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2024 HONDA NT1100 REVIEW – THE LOOP, THE SUIT, AND THE HEAT

What's this? A proper on-tour motorcycle review? Pretty much...

THE GREAT IMAGES – NICK EDARDS

THE LESS-THAN-GREAT IMAGES – ME

I have always enjoyed those bike reviews when the reviewer actually rode somewhere and told me a story about the journey and the bike. No-one seems to do them much anymore. It’s enough to just jam some adjectives between the specs, and consider it “job done”, right? Yeah, I don’t think so. Never have…

Anyway, Nick shot the NT1100 on the Old Pac one rainy day, a week later I took it to the Snowy Mountains, which is why there are different images of the bike. I’m sure you can work it out.

A week later I would be praying for these weather conditions.

“We should go,” Biff said.

“They’re just fifteen minutes late,” I replied.

“You’ve left without them before.”

“I have, but then there were twenty people waiting. Now there’s just you and me.”

“I’m not waiting,” Biff declared and pulled on his helmet.

I had no problem with this.

We’re happy because we haven’t been arrested yet.

Both of us were keen to get onto the Snowy Mountains Highway and we had some awful Hume slabbing to grind through before that happened.

Also, the Kursed Brothers were grown-ups whose feelings were of no consequence to us. The pair of them had never been on time for a departure in all the decades I’d known them, but they both rode fast enough to catch up, and everyone knew were we had to end up on the day if that wasn’t quite fast enough.

It does everything it says on the box.

So Biff and I rode out of Pissant’s Nest and made for the high country.

Biff had just acquired a low-kay KTM Superduke R with a pipe that sounded like an artillery barrage. This made me happy for several reasons.

Firstly, I rejoice when my brother acquires a new bike that sounds like hatred. Secondly, the bog-stock Honda NT1100 I was on was instantly invisible to any cops we might attract along the way – both aurally and visually. My bike looked and sounded like an accountant’s briefcase. Biff’s orange-hued Austrian was unmistakeably a crime against the very fabric of our society.

A pair of weapons at rest.

The Superduke R consumed petrol at a greater rate than the Honda. Clearly, the noise it made contributed to its thirst, and our petrol stops were frequent.

At the first one, we discovered the Kursed Brothers were in the grip of delusional confusion.

Biff had called Rob while I sat in the shade of a petrol station awning. I couldn’t hear what Rob was saying, but this is what Biffa was saying…

“Where are you?”

“No, it was today. Check your messages. I told you and Daz three times. I’m looking at the message now. I’m also looking at your messages which say you’ll both be there.”

“Yes, that’s Friday. No, it’s not Saturday. Yes, today is Friday.”

“That noise? That’s Borrie laughing.”

He hung up.

The ergos are neutral, but when the screen is down like here, there’s a lot of wind-roar.

“Good thing we didn’t wait,” Biff grinned.

“How they are able to function in this world remains a wondrous mystery to me,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes.

“Rob says he’s leaving now.”

“Now” was noon.

“Guess we’ll see him in Jindabyne just this side of midnight then,” I smiled. “Or in Cooma hospital on the Sunday when we’re going home.”

Then we laughed some more and rode on.

If you look past the Honda, you’ll see black dots. Those are brumbies.

The weather was stunning. The sky was that stupid depthless blue that spoke of searing heat, and circling vultures would be seen for miles if something terrible happened. But the searing heat was still a day or so away according to the forecast, and the most terrible thing that had happened so far was that could not raise the screen on the Honda no matter what I tried.

“Is there a button?” Biffa asked in Yass when we were filling up.

“No. It’s manual.”

“What’s this here?”

“The USB port.”

“Have you asked YouTube?”

“Several times.”

“What’s the Star button do?”

“It doesn’t raise the screen.”

Normally I don’t give much of a shit about something like this. But with the screen down, the wind-noise was astonishingly loud. There was no buffeting, just wind-roar. If I stood up on the pegs and exposed myself to the direct blast of the oncoming air, it was heaps quieter than sitting on seat. I was actively seeking ear-plugs in every servo we stopped at.

Sure-footed in the wet is something Honda does brilliantly.

Other than that, the Honda was lovely to ride. It is indeed an Africa Twin with a suit on. And that makes it very competent, rideable, and predictable.

Sure, unkind observers have observed it has a touch of the munt about it, and I get the feeling Honda is just aesthetically spitballing the NT concept before maybe committing some serious design to its appearance. I guess it’s waiting to see if it sells well enough to give it a makeover. I hope it does, because it’s a beaut bike.

We pulled out of Tumut freshly fuelled and ready to behold the manifold faces of Jesus as we cast aside the nonsensical demands of the Motor Traffic Act. And then I lost Biff in the first few corners.

I waited. Then I turned around and found him on the side of the road two kays back.

“The bar-end fell off,” he said, pointing at a piece of ruined alloy he’d tucked under an ocky strap holding his luggage on.

We do good sky in Australia. And you can easily fit a case of beer into those panniers and still have room for chips and wet-weather gear.

“Rizoma?” I asked.

Biff nodded.

“You know Ferghal has seeded most of NSW and parts of Victoria with many kilos of Rizoma accessories that have parted company with his Yamaha? He was gathering them up for a while as well. Now he just shrugs and rides on as they fall off.”

But it doesn’t take long for the magic of the Snowy Mountains Highway to make you forget everything except riding. Our pace was measured, but it could not be called slow. Biff was still getting used to his bike and I was slowly going deaf but hugely enjoying the ease with which the Honda went about its business. It lacks hard punch out of corners, so you do need to work the gearbox a little, but it handles so predictably and confidently, you can carry a lot of corner speed.

This was my favourite Mode, but it has two programmable ones as well. Navigating the menu takes some getting used to, and the “redundancy” of two displays makes sense when you\re using the TFT screen to navigate. Or watch porn.

We stopped for some pics just shy of the Kiandra turn-off and yelled at some Brumby vermin off to the side. They really are everywhere up here, but they don’t respond to yelling, despite being feral as fuck. One of the bastards was even sporting dreadlocks in its mane.

Shit got interesting on the other side of the Kiandra turn-off to Cabramurra. The speed limit was now 80 and the corners were tighter and thus more awesome. And we weren’t what any rational human being would call speeding. Our pace was perfectly suited to the conditions.

Except the condition that threw an oncoming police bike at us. I throttled off instantly and saw my speedo numbers tumble into the low hundreds. Biffa was behind me and we both slowed down and stared at our mirrors for a while expecting the cop to appear in them with his lights flashing.

Comes with the territory. Always has.

That didn’t happen, so we dialled it up a touch, and that was when the BMW Highway Patrol came around a corner towards us.

We again instantly buttoned off, but very few corners later, lights and sirens had us pulled over.

I had my licence out first. I was the lead rider. This was on me for sure. But the cop was not interested.

“Not you,” he said, walking past me. “Him.”

Biff had been clocked doing 107 in an 80 zone. But how he had been clocked and not me can only be explained by the fact that his bike looks and sounds like it’s constantly committing crimes, and mine looks like it putts around dispensing kindness and responsibility. I don’t look like that, but there was a wind-sock covering my neck tattoo, and Biff looks every bit as fearsome as a thick-bearded ginger looks on a KTM Superduke R. The cop, being of simple-mind and scant intellect, went with what was obvious.

Biff was surprisingly philosophical.

The Berridale War Memorial – if you had no cultural context, you’d think this was a list of men crucified in Roman executions.

“I’m OK with this,” he said as I tried commiserating while being simultaneously and somewhat guiltily pleased it wasn’t me. “I haven’t been booked in ten years. I have all my points. How many you got?”

“Less than three but more than one last time I looked.”

We fuelled up again at Adaminaby, chucked a right at Middlingbank Road to avoid Cooma, and were soon engrossed in the lovely sweeping and fast approach into Jindabyne from Berridale.

I always suffer an onset of cringe coming into Jindabyne.

Those first gulps are always the best.

Unable to come to terms with not having any true European snow “kultur”, does not stop us wanking furiously as if we did. We have a Tyrolean Village on the approach to Jindy. We do not have a Tyrol. But we have its village, apparently. It looks nothing like any Tyrolian village I have ever seen (and yes, I have been there), but boasts a Chesa St Moritz Chalet. It’s like we think calling something anodyne a sexy Euro name will make it irresistible to tourists. That and the insane price-gouging that goes on year-round in Jindabyne can’t help but make it a ski-mecca for powder-pigs from all over the world, who will doubtlessly eschew the slopes of Japan, Canada, Italy, and Switzerland, and head for fucking Jindy the second they hear of its Tyrolean Village.

Here we found Whitey and his father-in-law, Lloyd.
Whitey is an old and beloved brother from Bombala. He holds sway in the local sawmill and hunts big animals. He is quiet, self-possessed, and very smart – perfect qualities for a hunter. He also rides an S1000XR Carbon Sport like a thousand talented bastards. I love him. But I cannot catch him. Depends on what I’m riding I may keep him vaguely in sight. But the NT is no match for the XR. It’s the same kinda bike, but it just does not bang like the Beemer.

Left to Right: Whitey, Rob, Biff, Lloyd.

Biff had rented out a house, and bedrooms were allocated in the traditional manner – according to neck tattoos, propensity for violence, and snoring volume.

Rob joined us at 10.30 that night on his KTM Superduke GT, and recounted terrifying tales of wombats the size of grizzlies that threatened to end him in the darkness outside Berridale.

The next morning we embarked on our loop, and it was one of the best rides I’d had in ages.

“Hold that smoke in!”

The company of men you know well, whose friendship you treasure, and who can all ride without shaming themselves, is a blessing in my world.

The police which bedevilled the roads in that area are not.

The servo lady in Khancoban was not a fan of them, either.

This is one of 400 million motorcycle images taken on this very spot.

“There are six cars and two bikes running around out there,” she told us. “And they hide, the sneaky bastards. You’d think if it was about safety, they’d be out in the open.”

“It’s not about safety,” I said to her.

“I know,” she nodded. “It’s just money-grubbing.”

“Giz money!”

And it was during this ride that Whitey solved my non-raising screen issue. I had complained endlessly about the fact no-one could work out how it could be raised. Whitey would try at each stop. His is the patience of a hunter. Where I had sworn, shrugged, and surrendered, he persisted. And at the Tumut Pond Dam, he got it, by using both hands, pulling it gently out and then up. And the wind-noise was gone. I offered to kill a Brumby in his honour and hugged him with genuine gratitude.

This is not the the road we were looking for.

We lunched in Berridale because the pub in Adaminaby no longer serves meals, which might be the fallout from Covid. Some businesses just didn’t bounce back.

We returned in good order to Jindabyne and went to drink beer in the brewery rather than the pub. The beer was still viciously over-priced, but it was very nice.

And it was now hot. The following day, promised to be even hotter, and no-one was looking forward to that. Which is maybe why I managed to get away early while the others slept in or faffed around.

The beer ain’t cheap, but it is good.

It was 12-degress when I rode out of Jindabyne. It stayed under 20 all the way past Cooma, but hit 30 at Bungendore and then 36 at Goulburn. The Honda’s ambient temperature gauge was showing me 42 when I turned onto the John Hunter Expressway for the final run home.

I had certainly earned some air-conditioned couch-time.

THE LOOP

A “loop” in this context is a ride that brings you back to your original starting point feeling like you’ve ridden something special, perhaps beheld the face of your particular god, and enhanced your life a little bit.

You may be a nymph at Geehi.

And there are many such loops you can ride in the high country. This is one I can highly recommend…

Begin at Jindabyne – and set your wheels upon the Alpine Way.

Proceed through the magical smooth sweepers that take you to Thredbo. But do not go into Thredbo. It is expensive and pretentious. Ride past and commence the climb up to Dead Horse Gap.

Get some coffee up us.

Note the speed limit now becomes 60. And you’re going downhill. The road surface is good, but the road itself is narrow and heavily shaded, so the light is dappled. Most of the corners are tight, and there is a preponderance of oncoming idiots on your side of the road. Mind yourself.

The scenery is stunning, and you might stop at Geehi to bathe like a nymph if it is hot. It’s rarely hot up there, though. But if you must nymph, then you must nymph.

It’s just missing you, nude and wet.

Eventually, you will run into Khancoban. It has petrol, a coffee shop, and a pub. On the day we stopped there, it also had an RBT, manned by the same cop who’d booked Biff the day before. He had the temerity to wave. None of us waved back.

Leave Khancoban, and turn right at Swampy Plains Creek Road.

On the damn wall at Tumut 2.

Now you’re going uphill again, and you’ll eventually find Cabramurra, the highest town in Australia. Petrol is never guaranteed there, and it’s a weird place. Hard to say why. But it is.

We have a sign for everything in Australia.

The road is spectacular, and very tight in sections, and the surface is mainly good, but not on the descent to the Tumut Pond Dam. Once again, you’ll find people heading towards you on your side of the road. Many of them will be on bikes – yes, I’m looking at you, you Gixxer-riding dickhead.

Liquid electricity, bitches.

You do not have to go into Cabramurra, but do not take the Kiandra turn-off (Kings Cross Road) even if that’s the place you’re going to (and you are), unless you want to ride dirt.  You wanna turn-right on the Link Road posted to Cooma maybe a kay further on. If you turn left there, you shall ride the awesome Elliot Way. But you’re going back to Jindy this time. Once again, bend after beautiful bend, with a new surface, and it’s only a short 19-km stretch to the Snowy Mountains Highway. The last five kays of this run are simply divine. Mind the bloody brumbies – there are herds of them in this section.

“I shall stare at the sky until they make up their minds.”

Turn right, and go to Adaminaby (the pub no longer serves lunch), then another right to Berridale, eat some food at the pub that does serve lunch all day, and then you’re back in Jindabyne.

DISTANCE: 319km

 

THE SUIT

I have characterised Honda’s new NT1100 as an Africa Twin in a suit. That is what it is. Aesthetically, it’s somewhat anodyne, but it’s such an excellent bike in so many ways, I can forgive it that. The panniers are vast (though why they are silver is beyond me), the seat is firm and all-day comfortable. It’s roomy, and that engine is sweet and strong just where it should be. It redlines at 8000, but if you sit it on four, it will do 120km/h, and then pull hard enough to pass most things without a down-change.

This cheery summer shower was lovely.

You can overcome its relative lack of bang out of a corner by downshifting more often, so that’s not really a negative. It has awesome build-quality, runs like a Swiss watch even when the world is oven-hot, and is quite an accomplished tourer. It very much does what it says it does on the box. It has both Android Auto and Apple Car Play, Honda Selectable Torque Control, cruise control, a colour touch-screen, and two programable rider modes and three pre-set ones. It weighs 238kg wet, has an 820mm seat-height (but the seat is tapered and allows you to get off it in corners), carries 20.4-litres in its tank and is as frugal as hell (you’ll get way over 300km to a tank), with 100horses and 105Nm of torque.

It’s rather a fine package, I feel.

PRICE: $23,435 ride-away for the standard model (the one I had), or if you want the DCT version it’s a grand or so more. Prices may vary a touch depending on where you are in Australia.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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