It’s … been a while. As a matter of fact it’s been around twenty–five years, give or take.
Of what am I speaking? Driving a motorbike, of course. It’s a hobby I had while young, and a hobby I’ve recently decided to pick up again now that I’m, uh, less youthful?
Twenty–five years is a very, very long time to spend off the bike. Conventional wisdom suggest that five (5!) years is about the limit of what you can do without your skills atrophying — for once in my life I agree with convention. Be still my beating heart.
Driving a motorbike is, granted, much like riding a bicycle, except for the speed, the weight, the acceleration, the close contact with other traffic, the … you get the idea.
There are several extremely good reasons why you should not go from not–driving to driving–the–biggest–bike–around. They apply equally well to 18–year–olds with their first license to 40–somethings who might have held a license since sweet–sixteen, but hasn’t practised their skills.
With this in mind I started looking for low–cc bikes, and falling for the Yamaha Virago–series. My background is in custom bikes, and it’s a very, very nice line. There’s a 535cc which is particularly suitable. Then, of course, I ran into problems with exchanging my Norwegian license for a Swedish one. As I went through the various regulations, the cost mounted.
In Sweden, as in Norway, there is a three–tier licensing system for motorbikes: light, medium and heavy. It’s a quaint system, based on the size of the engine — the reasons are simple enough, however. The iconic 1340cc, 197bhp Suzuki Hayabusa can move a normally sized driver at roughly 300 km/h. It gets from 0 to 100 in 2.8 seconds. If you are used to bicycles, stay away from it. It’s a lovely machine, and you can’t handle it. Neither can I.
So I stepped back and took a hard look at my needs: getting from A to B (safely) during six ice–free months, the occasion excursion with a camera, and the even more odd trip just to see how fast I can get through my favourite curvy road on a dry, clear day when people are at work and school…:) (I’ve promised a good friend that I’ll not wrap myself around a tree. No joke either. Don’t push yourself or the machine. Gravity’ll always win.)
With this in hand, I started looking at the 125cc class; a type of bike I can drive without the bureaucratic hassle of having my license converted, tho also a type which normally is no fun at all. This is the realm of scooters and souped up mopeds — normally. A new picture emerged. It has been while since I last took a peek at the market, and the 125s out there today are a vastly different lot from a quarter of a century ago.
But what to pick? Used? New? Custom? Sports? Annoyance. While competent, I take little enjoyment in repair–work. It would ideally use little gas — it’s a small bike! I want the best possible power–to–weight ratio, of course, and it doesn’t necessarily have to look terrible. Here’s a selection of possibilities:
|Brand||Class||Model||Displacement||Power (kW/HP)||Weight (kg wet)||Power–to–Weight (HP/kg)||Year|
|Honda||Custom||VT 125C ‹Shadow›||125cc||10.9/15.00||159||0.09||2008|
|Honda||Custom||CA 125 ‹Rebel›||124cc||8.0/11.00||151||0.07||2001|
Life ain’t easy. As you can see, the custom bikes suffer from a generally low power–to–weight ratio. Modern bikes are better than older; sports generally better than cruisers, and so forth.
And, of course, there’s cost. The R125 retail for 58,000 SEK; the YZF–R125 at 42,000, and the CBR 125R at 36,000. The YBR 125 would set me back 30,000. And then there is the height. I’m not particularly tall; the 818mm of the YZF is simply too much; Aprilia isn’t much better at 805mm. The custom YBR is naturally the lowest (780mm), followed by the CBR at 793. As it happens there’s a Honda dealership nearby, and ’lo and behold they had a 2011 model in there. It fits me to a tee, and it outlooks the Yamaha. Granted, I could get the latter in cherry red, but in the end the black/titan look of the Honda «convinced» me :)
The Honda CBR 125R — 2011 model — is a single–cylinder, four–stroke sportsbike with an electronic fuel injection system, disc brakes back and front, digital instrumentation, electric starter and a tiny, teeny compartment under the back seat. It’ll cruise comfortably at 110km/h, will strain at 125, and top out with luck at 140. It’ll also out–accelerate most normal street–cars from a dead stop, costs about 2,000 SEK to insure, and might push 2.5l/100km fuel consumption.
The slim tires from earlier models are replaced, making the bike look far better — and, more importantly, improve grip.
In short: it’ll be a perfect bike for regaining old skills, transporting me from A to B with more speed than is normally legal in Sweden; cost little to run and be light on the mechanics.
When I get it delivered I shall proceed to check whether reality matches the map outlined above >:)