If it wasn’t good enough that we were already in the Isle of Man for the TT last month, then Honda decided we could borrow a bike for the few days we were over in the Island for Insidebikes.
In truth, we had a Honda Fireblade SP booked for testing around the Island, the latest, greatest version of Honda’s new superbike. But, that was before my Dad decided to come along for a few days to celebrate his 60th birthday year. I’ll let him off though.
So, what to take when offered the keys to Honda’s toy cupboard, out of any gleaming Honda in their 2017 range that was sat in an underground bunker somewhere near Douglas? A sports tourer, like the VFR? An Africa Twin, maybe? How about a big 1300cc bagger? Nope. I chose the Honda X-ADV to run around the island on for a few days working at the TT, Honda’s off-road 750 scooter.
The Honda has come in for a lot of mocking since it was unveiled at the Milan Show last year, but only from those who haven’t ridden it. I rode it on the launch in Sardinia, and couldn’t wait to get back on one for a 12-mile ride two-up in the lashing rain on a dark night in the Isle of Man. Seriously. They’re ace, get on one.
It has tall suspension and semi-off-road tyres meaning it is brilliant for popping down a lane on the way to a hard to reach place from which to watch the TT racers out on the course. It’s comfortable and easy to ride thanks to its DCT gearbox set-up, which mean that you just stick it in Drive, or one of the three Sport modes and off you go. The screen is much better than it looks, the brakes and ABS work well in the wet, it’s comfortable for a pillion (in this case my old man), its parallel-twin motor makes a steady, but torquey 55 horse powers, and it’s cool.
There, I said it, the X-ADV is cool. Ok, so it’s not cool in the traditional sense. You never look and it and think ‘that bike is going to be iconic’, kids are never going to put pictures of it on their tablets, like I did inside my school folder with a Yamaha Super Tenere riding in the desert when I was younger. But, rarely have I ever ridden anything round the TT circuit that gets so much attention. Of course, it’s not the first off-road scooter ever, we’ve had Piaggio Typhoons and Yamaha cult B-Wiz for years, but nobody has done it quite this big or ambitious.
Park it in Douglas high street café for breakfast, stick your lid and gloves under the seat, and then sit back as people prod, poke and generally scratch their chins around the X-ADV.
They’re even more surprised when they know you’ve done a lap of the TT on it!
Yep, after a call from a mate to do an early lap with a 6.30am rendezvous, we met up to do a lap at Quarterbridge with the assembled fleet of Suzuki GSX-R1000, Kawasaki Ninja 650, Honda CB650F, and a Honda VFR800. Spot the odd one out? Yes, the giant scooter of course. But, confident in my ability to roughly know where the TT course went, I lead from the front, surprised a few sports bikes, and even managed a small jump at Ballaugh while remaining under the 30mph limit!
The boys were impressed with the way the X-ADV held a line, and its 57bhp meant you could use every single pony it offered, squeezing its way up to 110mph on the unlimited roads in places. It handles well, you can be aggressive with the throttle and it’s one of the most fun and yet least stressful laps of the Mountain Course I’ve perhaps ever done.
The rest of the week the X-ADV made a brilliant TT companion, was utterly practical, and still enough fun to go and have a bit of a blast on, or chug around with my Dad on the back to remote parts of the TT course.
The X-ADV is not perfect, but as something different that you can use all year, and go touring on, yet features the simplicity and grace of a scooter, it’s bang on. And yes, it will even tackle a slight bit of off-road riding too!