Bike of the week
The year of my birth is one which hoists up the average age of the motorcycling population. It's difficult to find average age statistics, but six years ago Bridgestone Tyres carried out a survey of riders who attended events such as shows and race meetings, and were prepared to complete their questionnaire.

They collated almost 4,500 replies, and it revealed that over a third were 41-50 years old, and a significant percentage were in the 51-60 age bracket. One of the concluding summaries was "There are many older riders out there, and not enough younger riders to replace them in the long term".

This will not be a surprise to active riders who go to shows and events, take part in ride outs, and use the various cafes and gathering places up and down the country; when we're not under restriction. When the helmets are lifted, the faces tell a tale of the years.

In one way this is no bad thing. Research emerges from time to time in the motorcycle press that extols the benefits of riding in terms of people's mental and physical health. Along with other forms of dynamic exercise it keeps faculties, awareness, and reflexes honed and sharp.

In 2018 I bought a BMW F800R, and in the back of my mind thought, this might be the 'last bike', in terms of hanging on to it for a good few years. It had hardly any miles through the wheels, was easy to handle and carried enough power for touring and a bit of speed when those (declining) moments called.

Although the riding position was quite body supportive, it's a naked bike with just a small fly screen to divert air; on longer jaunts of around 150 - 200 miles, it was becoming uncomfortable. More stops. More stretches.

Some years ago when my partner was an enthusiastic pillion and tourer. We bought one of the first big Honda scooters, an automatic that took us all over mainland Europe and the UK in comfort - these are not machines that UK riders have taken to, one reason being the price compared to 'standard' motorcycles. But I knew Honda had developed the scooter/motorcycle hybrid idea in recent years, so took to ebay and forums to begin looking at this option.

Honda Integra NC700
On 26th March, having located a bike and been offered a decent part exchange amount for the F800R, I took delivery of a Honda Integra NC700. A 2015 model, the bike had only covered four thousand miles, and was immaculate. The whole deal was done remotely through email and phone. Already common practice with car sales; this may be the way we purchase our bikes in future.

The guy from the dealers who delivered the bike told me he had owned and enjoyed riding an Integra. He took me through the essentials, with the main attention given to the drive and gear system.

Options for the fully automatic six speed gearbox consists of two modes:
  • Drive, which keeps the revs down, and is miserly with fuel consumption. Good for traffic, urban riding, and bimbling around minor roads or lanes, and...
  • Sport, which provides a much sharper and livelier response from the engine.
Then there is a manual option, through the use of two switches operated with left finger and thumb to go up and down through the box. No clutch. Brake levers on each handlebar, and inattention could result in a very sharp stop...see below.

When is a motorcycle not a motorcycle?
The Integra is described as a hybrid (Honda have developed the concept further by introducing the XDV750. Promoted in their Adventure bike category, and said to be capable of off road work. With the 2021 model priced at a whopping £10,850.) It has seventeen inch wheels, giving it a motorcycle appearance, but it's adorned with scooter type bodywork and weather protection. It's wider and higher than a scooter; so easy step through isn't possible. It's equipped with 'proper' front forks, and it's chain driven.

The bike stayed in the garage for two days, waiting for weather fronts bringing strong winds, pushing frequent showers to clear and give way to a few dry days. I read the gear change option section of the handbook a couple of times to ensure I was familiar with what I was getting onto. Then, as sunshine dispersed the clouds, it was first ride time.

Over the first few metres my feet floated, before the correct brain channel told me that they perched forward onto the platform. I'd selected D (regular) for the first part of the ride through urban roads and traffic. The NC twin engine in this mode is a bit chuggy and fluffy, but fine for the conditions intended. But getting to open sections of road and selecting S (sport), delivers a much more lively ride with smooth quiet power.

Initially hustling through bends revealed some indecision in terms of how the bike should be steered. How do you replace leg pressure on footpegs and body lean? More use of the bars to lever the bike onto the right line seemed to be the way, but just a few hours of riding is not enough to develop the best handling techniques. More miles required.

The Bridgestone tyres felt assured. At one stage of the ride, on a stretch of well surfaced A road, the bike moved swiftly up to 80 mph. Perhaps the most important advantage was comfort from the broad saddle, and an upright riding position sheltered from any adverse elements i.e. rain, by a large windshield and bodywork. I'll not be deliberately seeking out dodgy weather, but it's sure to happen sometime in the coming months if my plans for several long rides pan out.

I like simplicity
In this period of our history, technology, often for technology's sake, can appear to be overtaking what is necessary to live in a more human dimension that connects us with each other through contact that doesn't solely rely on screens and lines of text. But I just love the technology that Honda have installed on the Integra, allowing me to play up and down the gearbox with the mere touch of a switch.

I nearly incurred some minor grief as I slowed to a stop behind a queuing car. I changed down to first, my inattentive thought process said clutch in, feet down, and I pulled on the rear brake lever. No problem, just an unwelcome jolt!

Just after I'd done the deal for the Integra. I looked at the BMW, a 'real' motorcycle sitting in the garage waiting to be replaced, and asked myself if I had made the right decision. I think I have. This bike will be fun, and the comfort factor alone should prove it's worth, easing the bones on long journeys.

Has anyone else got experience of the Honda Integra like John, or the desire to try one? Let us know at news@wemoto.com or drop us a message on Facebook.

Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 07 April 2021 in Features

Edited By: Jake Tindall



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