The Looking Glass Magazine

 

Honda CB 150 R Review
by Jack Corbett

Blue Honda 150 CBR

Whereas my primary mission at Phi Phi was to rediscover Maya Bay, my absolute number one reason for going to Ao Nang Beach was to drive motorbikes.  During my last trip to Krabi I rented a Honda Air Blade, which had just come onto the Thailand market, put my girlfriend behind me, and took off to explore Krabi's back roads.  Surrounded by steep hills with some of Thailand's most sensational scenery all around me, driving a bike in Krabi was refreshingly  completely different  from driving in Pattaya which is a minute by minute battle for survival.  I already own a motorbike which I keep at my Naklua condo and use almost everyday.   It's a Nouvo 135 c.c. Elegance.  I believe it's the best two wheeled transport mechanism for such cities as Pattaya bar none.   However, there's a lot of good two lane roads throughout Thailand and a lot of great scenery to take in with Krabi being an exceptional example of a different type of motorcycling--one that is to be enjoyed rather than survived.   I had read so many good things about the Honda CB 150 R, but the boy racer look, the bike's small overall size, and crouched down riding position had put me off.  And what would I look like driving something that looked as if it were meant more for the race track than for everyday driving? 

At six feet tall and 62 years old, I'm just too large and too old for such crotch rockets.  It was time to find out, and what I'd find it that

just as the Yamaha Nouvo is the finest city driving bike in Thailand the Honda 150 CBR is the best bike available today for all around Thailand driving

Although there is something to be said about owning and driving a motorcycle that makes one feel good regardless of whether it's practical or not, too many Western bike owners living in Thailand simply can't think straight.  I might like the looks of and the performance of a BMW 1300 K S with its 175 horsepower, scintillating good looks, and 170 miles per hour top speed, it's not the right bike for Pattaya and it's not the right bike for Thailand's country roads either.   Driving anywhere near the speeds this bike is capable of is a suicide mission in Thailand.  And just where would you get it serviced anyway?   I don't even have to take my Nouvo Elegance to a Yamaha dealer to get parts or service.  When its predecessor, a Yamaha MX needed new tires I simply drove it to the nearest dealer which had the name Honda on it.   And when I finally decided that the rear brake pads needed replacement I took it to the same Honda dealership and got it done for only 200 baht.  And as to the power equation, how much power is really enough?   Back in the U.S. I once owned a BMW 100 KS, which could do zero to 100 miles an hour in 7 seconds flat and top out at 140 miles an hour.   But after awhile going to 100 miles an hour in 7 seconds really didn't seem to be all that fast.  So I turned to jumping out of airplanes to getting that in the gut excitement that I craved.  But just try doing zero to 100 miles an hour in seven seconds on a BMW or large displacement Honda or Yamaha sport bike here in Thailand. Do it once a day and just see how long you will live.  For you there will be no escape because some nitwit is going to pull right out in front of you at the last minute and the next time we will be seeing you is in your coffin.  So, in choosing a motorbike that is capable of cruising Thailand's roads you have to ask yourself this---how much power and speed do I really need as well as can this bike  be easily serviced throughout Thailand and have good parts availability?  But that's just for starters since other considerations come into play that can be shortened to one more fundamental question---Exactly what am I going to be using this bike for?

For example, can the bike I'm considering comfortably get me around?   For me, the Honda CBR 150 was a big question mark.  For one thing the seat appears to be uncomfortable--more for show than real world comfort.  And after having that BMW K 100 RS many years ago in the U.S. I was put off by its forward position riding style.  The BMW was good on the highway, especially once you were going past 80 miles an hour, but its narrow bars and 504 pound dry weight made it cumbersome about town.  My questions would soon be answered at Ao Nang Beach because right off within two blocks of the Somkiet Buri I found three bright blue CBR 150's to choose from.  The first was the cheapest but it showed signs of having been wrecked and it had too many kilometers on it to be a fair sampling of what CBR's are really like.   Although the rent was higher I settled on a very low mileage bright blue CBR that didn't have a scratch or speck of dirt on it. 

And I loved it.  The CBR was every bit as narrow as my Nouvo Elegance so it would be a terrific bike to thread through traffic with.  As expected, while mounted on the bike, the chassis around me seemed very compact, but once I got underway the bike didn't appear too small for me.  There's a lot to be said about a compact small feeling vehicle whether the vehicle is a car or motorcycle.    The CBR didn't feel like it was something apart from me upon which I just happened to be riding.  It felt and looked like it was part of me.  But the best part was I never felt I was having to crouch way down low over the bars.   If I wanted to ride bolt upright I could.  No doubt I was leaning forward most of the time but if I was it felt natural.  And come to think of it when I used to snow ski I hardly ever stood bolt upright--preferring to lean forward or even to crouch over my skis.  So no problems with the riding position at all. 

Another reservation I had over the Honda CB 150 R was that it wouldn't perform very well unless I got its rpms up to some ungodly level.   I ended up scaring the living hell out of my girlfriend riding behind me before I even came close to getting the bike up into its power band.  So I took her back to the Somkiet Buri and drove away to resume my test.   Later I'd learn that she had once been in  a bad motorbike accident in which her girlfriend was seriously injured.  I suppose that's why she's never asked to drive my Yamaha Nouvo and why her own motorbike is up in Korat where a relative is driving it.  So looking at the practical side of things, even if I bought a CBR to drive instead of my Nouvo Elegance, Considering most of the time I've got my girlfriend riding behind me instead of my going solo, she's going to be squealing in horror long before I get anywhere near the speeds of what the CBR is capable of, which tells me I really don't need to have anything bigger.

The Honda CBR 150 has six speeds so if because of its small displacement engine it's going to want to cruise at much higher rpms many of us feel comfortable driving, that sixth gear is going to take them down a notch.  As a matter of fact, several years ago when I was cruising around Krabi with the Air Blade I got the feeling that the Air Blade was fast enough to handle all of Thailand's two lane roads and that there really was no reason to want to be going faster than forty or fifty miles an hour.  The Air Blade only has 110 c.c's however and only 9 horsepower or so whereas the CBR puts out nearly twice the horsepower while having substantially more CC's.

I next looked for vibration in the handle bars.  At first I never noticed for any, but once I started to pay attention to it I started to feel it.  But then I forgot about it again and kept driving for another hour before returning the bike to the Somkiet Buri where I asked my girlfriend to ride with me to an area of shops I had never taken her to before.  Before picking her up, I headed out onto one or two country roads that had hardly any traffic on them and tried out the bike's brakes as well as to see how she'd pull up the hills and accelerate at higher rpms.  Truth is I didn't find the bike to be wanting in any department.  It would easily outrun all the cars I encountered on Krabi's two lanes so long as no one was really racing but driving only at those speeds one felt comfortable driving at.  Several times I'd have to backtrack to go back to my starting point.  One can easily get lost on those roads near Ao Nang Beach and since I didn't have a map with me or notebook and pen to keep track of which roads I turned off on, I tried to keep things as simple as possible.  So I'd find myself making all these U turns.  The bike felt as light as a feather while I made them. 

Did I mention getting lost?  That had happened to me before several years ago when I was out trying the Air Blade.  Which brings up perhaps the single most important consideration of them all while traveling on a bike in Thailand's boonies.  Adequate driving range.  Now consider this.  The Air Blades got only a 4 liter fuel tank whereas the 150 CBR has a tank holding more than 10 liters.   My Yamaha Nouvo has a 4.8 liter tank which means it's 20 better than the Air Blade.   So if they get the same fuel economy the Yamaha Nouvo's going to have 20 % more range than the Air Blade which gives it a decisive advantage out in the country.  And as a matter of fact I never saw one Air Blade for rent at Ao Nang Beach.  Not one.  But I did see a lot of Nouvo Elegance's for rent.  So now that I think about it, perhaps the rental shops didn't want their customers out in the middle of nowhere running out of gas.

My Nouvo Elegance would be perfectly fine for traveling throughout the Krabi countryside or for that matter just about anywhere in Thailand.  It's very comfortable to ride and its 135 c.c. engine give it enough ommph to do the job.  Its major shortcoming is lack of range.   When I'm out of the city where the gas stations are fewer and farther between I'd feel a lot more comfortable with the CBR's fuel tank which his more than double the size of the Nouvo Elegance's. 

Cruising around Ao Nang itself I found myself driving the 150 CBR to be a pretty thoughtless prospect.  The bike felt so much a part of me and was so light to turn that one didn't give any more thought to it than riding a bicycle.  The bike puts out only 17 or 18 horsepower so it doesn't have all that ungovernable torque and acceleration that one has to carefully control doing low speed maneuvers, so what would seem to be a drawback----a lack of power compared to much bigger bikes--is actually a God send because the bike is so much of a pleasure to handle in normal driving. 

When we drove past the bike rental place, I looked at the remaining bright blue CBR they had there while making a mental comparison between it and several much larger bikes they had there---cruisers such as the Honda Shadow which probably had 400 c.c. engines.  For me the CBR I was looking at, which was a twin of the one I was driving had style.  And it had an intimacy about it which the Shadow would never have.  By comparison the Shadow looked like a big lug.  Its very girth would prove to be a serious liability driving around Thailand.  And if I should drive the CBR around in Pattaya traffic, it would get through the narrowest gaps in the traffic the same way my Nouvo Elegance does.  The Shadow's wide handle bars alone would prevent that.  And although the CBR weighs another twenty or thirty pounds more than my Nouvo Elegance does I really couldn't tell any difference.  Perhaps its in the balance of the two bikes.   In any case, if I wanted to get into or out of a very narrow parking space I could easily pick up either the front or back up of either machine. 

And when it comes to gas mileage the small displacement 150 c.c. engine of the CBR combined with its sixth gear has got to give it a huge advantage of fuel economy over much larger bikes as the 400 c.c. Shadow.   And it's not just the amount of baht I'm spending that worries me.  It's how long I can cruise before having to search for a gas station.  Even if I were comparing a CBR against other bikes in Pattaya, my logic goes like this.   If I typically fill up my Nouvo Elegance every five days or so if I were driving the 150 CBR instead I'd be going over 10 days between fill-ups.  That's a lot less hassle. 

The owner of a Honda shop once told my Dad back in the late sixties or early seventies that the most fun he ever had on a bike was on a 175 meaning that when it came to just plain flat out having fun the larger bikes just didn't supply as much enjoyment.  I wound up thoroughly enjoying the Honda CBR 150 and would love to own one.  But then the practical side of me comes out.  My also love my Nouvo Elegance which does everything I could possibly ask out of it.   With its automatic transmission it's ideally suited for all that slow speed Pattaya stop and go driving.  It's still got enough power and speed to scare my girlfriend to death.   It's got significant under the seat storage and it's got all kinds of hooks all over it to which I can strap all kinds of things such as desktop computers and it has that hook in front of my seat on which I can hang two or three grocery bags.  The killer is those times I want to put three people on my bike at once.  With the Nouvo Elegance I can put my girlfriend behind me on its long ample seat and a 90 to 100 kilogram friend as well...at least for short distances on the back streets where there are no cops around.   So I think I could do less with the Honda 150 CBR here in Pattaya than I already am doing with my Nouvo Elegance, but if I lived in a lot of other places in Thailand where I'd be cruising those two lane roads I'd probably be buying the Honda CBR 150.  At 60,000 baht or so, I really can't see spending 140,000 or so for Kawasaki's 250 Ninja and the Kawasaki 6Rn 650 although it is probably a great bike for the U.S. is just too much overkill for Thailand driving while costing nearly four times as much as the CBR.   And yes, I'll admit I do appear to be pretty large on that bright blue 150 now that i'm reviewing the pictures my girlfriend took of me, and perhaps people might think I'm trying to be something I'm not by driving a racy looking thing like that or that I'm driving a real bike wanna bee, but I could care less.   It's just too much fun driving it, it does so many things well, and who wants to look like an old fat fart lounging around driving Phantoms and all those V twin cruisers with their wide handle bars, excessive weight and lay back driving positions that cannot possibly make a man feel at one with his machine.  I could care less what anyone thinks so long as it feels good while I'm driving it. 

Note---I wrote this before the Honda 250 CBR came out

 


 

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