NT700 - A first time Deauville owner's view

John lives in France and has registered on the UK Deauville forum. The following are his own words, published here with his kind permission and full knowledge. His story cannot be copied and used for monetary gain without his prior consent.

Part I

One brand new Honda Deauville NT700VA was delivered to me last week. Wooo Wooo! My new Motorbike (Moto in French) has arrived!

Well the day dawned, overcast and a bit murky but the weather forecast was for fog clearing to a "Partly Cloudy". Things were definitely looking up. What’s more, no dreaded “Ve haf une probleme” phone call. So I telephoned the taxi company...

Oh dear, they either haven’t paid their bill or wanted a long lie-in as the phone was hung up immediately – twice (I can take a hint... sometimes). Oh well, as the buses don’t run until the afternoon, true - they come into Town in the morning and go the other way from 3pm, so, with no option, it was a trip by “Shanks’ Pony” the 5kms to the Dealer.

Off I trot, well saunter really as it is all uphill. It was very good walking weather, cool and cloudy so quite a pleasant walk. Now walking 5kms in motorcycle boots is not the cleverest idea in the world as they tend to chaff a bit. After 4.5kms my left foot was complaining (I’ll have a humongous blister in the morning) and I limped the last half kilometre, excitement driving me on. The trip took 50 minutes (you do the maths as I’m much too excited – 5kms in 50 minutes that’s... ?).

I wander into the Showroom to be greeted by Julian (the salesman who had spent about 12 months in the USA) and the words “Ah, I don’t know if the bike is ready as I wasn’t here yesterday”. Some rather imaginative words came to mind but I was polite (very firm, but polite - amazingly). Julian was left in no doubt that “no” was going to be the wrong thing to say. So he went to investigate...

Anyhow, he came back with a big smile and said yes it was all ready, just needed to sort out the “Carte Gris” – Log Book to you and me. Strange how a couple of the mechanic blokes from behind the parts counter suddenly disappeared.

It took about 30 – 40 minutes to “sort out the paperwork”, and the keys arrived just as I was relieved of a rather large cheque. Amazing timing (Cynic – moi?). Cheques in France are a little different to cheques in the UK. They are like legal contracts, so after handing over a cheque you can ride off on your shiny new motorbike.

We went outside and the heavens opened. Wait till I find that weather forecaster... My pride and joy was getting wet!!!! We scuttled undercover and went through the controls etc. for the bike. It was still bl**dy raining when we finished.

Oh well, nothing for it, I would have to have my first run on her in the wet.

French road surfaces are not things of beauty. In fact they are pretty awful. In the wet they have a friction co-efficient similar to that of sheet ice. So it was with some trepidation that I mounted the bike and set off. Wet French Roads, brand new tyres (no grip), and brand new brakes (need to bed in), I rode like I was on eggs.

Back in the early 1980’s I bought a Honda CX500 off my Brother and this new bike, the Honda Deauville NT700VA, seems to be what the CX500 has evolved into. She is easy to ride, comfortable, well balanced at slow speed and very neutral around corners. If fact, she was so nice to ride I even took her around the skating rink (the nickname I have for one of the roundabouts near me). She behaved faultlessly.

Now before you call me a silly old fool for taking the new bike around the skating rink, I must point out that I have to use the skating rink every morning to get to work. Better lying there at lunchtime when it’s quiet, rather than at 7:35 in the morning when the whole world is trying to get to work.

I arrived back at home and she’s filthy . I better get used to it as I can’t really clean her every day. For the next 3-4 weeks I’ll be riding her slowly as she needs to be run-in for the first 1000kms. What a great opportunity to annoy the Parisienne drivers. Oh, and yes, I do about 250-300kms a week - about 14,000kms a year.

To the Manual, yes I do Read the Manual. It’s in German, Dutch, French and Italian – no English. Surprisingly, it is very easy to read.

Part two – Riding the Deauville coming soon...

Part II

Wow its heavy! Having just taken her off the centre stand you notice the weight for the first time. Thinking back, the CX500 was similar with the weight quite high up (though probably not as heavy). I’m a little worried about how heavy she is and how I’ll get her back on the centre stand later on.

The balls of my feet easily touch the ground but I cannot place both feet flat on the ground. I find the foot peg catches my leg and, when at traffic lights, I need to push the foot peg up to comfortably rest my foot on the ground. I imagine that as I get more used to the weight, I’ll feel more comfortable leaning her over a little to fully rest my foot on the ground away from the foot peg.

I fire her up and the first thing I notice is how loud she is. Not quite expecting that but I assume it’s the fairing that’s amplifying the engine noise. The second thing I notice is the rumble of the clutch, which goes away when the clutch lever is pulled in. There is also a bit of a noise coming, I think, from the tappets (this has reduced considerably as the kilometres have built up). I wait for the needle to reach above the C mark and...


As 1st gear is engaged, that’s a bit loud. Oh well, she is new and it will take a little time for the gearbox to bed in as well. The clutch feels a little heavy, but that is to be expected as I’ve been using a little 200cc motorbike as my TOAD (towed in UK) for the back of the RV (Motor home).

A few revs and off we go...

Left turn and down the street to the roundabout. Acceleration is good, even keeping her under 4000 (which I’ll try to do for the 1st 500kms). Grip in the wet with cold new tyres seems OK and braking is good albeit from only about 50kph (just over 30mph).

Let’s try out the roundabout (not the skating rink).

Due to the road layout, I have to go all the way round the roundabout which is a good test. I need to keep her relatively upright, as its raining, and don’t make the best job of negotiating the roundabout but we make it OK, if a little untidily. I notice that the front turns a little faster than I expected and this initially caught me out a couple of times (getting used to it now though).

The Indicator switch falls easily to hand and is easy to operate. Down a straight piece of road with a number of “Sleeping Policemen” (traffic calming speed bumps). No problem with those, some I weave to avoid others I go over to see how she handles.

The second roundabout and this time I manage to hit the horn as well as turn on the indictor. I have done this at least a couple of times now so maybe the horn button protrudes a little too much. I take this roundabout much better and now have more or less a straight run home.

The first commute to work looms at 7:30 am. It’s still wet and a bit windy. So off we go with me in full weather gear.

This is my first run on dual carriageway and I’m surprised at how loud the wind noise is in the helmet (a Nolan N103). It is much louder than the un-faired 200cc bike at the same speed! The handling is good and the braking excellent even in the wet. I do like the combined braking for gently slowing you down in the wet. I notice the buffeting a lot especially behind other vehicles. The bigger the vehicle the worse it is. The Handlebar Wind Deflectors work well and my gloves are only a little damp when I arrive.

The Bikers in and around Paris travel down the white line with their hazards on, this gives me a chance to use the hazards on the move. Switching them on is very, very easy but, switching them off I blip the throttle slightly. For the 1st few times switching them off, I blip the throttle but, I am slowly getting better at it and, yesterday (seven days after 1st riding her), managed to switch them off without blipping the throttle for the first time.

After 20 minutes or so of Dual Carriageways and “urban clearways” we reach the outskirts of Paris. The first “in traffic” test. Provided you keep above about 5kph (3mph) she is exceptionally stable, manoeuvrable and a joy to ride through the traffic. Under 5kph she can be a bit of a handful at times in traffic. Again, this is a weight issue and will get better as I become more accustomed to her weight.

Parking can be a nightmare if you need to manoeuvre without the engine. You must park so you can easily exit forwards without having to try to push her backwards. Getting her onto the centre stand is a doodle, just put your foot on the centre stand and rock backwards.

We have now covered 480kms in 9 days and her 1st service is booked for Saturday 13th March. And what are my feelings about her? I am a really happy bunny! I’m certain I’ve made a very good choice.

In case you’re interested I bought a 2010 Honda Deauville NT700VA (C-ABS) in Black with the following accessories: Honda 45l Top Box; Handlebar Wind Deflectors; Lower Wind Deflector (Sabot in French); Cigar Lighter; and a Tank Protector. I later purchased a Honda Bike Cover (a Housse in French) which I’m not very happy with – I think the Oxford ones are better, and a Citadel U-Lock which fits nicely under the seat.

Part III

The First Service has come and gone all too quickly. Three weeks ago I picked up my shiny new Deauville and, just commuting, she’s already covered 1,000 kilometres (about 620 miles). So what are my thoughts? I like her a lot. She’s easy to ride, responsive, agile and easy to manoeuvre in moving traffic. I’ve only clipped one door mirror so far. The suspension is good and soaks up the bumps very well (except at very slow speeds). I hardly notice the road surface now whereas I used to feel every slight imperfection on the 200. On the urban motorways she’s manoeuvrable, comfortable and stable with just the buffeting from the wind (and large vehicles) which you very soon get used to. I’ll hunt out a Peage (Toll Road) at some point and try her at 130kph (about 80mph).

Filtering in traffic I’ve had a couple of near misses due to dozy, myopic drivers though the horn works well as soon lifts them from their reverie! The agility of the bike and the excellent brakes has, so far, made avoiding them easy. You just have to be on your guard all the time. Admittedly, filtering in and around Paris is usually done at speed (usually between 60 and 110kph – 40 to 70mph) otherwise you have the kamikaze scooter riders piling into the back of you! They really are certifiable – “death wish” doesn’t even come close.

Grip in the wet seems good. We’ve only had a few wet days and they were during the first 200kms so I can’t give a proper assessment of wet weather handling. Extremely sharp corners were taken at virtually walking pace in the wet due to the appalling road surfaces here in France. In the dry it’s like she’s on rails. Some of the slip roads onto the motorways have extremely tight 90° to 180° turns and you have no option other than to nearly ground the foot rests at any speed above walking pace. These present no problem in the dry and she absolutely loves them. You can just imagine hearing her saying “Oh yeah! Let’s do that again faster”. And remember, I was running her in so taking it quite gently.

You soon get used to the weight and you only really notice it at very low speeds while manoeuvring in traffic (under about 3-5mph) where she can be a bit of a handful. Though very slow speed manoeuvrability has become easier in the last week or so. Even pushing her into and out of parking places has become much easier, though I still recommend parking in such a way as to not have to manoeuvre her with just your feet.

The noise is no longer an issue. I don’t hear it any more, though the exhaust note at certain revs can be very nice indeed. It’s probably the valve overlap but I haven’t really listened carefully - yet.

The Headlight is eminently usable. I’ve only used her once in full darkness and it worked well. As always, a HID system would be better.

There is a superb system for stopping you riding off with the Side Stand Down (a common cause of accidents). If the bike is put into gear while the Side Stand is down, the engine stops. The same happens if you put the Side Stand down while in gear. This is also useful for parking on an incline.

I have been very good while running her in. For the first 500kms we hardly went over 4500rpm (keeping under 4000rpm was just too difficult to achieve). The next 500kms were under 5000rpm with just 3 “blips” to about 5500rpm: One changing down; one accelerating up a hill; and one avoiding a white van man who’d obviously just had a Frontal Lobotomy (he certainly drove like he’d just had one).

Fuel economy has been good while running her in. I’m getting between 20.2 km/l and 18.4 km/l which equates about to 57.7 mpg and 51.9 mpg commuting to work, a round trip of about 55½km (35 miles). I found that keeping the revs between 3,000 and 4,500 (ish) rpm gets the best return. I haven't tried above 5,000 rpm yet. I have also noticed that supermarket fuel gives a much worse return than BP or Total 95 octane (I shall do a test on this shortly).

So what’s good, what’s bad and what’s nice to have? I like this bike immensely. Virtually everything is good so I would be better off mentioning the very few minor bad points:

The Bike
The Clunk into 1st gear, the CX500 I had was similar even when she had 46,000 on the clock.

Cleaning the rear wheel and exhaust silencer (properly) is a hands and knees job and not easy even then. Cleaning the engine, rear shock etc. requires a pressure washer (on a low setting) – keep it well away from the instruments.

The position of the glove boxes means you can very easily press the starter or the horn when you open the lids.

No Fuel Reserve Light - the Fuel Gauge is just too imprecise.

The length of time it takes to warm up. In my manual it says you shouldn’t move off until the temperature gauge reaches past the C mark. This can take well over 5 minutes on cold mornings (and yes, I do obey this requirement).

The Accessories
The Honda Top Box is not worth the extra money. It should have a system to use the same key as the ignition key (my opinion). The lock is also prone to freezing. The straps which stop the lid from opening too far are spliced and the splicing came adrift after just 1 week! Applying some heat to the splicing would have meant they wouldn’t have come apart (Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance – Honda Design Dept. please take note). I have made two retaining straps from picture wire and ferules using the plastic sheath from the original. They may be a bit too rugged for the flimsy plastic mounts on the lid and body – time will tell.

The Honda Bike Cover for the Deauville is OK provided you need a “long term” cover. If you leave the Top Box in place then it is too small and the shaft drive and silencer are left exposed. I have worked out a system for using it on a daily basis (the bike lives outside) but it is only “just satisfactory” not ideal. An Oxford cover of the same size would have probably suited my needs better and would have been (considerably) cheaper.

Nice To Have
There are a couple of items which, in my opinion, are missing from the Deauville (items 1 and 2) and some nice to have items which should be part of the original equipment or optional extras:
  • Gear Indicator. It is sometimes very difficult to know which gear you are in. To find out, you either have to change gear or (try to) accelerate. I am frequently caught out with 2nd and 3rd when in traffic. There is room on the display for a small gear indicator so I don’t know why it wasn’t fitted in the first place. My cheap 200cc Chinese bike has one so why not the Deauville?
  • A Reserve Fuel Light is a must (see my comments about this in “minor bad points”).
  • The Knuckle Deflector Kit should be part of the original equipment. These work very well indeed and even keep your hands (relatively) warm down to about -1°C; below that handlebar warmers are required. They also look good (my opinion).
  • Electric Screen system so you can change the height of the screen on the move. I understand these may be available as “after market” items (anyone know where?) and is Standard Equipment on the Pan European. If this had been offered as an option by Honda I would have bought it.
  • Restraining hooks or straps in the panniers. Something to stop “stuff” rattling around. Yes, I know they want to sell you the bags to go into the panniers but, it is not always practical to use them.
  • The Honda Top Box should fit directly to the rear carrier (area) rather than having to fit a second carrier above it.

The first thousand kilometres has proved the Deauville to be a superb commuter bike. I can carry a week’s shopping in the panniers and Top Box (including 10 dumpies of beer). The Fairing and Under Cowl keep virtually all the weather off under about 70kph (about 43mph) and provides effective weather protection at all the speeds I’ve ridden at in the rain (up to 90kph – 56mph). I can filter easily on most of the roads and in slow moving traffic. Squeezing through traffic is relatively easy – if the handlebars fit you’ll make it.

OK, the sixty four thousand dollar question: Would I buy another?

In a heartbeat!

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