Honda NT650 Deauville motorcycle

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So, you’re moving on from the CX500 or GL500 or something in the 250-500 class, or just enlarging your bike collection? You’ve found that 25 year old CX or GL  is outclassed on motorways and is becoming outclassed on A-roads. You’re used to a bike that’s easy to ride, economical to run and maintain, and you prefer a touring machine because you want to be able to ride further than the corner shop without wrecking your back or wrists on a bum-in-the air sports bike. You want shaft drive because the maintenance factor is almost nil and you prefer liquid cooling because that way the engine doesn’t overheat even if you do. You’re looking in the 500 to 900 cc range and you have between £1,500 and £3,500 to spend on a used machine.

What’s on offer in this descriptive category? Erm … unless you want an old Yamaha 900 Diversion – known for suffering from corrosion – or an old BMW 750 triple – or a ten year old Pan European – you’re really only got one choice – the 650 or 700 Deauville. So what are the Deaus like?

Anyone who is fond of the CX or GL or even the VT500 in any of its various flavours will have no trouble at all translating to the 650 or 700 Deauville, because the family line back to the 1978 CX is clear as soon as you ride it. The engine, whilst sounding like an expensive tennis ball being bounced agreeably around inside a large oil drum, has the same characteristic V-Twin purr and can also be trundled along at 30 mph in top and still pull away quite cleanly from that speed, with no transmission snatch.

The riding position is far more like the Eurosport than the regular CX and whilst there is some adjustability in the handlebar position, the saddle is slimmer and feels a little harder than the well padded CX500 seat. Like the Euro, the Deau puts your bum in the one place and there isn’t much latitude for movement. Whereas on the CX I could ride 300 or 400 miles without any bum ache, the Deau runs out of comfort a little earlier. But this is nothing that can’t be chased away by a stand-on-the-pegs stretch or an amble round during a fuel stop. I haven’t had to resort to Lycra underpants to eliminate the problem of stitched seams being uncomfortable!

Ah yes, fuel stops – what are these again? The 650 Deau easily manages 50 mpg and so far under a wide variety of conditions, mine has nudged 60 mpg. This gives you over 200 miles on the main tank and I’d say that squeezing 250 miles from a fill-up would be reasonably easy. This will annoy you when in convoy with Custom riders or those unable to break free from nicotine, but otherwise is a great boon.

The engine sounds much like a CX and has that low-rev torque we all like. But open it up and you can cruise at 90 mph without any strain at all, whilst remaining well below the red line. The 650 gives the same rpm as the 650 Euro and 500 Turbo, that is 4,850 rpm at 70 mph. It has done away with the CX650’s sometimes unpleasant vibration tingle and feels perfectly content at motorway high speeds.

Riding across country is a joy – all the power you need to cruise the A-roads, all the extra oompah you need to overtake, and an astonishingly light set of controls. The engine layout with the cylinders fore-and-aft results in a much faster ‘roll rate’ than the CX, and although there is nothing to chose in terms of raw weight, the Deau is much lighter on its feet and correspondingly easier to make go round corners. The one-finger cable operated clutch is a delight and slicker than the CX’s.

Although I’ve become used to giving some countersteer to pull a CX up out of a turn, I’ve not had to do this with the Deau, which asserts itself quickly back to the vertical and just doesn’t need any manhandling. The engine leaves you in no doubt that you’ve changed gear – there is a very distinctly audible chunk with each shift, sounding solidly reliable without feeling agricultural. It doesn’t feel stiff or clumsy, and riding with another Deau alongside it is easy to change gear at the same time as you can hear each shift from the other bike.

The standard windscreen is too low and I’ve had to fit the Powerbronze flip screen. The high rise curvaceous touring screen was too tall for me at 5’6”. I've added the 'knuckle guards' hand wind deflectors and these are excellent, and I've just (Jan 09) acquired a set of the fatter pannier lids, for use on the annual bike touring trip. The fairing does a reasonable job, not as good as something like a Vetter or aftermarket CX type full fairing, but keeps 75% of the weather off you. I added the fairing lowers, or foot protectors, in April 09.

Instrumentation – I don’t like the always-on headlight and have fitted an 'off' switch to it. The indicators are the push-to-cancel one-button type and I’ve had no trouble with them; hazard lights are standard and are turned on by an extra notch on the headlight switch. Other hand operated electrical switches are where you’d expect to find them, with the headlight flasher on a left-index-finger trigger.

The brakes work on the combined system, that is, the left front caliper has three pistons, one of which is powered by the footbrake along with the rear disc. The front brake lever controls the other two pistons and all of the right hand caliper. This gives very controllable braking, especially in a filtering or slow-ride situation where speed is controlled with the footbrake. The front brakes are astonishingly good and I can see why the NT700 has ABS, as I’ve had the front tyre squealing, which has never happened on the CX.

Carrying capacity is far superior to the CX. One lockable and one unlockable ‘glove compartment’ each big enough for a pair of bike gloves, light rain suit, satnav/electrical outlet, cleaning rag, propstand plate. Two built-in side panniers big enough for full wet weather gear, overnight kit, even a small tent and sleeping bag etc. Fine for a weekend away. My Deau has a 46 litre Givi top box as well, and the wider pannier lids for the side units just bolt straight on to give a very fat-bottom look but x3 carrying capacity.

My model comes with the HISS (Honda Ignition Security System) key, which has a microchip embedded in the key body. Even with a duplicate key cut, the bike won’t start without the chip, so if you lose your main key, hope that you can find your spare. Smartwater is also fitted. So security is excellent.

I suspect that the 700 Deauville with its injected engine would run more smoothly than the carburated 650 motor, and the slight carburation snatch would disappear. But I’ve become used to this with the CX and it doesn’t bother me. Unless you’re flush with pennies or can't live without ABS, I don’t think the 700 is worth the extra.  A too-stiff fuel tap was cured by fitting a new one.

Home maintenance is straightforward enough for oil and filter changes but tappet check and adjustments at 8,000 mile intervals is a long-winded chore- most of the DiY servicing jobs are on my web site.

So far I’ve done every mix of riding and found no vices at all. What a honey of a bike – the right engine size, the right weight, economical, good carrying capacity even in standard trim, and all the power you need on the open road and motorway. The CX500’s great-nephew. Go and buy one.

deauvilledotwebhopdotorg and cx500dotwebhopdotorg will also help you.

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