Some motorcycles are born for greatness. Fast bikes with exotic names like Blackbird or Hayabusa, race replicas and fully loaded adventure bikes grab all the headlines, but what about the slow burners? You know, those bikes that slide in under the radar but which are much loved by their devoted owners.
One such bike is the Honda Deauville, which was launched in 1998.
Based on the NT650V, Honda’s strong and sturdy unfaired commuter bike, the Deauville (named after the upmarket holiday spot in Normandy, France) sprouted a fairing and panniers to turn it into a lightweight touring machine. It looked stylish too, sharing much of its design language with the Pan European of the time, and had a real big bike look about it.
On paper, it’s a fairly average proposition but, in true Honda style, it’s a hugely capable and practical machine. While it never really caught the imagination as a big mileage tourer, it proved to be an outstanding commuter for riders who didn’t really care about the slightly dowdy image, but who wanted a bulletproof bike to get them to work and back.
And that’s exactly what the Deauville proved to be. Despite being more expensive to buy than the likes of the Yamaha Diversion and Kawasaki ER-5, the NT650V had proved to be a smash hit with London couriers. This was, in no small part, due to the low maintenance shaft drive, strong build quality and narrow profile, which made it a practical tool on the daily hustle. The Deauville built on these qualities but was much more practical with its fairing and panniers. It still appealed to couriers, but gained a small but loyal following among day-to-day commuters and riders looking for a more manageable tourer.
Largely the Deauville was overlooked by the bike press, who struggled to find competitor bikes to put it up against in group tests and who were hardly bowled over by the spec sheets. With 55bhp from the 647cc V-twin and 233kg to haul around, the Deauville is no speed freak. Despite that weight, it remained a very manageable bike with a lowish centre of gravity, the narrowness of the V-twin engine and a soft as butter power delivery. The narrow section rear tyre (a 150/70 R17, for the record) gives the chassis a decent degree of agility.
A major update came in 2006, when the old six-valve engine was replaced by a larger (680cc) eight-valver. This saw power upped to 65bhp and the bike renamed the NT700V Deauville.
The chassis and bodywork were new too. The fuel tank capacity increased to nearly 20 litres, Honda’s linked braking system came along and luggage capacity rose to over 54 litres through new, integrated, panniers. There was also a five way adjustable windscreen and even the option of an integrated stereo.
But with its sober colours and unspectacular performance (albeit still enough to top 120mph on the autobahn) the Deauville continued to be the butt of many jokes (nicknamed the Dullville in the press). Owners knew better though and enjoyed their hugely practical motorcycles. The venerable Deauville continued to be a steady seller until recently, when it became one of many motorcycles to fall by the wayside as a result of the incoming Euro4 emissions regulations. Loads remain on the road though and huge numbers are available on the second hand market.
Today the Deauville remains one of the most popular bikes among customers of motorcycle insurance specialists Carole Nash and the good news for them is that a new incarnation is being mooted for 2020.
Reports in the French press suggest that a new Deauville will be announced in November. It looks set to be powered by the Africa Twin’s 998cc parallel twin engine, with the option of Honda’s DCT semi-automatic transmission, which is fitting as the original NT650V debuted on the first generation Africa Twin. If true, the new model could prove popular not only with fans of the original Deauville, but also with riders looking for a shorter alternative to the Africa Twin adventure bike.
We can’t wait!