Honda have been busy tweaking one of their quietly successful mid sized motorcycles of the last decade, the Deauville 650. Now enlarged to 680cc and badged as a 700, the bike has a new seat, fairing, screen, fuel injection set-up and more luggage capacity.
Some people reckon you cannot tour on a motorcycle with less than 1000cc, plus panniers the size of footballers´ wives holiday luggage. But that´s not true reckons Alastair Walker.
I rode the 650 Deauville some 3000 miles across Eastern Europe three years ago and was mightily impressed. Not only was it fast enough for motorway miles, comfortable for all day tootling around the Trabant infested villages of Hungary, but it also returned about 50mpg and required no chain adjustment – the pleasures of shaft drive!
So when Honda announced the 700 version I was keen to sample the revised version of this very successful pocket sized touring motorcycle. Not everyone needs massive luggage capacity and huge two-up saddle space, so if you´re into some solo touring, with perhaps some occasional commuting riding to do, then the Deauville 700 is worth considering.
The first thing that struck me, as I joined the flow of miserable souls traversing the M25 near Heathrow, was how wide the Deauville´s fairing now seems compared to the older 650 model. The handlebars also seem a tad higher, but without riding both models back-to-back I couldn´t be certain. What is definitely true is that the riding position is perfect for long distance touring/commuting and I was more than happy to keep trundling homewards for the next 110 miles before stopping for fuel.
The next pleasant surprise was that the Deauville just over eight quids worth of fuel to fill it up again, which proves two things; first, I was actually sticking to the speed limits and secondly, the Deauville is one touring bike which can get you across Europe on a fairly low budget.
But life isn´t all about bumbling along on clogged up British motorways, dodging drivers who are consuming a Big Mac, fries and Diet Coke whilst steering a Merc van with their left kneecap. No siree, biking is about getting around corners in fine style and I was keen to try a bit of moderately rapid bend-swinging on the A442. The 700 was happy to go along with me, until I really began to brake late into some corners, when the squishy forks seemed to load up the forks and cause the front end to protest just a tad.
To be fair, I was doing a fair speed on bumpy country lanes, getting the bike hustled past any dawdlers and treating it a bit like a sports-tourer, which it ain´t. But for something so heavy, the Deauville handles well – no better than the older model though, which was more than competent as well.
In terms of sheer acceleration out of the corners, the new 700 (OK, it´s really just 680cc) probably has a slight edge over the old model, but not by much. What does feel better is the low rpm response, and this will be very good news for anyone travelling loaded up with a pillion and luggage. Again, I´d like to ride the old and new Deauvilles on the same road, same day, to figure out if the new one really is a significant improvement in terms of performance.
The fact remains that this bike weighs in at well over 200kgs dry (236kgs in fact) and only a turbocharger and a couple of rockets tied to the back end would really make it truly fast.
But maybe any questions over performance aren´t what make the Deauville 700 the top selling bike in its class. What is in no doubt is that the new one is more practical, with bigger panniers, plus an interconnecting space, allowing you to ram a few extra waterproofs, gloves etc under the seat at the last minute.
It’s also a better dashboard, with more info on show, including fuel gauge, consumption display and bigger rev counter and speedo dials which are easier to see. There´s a new screen on the Deauville, which has two positions, both of which still left me feeling they could have fitted something higher, but our old friends Health and Safety probably prevent any manufacturer from making a high screen these days.
The saddle has been revamped too, not that there was much wrong with the old none, but the new 700 seems just as comfortable on long rides.
STILL THE POCKET SIZED PAN-EURO?
Is the Deauville still a ’poor man´s Pan´ then?
Yes, I think it is, but more importantly I reckon it does the job of touring almost as well as the 1300cc sized Pan-Euro and costs a mere 6200 quid on the road. It doesn´t seem to weave about in crosswinds like the bigger Pan-European does either. The only downside is that the Deauville hasn´t got the sheer oomph in the 70mph-120mph zone that the big touring bikes from Honda, BMW, Yamaha etc have definitely got, or their luggage capacity.
But it is getting closer now the Deauville 700 is there to compete and considering no other manufacturer seems bothered to produce a mid-sized touring bike, it looks likely that Honda have this market niche sewn up for another few years yet.
I would still ride to Eastern Europe on the Deauville 700, maybe not as my first choice of tourer, but it would do the job and I would feel confident that once we were on normal roads, not autobahns, I could keep up with anyone on the Deauville if I felt bothered enough to nail it.
The only thing the bike lacks for me is soul. It still feels the blandest V-twin motorbike ever made and it looks as if it´s been styled by the dullards who are responsible for that awful HRV 4 X 4 thing that Honda sell to bored housewives. Bikes like the SV650 prove that a middle of the road V-twin can be fun to ride – that´s the X factor that the Deauville hasn´t got, no matter how comfortable it is to ride.
Sometimes being competent isn´t quite enough.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda deauville 700.
Engine……….680cc V-twin, liquid cooled, four stroke.
Bore and Stroke……….81 X 66mm
Fuelling……….PGM fuel injection
Frame……….Steel twin spar type
Forks……….41mm, non adjustable
Rear suspension……….Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Brakes……….Twin 296mm front discs, 3 piston callipers, single 276mm rear disc, 2 piston calliper. ABS option available.
Wheels/Tyres……….120/70 ZR 17 inch front, 150/70 ZR 17 inch rear
Fuel Capacity……….19.7 litres
Estimated top speed……….120mph
Price……….£6200 (August 2006)