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Boring or Brilliant? The Honda NT1100

Essentially a touring-focused Africa Twin, Honda's newly revealed NT1100 is meeting a split response

Although it shares the same letter designation as the Deauville, can we please acknowledge that Honda’s new NT1100 looks like an updated CBF1000?

Not that either comparison is necessarily what Honda wants to be at the forefront of riders’ minds when considering this new parallel-twin-powered ‘middleweight’ tourer. The NT700V Deauville (2006-2015) was infamously uncool, almost exclusively the purview of riding instructors and the kind of blokes who always have a roll of duct tape handy. Whereas the CBF1000 was Honda Germany’s response to the BMW F 800 ST – a bike that needed no response other than: “Hmm, what else is available?”

This is not the NT1100; it’s a 2006 Honda CBF1000.

I own a CBF1000, by the way, and find it to be a surprisingly enjoyable machine until I look at it. Anytime I catch a glimpse of my reflection in shop windows I feel a wave of sadness and think: “Look at that old man on his old-man bike.”

Equally, I will confess that I have on numerous occasions entertained the thought of purchasing a Deaville for want of its stalwart usability. Thankfully I’ve resisted those urges but my point is that it should come as no surprise to learn I am all-in on the idea of Honda’s “Africa Twin in different clothing” motorcycle.

Driven by the same 1084cc parallel twin engine that powers the CRF1100, the NT1100 is a classic Honda in the sense of being kinda one thing, kinda another thing but not really either. Its 17-inch wheels preclude it from being an adventure bike; a claimed 100 hp (75kW) maximum power output means it’s not really a sport tourer; and its lack of girth and accoutrements mean it’s not a traditional ‘full dresser’ touring rig.

Honda describes the NT1100 as “a straightforward touring machine, but one with a rich specification list and a sporty edge to its performance – the sort of bike that deals with the weekday commute efficiently and usefully and is also ready for an extended tour, fully loaded.”

2022 Honda NT1100

Clearly Honda is hoping that the seven old guys filling internet forums with demands for a replacement for boring past models will accept this as a reasonable substitute because it’s daring to reference past sleepers in hyping this machine.

“At Honda we have a long tradition of catering for owners who desire a ‘traditional’ touring bike,” said project leader Koji Kiyono. “Our previous Pan European and Deauville models have enjoyed a very loyal following for many years. So, when it came time to design a new touring model, we wanted to produce something that would resonate – and appeal broadly – to these traditional touring bike customers. But we also wanted to stoke desire in riders of all ages and tastes who are looking for a genuinely new and versatile fun bike.”

Look at it cynically and this is nothing more than an Africa Twin with different fairing and minor chassis tweaks. Same engine, with pretty much identical power and torque figures (the NT1100 claims 100 hp at 7,250 rpm and 104 Nm at 6,250 rpm; whereas the CRF1100L claims 100 hp at 7,500 rpm and 105 Nm at 6,250 rpm). Same electronics. Same Playskool-looking dash comprised of a 6.5-inch TFT touchscreen set atop an old-school LCD display. There are fewer riding modes (because you don’t need ‘Gravel’ and ‘Off-Road’ on a road bike) and this bike strangely weighs 12 kilograms more, but, yeah, it’s basically an Africa Twin. 

Thing is, though: that’s not bad. The Africa Twin is a famously good motorcycle. If I’m not mistaken, the Africa Twin is the third best-selling motorcycle in the UK (behind the R 1250 GS/GSA and Royal Enfield Continental). As the Africa Twin has evolved and improved from the 998cc version I rode way back in 2016 it has become more focused on serving actual dual-purpose duty. And this has created a space for the NT1100 to exist. As I’ve said before: many of us have no interest in going off road with a bike that costs so many thousands of dollars/pounds/euros.

The NT1100’s screen is five-way adjustable

So, Big Red has made a motorcycle seemingly aimed at appealing to my latent affection for functional shit. That may or may not be a good business strategy; how many riders are like me? (Hell, I’m not always like me – hence my deep affection for Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles). Based on the bulk of comments in Common Tread’s article about the NT1100, it isn’t a bike that appeals to most Americans. It’s too sensible, too realistic; too much “what you actually do” as opposed to “what you wish you did.”

But as I say, I’m all-in. Especially in light of the spec sheet. Honda’s starting price for the NT1100 is just shy of £12,000, which is about £1,600 more than a standard Kawasaki Versys 1000; almost £1,800 more than a Yamaha Tracer 9; a solid £2,000 more than a Suzuki V-Strom 1050; and almost £2,500 more than a stock BMW F 900 XR. But here’s the thing: with the NT1100 you get cruise control, heated grips, center stand AND pannier luggage as standard. That is impressive, y’all.

I doubt I’d ever be straining my neck to gaze upon myself in shop windows but I am still all-in with this thing.

I know it means I’m not cool but I want one