in and are operated via the function switches on the bike, so they’re another option on the menu of the dash now and really easy to use.

I wasn’t overly concerned about the comfort of the original seat but the new one is plusher and more luxurious looking, with red piping and made from suede effect material. It’s also more padded and adds an extra level of comfort. I’m yet to put the rubberised pillion pegs to the test, this will happen later in the year, when with a mate in the driving seat, I’m off for a day’s touring from the luxury of the pillion perch.

Honda NT1100 pillion seat

I know the bike comes with panniers but, unless I’m off for a weekend away, I never leave these on, they are too cumbersome for manoeuvering the bike in and out of the garage. So, my favourite new addition has to be the top box, I know it looks awful, makes the bike even more unattractive than it already is but my life it’s practical.

It makes life super easy when travelling to work for the day and negates the need for a bulky rucksack. Being a voluminous 50-litres, it’s large enough to hold all my riding gear, so on a recent hot and sweaty trip to Brands Hatch, I could strip down to shorts and t-shirt and leave all my kit stowed safely for the day.


Update Seven:  The pillion’s eye view of the Honda NT1100

Published: 11 November 2022

Riding a Honda NT1100 with a pillion

Not your normal chat up line but ‘do you fancy going on the back of my bike?’ seemed to win me over. That along with the fresh-faced RAF lad’s cheeky grin and the fact he’d kept me in Bacardi and cokes for the evening.

From that first pillion experience on Mark’s Kawasaki ZXR750 I was hooked. We travelled the length and breadth of the UK and toured Europe, from those early courting days on his ZXR through to married bliss on our Ducati 998S. Fast forward 28-years and while the 998S still sits in our garage, since passing my test in 2005, I rarely sit on the pillion perch, preferring to be in control of my own destiny.

From the first ride of the Honda NT1100, I realised one of the key questions I need to answer is how comfortable it is as a pillion. Due to a gammy leg, my hubby can’t ride a geared bike, so I’ve enlisted my colleague, Justin. We’ve spent a fun filled 24-hours last summer, taking part in an Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000 mile ride, so thought I’d ask him to look after both me and the NT for the day.

Justin’s View

Despite the extra weight of a passenger, plus a full tank of gas, the centre of gravity feels reassuringly low and we tackle slow speed stuff around town with total confidence. It does need a careful hand on the throttle to keep it smooth though.

At speed, the suspension takes a moment or two to settle after mid corner bumps, however there’s no loss of poise and the NT tracks through bends without much effort at all.

My one bugbear is the quickshifter. Yes, it’s seamless when pushing on, but when you’re lolloping along lazily – as often happens two up –  it’s just a bit too eager.

Sitting pretty

Pillion’s Eye View

Clambering onboard, I negotiate both the panniers and top box, but once in the saddle initial thoughts are how plush and wide the seat feels. Feet fall easily to the pillion pegs, legs slot nicely into the groves, cleverly sculpted in the panniers and rear grab rails are comfortably placed.

Justin and I are of similar height, so the slight rise to the pillion seat means I am a little exposed to the breeze, but nothing compared to my fond memories of the view from the Duke.

I’m not a fan of the top box, it pushes into my back, if you’re a novice pillion I could imagine it’d be a boost to your confidence, but I find it restrictive and uncomfortable.

We take a spin out on bumpy Fen roads, fast motorways, and smooth A-roads, none affect my comfort. I’m sitting pretty, enjoying the view and remembering how it feels to be taken for a ride. (In honesty though, I much prefer to be in the driving seat these days.)

Mark clinging on for dear life
www.joedick.co.uk

Hitching a lift

I’m not a fan of taking a pillion, to be honest, I avoid it like the plague but out riding with Mark, his bike broke down and I had no choice. At 238kg, the NT’s heavy, add our 25-stone combined weight and I was apprehensive, to say the least. After a wobbly start, I was surprised how easy it was to handle and shoulders dropped, as confidence grew. Pulling onto the A1, the twin-cylindered motor felt more sluggish than normal and took longer to get up to speed. Slow speed work was hard, the throttle’s snatchy, so I was more conscious with a load on board, I didn’t want lids to crack. Still not my favourite pass time and I can’t see us going out for twos up action soon but at least I know what to expect, if the need arises again.


Update Six: A Spa Break for the NT1100

Published: 11 October 2022

On these cool autumn days, I like nothing better than to hark back to sunnier times, it feels like an age since my visit to Spa. Here I reflect on my trip from the depths of the heatwave last summer.

I’m officially melting, sat in rush hour traffic on the Brussels ring-road, a glance at the dash shows the air temperature has hit a heady 34°, which means the Honda NT1100’s meaty twin cylinder engine is almost as hot as the surface of Mars. My legs feel like kebabs as they slowly cook, tear drops of sweat drip between my shoulder blades and the inside of my lovely new Arai is becoming ever moister.

I’m on my way to the iconic circuit of Spa, I’m part of Chief Road Tester, Neevesy’s Prime Factors Endurance Race Team and it’s my first proper visit to Belgium. Prior to heading off on the near 1000-mile round trip, I’ve been having countless problems with the Android Auto system, which should be a quick plug and play, to enable me to use maps from my phone.

Kindly Charley Monaghan from North West Honda Super Centre made me a simple instructional video, that combined with tips from reader Cliff Galloway, had enabled me hook the blasted system up at home. I follow the same simple instructions as I sit waiting on the Eurotunnel and will it work, will it bugger. Luckily, for once, I’d used by common sense and fitted a separate Garmin, which works perfectly.

It’s my first proper trip out on the newly fitted MIchelin Road 6 tyres and they handle like a dream. With almost 4500 miles on the clock, I knew the OE Bridgestones were due a change but hadn’t realised quite how badly they’d squared off. From the first tip into a corner, the new set of rubber make the bike handle so much better. While I didn’t think the NT handled badly before, it’s worlds apart now.

Most of my journey is motorway and the NT1100 is made for this sort of journey, it eats up the miles and averages a healthy 58mpg into the bargain. That said, it’s fun to ride, as I turn off to head towards the circuit, the beautiful, tree-lined, undulations of the Ardenne open ahead of me and it’s breathtaking. Sweeping bends are my favourite and there’s plenty.  Roads are near deserted, and I feel like I’m riding a mini roller coaster.

All too soon I happen upon the circuit, I’ve been to many tracks around the world but this one’s something else. With steep inclined bends and fast straights, it looks stunning, that said, I’m glad to be parking the Honda up behind the team garage, I’ll leave the race track to the Neeves Brothers and their BMW S1000RRs.


Update Five: Ali ropes in the services of her other half to test the Honda NT1100 DCT

Published: 11 September 2022

With two versions of the Honda NT1100 available, geared and DCT, I’ve opted to run the geared version for the duration of my long term test but fancy comparing it to the automatic version.

I thought it an ideal opportunity to rope in the services of my other half, Mark. He’s never tried any of Honda’s DCT bikes and as he’s got a disability, that leaves him unable to change gear on a manual bike, feels like it might be a viable option.

What does Mark think of the Honda NT1100 DCT?

“I’ve only got limited use of my left foot, following a life-changing motorbike accident in 2009, along with pins in my ankle, my brain doesn’t talk to my foot. To keep me on two wheels, I’ve converted my Ducati 998S to a hand gear shift, using a Kliktronic actuator, which works well.  We also own a Yamaha XMAX 400, great for nipping around town but not as engaging as a ‘proper’ bike.

“With Al running the NT1100 as a test bike this year, I’m intrigued to find out what the DCT version is like. I’m 5’8” and find the 820mm seat height comfortable but, with my left leg impeded, getting the bike off the side stand initially took a few attempts.

“As I pulled away for the first time I was nervous, not sure of how fierce the acceleration would be or how it might feel dropping into gear but I need not worry. I opt for D-mode and gear changes are smooth, it shifts up the gear box at low revs and by the time I’m doing 30mph the digital display shows I’m in the fifth out of six gears. It feels similar to when I short shift through the gear box on my Ducati.

“At nearly 240kg it’s a lump at slow speeds, but once above 10mph the weight disappears. I realise I can switch to S-mode on the move and my confidence grows, I mess around with the controls. In S-mode it holds each gear longer, which improves acceleration and it’s not long before I’m smiling.

“There’s a manual over-ride, which is useful coming through villages and towns. When I’m in D-mode, it holds the bike in too high a gear, at slow speeds. If I use manual I can drop it down to third, which makes me feel like I’ve got more control over the bike and it’s more responsive.

“On the open road overtakes are easy, in both D and S-mode when I crack the throttle open, the DCT responds and drops down the box and acceleration picks up.

Mark Silcox rides the Honda NT1100 DCT on UK roads

“A couple of times, in slower moving traffic, I find myself going to grab the clutch, old habits die hard.

“I’m a fan of cruise control in my car but it’s not something I’ve had on a bike before. To activate cruise control there’s a button on the right switch gear and once turned on there’s a toggle to set the speed. It is easy to set and I use it on most of the dual carriageway leg of the journey.

“One slight criticism the over-complicated left hand cluster of switches make it difficult find the indicator button, I keep catching other switches when trying to locate it.

“We’ve had a great couple of days, touring East Anglia, with Al on the manual NT and me on the DCT.  I’m a complete convert and a massive fan. If I were in the market for a touring bike, the NT1100 would be a viable option. However, having previously owned a Honda VFR750, I wish they’d do a similar model of bike with this gearbox, I’d be buying one tomorrow!”

What Alison thinks of the Honda NT1100 DCT

I’ve ridden the original evolution of the Honda NC700X in 2012 and more recently the Honda X-ADV, both had the DCT gear box and were great bikes.

I took the DCT version of the NT1100 for a 50-mile loop, mixing motorways with A and B roads. In D-mode it was a little sluggish and getting to top at under 40-mph made it feel a little laboured, I preferred using S-mode, the parallel-twin felt far more responsive. I’m a massive fan of the DCT gearbox but not sure it’s worth the extra £1000 on the purchase price.


Update Four: Plug and play, my a#*e

Published: 11 August 2022

Fuelled up and ready for action

I realised when I achieved the heady heights of a Grade D ‘O’ level in Computer Studies I’m not the most technically savvy person. I’ve never felt this has held me back but after spending three hours attempting to set up Android Auto on the Honda NT1100 I wish I’d listened more in my lessons.

As the air turns blue, my husband knows better than to ask how things are going, even the cat’s left home. Instructions intimate it’s a case of plug the phone into the dash via a USB cable, enable Android Auto, connect my headset and Bob’s your Uncle, I soon establish Bob is definitely no relative of mine.

My phone connects to the bike and the HJC headset connects to the phone, so I can make calls or listen to Erasure (note my musical taste only extend to 1986, the same year I took my dreaded ‘O’levels) while on the move. With a trip to Scotland planned I hope to take advantage of Google Maps on my phone but the bike has other ideas.

Get yourself connected

I’ve previously run the BMW F900XR as a long termer and connectivity on it couldn’t have been easier. Download an app to my phone, Bluetooth connect this to the bike and I was away. A simple sat-nav appeared on the dash, basic but adequate. Last year’s Yamaha Tracer 9GT, disappointingly, had no connectivity, so I was looking forward to having some form of integrated sat-nav on the NT but how wrong was I.

Reading the Honda’s instruction manual, there seems to be a lot of assumed knowledge, which annoys me. I opt to trust the Internet and find the Honda Africa Twin forum, the NT shares the same dash so I hope to find the answer to my dilemma.

I’m not alone with my problem, other forum goers seem to have the identical issue and they too struggle to resolve it. Every time I attach the phone, Android Auto pops up on the dash, click to enable, then pair rider headset, so far so good but then everything grinds to a halt.

A quick commute to the office on the NT1100

Without fail, each time I choose to connect the headset it fails to recognise the unit as the rider, it automatically makes it the passenger headset. I’ve tried a factory reset on the intercom and still no further forward.

Three solid hours of me stood in the garage, with helmet on, I’m at a loss. I give up and to be honest, I’ve no choice, as the bike battery’s flat.

If anyone has any suggestions please email me, I’m all ears, but for now I’ve reverted to my trusty map book and bugger technology.


Update Three: You asked, we answered

Published: 11 July 2022

Riding shot of Honda NT1100

Office Manager Alison answers your questions on the Honda NT1100, after thousands of miles across the UK and France.

How comfortable is the seat after a day’s ride?

I like the upright riding position, it gives great visibility, and with a multi-positional screen, there’s little buffeting and wind noise. Seat comfort is ok, my longest ride to date is 330-miles to Scotland and at the end of the ride my bum cheeks were a little tender, so I’m investigating the plusher seat option, for my next big trip. One thing I do notice, is when I take my feet off the pegs, I regularly catch my shins on the foot-pegs, I can’t work out if it’s me just being clumsy, or the position of the pegs.

Are the panniers a decent size?

Fitted with a pair of colour matched panniers, they look the business and will hold over 30-litres in each box, ample space for a week’s gear. They come with stylish inner bags, which make them easy to use, the boxes can be left on the bike at overnight stops. I do find they’re not very sturdy and I’ve had an issue where they didn’t lock properly. Luckily I noticed before any of my prized possessions fell out but it could have been a disaster. Disappointingly, only one is big enough to hold a full-faced lid though, which is a shame.

Pack up your troubles

How easy is the Apple Car Play/Android Auto to use?

What a disaster, I can’t stand the Android Auto/Apple Car Play set up, which is supposed to give access to my phone, to enable me to use my phones sat-nav. I spent three hours in my garage, helmet on and hooked up to the bike to no avail. I’ve tried my Samsung and a mate’s iPhone, in case either system worked better, but neither would work properly. In the end I’ve given up and reverted back to using my paper map book and am looking into getting a traditional sat-nav, which seems such a waste of money.

Get yourself connected

What’s the tank range like?

With a 20-litre tank the NT1100 has a range that far exceeds the length of time my 52-year-old bladder can manage between pit-stops. On long runs I find that the parallel-twin motor averages around 58mpg, which gives a return of over 250-miles. With current fuel prices I need a bank loan every time I go to fill the tank and did query that the attendant at the petrol station had got the correct pump, the other day.

It’s quite a weighty bike, do you find this an issue?

What a heavy lump (the bike, not Ali)

When I initially read the facts of figures for the Honda I was apprehensive of how I’d get on with it. With a kerb weight of 238kg, it’s about 20kg heavier than the Yamaha Tracer 9GT I rode last year.

On the move there’s no issue, but where I do have a problem is manoeuvring it under my own steam. Initially I struggled to man-handle the bike into our garage, which is on a bit of a strange angle and takes some to-ing and fro-ing. Now I’ve found one little trick that helps though – I never fuel up before heading home.

With a 20-litre tank, it adds a load of unnecessary weight and we live only half a mile from a petrol station, so fuel up on the way out. It sounds basic but makes just enough difference to save me feeling like I’ve done a gym work out, every time I park the bike at home.

Have you got the DCT or manual version?

I’ve been running the manual version with the standard gearshift.  Recent long term test bikes have all had quickshifters, so I’m in the process of having the aftermarket part fitted, at a cost of £257. I don’t have an issue with the manual box, just fancy putting the quickshifter to the test to see how it fares. I’ve also got plans for a direct comparison with a DCT version, I’m interested to see how it compares. In recent years I’ve ridden both the X-ADV and NC700X, both of which I really enjoyed.


Update Two: MCN Fleet: Honda NT1100 becomes a crash test dummy

Published: 09 June 2022

Down but not out

I know it’s not real but still find it shocking to see the image of the Honda NT1100 laying on it’s side, having just been ‘hit’ by a car and me flat on my back, in the middle of road.

MCN have teamed up with the Highways Agency and BikerTek to produce a third series of informative videos, aimed at getting bikers ready to ride. There’s six videos in the series, which include how to set your bike up, what to look for when buying a bike, tips on riding and what to do if you’re first on scene at an incident.

This is where me and the Honda come in to play, we’re the incident. It takes an age to work out how to position the NT, with its hefty 238kg weight to consider, we need to make sure none of the panels, levers or panniers get damaged. Strategically placed blocks of wood and an old coat do the trick and we’re poised and ready to start filming.

We’re at the HQ of the DocBike, a charity founded by Dr Ian Mew, an ITU consultant and doctor with the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. DocBike plays a massive part in the local community with Dr Ian and his team attending as many motorcycle crashes as they can, big and small, to provide first on scene care.

Their aim, not only to provide medical assistance when needed but also to prevent incidents from happening in the first place, by getting the road safety message out to as many bikers as possible but not in a preachy and condescending way.

It’s sobering to play the casualty, made more realistic as we’re filming at the live airfield and as I lay in the middle of the ‘road’ the air ambulance is going about its day. The crew head off on three or four shouts as we film, we’re not aware where they are flying to but it’s definitely thought provoking.

You can't keep a good woman down!

As Dr Ian talks us through each stage of what to do if you do happen upon an incident and also how to help prevent them happening in the first place. He believes education is the key, his enthusiasm is infectious and he’s so passionate and driven with the cause. He’d like every rider to attend a Biker Down course, which are free and run countrywide. It aims to educate and help stop you crash in the first place.

Like many modern bikes, the NT comes with ABS and numerous safety features as standard, which does give peace of mind as the rider. But these can’t be relied on, like Dr Ian says, training is the key and having done both Biker Down and trained with the IAM, I agree.

After a long day of filming and with the bike upright, prepped and ready to ride, it’s an extremely sedate trip home. Whilst he’s a great guy, the last thing I want is to meet Dr Ian again!!

Meeting Dr Mew

Keep an eye out on our YouTube channel for the six-part series. Not only will you get to see my Oscar worthy performance, but you’ll also hopefully get to learn a few tips and tricks to improve your biking life.


Update One: MCN Fleet: Honda NT1100 is ‘Le Nouveau Tourer’

Published: 11 May 2022

With 27 miles on the clock, a weekend of un-interrupted sunshine forecast and the first service booked for three days’ time, I make a last minute plan to ride to Le Touquet. I should say my sole objective is to get a feel for my new long termer, which I’ll be running as part of the MCN fleet for the next few months, but in honesty it’s to enjoy a bucket of mussels and glass of chilled rose.

Covid restrictions and a house move have meant it’s been over three years since I’ve taken a riding trip to France. Like a kid at Christmas, the anticipation of riding the Honda NT1100 on one of my favourite stretches of road, the D940 from Calais to Le Touquet, is making me giddy.

With over 60-litres of space, I load the natty, removable, pannier liners with enough gear for the weekend. While they’re a similar size to the panniers on last year’s long termer, the Yamaha Tracer 9GT, they’re shaped differently and not quite so useable. They feel a little flimsy too and are tricky to lock, so much so, I accidentally leave one unlocked and it opens, fortunately no harm done, as I spot before I ride off.

For ease I stick to motorways to get to the Eurotunnel as I’m only away for a couple of nights, I want to get to France as quickly as possible. Sitting on the motorway gives me chance to familiarise myself with the controls of the bike. Honda indicators are positioned differently to most manufacturers, at the bottom of the left switch gear, so every time I initially go for them, I end up sounding the horn. Not a major issue, more an annoyance.

I’m in the saddle for a couple of hours, before I stop to fuel up, initial impressions of comfort are good. The large screen is adjustable, it’s in the middle position, buffeting and noise are minimal. One thing I do find easy to use, are the heated grips. Activated by a ‘function’ button on the right switch gear and adjusted by a controller on the left switch gear. It’s under 10 degrees, factor in wind chill and it’s much colder, I keep the heat at three or four out of a maximum of five, they’re quick to heat up and ample to keep my fingers toasty.

Travel through the tunnel is as simple as I remember and I’m soon blasting towards Boulogne, where I pick up the D940 and head to my overnight stop. It’s my first opportunity to ride through villages and towns and I notice the engine braking of the parallel-twin a bit fierce.

Enjoying a quick coffee stop

There are five riding modes, three are preset – Urban, Rain, Touring, plus two that are adjustable. I’m in Touring, which gives more power, middle of the road engine braking and I’ve opted for maximum traction control. On the move Touring is fine but at slower speeds, the engine braking feels too invasive, so at one of my many pit-stops (the joy of touring solo means I can stop as frequently as I want) I set up ‘User 1’ profile. I choose to stick with the most powerful engine setting but reduce engine braking to a minimum and it’s a vast improvement. The engine doesn’t feel so ‘lumpy’ at slow speeds and is far easier to handle.

I click over 250 miles, not a bad day’s ride and more importantly, as I check out the hotel restaurant, there’s a lovely Cotes de Provence and mussels on the menu plus more sunshine forecast, it’s going to be a good weekend!

My Route for the Day

Click here for the route I chose to ride over the weekend, it’s short in distance but great fun. Turned out the Le Touquet Beach Race was happening while I was there. With the beach turned over to racing and the whole promenade free for spectators to stand and watch from, it’s well worth a visit.


Contact: alison.silcox@motorcyclenews.com

I love nothing more than heading out from home on a magical mystery tour and what better machine to do it on? The all-new NT1100 is going to be a great mile-muncher and I’m planning to a minimum of 1000 miles every month.

Alison Silcox

By Alison Silcox

Office Manager and centre of the MCN universe.