AF­FORD­ABLE OLD BIKES: AGAIN!

Real Classic - - Real Classic - Paul Dig­weed, mem­ber 5970

I read with in­ter­est the ar­ti­cle about Michael’s Honda Bros 650 in RC175 and felt that I should write to humbly pro­pose an al­ter­na­tive bike for con­sid­er­a­tion by the gen­tle readers of RC. The bike of which I speak is the Bros 650’s portlier but very sta­ble cousin, the Honda NTV650. Made be­tween 1993 and 1997, the NTV650 is the model that sits be­tween the ex­pen­sive and rather poorly sell­ing Re­vere 600 and the NT650V Deauville, which is def­i­nitely a bike that splits opin­ion. The NTV650 has the same grunty yet smooth en­gine as the Bros, but rather than the sexy alu­minium beam frame it makes do with a rather longer steel equiv­a­lent. The NTV also ‘makes do’ with an ex­cel­lent shaft drive (no mess) and a fuel tank hold­ing over four gal­lons (great range).

The big­gest chal­lenge in NTV own­er­ship ac­tu­ally in­volves find­ing one that hasn’t got 100k miles on the clock or has been (not so) taste­fully café rac­erised. Mine was ef­fec­tively a one-owner bike with 35k on the clock, but was cos­met­i­cally chal­lenged, al­though the orig­i­nal si­lencer had sur­vived. Given their rep­u­ta­tion, I ex­pected the NTV to be bor­ing and un­in­volv­ing, but far from it; they are ex­cel­lent all-rounders. This was proved dur­ing a re­cent trip to the Pyre­nees, where I was rid­ing with a friend on a VFR750. The 650’s ex­cel­lent han­dling and good en­gine brak­ing were a great bonus in the twisty switch­backs of the moun­tain roads, whereas the sta­bil­ity of the ride and the tire­less en­gine (un­like the rider I might add) were well suited to that fi­nal blast across France for the ferry.

Sure, the NTV isn’t per­fect. What is? The rid­ing po­si­tion can seem rather strange with the feet well up and back, like lay­ing on the bike, but fit­ting slightly higher bars has im­proved this. The rider’s seat is nar­row and has a curved pro­file: it can seem like an in­stru­ment of tor­ture on longer trips, which is why you will see mine with a gel pad fit­ted for the long stretches. Looks? Well, the NTVs are not ex­actly clas­sic yet but the early mod­els are over 25 years old if VMCC qual­i­fi­ca­tion is an is­sue. As Michael re­ports, while the en­gine is ex­cel­lent, the gear­box is nei­ther the smoothest nor most si­lent around.

The NTV per­formed fault­lessly dur­ing the 1500-mile Pyre­nees trip, of­ten re­turn­ing 60mpg in the process; not bad for a bike which cost un­der £1000 to buy and recom­mis­sion. So if the Bros ap­peals to you, but you can­not find one or want shaft drive then think of try­ing the NTV. You will not be dis­ap­pointed.

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