Friday, 29 April 2011

New bike on the block


Having decided that the Honda CBR 125R was the bike for me I summoned all my courage (and cash) and did the deal. With over 1,000 miles riding behind me I am confident it was the correct decision.

Getting to know the bike has been great fun. For one thing it seems to have greater reserves of cornering power than I have skill or bravery to go looking for its limits. That’s in the dry, anyway, and I’ve so far avoided any seriously wet weather. It also depends on the tyres being correctly inflated – I had a nasty shock at the end of a long journey where the pressure dropped by about 10psi. Nothing bad happened but it was enough to seriously impair my confidence.

That incident happened on the return leg of an epic trip to Manchester. Travelling by a very scenic route the outward journey took five hours and the (slightly) more direct return trip lasted four. It wasn’t the fastest or most comfortable way to do the journey but it did have a sense of adventure. It also proved that the saddle and riding position were perfectly comfortable for hours at a time.

Just one thing stops the CBR from being perfect; the gearbox contains some rather odd ratios. First and second seem very low, with an uncomfortable jump to third. Third, fourth and fifth are about perfect but sixth is way too high. The slightest gradient or headwind will see speed slipping away, and on a small-engined bike that’s something you can ill afford.

It seems like an odd choice, a sporty 125cc bike is unlikely to be pressed into regular long-distance service. Even on my epic adventure I think I only used sixth once or twice, although as the engine has loosened up the high gear has become slightly more useful. Even so, the bike would be even better with slightly lower overall gearing with even closer ratios.

The engine thrives on revs. Having got to know it you wouldn’t describe it as peaky but there is a clear increase in power above 7,000rpm and then it pulls all the way round to the 11,000rpm redline. The delivery doesn’t even seem to tail off when you hit the red paint although my mechanical sympathy kicks in before the rev limiter. As I’ve already mentioned, the engine definitely pulls more strongly at 1,500 miles than it did at 500 and I wonder how much more power could be liberated from this motor if the law didn’t stipulate a maximum power limit for learner riders.

Of course the quest for more power is easily satisfied once I get my full licence by moving to a bigger bike. I’m looking forward to the day when I can make that move but I know I will always remember this little Honda with great affection.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Trying bikes

Recently I arranged test rides of a couple of motor bikes with a view to buying one. My main purpose was to try a Honda CBR 125R but also provided the opportunity to acquire some experience of the Yamaha YBR125.

The Yamaha felt very familiar; the upright riding position and comfortable, squashy seat are very similar to the Honda CG125. Modern injection and engine management meant no messing about with chokes and a fuss-free power delivery. The presence of a tachometer made it easy to judge how much power to use in slow riding. It wasn’t terribly exciting but would make a nice little workhorse of a bike.

The Honda CBR was more like a racehorse, with its sporty riding position and appearance. True there isn’t much performance since, like all learner legal bikes, it is limited to 15bhp but it has a feeling of delicacy and precision. All the controls have a lightness and positivity of operation, particularly the featherweight clutch and disk brakes. The handling and ride are about the best I have encountered (in my limited experience). My only complaint was that the riding position felt less comfortable than I expected; putting too much pressure on the hands.

After some deliberation I decided that the Honda was the one to go for. The YBR would be a fine commuter bike but the CBR is nicer to ride. To my mind motorbikes are as much about balance and control – which the Honda has in spades – as power and speed. Furthermore; if I’m using the bike every day then I want the best machine I can buy.