The Honda Deauville: An Ode To A Misunderstood Motorcycle!

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Thunderbolt. Fireblade. Commando. Interceptor. Hyabusa.

Some bikes just sound fucking cool, don’t they? 

Even if you know nothing about bikes, you can’t help but want one with a name like “Indian Dark Horse.”

“Honda Deauville” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, though, does it? Couple that with its no-frills styling, and it may as well be called the Honda Beige.

But even after 15 years of being on the roads, the Deauville is probably the most underestimated and undervalued bike around.

honda deauville autumnal woodland

Honda Deauville: Back To Riding

A few years back, my dad retired. And it was around this time he started to take even more of an interest in my bike.

He would linger over it, and he would hang on to my every word when I told him about where I’d been and where I was planning to go.

Back in the ’70s, he used to ride because it was quick, fun, and cheap. Then marriage and kids came along, and two wheels were swapped for four. It’s a ubiquitous story the world over.

But once riding is in your blood, it’s there to stay. And I could see the memories flooding back when I told him about my adventures.

motorcycles in vosges mountains

Cue The Honda Deauville

So when my dad turned 65 and retired, I decided to buy him a bike as a joint 65th birthday and retirement present.

It couldn’t be too big, nor could it be too heavy. And it couldn’t be too expensive either because I knew there would be the occasional drop whilst he found his feet again.

I also didn’t want anything too powerful. The point was to ease my dad back into riding, not to have him clutching at the bars and holding on for dear life.

As the weeks went on, I struggled to find something appropriate. And then my mechanic phoned me about a Honda Deauville he’d just bought.

I rolled my eyes and dismissed both him and the bike immediately.

But upon taking my own bike in for some new tyres, I stumbled across this old Deauville sitting quietly in the corner of the workshop.

honda deauville - side profile

The Underwhelming Test Ride

It looked sad. Lonely, even. Not a part of the group where the cool Kawasaki’s, Yamaha’s, and Suzuki’s lived.

And that called to me. So I took the damn thing out for a test ride.

Was it for me? Well, no. Not really.

But putting my own wants and needs aside, I could see it was perfect for my dad.

So I bought it.

On his 65th birthday, I took him up to the workshop and surprised him with his first set of wheels in nearly 40 years. And he loved it.

In fact, he loved it so much that when the time came to change, he swapped his trusty NT650 for the updated NT700 – a bike he still has to this day and has no interest in selling.

two motorcycle in vosges mountains - roadside

It’s Surprisingly Capable

Since buying the Deauville, my dad decided he wasn’t retiring after all. So the bike became his year-round hack – his daily commute to and from the office.

It also became his weekend warrior, covering a few hundred miles over the weekends and taking in the scenery.

And when he got used to it, I surprised him again with a trip to the Alps.

The trusty Deauville crossed nine countries and covered nearly 3,000 miles (5,000 km) without skipping a beat. Never once did it cough or chug.

It started up in the morning and cleared its V-twin throat. And once warmed up a bit, it took my dad wherever he wanted to go with grace and poise.

But that’s the point of the Deauville.

For commuting, ride-outs, weekend tours, and long-distance trips, this trusty old Honda is a steady, honest, and trustworthy bike.

honda deauville and africa twin in alps mountain range

The Honda Deauville: In A Class Of Its Own

When the Deauville made its debut back in 1998, it confused motorcycle journalists across the world.

Because most bikes sit neatly in a particular sector of the market, don’t they? They have clearly defined ‘jobs’ to do. They are designed for a specific purpose.

Sports bikes are made for pure, unadulterated speed, whilst out-and-out tourers are made to cross continents.

Commuter bikes are small, cheap, and nimble – designed to hustle through traffic, whilst cruisers often portray a lifestyle choice.

Dirt bikes are made for off-roading, and newer-developed dual-sports bikes bridge the gap between touring and off-roading.

But the Deauville? Well, it doesn’t obviously fit into any of those segments.

So ultimately, this humble motorcycle was mocked by the press and by members of the motorcycling community alike because it wasn’t noticeably good at, well, anything.

honda deauville nt650 side profile

But That’s Sort Of The Point

Honda never marketed the Deauville as being excellent at anything.

They marketed it as an all-rounder. It was peddled as a Jack-of-all-trades bike whilst (proudly) being the master of none.

And that’s precisely what it is – a do-it-all bike that does everything well but nothing triumphantly.

Over the years, however, the Deauville has gained a small but loyal following despite its underwhelming nature.

And one of the things all Deauville-o-rites will tell you is that it’s “underrated.”

But I’m not sure that’s true.

See, I don’t think it’s underrated at all. I think it’s misunderstood.

motorcycles in jura mountains at roadside

Looking For Brilliance In The Honda Deauville

As mentioned above, when people ride a Deauville, they expect it to be fabulous at something – because most bikes are good at the job they were designed to do.

They try to find its forte.

And here lies the problem. Because if you look for a bike’s forte and don’t find it, you’ll assume it’s shit overall.

But the Deauville wasn’t designed to be fast, luxurious, tech-savvy, or world-beating in any way.

It was designed to be a comfortable, practical, economical commuter and lightweight tourer that would get you from A to B in relative comfort.

That’s it.

Its fairing was there to give you protection from the elements on your daily commute.

Its narrow profile allowed you to filter through the congested city traffic.

And its integrated panniers meant you could carry your gear to and from the workplace and even have enough room left over for weekend breaks and the occasional tour.

It was cheap to buy, affordable to run, inexpensive to insure, economical, and reliable.

And that’s undoubtedly what it is – a daily hack that does everything adequately.

honda deauville from front in autumnal woodlands

Lack Of Power

One of (many) things people dislike about the Honda Deauville is its lack of power. And they’d be correct in saying so. 

But I can’t help but feel people are doing it an injustice.

Yes, the Deauville might not be as fast as many other bikes on the road. But it certainly isn’t diabolically slow, either.

It will still beat most normal cars from the lights. And it will pull away nicely on the twisties providing you’re in the right gear.

As a twin, the engine is much more torque-focussed than rev-focussed. So if you’re trying to ride it like an inline 4, you’re going to find it burdensome.

two motorcycles on silvrettastrasse - alps

Speed (In The Real World)

In an ideal world, I could conceive the notion that the Deauville needs more power. But the last time I checked, we don’t live in an ideal world – we live in the real world.

And in the real world, whilst the Deauville might not be fast, it’s still fast enough.

When you take a second to stop moaning about the lack of power, you realise that the power it has is actually acceptable.

On weekend ride-outs, you will undoubtedly come across bikes that are quicker. But on real roads, with real traffic and real speed cameras, you’ll get to all the same stop off’s (at the same time) as everybody else.

It’s just that you’ll do it in arguably more comfort!

The Honda Deauville: Everything You Need

One of the things that endear me to the Deauville is it doesn’t pander to you. It doesn’t beg for you to like it.

When I walk into a showroom these days, I feel like all the bikes staring back at me are trying just that bit too hard to win my affection.

The gadgets and gizmos.

The extra (unnecessary) horsepower.

Even the finance deals dangling from the mirrors are there to entice me away from competitor dealerships down the street.

But the Deauville? Well, the Deauville doesn’t give a shit if you like it or not.

honda deauville and africa twin outside vosges hotel

Understated Confidence

See, the Honda Deauville doesn’t need your approval. It just sits there quietly, waiting for a person that understands it.

And whilst everyone wanders past the Deauville to the shiny, sparkly TFT displays on rival bikes, the Deauville waits for those who appreciate the simple touches – like a perfectly laid-out (analogue) dash that shows you everything you need to know and nothing more.

Or the perfectly contoured seat to cushion your behind on those longer rides.

The Honda Deauville gives you the power you need and nothing more. It offers you the space you require and nothing more.

It gives you the dependability and good old-fashioned Honda reliability that you used to get from Honda in days gone by.

But it gives you nothing more.

In short, the Deauville does everything you need it to do with underrated grace and elegance.

two motorcycles beside swiss flag and mountains background

The Honda Deauville Is Forgettable

History has shown us that the Deauville is easily forgettable.

It doesn’t have gregarious styling. And it lacks the chiselled profile of the Kawasaki H2 or the stunning good looks of a Ducati.

It lacks the sumptuous nature of a Goldwing or the wow factor of almost any other motorcycle available.

Even for me, a Deauville has been in our riding household for six years, yet I forget that one sits in the garage – quietly reserved yet always loyal like a loving, ageing labrador.

That said, the number of riders who come up to my dad when we go for a ride-out is astounding. And they always begin their conversation with, “I used to have a Deauville! Great bike.”

So maybe, the Honda Deauville isn’t as forgettable as we all seem to think. Those that have had one loved it. And most of them take pride in saying they wish they’d never sold it.

honda deauville and africa twin parked up at klause ranch in the alps

An Ode To The Honda Deauville: Conclusion

The Honda Deauville is in a class of its own. Not necessarily a better or worse class, but certainly a class by itself!

It isn’t a fast bike, so it shouldn’t be ridden as such.

The Deauville is a modest, affordable, do-it-all bike. And that’s exactly how you should expect it to ride.

If you’re the type of rider that likes to boast about horsepower or play motorcycle-spec-top-trumps, the Honda Deauville is not the bike for you.

It’s not for willy-wavers in biker cafes. It’s not for people who care about how they look or how they’re perceived within the biking community.

And it’s certainly not for people who enjoy admiring glances from pedestrians as you ride by.

In short, the Honda Deauville is fantastic at nothing – except being an all-rounder. That is its job.

And if you ask anyone who owns a Deauville, they’ll tell you it does its job fantastically well.


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6 thoughts on “The Honda Deauville: An Ode To A Misunderstood Motorcycle!”

  1. I used to have a 650 Deauville and regretted selling it, so much so that I’m getting another 11 yrs after I sold my first one. I still maintain it’s the best bike I’ve ever owned. I once read a test where it was summarised as ‘Subtly satisfying’. To me that’s it in a nutshell

    Reply
  2. What a fantastic review of what is definitely the most underrated bike that has graced the tarmac. I have an 09 plate 700 and I absolutely love it…… I’ve been riding 25 yrs and this 13yr old bike is by far my favourite of all time. I will never ever ever ever sell it 😍

    Reply
    • Hi Matt, thanks so much for your reply (and your kind words!) My dad and I are leaving for a month-long trip to Norway tomorrow, and I bet you ANY money that throughout the next four weeks, his ’08 Deauville never skips a beat! I bet he’ll be comfier than me, too!

      Reply

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