To borrow the chorus line from Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit of These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, my ride on the new Honda NT 1100, which is marketed as a top-end sports tourer, made me change it to “these wheels are made for riding, and that’s just what they’ll do, one of these days these wheels are gonna ride away with you”! Sorry, it came to me as I was test-riding this bike. Look up the video and you will laugh.
This new offering from Honda is meant to replace the beautifully named ‘Super Blackbird’ which was discontinued some years ago and left, some would say, a hole in their range for fast tourers. Many Blackbird riders refused to give
up and held onto their bikes for a long time and some, no doubt, still do, racking up huge touring miles. What would this bike be like? It was tricky to secure a demo ride on a bike this month for two reasons: (1) the lack of demos in dealerships due to Covid-19 and the 1st March registration launches and (2) this bike was booked up morning and afternoon at Newcastle Motorcycles! I picked it up at 1 o’clock and the seat was still hot!
This engine is a lower height re-working of the 101 bhp, 1084cc parallel twin that is in the Africa Twin but with a 270- degree crank so that the firing sounds and gives the feel of a V twin. Clever stuff. I voted the Africa Twin the best of the bikes that I had tested in 2016.
It comes with a lot of kit as standard. Five stage heated grips (very toasty for my fingers on a freezing cold ride); the smashing TFT display which I did find easy to use, although there are lots of buttons on both sides of the handlebars; a very neat touch – the USB port and a power supply and a blue-tooth port just underneath the manually adjusted screen. There are small, neat wind deflectors just underneath the handlebars and where your feet are at the bottom of the fairing. They seem to do a pretty good job of keeping all of the muck off on what was a very clear, cold and enjoyable ride through the February salted roads of Northumberland.
On picking the bike up, there was a pleasant throb, throb from the standard exhaust (you can uprate), and the bike had a look of the Yamaha Tracer and the KTMs about it. However, it is very Honda. It is all in grey which seemed to suit it and it wasn’t so high as the Africa Twin. I forgot when I set off, so easy it was to get on with, that it was a DCT until my left hand was opening and closing and nothing was happening! Doh! It was in tour mode and I didn’t realise that I could have changed up and down using the paddles in drive (D) but used that paddle method on the sport mode during the ride itself.
This is an enjoyable bike to ride – unblurred mirrors, supremely comfortable (one of the best seats I have been on) and the riding position gave a great view forward. You were at one with the bike immediately. I decided to avoid the City Centre and A1 traffic and took off up the Military Road. I could see about 20-30 miles away, over the tops. On a whim, I turned right just before Chollerford, taking me through the hamlets of Chollerton, Colwell and Little Bavington until I was able to meet up with the Rothbury crossroads on the A697 to Otterburn. I bashed along the A697, on this deceptively rapid bike (shades of the old Super Blackbird). Both the switch-back country roads and those fast-sweeping A-roads were fantastic on this bike with its responsive handling.
I pulled into the Blacksmiths Coffee Shop in Belsay and had a pleasant stopover with a flat white and my dad’s favourite short-crust pastry mixed berry pie with hot custard. Bliss. I enjoyed my chat sitting outside on the patio with a junior doctor from the RVI, on his racing cycle – discussing Covid and the thrills of two wheels on the highway.
Swinging back through Ponteland, the A1 was again nose to tail so I went through town to get back to the local Honda dealer on Scotswood Road. Filtering through traffic was a piece of cake. This bike was smooth, usable and was not top-heavy like some tourers. No stiff “clutch hand” in traffic on a DCT!
I think this bike could take everything that would be thrown at it; would get you there and back in great comfort but would excite you on the same journey. I can see why it has been so popular. Thanks to Graeme and Newcastle Motorcycles
for the demo, a few days before the 1st March registrations. Much appreciated.
Mark Hipkin is a Partner/ Head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department. He welcomes your e-mails or calls on the law (or your biking experiences) at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 2533509.