Category Archives: Motorcycles Suitable for Thailand
This category is all about motorcycles and motors scooters that are suitable for driving in such Southeast Asian countries as Thailand. Due extremely high duties on imported bikes that can nearly double the prices charged in Europe and the U.S. comments about bikes that are prohibitively expensive here, lack parts availability and that are suited chiefly for high speed interstates in Western countries are of no interest here.
Don’t you ever tell me that your small 125 c.c. motorbike can’t make it up the hills. Because if you do I’ll tell you a tall tale about taking the Honda Click off road on Koh Samet.
Now let me tell you that tall rutted trail on the right hand side of the picture is a lot steeper than it appears here. The rocks and the ruts are a lot larger and deeper too. But I went up if in with the little Honda Click I rented and a few others just about like it without a single nervous twitch in my body. It might be too much for you to believe that in many ways that little Honda Click automatic was a better dirt bike than the 185 c.c. Honda XL’s I had down at the farm. The secret’s all in the special cleated dirt bike tires the Honda Click had been outfitted with, which made something like a 1000 percent difference between a small automatic motorbike with street tires and one wearing dirt bike styled rubber.
Now don’t get me wrong. Those 185 c.c. Honda XL’s were very good on the farm and I used to do things them that the cleated tired Honda Click couldn’t dream of doing. First off there’s the matter of ground clearance that allowed my 185 Honda XL’s to jump right into an eight foot deep drainage ditch and propel me right up the far side of the ditch bank which must have been close to 90 degrees. I’d be going so fast that the bike’s momentum alone would gyrate me right over the other side. The bike would leave the ground and when I landed the motorcycle’s excellent shocks would keep both me and the bike from falling apart. With equal aplomb I could survive tile holes over a foot deep on a Honda 185 XL whereas the Honda Click I rented on Koh Samet would have been torn apart due to its lack of ground clearance and inferior shocks.
BUT–those dirt bike tires on the Honda Click rental enabled the small automatic to cling tenaciously to whatever rocks, ruts and small streams I encountered on Koh Samet’s so called dirt roads. Call those dirt roads, and I’ll tell you my name is Abullah Egypt, that I’m a practicing Moslem who believes in witchcraft. Those are no ordinary dirt roads. But never mind, Koh Samet’s a blast to be driving a motorbike on. Just make sure you rent a bike that’s equipped with the kind of tires that will make the grade.
For my full review on dirt bike driving on Koh Samet Click here
I found the Honda CBR 150 old model to be an extremely attractive smallish motorcycle when I reviewed it at Ao Nang Beach in 2010. Since then Honda’s introduced a larger CBR 150, but other than taking one for a short spin in the Big C parking lot in South Pattaya, I’ve had no experience with this new model. Later, I’d come close to buying the new model’s bigger brother the CBR 250 after renting one and severely breaking my clavicle in the process.
You can see how smallish the Honda CBR 150 old model actually was from the picture above. Compared to Honda’s new model 150 and the Yamaha SR400 I wound up buying later on, the old Honda 150 looks like a toy, and I’m sure I look like an overgrown puppy driving one. It was nevertheless a very fun bike to drive back in 2010, and in spite of its small engine displacement of only 150 cc’s nearly perfect for touring around Krabi while being surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere.
I performed the 2006 Honda Air Blade and Honda Click road tests at Ao Nang Beach in Krabi . Meanwhile more powerful models have taken over the market place. Likewise, my comments in this review on competitive motorbikes such as the Yamaha Nouvo also apply to the market place such as it existed in 2006. Since then the Honda PCX has become Honda’s flagship for this type of motorbike while the Yamaha Nouvo MX I owned back in 2006 has been replaced by my Yamaha Nouvo 135 Elegance, which is a far superior bike to my old 115 c.c. Nouvo. Meanwhile Honda’s replaced the 110 c.c. Click with a much more powerful 125 c.c. model. Nevertheless some things never change. The Honda Click was a bad handling bike back in 2006 and so are the much newer models.
Clickhere for the road tests of these two 2006 model 110 c.c. Honda’s
Our of all the Pattaya Drinking Street bar girls, we can’t think of anyone more striking and charismatic than Kwan. So it’s only appropriate that Kwan should pose with my Yamaha SR 400, which could be the most beautiful motorcycle you can buy in Thailand. Along with the still shots of Kwan posing with my Yamaha 400 SX are several video clips of Drinking Street sensation Kwan in action, literally on top of the bar showing her stuff.
To get directly to my reviews of motorbikes suitable for Thailand click here
Because, it’s a classic dating back to 1978, the Yamaha SR400 will get more attention than a Porsche, and probably a Harley to boot. It looks the way motorcycles used to look in the 60’s and 70’s and the way they were meant to be. It will weave in and out of Thailand city traffic almost as easily as a small scooter, but you will drive in comfort on the bike’s large diameter tires. The seat’s long and comfortable like the bikes we had in the 1970’s. There’s not a lot of power compared to most bikes built today. The SR 400 has no engine counterbalancers or even rubber engine mounts to dampen the vibration, but until the bike gets close to 60 miles an hour that vibration actually becomes addictive. You feel it and you know the machine’s alive and so are you. You can read more about the SR 400 here. This is all about the video presented here.
I was searching for a temple near Nong Nooch Tropical Garden a few miles South of Pattaya with my Panasonic LX-7 camera strapped around my neck. This is a super camera being a Leica with the Panasonic name on it. Friends of mine have been trying to get me to buy a smart phone and even a smaller camera that I could attach to my motorcycle helmet. But I like the real thing, and shooting pictures with a smart phone just doesn’t get it. And attaching an inferior video camera to a motorcycle helmet is for sissies, and I’m no sissy which is one of the reasons I drive a Yamaha SR 400.
This video is pretty rough which is about what I expected it to be considering that I had to hand hold it while opening the bike’s throttle with my right hand and clutching with my left hand. As difficult as this was, by hand holding the camera I was able to move it from a horizontal position giving me a good view of the road to a slightly downwards position so that the camera pointed across the speedometer and tach while still taking in the road ahead. All of this was pure guesswork because there was no way that I could look into the camera’s viewfinder due to the sun and my having to focus on my driving. But as rough as the video turned out, I think it gives a pretty good impression of what it’s like driving the Yamaha SR 400 and the kinds of sounds it makes.
Close to Nong Nooch tropical gardens I did find a large temple complex, but it never turned out to be the one I was looking for. Then I followed the signs to Silver Lake where I revisited the winery there. Here I found a number of Chinese tourists who had just arrived in a tour bus. But what a huge difference between those Chinese tourists and me. They were all stuck to each other like glue following the orders of their fearless leader tour guide, while I had my Yamaha 400 SX which could take me close to 400 kilometers on a single tank of gas. And even if the bike’s electrical system would somehow fail me, I had my kickstart which would get me on my way every time.
With only 24 horsepower this bike is certainly not fast. But here’s the bottom line. Driving it feels so good. But in Thailand you don’t want to be running a motorcycle very fast. WIth a death rate that the second worse in the entire world, it doesn’t matter how fast a man’s reactions are. Here we have the stupidest drivers in the world. These people are capable of anything and the police are not at all interested in penalizing them for their moronic driving habits. If I need to be doing a lot of highway driving I’m taking my Honda Civic. But for driving around town and on two lane roads the Yamaha SR-400 is just about perfect.
I really cannot even begin to describe how this bike drives other than to say again, it’s very addictive and it just feels good. Perhaps this video can do what no mere words can ever do. I did find several temples by the way, but there will be another time coming soon when I will be able to find the one I had been looking for, when I can feed the fish and forget about all the world’s problems.
In Thailand the Yamaha SR400 is a chick magnet that offers great handling, sensational styling and exclusivity. The Yamaha SR400 is a 36 year old classic that’s, slow and expensive. It’s a stone age relic that will take its proud owner back to the days of kick start only motorcycles. It comes fully equipped with just enough feel good vibration to become a fully addictive riding experience thanks to its having no counterbalancers or rubber engine mounts. Buy one here in Thailand and it will set you back 265,000 baht or $8300 U.S. For that kind of money you can buy a 650 Ninja that offers three times the horsepower with far superior capability on the superhighway. But the Yamaha SR400 will get you more attention than you will ever get driving a Porsche, Mercedes Benz, or practically anything less than a Ferrari. Not to mention it’s being a chick magnet par excellence–at least here in Thailand. So when you look at the Yamaha SR400 that way the $8300 looks pretty cheap. Since obviously there’s a lot to like about the SR400 it’s time to analyze what it is, and what it isn’t.
The SR400 is not meant for American interstate driving
Two weeks ago I returned to my Thailand home from a month long visit to the United States where I rented a car in Denver and drove it to Las Vegas and back traveling through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. I noticed something I had never seen before while traveling through this section of the American West. An 80 mile per hour speed limit that I had never encountered before in Utah. Having traveled a great deal throughout the American West I had noticed that the police never bothered me so long as I never went more than 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. That meant I could relax at speeds up to 85 miles an hour with no fear of the highway patrol. But now, at least in Utah, I could wind the rental car all the way up to 90. The problem with the Yamaha SR400 is it probably won’t even get past 85 on its best day which leaves it hopelessly under powered out West on the interstates. I had also noticed during this visit that my home state of Illinois had raised its speed limit from 65 to 70 miles an hour. Which meant that even at sedate Illinois major highway speeds the SR400 would be churning its guts out to keep up. Let me put this in perspective. My first motorcycle was a Honda 350 CB. I had bought it in the early 1970’s. Were this same motorcycle available on today’s market at 36 horsepower, it would still be outclassing my new Yamaha SR400’s 24 horsepower even though it had 50 cc’s less engine displacement. But I’d still not elevate the old Honda 350 CB to the level of being a good superhighway cruiser. The 450 Honda CB I wound up trading it in for, perhaps, with its 9 more horsepower and 100 more cubic centimeters.
But although I had traded up for a more potent highway bike, the 450 simply wasn’t as much fun to drive on two lane highways and the back roads of Illinois and Missouri where speeds rarely went much over 60 miles an hour. The 350 was just light and agile enough to make the most fun out of the kind of roads I found that were away from the well beaten path.
In those days a lot of motorcycle owners were driving 350 and 450 Hondas as well as 650 Triumphs and Yamaha 650 twins. But when such bikes went out of favor to be replaced by much more powerful four cylinder motorcycles, in my opinion, motorcycles started to get worse with each succeeding year. For one thing they started to get butt ugly. The horsepower race was on as each manufacturer vied to produce more powerful bikes than its competitors. Those four cylinder engines although renowned for their smoothness became excessively large while offering far more power than what was really needed. Even worse, if such a thing were even possible were the seating positions offered by such latest and greatest performance machinery. In most cases one was offered a choice between having a cruiser styled motorcycle offering a low seating position with handlebars set far too high to offer the best controllability and the crotch rocket lean forward positioning of the sport bike. Along with the Hunchback of Notre Dame riding style imposed by such new sport bikes came the canary perch passenger seat that sport bike owners now had to impose on their girlfriends.
In my opinion the motorbike manufacturers in their never ending search for bigger and bigger profit margins went on a crusade to sell the promise of ever greater performance to gullible buyers who would actually come to believe that they needed either the racer style of a sport bike or cocoon like seating position of the cruiser with engines far bigger and more powerful than they needed to be. Lost along with their far simpler engine designs and smaller engine displacements was that sense of style the old classics had as well as their simple long single level seats that allowed a man’s girlfriend to sit in comfort behind her driver boyfriend.
The Yamaha SR400 is a sensationally well styled motorcycle that simply outclasses just about everything else you can buy in Thailand today regardless of price. But its gorgeous looks are really not much different from an early 1970’s Honda 350 CB or for that matter Yamaha’s RD 350 two strokes from the same time period. The RD 350 in particular was a compact little rocket that offered impeccable styling that could successfully compete against much larger 650 four strokes such as the Triumphs, Nortons and BSA’s. Yet, even such larger British built bikes shared a lot of styling similarities with the smaller displacement Japanese bikes that would soon take over the marketplace due to their offering superior quality at a much lower price point.
Combine the styling of a Honda or Yamaha 350 during the 1970’s with the larger British built 650’s with their longer wheel bases and you start to get a hint of what the Yamaha SR400 is all about. First off, those classic British 650’s had chrome fenders, just as the Honda 350 CB and Yamaha 350 RD’s had. And whereas the 350 Honda typically had a 52 inch wheelbase, a 1973 Triumph Bonneville had a longer 56 inch wheelbase which made the 650 seem to be a longer and larger bike, which it was. As for the Yamaha SR400, it has a wheel base of 55.5 inches which helps it look a lot like a vintage Triumph Bonneville. And like both Yamaha and Honda 350’s and the British 650’s, the Yamaha SR400 has chrome fenders along with the superior seating position of both the Japanese and British 70’s styled long seats that are on the same horizontal plane with the bikes’ handle bars. Such seats are infinitely more comfortable to what came later on while offering great visibility as well as a feeling of being part of the bike and therefore in much greater control of it.
Now take a look at how fat the tires have been getting on the “high performance bikes” that big manufacturers like Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki have been duping the public into buying today. A Ninja 650 has 17 inch diameter wheels whereas my Yamaha SR 400 has even larger 18 inch diameter wheels. But look at how wide that rear tire is on the Ninja 650. I suppose this is all in the best interest of offering great handling on the race track or getting the best zero to sixty or quarter mile times in a drag race.
Here’s some comparative stats between the wheel-tire setups of the Yamaha SR400 and the Kawasaki 650 Ninja. Tires on the SR400 are 90/100/18’s on the front and 110/90/18’s on the back whereas the front Ninja tires are 120/70/17’s and a whopping 160/60/17’s on the back.
Let’s now take a look at a bike I had once gotten to be very familiar with. This is the 1983 BMW K 100 RS. The BMW could do zero to one hundred miles an hour in 7 seconds flat on its 100/90/18’s front and 130/90/17’s rear tire. The Ninja’s got much fatter tires than the 1983 BMW had. It’s only a 650 though whereas the BMW 100 K RS had a 1000 c.c. four cylinder engine that produced 90 horsepower to the Ninja’s 71. I owned a blue BMW 100 K-RS exactly like the one you are looking at in the picture . I once had my BMW up to 220 kph although it would do more. The bike felt terrific cruising at 100 miles an hour.
My point is one doesn’t need monster wide tires to make a bike stable. The Yamaha SR400’s relatively long wheel base and its large diameter 18 inch wheels gives it excellent stability, especially in the speed range this bike was intended for. I doubt it will go over 85 miles an hour and I wouldn’t be surprised if it barely exceeds 80. And being a one cylinder 400 without any engine counterbalances whatsoever or rubber engine mounts to cushion the bike’s vibration, the bike’s vibration is noticeable at all levels of the rpm spectrum.
Yamaha’s been making the SR400 since 1978 which is why my SR400 proudly sports an emblem that announces “Since 1978″. This bike has been reintroduced in September 2014 (at least here in Thailand) with fuel injection and an engine decompression setup that makes it easier to kickstart than earlier models. Yamaha could have put in an engine counter balancer or at least rubber engine mounts to tame the bike’s vibration. Yamaha instead decided to reintroduce it as a timeless classic warts and all.
I’ve been informed that this year Yamaha’s only brought 50 SR400’s from Japan into Thailand and just 500 total bikes into the United States. What this means is here in Pattaya I’m just about the only guy that will be seen driving a Yamaha SR400 which gives it far more exclusivity here than a Harley, a Ducati or practically anything else. Its second measure of exclusivity is it offers kick start only. So let me ask you, when is the last time you’ve seen a 2014 motorcycle of 250 cc’s and up that requires its owner to kick start his motorcycle? Probably never. So in the minds of many, it takes a real special kind of man to buy a motorcycle that he must kickstart. And by special kind of man I don’t mean a wimp.
The Yamaha SR400 is a chick magnet par excellence, especially here in Thailand
Okay, now that you have established yourself as not being a wimp, you still have several other things going for you with this bike that you won’t have with many other bikes. First off, the Yamaha SR400 is utterly gorgeous. And everyone loves a gorgeous bike, especially women. Second, it’s a big single. It has a single piston and just one big cylinder housing the piston. That means a lot of straight on torque at low engine speeds. The bike might not be very fast, but when you are driving at just 15 miles an hour at 2000 rpm’s and you suddenly give it the gas, it’s going to make that sexy woman riding behind you feel as if she’s being thrown off the bike’s seat by the engine’s sudden acceleration. It also has sexy engine sounds most other bikes will never be able to make. Lastly, there’s that vibration. It’s always there in some degree or another. And the plain truth to that is this vibration tends to turn women on in much the same way that having a fast horse between their legs starts to arouse their libido.
But there’s gotta be a downside to all that vibration. I suppose there is. But my home now is in Thailand where most of the drivers are so ungodly bad that a motorcyclist is on a suicide mission if he tries to drive his motorcycle very fast. The SR400 is made to cruise at slow speeds, say 30 miles and hour to 55 or 60. I am still breaking my bike in. The fastest I’ve had it is around 60. But I had a helluva good time driving it to Rayong and back, keeping it between forty and fifty most of the time. When I finally got home I felt no discomfort whatsoever from the tingling that is caused by too much vibration. I could drive my SR400 all day long as long as I kept my speed down. Its seat is supremely comfortable. And the bike’s erect riding position is the way God meant for a man to ride a motorcycle. Around town the bike accelerates very quickly, but out on the interstate the SR400’s acceleration is simply not competitive to practically everything else that’s out there that’s over 250 cc’s. Once I get past the break in period, I’ll no doubt get it up to 80 or so, but I expect the most limiting factor will be an uncomfortable level of vibration at the upper end of the tachometer.
But I really enjoyed the drive. My Yamaha SR400’s road manners were simply impeccable. The bike at just 380 pounds or so is a real lightweight to flick around yet its 18 inch diameter tires and long wheel base make it track like an arrow. And throughout the entire ride the bike’s single cylinder engine’s making some rather strange sounds that will oftentimes make you feel like you are piloting a World War II Spitfire fighter plane.
The bike’s got a 12 liter fuel tank which is just small enough to avoid impairing the bike’s gorgeous lines. A Honda CBR 250 for example has got that hump in front of you. And so does the Kawasaki Ninja which needs that big hump because it has to have a relatively large gas tank for the bike to get good range. But on my first check on my SR 400’s fuel economy I drove 202 kilometers out of just 6.16 liters of fuel for an overall average of 32.79 kilometers to the liter which equates to roughly 77 miles to the gallon. Back when I was driving my Honda 350 CB all I could get was around 50 miles to the gallon or so. This means the Yamaha SR400 should get around 390 kilometers out of its svelte gas tank before it runs out of fuel.
I think it’s a terrific bike for Thailand. It’s fast enough for the conditions I’ll be using it under. It has excellent range which means I don’t have to waste my time always looking for filling stations or if I am venturing out into unknown territory I know that if I get lost that I won’t be running out of fuel in an area where I will be unable to find a gas station. It’s gorgeous, and it just feels so good driving it.
honda 350 CB
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Battle of the BSA versus the Triumph
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honda 350 CB
The bikes in this slideshow are the Honda 350 CB, Honda 450 CB, Yamaha RD 350, Yamaha XS 650, the Triumph Bonneville 650, BSA’s 650 Lightning and the Norton 850 Commando. Try right clicking on each slideshow image of these beauties, choose “view image” to enlarge each picture, and you will understand that “They simply don’t make them the way they used to.”
I just completed the December 2013 Looking Glass Magazine issue which includes my review on the Yamaha Filano motorbike In a few days I will accompany this review with a You Tube video that will show the little bike bottoming out on a speed bump when I have my girlfriend on the back. It’s a Vespa look a like, it’s cute and it’s well put together but as an all around motorbike for Thailand it will not begin to match a new Yamaha 125 SX or Honda’s PCX 150. The same is true for Yamaha Finos, Honda Scoopy’s and Honda Clicks. Clearly, the best all around bikes for city driving in Pattaya are the Honda PCX and the Yamaha 125 SX. This was a real tossup, until one day my Nouvo Elegance would not start. One hour later, I decided that the Yamaha Nouvo SX is the best Thailand City Motorbike. It would have been the Yamaha Elegance that had edged out the Honda PCX 150 because I was finally able to start it with its kick starter and drive it to a nearby shop to replace its battery. Trouble is, you can’t buy these new anymore, so the Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX will have to do.
As far as much larger motorbikes that are more suitable for highway driving, they won’t compare to a Yamaha Nouvo SX or Honda PCX 150. This interesting statistic will explain why. THe news just got to me via an email from Thaivisa that is reporting that Thailand now ranks number three in the entire world for having the most highway fatalities per 100,000 registered vehicles, per capita, etc. The figure for 100,000 registered vehicles is 118.8 versus just 12.57 for the United States. What this comes down to is because of the way Thais drive and the total lack of police enforcement driving high powered motorcycles with high speed traffic such as is common on expressways and superhighways, the possibility of death becomes even much higher. The way I’m thinking is if you have say a 650 c.c. or 1000 c.c. motorbike you have lots of power on tap and you are going to want to tap into all that power. But you can never predict all the brain dead things all those brain dead people are constantly doing around you, and too often the brain and reflexes simply cannot keep up with that person who just pulled in front of you, the hole that should have been repaired that you suddenly see in the middle of that four lane, or the driver who suddenly decided to drive the wrong way towards you against the flow of traffic.
But now last night with my Yamaha Nouvo Elegance suddenly not being able to start, there is no longer a shadow of doubt in my mind why the Yamaha Nouvo is a better all around bike than Honda’s PCX. My bike had an electrical problem and would not start with the electric starter so the first thing I did is I pulled the plastic cover off the battery compartment, pulled the battery out, and loosed, then tightened the connections. THe problem persisted so because I still could use the horn, etc I figured I had a connection problem somewhere on the bike that I could not get to. I tried to kick start it but it turned out I did not try hard enough. So this morning I got our condo maintenance employee and security guard to help me out. We were able to get the bike going with the kick starter so off I went with the maintenance employee sitting behind me. He took me to a small place one normally would not notice and I bought a battery there for 600 baht. ANd that was it. My battery had gone defective even though it was less than one year old.
The same thing had happened to a friend who was renting a Honda PCX,but he could not kick start it and so he wound up having to walk to the restaurant we were meeting at for lunch. So it really comes down to the fact that the Yamaha Nouvos are more reliable because even if the electric won’t work you can always kick start them and they are more versatile as you can easily use bungee cords to tie all kinds of stuff down across the bike’s rear seat.
So there we have it. Short of doing a lot of expressway superhighway driving the Yamaha Nouvo SX or its predecessor the Nouvo Elegance has enough tire size and engine to easily handle most driving conditions. As for the fast highway cruising much larger bikes excel at, driving in such conditions should be discouraged because it’s so dangerous trying to do it especially at the higher speeds such bikes are capable of. Lastly due to their having kick starters, their overall excellent build quality, relatively large storage area underneath the seat, and a plethora of hooks and bungee cord attachment spots on the Yamaha Nouvos, their reliability and versatility is unmatched
After reviewing the Honda Click 125i, I felt I had not gone far enough in my review of the Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX and the Yamaha Nouvo 135 Elegance. I still felt both bikes were excellent and that they outclassed the Honda Click in most respects. But the Honda Click had so much acceleration for a 125 that my good friend PlOne commented to me how slow his Yamaha Nouvo SX seemed in comparison. So before returning the Honda Click to the bike rental shop, I borrowed my friend’s Nouvo SX just to see how slow it felt in comparison. PlOne was correct. The Click accelerated like a sling shot at city traffic speeds whereas it would take a while to wind up the power on the Nouvo SX. But PlONe also commented that he felt the Honda Click 125 i accelerated more quickly than the Yamaha Nouvo 135’s he had rented before purchasing his Nouvo 125 SX.
Moreover, I had timed the Honda Click 125i’s acceleration from zero to 50 kph and 80 kph. which was something new that I wanted to incorporate into all future motorbike reviews. But using a cell phone to test the Click’s acceleration had proved problematic. so I wound up purchasing a Seiko stopwatch from Amazon that would be much easier to use while driving a small motorcycle on a busy motorway in Thailand.
I just had to stop watch my beloved Yamaha 135 Elegance to see if it really was slower than the Honda Click 125 i. I could find just one horsepower rating for the Honda Click 125i on the Internet–11.7. If accurate this would have meant that the Click had one half a horse more than my Elegance did, which would have helped substantiate PlOne’s claim that the Click seemed the faster of the two bikes.
I was also having reoccurring thoughts about two other characteristics of the two Yamaha Nouvos. The first one was my thinking that the new fuel injected Yamaha Nouvo SX lacked the range that I felt it needed because of its comparatively smallish 4.3 liter fuel tank. The second was the commonly held perception that the carburated 135 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo Elegance was a gas hog compared to its fuel injected competition. And yet, my Yamaha Elegance had matched the PCX 125, the PCX 150, and the Yamaha fuel injected 125 Nouvo SX in highway fuel economy with all four of the bikes turning in fuel economy figures exceeding 100 miles to the gallon. But city driving in Pattaya would be different with all the traffic jams, speed bumps and having to wait for stop lights to turn green to contend with.
But as frugal as it had been on the highway, I had every reason to believe that my Nouvo Elegance would not measure up to the Honda Click 125i and the fuel injected Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX’s fuel efficiency in city driving conditions.
For example, when he was purchasing his new Yamaha Nouvo SX, the salesman had told me that the new fuel injected bike would easily outdo the older carburated model for fuel economy in the city although he felt there wouldn’t be much difference driving in highway conditions.
The German bike rental shop owner had told me the Honda Click would get 100 kilometers from 2 liters of fuel compared to 2.5 for the Nouvo SX and 3 for the Nouvo Elegance.
In earlier gas mileage tests my Nouvo Elegance 135 had managed only 32.33 kilometers to the liter. I felt this figure to be very accurate since I had gone through several tankfuls of fuel and diligently recorded the results.
But my girlfriend had been riding behind me most of the time I had been testing my Elegance’s fuel economy thus adding close to 45 kg to the weight. Obviously a complete retest for city fuel economy was necessary.
I also had a theory, but I really didn’t have any real data to support it, and that theory was the Yamaha had stuck with its “antiquated carburated 135 Yamaha Nouvo Elegance for four years because it knew it had a real winner so why fix what was never broken. It wasn’t that Yamaha was new to fuel injection. After all, it had been selling 125 c.c. and 250 c.c. fuel injected X Max models in Europe for years not to mention 500 c.c. T Max’s in the U.S.
As for the German shop owner telling me the Nouvo Elegance could only get 3 liters per 100 kilometers to the Honda Click’s 2 liters, the man had also told me the Honda Click had only a 2.5 liter fuel tank, and when I had brought in a spreadsheet on which I had typed in the tank capacity of the Honda Click, he crossed out the 5.5 liter figure I had typed in and written above it 2.5 liters. This really surprised me because the owner runs a first class bike rental shop which provides rental bikes that are meticulously maintained (albeit comparatively expensive), which is about one would suspect from most Germans.
Then the German’s ex partner reappeared on the horizon while eating at a restaurant on Naklua Soi 33. He still had his bike rental shop there, and most of his rentals were Yamaha Nouvos, either Elegances or fuel injected SX’s. And although he had a Honda PCX or two available his personal bike of choice was a Yamaha Nouvo SX 125.
He had no use for a Honda Click or any other floorboard style motor scooter. I had always liked the man, having known him for nearly seven years, and I even knew where he lived. He’s an East German who once told me how years ago he had tried to get past the Berlin Wall when East Germany was Communist, how he had been caught, put in jail (luckily he hadn’t been shot), and that he had to be bailed out by his friends. Even though this had been an unlikely story, I half believed him, because through the years I found him to be one of these really happy go lucky Germans with a very likeable personality.
While we talked over possible bike rentals, he walked behind one of his Nouvo Rentals and said, “Two shocks. Click has one. Not strong.” Yeah, my thinking exactly. I had finally found someone who knew what I already knew.
When I asked him about the fuel economy of a Nouvo SX 125 versus the 135 Nouvo Elegances, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Same Same.”
I decided I would rent from him and wound up renting a Yamaha Nouvo SX 125 for four days. By renting for such an extended period even though I already had my own motorbike, I figured I could really do a thorough road test while getting a real good feel for Yamaha’s newest creation so I could later on determine for myself when it was time to get a new bike, “Will a little 125 satisfy me when there are larger alternatives available such as Honda’s PCX 150, Honda’s 150 SH or even something on the order of a Honda CBR 250 or even a new CBR 500?”
Four days living with Yamaha’s 125 Nouvo SX
To put the experience into just five words, “I loved that little bike.” One week earlier I had rented still another Honda Click 125i on Koh Larn Island, this time for two days and had found that the seat did not latch properly without a great deal of coaching. This was the second out of two Honda Click rentals that had seats that failed to close properly. Moreover, the turn indicators were badly located which made the process of signaling for a left or right turn to be very unintuitive.
I was now starting to realize that Yamaha seemed to be making better bikes than Honda. I had never driven a Yamaha motorbike that had exhibited such poor attentiveness to detail. But one drives at low speeds on Koh Larn or at least I did so the Honda Click’s handling was adequate for those two days. But there is no way that I could even begin to be satisfied driving a Honda Click through the variety of driving conditions I had been putting this new Yamaha 125 SX rental through. I found the little bike to be an enornously satisfying mount no matter what I tried to do with it.
But it was not fast. On route 36 on the way to Rayong I managed to do zero to fifty kilometers per hour in 7.51 seconds whereas the Honda Click took just 6.3 seconds. The Yamaha Nouvo SX took 12.16 seconds to get from zero to eighty kilometers per hour versus 10.39 seconds for the Honda Click 125 i. I do want to mention, however, that for most of us getting good acceleration up to 50 kph is much more important than it is getting good times up to 80 kph. This is because when you really think about it, when you are driving in such cities as Pattaya when you go much faster than 50 kph you feel as if you are really flying and that it starts to get really unsafe going much faster than 30 miles per hour.
The thing is one doesn’t really feel that one is being deprived by the Yamaha Nouvo SX’s apparent lack of power. The power still seems to be there, but only when you want it. But more than enough power was there on tap. One simply reels it in by twisting the grip. In passing situations around Pattaya the bike performed splendidly, and even while I was doing the timed acceleration runs on route 36, I really couldnt’ detect any difference between the Honda Click and the Nouvo SX. Only the stopwatch showed a real difference.
The Nouvo SX has an interesting little gadget that’s a lot of fun to play with. That is, its little onboard computer that resides in the instrument cluster that normally consists of a speedometer, odometer, and water temperature guage. Not only is Yamaha’s little onboard computer fun to play with, it also provides a lot of useful and interesting feedback on what kind of fuel economy one is getting. One can set it to measure fuel economy at any instant in time for example or one can set it to register fuel mileage for whatever current trip one is making. Obviously then one can reset the odometer for each new trip which is something you cannot do on a lot of competitive models. But the most addictive feature of this onboard computer is that one can set it to constantly record the bike’s fuel efficiency. For example, as soon as the bike starts to go up a slight incline the digital display might go from 2.0 (liters per 100 km) to 2.5. Or if I ease up slightly on the throttle the digital display might go from 1.8 to 1.2. This thing is a blast to watch and it really does help the driver smooth out his driving technique so that he can get better fuel economy. I found myself constantly trying to drive the little SX with a more constant application of the throttle than I had been doing with my Yamaha Elegance. I started to notice that the SX was averaging 2.1 liters per 100 kilometers which is a far cry from the 2.5 the first German rental shop owner had been telling me. One thing I noticed about the Nouvo SX is that it seemed to inspire its driver to drive smoothly and sedately.
The bike’s handling is top notch. It’s so enjoyable to drive and the more one gets used to it the more it feels part of the driver’s body. However, when I first got on it, I could detect a very real difference in this bike’s handling and my Nouvo 135 Elegance’s. The SX’s front wheel felt lighter, not as firmly planted and not nearly as precise. But if there was any lack of preciseness in the bike’s handling the lack went away as I started to get used to the bike and began to appreciate its charming ways. The reason for all of this was the oversized aftermarket tires I had installed on my Elegance. These were Michelin Pilots that were roughly 14 % wider than the bike’s stock tires. I also suspect they are of a softer rubber compound than the Nouvo’s stock tires therefore offering superior handling at the expense of less longevity. I would rate the SX’s handling and overall feel as excellent even with its stock tires—but I’d have to rate my modified Nouvo Elegance’s handling as superlative.
I took the Nouvo SX back on my fourth day’s rental in the middle of a pouring rainstorm that was flooding many of the city’s streets. That rain got so bad that I walked to a nearby restaurant and called my girlfriend to get me on her motorbike. After a few minutes she called me back to tell me that the street we normally took had flooded and the water had gotten so high that she decided to take a different route and meet me somewhere else which forced me to walk a kilometer away from the restaurant. My girlfriend’s bike is a Yamaha Filano and it rides on 12 inch diameter wheels and tires. Certainly my Nouvo Elegance is a far superior bike to drive through flooded streets with its much larger diameter 16 inch wheels and tires. Moreover, there’s several speed bumps I’ll ground out on if I’m driving her Filano and it doesn’t matter how slowly I drive it to cross those speed bumps. The Filano simply lacks the ground clearance to be up to any Yamaha Nouvo when it comes to crossing obstacles or getting down flooded streets. And then there’s those times that I need to drive over curbs. Those situations do not occur very often but they do occur. I’ll take a 16 inch diameter wheel and tire anytime over anything that has 12 or 14 inch wheels and tires.
This now brings us to the subject of my Yamaha Nouvo Elegance. It had performed astonishly well for fuel economy in highway driving conditions but not so well in stop and go city driving conditions. Meanwhile over the four days I had rented it I had gotten an overall average of 44.5 kilometers to the liter on the Yamaha Nouvo SX. That’s over 100 miles to the gallon in the city, which means that all those know it alls out there who claim that small automatics get miserable fuel economy have no idea of what they are talking about. The fuel injected Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX wound up registering on its onboard computer 2.1 liters per 100 kilometers. So theoretically according to the computer I was getting 47.61 kilometers to the liter which meant that the computer was 7 % too optimistic. However, unlike both the Honda Click 125 i and the Honda PCX, the Yamaha Nouvo SX 125 lacks the stop start switch that shuts the bike’s engine down while the bike is stopped at traffic lights. In my opinion much of this 7 % discrepancy is explained by the fact that the bike is idling at stoplights, therefore using fuel while there is no simultaneous registering of miles being driven since there are none. The bottom line from my roadtests–the Yamaha Nouvo SX’s onboard computer is pretty accurate. But now I would use it to see if I could improve on the 32.33 kilometers per liter I had gotten with my Nouvo Elegance in my earlier fuel economy tests for city driving.
My more immediate concern was to see how fast my Yamaha Nouvo Elegance could get up to 50 kph, and then 80 kph. So once again I headed out to route 36 on the way to Rayong. This time there was less traffic than I had enountered while testing the Honda Click 125 i’s acceleration. With the Click it had been a one shot deal due to all that heavy traffic I encountered and also the fact that I was using my cell phone for a stop watch and which had given me at least one false reading.
The Seiko stopwatch was so much easier to use than the cell phone which had almost fallen out of my hand as I tried to dodge traffic testing the Honda Click. For one thing it had a lanyard that I wrapped around my wrist. Its start-stop button was large enough for me to be able to feel it while concentrating on the road ahead of me.
On the zero to eightly kilometer runs I recorded times of 12.56, 11.79, 10.54, and 11.72 seconds for an average time of 11.65 seconds which about splits the difference between the Honda Click and the Nouvo SX. However, on my two runs up to 50 kph I got 5.75 seconds and 5.41 seconds out of my Nouvo Elegance, both times being superior to the 6.3 seconds the Honda Click 125i had managed.
I ended up doing close to 100 kilometers on my Yamaha Elegance over several days of testing at the end of which I put in 2.17 liters of fuel. So I had used less than half of my tank to run around what felt like a considerable distance, considering that aside from my acceleration runs and getting to and from where I could do them, I had to negotiate around a lot of city traffic and that I actually had to try hard to keep driving so that I could run off all those kilometers. I wound up getting 41.9 kilometers to the liter with the Nouvo Elegance’s larger 135 c.c. engine and stone age carburator.
That’s a far cry from the 32.33 kilometers per liter I had gotten before. I can attribute this huge discrepancy to two reasons. Number one—I didn’t have my girlfriend riding with me so the Yamaha’s engine was contending with roughly 45 kilograms less weight. Number two—I was trying to drive the Nouvo Elegance in the same type of driving conditions I had encountered with the Nouvo 125 SX and I was trying to drive the Elegance the same way I had been driving the Nouvo SX 125. For example…I was not trying to accelerate unnecessarily with either bike and that this habit of not trying to give the bike any more throttle than I had to had been induced by the little onboard computer I had so much fun playing with on the Nouvo SX.
The Honda Click 125i and Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135 are both slingshots when it comes to acceleration at lower speeds, say up to 30 miles per hour or so. The Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX isn’t. The power just doesn’t seem to be on tap as it is on the other two bikes, yet it is there, ready to be reeled in when needed. But the Nouvo Elegance in particular seems to be always on the boil while driving in the city, with its torque right there providing instantaneous acceleration. And it is constantly inviting its driver to hit the throttle by being willing to respond with an immediacy that makes the engine seem even larger and more powerful than it already is.
From the specifications I’ve compiled from a variety of web sites, it appears that the torque of the Yamaha Elegance 135 exceeds the fuel injected 125’s by just 1.2 %. However, both the seat of the pants feel and stop watch measurements, especially from 0-50 kph would seem to put the Elegance much father ahead than that. My opinion is that Yamaha deliberately tuned the 135 Elegance to deliver superior torque and acceleration at the lower speeds that are common to city driving. 0-80 equates to about 50 miles an hour. You just never make use of it in cities such as Pattaya when driving 30 miles an hour already seems a bit too fast. So when Yamaha engineered the 135 Elegance it engineered it exactly right for the kind of driving most of us do in such city conditions.
Recently, in my opinion, Yamaha decided that it was starting to lose sales to other manufacturers such as Honda. It had a terrific little bike, knew it, and stayed with its carburated Elegance line for four years. But out of total ignorance and the inability to think for themselves, many potential customers started to back off from Yamaha in the mistaken belief that fuel injection automatically provided superior fuel economy and horsepower to carburators. And in the case of the Elegance, it might have seemed that way, since the 135’s superior torque and low speed acceleration was constantly inviting drivers to tap into all that power. After all, it’s really a lot of fun twisting that throttle of the 135 and feeling the bike surge like a much more powerful machine than what it really is. That’s part of why I think I was able to get just 32.33 kilometers per liter in my previous tests. But this time I kept resisting the urge to accelerate convincingly around slower moving vehicles. charge up hills, or just accelerate with authority simply because it felt good.
The Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135 will get excellent fuel economy provided that the driver does his part. It’s just that it’s a lot easier for the driver to get outstanding fuel economy with the 125 Nouvo SX than it is with its carburated sibliing. But I doubt if the carburator had anything to do with it. Yamaha always had a great engine in the 135. I don’t know how much better fuel economy it can get over its predecessor the air cooled 115 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo MX, but I had one, and drove it 13,000 kilometers before replacing it with the 135 Elegance. Although I never measured the fuel economy of the Nouvo MX, I knew that the Elegance delivered far superior fuel economy while delivering over 25 % more power.
One thing I did find disturbing about the Nouvo 125 SX is Yamaha downsized the fuel tank from the Nouvo Elegance’s 4.8 liters to a 4.3 liter tank which I viewed as a step in the wrong direction. The truth is, when we are comparing one motorbike that already gets over 100 miles to the gallon to another bike that might offer a tad more fuel economy, the dollars saved we are talking about is really meaningless. What is more important is range. And when it comes to highway driving where the 125 Yamaha SX and the 135 Yamaha Nouvo Elegance turned in identical fuel economy numbers at a figure of 50 km/liter, the Elegance will get 25 kilometers farther down the road than the Nouvo SX. And a Honda 150 PCX with its even larger 5.9 liter fuel tank will have 80 kilometers more range than the Yamaha SX provided both bikes are getting 50 kilometers per liter, which is easily obtainable for all the bikes I have mentioned, whether it’s the Honda Click 125 i, the Yamaha Nouvo Elegance, the Yamaha Nouvo SX 125, or either the 125 or 150 PCX .
Probably the greatest virtue of the Honda Click 125 i is that it has a 5.5 liter fuel tank which will probably give it the same range as the larger Honda PCX 150. Its second greatest virtue is its speed. If what I am reading is true, Honda stuffed the Honda PCX 125’s engine into the smaller and lighter Click which must make it one of the fastest 125’s around. Keep in mind the 125 PCX is already a good highway bike even if it is eclipsed by the 150 PCX, and with a weight of around 280 pounds compared to a Honda Click’s 246 pounds the Honda Click 125i will be noticeably faster.
The main disadvantage of the Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135 is its carburator but not for the reasons that you might suspect. It’s got one helluva carburator setup, one that offers great fuel economy and excellent power and driveability. The problem is if you let the Elegance sit around for anything longer than 3 days it starts to get harder and harder to start due to gasoline settling in the carburator. If you go back to your home country for several weeks and return to Thailand, you will find that it’s going to take a lot of cranking of your bike’s starter to get your bike moving again and your battery might just wear down before you get done doing it. So far, knock on wood, I could always restart my Elegance on the bike’s battery without having to resort to the bike’s kickstarter. But if worse comes to worse, I’ll always get it started one way or the other.
Getting back to that issue I have made about range, most of us aren’t going to be doing a lot of highway driving. I could do a lot of city driving with the Yamaha Nouvo SX without using more than half a tank of fuel so the problem is not nearly as severe as I suspected. Nevertheless, I think Yamaha should have increased the Nouvo’s gasoline tank’s capacity instead of decreasing it, and if there was any improvements I’d wish Yamaha would make on succeeding models I would prefer that it would offer increased tank capacity over any horsepower increases it might make.
In my opinion the new Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX is the finest all around bike out there for the real world of driving most of us are going to be doing here in Thailand. It really offers everything a person realistically might need, and if he thinks he needs something bigger, I think he’s dreaming. Okay…the PCX 150 is definitely bigger, and it’s certainly got more power, and it is going to be a better motorbike out on the highway trying to keep up with car traffic. But the Yamaha Nouvo 125 SX is big enough and competent enough to be driven all over Thailand. But I suggest you don’t. Just one example should I think suffice to explain why.
Although I didn’t have any problems doing my zero to fifty and zero to eighty kph runs with my Nouvo Elegance I was almost killed afterwards. On the way home on the motorway, I found I had a choice between veering off the road to the left which would have taken me further South into Pattaya or traveling straight which would have taken me to Sukamvit at the Pattaya Nua intersection which would take me directly into Naklua. So I went straight, accelerating to about fifty miles an hour because I didn’t want to hold up traffic behind me as there was no shoulder to get onto and I was already in the slow lane. But someone wanted to pass me who simply couldn’t wait. He wanted to turn left so he zoomed ahead of me and then he cut to the left directly ahead of me so that he could veer off onto the road that would take him away from Naklua. So he pulled right out in front of me almost colliding with me as he suddenly swerved to the left ahead of my bike. It was a very close call, and it was almost certainly caused by a Thai driver who had no respect for human life, or driving carefully, or with consideration. I will also mention now that three times Thai drivers have passed me on the shoulder of the road while I was driving my Honda Civic in the right lane at over 65 miles an hour and that each time I was forced way off to the left to avoid the accident the other driver was about to cause. This is what I call driving with homicical intent. It goes beyond driving stupidly or neligently. It goes into the realm of actually trying to kill someone or oneself or at least not caring about taking human life.
It is because far too many Thai drivers drive with homicidal intent and too many unqualified drivers to start with that now causes me to not even consider buying a highway cruiser that’s capable of running with the big dogs. I have my Honda Civic for the highway. At least some of the drivers who might not care if they kill me or not might be somewhat worried about dying themselves. And certainly a car is much safer in a crash than any motorcycle which has virtually no chance against a car. Also one must consider all these tour busses that are proliferating on Thailand’s highways and streets. When it comes to homicical intent, I think the tour bus drivers take the cake for being homicidal maniacs. Check them out at night. Very seldom will you ever see Western faces in those tour busses. And most of them are Chinese. Consider that this year compared to last year the number of Chinese tourists nearly doubled, and god knows what increases we are going to see over the next year or the year after that. There will be a huge proliferation of tour busses that is already at an unacceptable level, and that is going to mean that Thailand’s highways and streets are going to become deadlier than ever. Nope–forget having a large bike. You are going to be far happier with a bike that’s between 125 and 150 cc’s and that weighs less than 300 pounds, and you are going to probably live a lot longer if you do.
Honda Click Yamaha Nouvo SX Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135
displacement c.c. 125 125 135
price 46800-52500 baht 57000 baht N.A.
Horsepower 11.7@8500 rprm 10.4 11.2
Torque 14/7500 Nm/RPM 10.47 Nm @ 6000 rpm 10.6N-Nm @ 6,500rpm
Weight (Kg) 246 lbs 244 lbs 244 lbs
Tire Size Front +80/90/14 +70/90/16 +80/90/16
Tire Size rear +90/90/14 +80/90/16 +90/90/16
Fuel Economy test loop 59.8 km to the liter 53 km to the liter 53 km to the liter
Fuel Economy City N.A. 44.5 km to the liter 41.9 km to the liter
0-50 kph 6.3 seconds 7.51 seconds 5.58 seconds
0-80 kph 10.39 seconds 12.16 seconds 11.65 seconds
Handling (judging) Ok Very good Rock stolid
storage beneath seat good good good
fuel tank capacity 5.5 liters 4.3 liters 4.8 liters
Cooling water cooled water cooled water cooled
Fuel System fuel injected fuel injected carburator