Tuesday, July 5, 2011

NX as an Adventure Bike?

As I've owned various dual sports, I've come to the conclusion that I prefer to ride dirt/gravel roads, forest service roads, two track and the occasional well-worn single track. I've never ridden motocross (MX) and really don't have much of an inclination to do so (no offense MX-ers). One of the reasons I sold my trusty DR350SE was due to the fact that it wasn't much of a on-pavement cruiser. Most of the routes that I would prefer to explore are usually some distance from my home. This necessitates transport (a tow vehicle and trailer or a pick-up truck) to the starting point and from the ending point. Sometimes coordinating that is as much work as the trip itself. So, I opted to buy something that can handle the distance involved to/from the start/end points as well as the trip in-between. The TransAlp fits that bill.

My wife indicated she was going to ride her scooter, to work, this summer. That prompted my search for a replacement since I used her scooter, to commute, last summer. Initially, I had a chance at a KLR250 but I was not financially ready to purchase so I decided to pass (ironically, I 'met' the KLR and it's new owner this past weekend). A few weeks later, I was put on the trail of the NX and here we are. After riding it for a couple of months now, I wondered if it could handle being an "adventure" bike in my sense of the word. Well, I had the opportunity to test the NX this past weekend in northwestern Illinois.

The weekend's activities involved an on-highway trip to Freeport, Illinois. That's about 90 miles of high speed pavement. The NX did not like that at all. I believe the gearing and the jetting both are culprits here. The tachometer indicated 7250 rpm @ 55 mph. I know the engine can spin faster than that but I prefer not to run those rpm for hours at a time. Additionally, the NX's 125cc motor doesn't have the torque to pull up (moderate) hills or deal with a headwind. Up hill into a headwind really causes the motor to labor. I wonder if the main jet is too lean because being at WOT (wide open throttle) didn't help much and fuel economy fell into the upper 80s (mpg). Perhaps if the jetting was richer, there wouldn't be the issue with hills and headwinds and , perhaps, the NX could make better use of the lower, numerically, 15/48 gearing. Regardless, those changes won't make the NX the long distance cruiser that the TransAlp can be (125cc single versus 600cc v-twin).

I was impressed by its ability to carry the necessary equipment. I put a waterproof bag, containing a tent, air mattress, light-weight sleeping bag and a few other odds & ends, on the rear rack. Additionally, I had a tool roll attached to the rack but the seat bore its weight. I wore a backpack with more gear inside which included a Camel-Bak reservoir. The NX handled very well considering the extra weight. Another pleasant surprise was my choice of tires; Shinko 705. Not only were they good on the pavement, they were equally as good on the gravel. They didn't handle the small amount of mud they encountered but I did not expect them to. However once back on gravel, the sipes cleared quickly.

The Author puts the NX through its paces on County Divide Road in Jo Daviess County, Illinois
So, back to the original question; Would the NX make a good 'adventure' bike? I think not. It was certainly fun to blast around northwestern Illinois, especially on gravel, but the fact that it won't cruise long distances makes me think it's better off sticking to (mostly) commuter duty.

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