Story by Stephen Evans
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published the Dec. 2023 edition of the MSTA Florida Chapter newsletter, The Florida Gator Tale. The story has been edited to match the MSTA website’s style.
As we age, our strength, our balance and our reaction time all decrease. That’s simply a fact of life I’m sure everyone reading this is well aware of. Those facts may or may not have something to do with the fact that a little more than 50% of all motorcycle-related deaths occur in the age group of riders that are 40-plus years of age, and I believe that would be most of us. Whether these accidents involve one or multiple vehicles really doesn’t matter, they’re happening.
I’m not here to tell you what size bike you should be riding, but I would like to tell you about something I recently did that made a big difference in my riding and really brought back the “FUN FACTOR” of riding. We all know that one size does not fit all but I’d like to share with you a decision I recently made after thinking about it and researching it for two years just in case you may be on the fence thinking about the same subject. I downsized my ride and for me it was the correct decision. I felt a need to do so as the only other option down the line was a trike which I will never be interested in.
To start with I’m 76 and somewhat close to the ground at 5’6 and 3/4″ with a weight of 148 pounds and a 29″ inseam. So, you can see that I’m a small-built man and just as everything else in life, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Add to that the fact that I have five totally replaced joints (both knees-both shoulders and a right hip, with the hip and left shoulder being replaced twice), along with a broken right thigh bone that is held together with a clamp and wire, all of which makes me weaker overall than a person without these issues. One of the disadvantages, to me anyway, is that my 2016 FJR was becoming too big and too heavy for me. I was becoming somewhat intimidated, not by its speed or power, but by its weight and size. Add to that, if one can only put the balls of their feet on the ground at a light then doing so with 430 pounds or 490 pounds is much better than with 640 pounds, let alone having to pick one up off the ground. So, I made the decision to downsize, and my choices were many, and they ALL were good.
I wanted something under 500 pounds and something in a upright seating position and found the following – Yamaha Tracer 9 – Triumph Tiger 900 – Triumph Sport – Suzuki V-Strom 650 and the Kawasaki Versys 650, just to name the ones I liked the best. I liked every single one of them, and they were all under 500 pounds wet. However, I chose a 2022 Honda NC750X (DCT) for a number of reasons. Years ago, I had a 2012 Honda NC700X, along with a 2014 FJR, and loved it. I took it from Florida out to California and back covering just under 9,000 miles in 28 days without a single hiccup and even did part of the TAT with it in Colorado, so don’t tell me you can’t ride a midsize bike on a long trip. I wrote about the trip in the December 2018 issue of the Gator Tale. I also know an MSTA member in Ohio with a Suzuki V-Strom 650XT that went to Alaska this past summer for 5 weeks and did 11,633 miles, so what’s not to like here?
The 2022 NC750X (DCT) weighs in at 490 pounds, which is 150 pounds less (more than I weigh) than the FJR, and with the engine slanted forward and the gas tank under the seat, the COG is very low, which allows this bike to be flicked back and forth in the curves with extreme ease. I also love the “trunk” that it has where the normal gas tank would be, the fact that it gets 65 to 75 mpg if kept under 70 mph on back roads, and the price which was a shade under 10 grand, thus my choice. I also wanted the DCT, which I keep in standard/automatic mode when on the interstate, but other than that, it’s in sport mode, and I use the paddles/flippers to shift up and down, which is instantaneous. I can’t say enough about it. I kept the FJR because I still wanted to do a couple more Iron Butt rides that I had yet to get to, but as time went on (one year), I had some more medical issues (24 medical operations/procedures in the last 22 years), and thus I decided to trade in the FJR on another midsize bike and got a 2023 Honda CB500X which only weighs in at 430 pounds (210 less than the FJR) and is capable of doing some off road riding. It is referred to by some as a mini-Africa Twin. If you think the NC750X is fun, you should try the CB500X as both these bikes are as nimble as a cat with an excellent riding position.
Now, you may be thinking that these bikes are not capable of doing a long day in the saddle, and you would probably have a good chance of being correct on that with the CB500X (I’ll find out in the near future) but not so with the NC750X. While attending the Fly-By Week rally (August) in Marietta, Ohio (which I highly recommend attending but do not go out for dinner with Tom Blake as your stomach will be hurting – not from the food but from laughing because of the humor), I had planned to leave Sunday and take 2 days and all back roads coming home. However, due to Hurricane Idalia heading straight for Lake City, which arrived on Wednesday, I rode straight through doing 841 miles in 12 and 1/2 hours. I also attended the rally in Lewisburg, West Virginia in September and came home in one day (741 miles of which all but 237 miles were back roads). So, these midsize bikes are more than ready for the task. Add to that, the old saying “Less is more,” comes to mind here as these bikes IMHO are far more FUN than their big brothers. Again, I’m not telling anyone what to ride or what to do. I’m a person who loves information and believes in sharing that information with others. If you’re a larger and taller person than myself, then this article will mean nothing to you. But there may be someone out there who may be on the fence about downsizing their ride, and my firsthand advice would be to do it. I have two midsize bikes now that suit me to a “T.” If not now, it may be the correct decision for you sometime in the future, and if so, I hope this helped.