Bikes we love

What I want: the new supercharged Honda NC750

I had a moment of excitement and glee this week when I spotted the following blurb on page 7 of the February 2015 (a) issue of Bike magazine:

Kawasaki’s supercharged H2 has caused proper rumpus, so now Honda plan their own blown bike. They’ve filed patents showing a supercharger on… yes, the humble NC750.
Wait. What?! 
I’ll admit we’re treading deep into the waters of Things Chris Doesn’t Really Understand here, but from what I know of superchargers they are magical bits of machinery that when added to a motorcycle leave you wondering: why didn’t they do that in the first place?
I mean, the Victory Hammer that set a land speed record at Bonneville, for example. Simply slapping a supercharger on that thing saw it delivering 200hp at the rear wheel. Compare those numbers with the roughly 83hp you’ll get from a stock Hammer S and the stock bike seems like a bad investment.
I’m simplifying this so it makes sense to my tiny brain, but basically a supercharger is able to get increased performance by forcing more air into the engine. In the way I’ve visualised it in my head, this forced (compressed) air has an effect on the engine similar to blowing on the embers of a fire; suddenly the stuff being burned is being burned more efficiently. If you know about superchargers, please feel free to offer a clearer explanation in the comments. But remember to use small words and simple terms because I’m from Texas.

Even though they’ve existed for nigh 100 years, it’s my understanding that superchargers haven’t been placed on standard bikes because they are expensive, not just a little bit fiddly, and create a more urgent challenge in terms of engine cooling.

Also, hitherto, superchargers have really only been used to help a bike go insanely fast. And that’s what so interesting about this Honda plan. Big Red intends to use the supercharger more for the sake of efficiency than speed.

According to an article in Motorcycle News, the supercharged NC750 will make use of the technology to deliver a vehicle that offers the same low emissions and enviable MPG while boosting performance to somewhere around 100 hp!
In other words, a supercharger will eliminate the single gripe I have about the NC750X. I have long been a fan of the bike, writing about it here, here, and here. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a week that goes by in which I don’t find myself staring at the NC750X page on Honda’s website, thinking: “Maybe. Maybe. Maybe that would be the bike for me.”
I mean, the damned thing gets more than 80 mpg, for the love of Pete. That blows my mind. The pickup truck I owned in college got 14 mpg –– making the 240-mile drive from Bloomington to Moorhead on a single tank of gas was always a nerve-wracking experience. Meanwhile, the Honda CBF600SA I ride at the moment gets roughly 50 mpg and has spoiled me against many less-efficient machines. I love not having to pay for fuel (especially in the UK, where it costs so much).

But the thing –– and generally, the only thing, because I can overcome its ugly/bland looks –– that cools me on the NC750X is the fact it’s so underpowered. It produces just 54hp. OK, uhm, true, that’s the same amount of power as a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200, and if I had the money I’d probably already be riding one of those around, but the Harley is so much cooler. My expectations exist on a sliding, often emotional scale. And because I ride a 600cc Honda that gets 76 hp, I expect at least that much from a 750cc Honda.

A supercharged NC750 would exceed my horsepower expectations while still offering a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly machine. That last aspect is the driving force in developing a standard supercharged bike, it seems. More stringent environmental legislation is set to go into effect in Europe in 2016 and it’s logical to assume that even tighter restrictions will be implemented later on.

To that end, Honda is not the only one looking to put out a supercharged middleweight bike. Just the other day I spotted a news article claiming that a supercharged 600cc Suzuki is very close to production. It’s claimed the forthcoming Suzuki Recursion (which, to me, looks as if it has taken its styling cues from a sex toy) will put out 100 hp and a cruiser-like 74 of torque.

It seems that for the sake of efficiency, the supercharger is the way forward. Indeed, not too long ago I read that Honda is developing a new VFR400 (not to be confused with the one that ceased production 20 years ago). No doubt it, too, will be supercharged. It’s an exciting new world and I wouldn’t mind being part of it.

Having said all that…

I’ve decided to add a new element to my What I Want posts, acknowledging the fact that all motorcycles have some flaws. In this case, one of the biggest problems will almost certainly be price. In the case of the Kawasaki Ninja H2, adding a supercharger means it costs 67 percent more than the Ninja ZX-10R. Jacking up the price of an NC750 by that much would dramatically decrease its appeal to me.

Add to this the fact that alleged patent drawings for this forthcoming bike show the supercharger eating up the space that currently exists for the NC750’s signature tank-trunk thing.

So, now you’re talking about an NC750 that costs a whole lot more and has a whole lot less storage space. Not to mention the inherently increased risk of mechanical problems that comes from adding technology that has taken more than a century to be perfected for standard use.

At that point it makes far more sense to spend your money on something like a good ol’ Honda CB650F –– 86 hp and 60 mpg, plus better brakes, for only £100 more than the current NC750X.

Honda CB650F

(a) February 2015, lads? I bought the magazine in December 2014!