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Choosing a small motorcycle  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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I'm going to need a small motorcycle. That is the primary means of transportation in the Philippines where this vehicle will be used. I have tried out several, ranging from 110cc, to 155cc. All were quite serviceable vehicles for the lower speeds that are typical.

The automatic transmission, belt drive scooter style seem to be the most popular there, and I definitely don't want to have to worry about gears when I'm in heavy traffic. Scooter style vehicles have places to store things between the driver's legs and under the seat.

By far the best vehicle I tried, was the 155 Yamaha Aerox. I rented one for 3 days. It had more than enough power for myself and my fiance. I'm 200 lb and she is 110 lb. We were able to accelerate up hills , yet it gave good fuel economy. It's quite a bit more powerful than the majority of motorcycles in the Philippines. The standard is 125cc, often with a whole family aboard. But always at a sensible speed.

I've examined the 150cc Honda and Suzuki bikes. Kawasaki doesn't seem to make one in that size range. None are quite as slick as the Yamaha, which has digital everything and a place for the cell phone to charge.

There are two features that I think could increase safety as compared to the others. The Wheels on the Yamaha are quite a bit broader. We followed someone down a dirt road on a much lighter Honda 125 and he cut through the grass, leaving a muddy mess. With two of us aboard a heavier vehicle, we rode on top of the grass, since the tire is so much wider...  With most of the bikes, the furthest thing out to the side would be my knee or foot. The width of a Yamaha is greater.  In the event of a Sideswipe Collision, it's conceivable that only the cowling and the lower footrest platform would be affected. Bikes are dangerous at the best of times, but I like having that little bit of protection. I stopped riding a bike in Canada because of the danger. But where I'm going, there are 20 bikes for every four-wheel vehicle and the four-wheelers are not going fast. Usually under 30 miles per hour. Here in Canada, drivers are used to watching for cars and trucks. In the Philippines, everyone knows to watch for bikes. And the main thing, is that speeds are much lower. On a really straight stretch, I got up to 85 kilometers per hour, just to see how fast it would get there. But most of my driving was done in the 50 to 60 km an hour range. Roughly 30 to 36 miles per hour, 70 kph-45 mph on straight stretches of country roads. Nothing is very far, and that's still a whole lot faster than walking.

Another feature that I like is the large storage compartment under the seat. Most bikes in this size range have just enough room to store a helmet there. This one has twice the volume of some of the competitors. The seat is split, with the rear passenger portion sitting a little higher. And it is at the perfect spot for my height and how I would sit when riding alone. I am seven inches taller than her. When she gets tired, she has a nasty habit of allowing her helmet to bang against the back of my neck and shoulder blades if we are on a flat seat. When she's sitting taller, her helmet hits mine, and that's a reminder to not flop around every time I maneuver. The passenger foot rests are substantial and safer than on most others.

I don't have a lot of experience with motorcycles, so I would appreciate any input from others who have knowledge of bikes in this size range. I like the Aprilia, but I don't think it's available in the Philippines. Ordering anything is a months-long affair, so I'm going to buy something that's readily available in the city of Cebu.

I don't expect to ever tow a trailer or convert this one into one of the mini trucks that I see made from motorcycles.

Let me know if there's anything else you think I should be considering.
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155 Yamaha Aerox
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Nova can only be a passenger because it
 
pollinator
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I raced for two seasons, many moons ago, and I really don't think you'll find much difference in quality between any of the Japanese bikes in any class.  Personally, I love Italian bikes, but you buy them for the style because you'll spend a substantial amount of time just looking at them while waiting for parts.  It sounds like you've found what works best for you and, if I got dropped into the Philippines, I'd probably buy the Aerox based on your experiences.  

You can see if there are any crash pegs or bars that would keep the plastic bits from breaking if it goes down or gets knocked over, and they can provide extra protection for your body parts when riding.  I might also look at on/off road tires.  You'll sacrifice fuel economy and they'll be noisier, but if you're on suspect roads or need/want to go down some trails, you'll appreciate them.  It might even be cheap enough to get a set on a second set of rims and swap them  out if you'll be doing more of one kind of riding or another for longer periods.
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
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I expect it to stick to the roads, and I know myself well enough to know that I would never get around to swapping them out. The rather smooth road tire is very comfortable on the pavement and I'm sure that's where I'll spend 99% of my time.

Aprilia makes a similar bike, but I wondered the same thing about repair. There's a shop on every corner that fixes the Japanese bikes.

There are lots of older 125 bikes available fairly cheaply and many have already been turned into a sort of small truck. I may get one of those or I may fashion some sort of box that can sit on the passenger portion of the seat, so that I can haul larger loads. There doesn't seem to be any rule about what you can carry or how cumbersome. I've seen a queen size mattress riding on the heads of people who were driving relatively slow.

I'm going to need something for Nova to ride when I'm gone on the Yamaha. It may be a Lithium-Ion powered scooter style bicycle. For a secondary vehicle we would only need a 25 km range. This could be the one that gets fitted with a carrying box.
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
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I'm going to have to check out crash pegs.

One thing that I will never do, is allow someone's complained of me going too slow to affect my driving. I've had this happen when I'm in a car and I give them the option of walking which is a whole lot slower. Nova doesn't seem like the type who would try to push me in that way. At first she thought the bike was far too fast.

I have a good friend who never has a comfortable day, because of a motorcycle accident that happened 35 years ago. For me, safety is Paramount and I'm not concerned about performance, other than having enough power to make it up hills when I'm loaded.

I'm going to want a rear carrying box and it must have a passenger backrest. That's pretty simple to find here, but the vast majority in the Philippines don't use those boxes because they prevent the addition of a third and fourth passenger. The boxes I did see were quite simple and almost all were black. I'd like to store my groceries, not cook them in the Tropical Sun.  I would like bright yellow or something else that makes us more visible. Creature Comforts for passengers are almost non-existent. One sales guy wondered why I would want to spend extra money on someone who isn't paying for the bike.

A stumbling block in almost all retail situations that I encountered, is that people aren't trained to help the customer or to even understand what they want. They are trained to sell whatever is on the floor, even if it's exactly the wrong thing.
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gardener
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On the subject of safety ... there was an ad campaign in the '70's by a major helmet company. It said "if you have a $5 head wear a $5 helmet." The same basically goes for other clothing worn while riding. Her dress won't protect from road rash. Even a 20mph slide on asphalt hurts bad. What would be a minor fender bender in a car just might kill you on a bike. I don't see any goggles or other eye protection but strongly suggest those. Railroad tracks are not your friend. Neither is loose gravel or getting your tires against a curb. Oncoming traffic turning in front of a bike is a major cause of fatal accidents. Assuming you are invisible & riding accordingly will reduce the risk considerably.

Check the aftermarket accessory suppliers. You might be interested in the 2 way communication systems for helmets. There are also very good lighting systems available. One type is hooked to the brake lights & pulses according to the braking action. It really gets other drivers attention. A bike can stop in a much shorter distance than a car so every little bit of extra warning time helps. A can of tire sealant/filler is a good thing to keep onboard.

You mentioned fat tires. I find that they give a more comfortable ride. Not to mention the larger contact area with the road.

Been riding since about 12 years old. About 1 day after I earned & saved enough cash to pay for it. Everything from minibikes to dirt bikes to the fastest production superbike made at the time. Did some motocross & trials racing. These days mine is more like a recliner on two wheels. Would ride it more often & to more places if it weren't for cars. Or, more accurately, their drivers. Too many times they just don't see bikes. Remember the tonnage rule. They win every time.

Hard to go wrong with the big 4 Japanese brands there.

Sidecars. Another possible option.
 
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I haven't rode bikes in decades.

Is it possible to get one without 'electronic everything'?

Just thinking that in a humid and wet country, with a lot of rough dirt roads, the electronics could go bung quicker than old school gauges. Certainly finding replacement gauges, etc or getting them repaired, would be easier than digital displays.

The only other suggestion is to make the bike and yourselves as high vis as possible - including helmet e.g. Try to avoid black, grey, silver.

By the way, nice bikes.
 
pollinator
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for your box, see if you can find out where the delivery guys and girls in the city buy their stuff. I imagine there is like Brazil, once you find out where these folks go to get their bikes repaired you will find an entire region of places catering to them. I would imagine delivery folks would have large plastic boxes on the back of their bikes.

From the perspective of someone who moved from north america to the developing world (and also owns a car repair shop)- buy whatever is most common and what everyone else has. when you blow a hose or need a filter, you do not want an Aprilia, which will involve an order from who knows where and customs duties and months of waiting. You want the most common bike whose parts are easily found, especially if you live out in the sticks and there is one mechanic who kinda maybe knows what he is doing 50% of the time and may rely heavily on wire and bubble gum. Look at the delivery guys, the neighbors, and see what is most common.
From the security perspective, this will also help you keep a lower profile. when you have a fancy bike that nobody has ever seen, that may reinforce the idea that you are a gringo with lots of money who might be able to cough up even more if forced.
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
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Security is definitely one of the reasons for us buying this modestly-priced bike. And I won't tell every local I see, that it cost me about 8 days pay. I already know plenty of people there who have their bikes repaired regularly. There's no shortage of qualified people and Quality Parts. There are shops that break down old bikes for parts so I don't see anybody doing the duct tape thing.

Safety-wise we've decided to go with the brightest colors possible and Nova wants to get matching uniforms, mainly because she's never been on such a fancy vehicle and wants to look up scale. We were going out for breakfast when she wore that dress. Normally it's denim jeans.

Other vehicles are always an issue, but the most common things that happen there, are that two bikes clip one another and they end up in the ditch or they hit a dog or goat our other farm animal. So it's important to keep speed down where these animals are likely to be on the road. Even a chicken at high speed would not be good. Four wheeled vehicles are really only a problem in the city. I don't expect to do much City driving. In the countryside oh, the bikes are almost always going faster than the bigger vehicles. The biggest thing that we passed was a sugar cane truck, loaded to the maximum with a work crew sitting on top of the load. I waited for a nice long stretch of straight road.

The roads are quite good but in places where they weren't good, I took it slower and little 110cc bikes drove past us. They don't seem to have a racing culture at all. I didn't see anyone challenge anyone else to race. It's accepted that small bikes carrying a whole family may travel at 20 kph and a better bike with one guy aboard might be traveling at 70. I only saw a few really ridiculous bikes while I was there. One was a white guy driving a huge Harley and the handlebars were mounted so that his arm had to be held above his head. Almost all modifications that I noticed, where designed to get more people aboard, or to haul cargo. The most extreme modification involves building a small bus around a larger bike. One contained about 12 people.
 
pollinator
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One side issue I did not see here was mention of electric motorbikes/scooters.  I've not taken the plunge into either a gas or electric version, but there is apparently increasing popularity of electric units in urban areas.  Ironically, as noted in the article below, electric vehicles have better range in the city due to more regenerative braking.....the opposite effect of a petrol-powered option.  Anyway, the range of an electric motorbike for rural use is not practical for my situation at this point and I'm hoping this continues to improve.  But maybe for the type of driving that you will do in the Phillipines?....

https://motorbikewriter.com/electric-bike-range-claims-hoax/
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
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John, the article you linked doesn't support the claims of better range in the city.  Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

Riders will have to think totally differently about electric motorcycles and almost disregard the salesperson’s claims about range.



Almost every day an electric motorcycle company makes outlandish clams about extended range.



I worked in the battery powered vehicle field for a number of years.  One of the companies that I worked for was the first in North America, maybe the world, to incorporate regenerative breaking into the controller design.  While it was a great talking point for sales, the guys that designed it were split on the effectiveness.  One said that it would give you 3-5% more range, another said 1-3%, and the third guy said less than 1%.  On top of that, there were concerns that it may be harmful to the lifetime of the battery.  Another company I worked for, one of the largest in Europe, didn't think much of regenerative breaking either and they also did a lot of business with smart chargers.  

I'm all for electric vehicles, and I've been out of the industry for years, so I could be completely wrong.  I've worked on the tech side of EVs and on the sales side, and sales is sales.  When it comes to regenerative breaking, I'd only trust third-party analyses done by reputable labs, in a lab environment.  For preference, I'd like to see several of the controllers compared on the same lab tests.  There is very little money in small controllers like the ones used for Ebikes.  I'd guess they're made for less than $25, and I don't expect a lot of sophistication at that price point.  
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'm hoping to make our second vehicle an electric. There are a range of vehicles available there. But there are definitely no public charge stations or anything of the sort. People will charge you for a drink of water or for the little trickle of electricity it takes to get your phone going. So charging must happen at home.

It would have to be one that looks like a motorcycle and operates like a motorcycle, because Nova is very fixated on that, after spending three days aboard the Yamaha. The electric one, is the one that I would prefer to fix up with a sidecar or other attachments, but the price must be right and it must have enough power. We are still shopping for land, so I would have to assess the steepest slope between the farm and town. I expect that an electric model would be used by other members of the family. Nobody will ever be allowed to drive the Yamaha, other than me. I've always had a strict policy of not lending my vehicles out, even to friends and relatives. My vehicle is an extension of my body, that makes me go fast and stores my stuff. I can't send part of my body down the road with someone else.

One of the main perks in having my own bike, is that I won't have to talk to one lying jackass after another, when I want to get somewhere. I'll just look at Google Maps and point myself in that direction. Professional drivers often try to take you to where they want you to spend money, because of some kickback arrangement they have. So I found that if I need to buy a wrench or a shovel, it's best to talk to the guy who's fixing his bike tire or the lady who's selling fruit on the side of the road. These people know where the best deals are and they don't have an agenda, like professional drivers usually do.

Hitchhikers. Here in Canada, I always pick people up if they don't appear threatening or extremely dirty. I didn't see a lot of that going on in the Philippines, maybe because it's considered begging and maybe because I was mostly in places that have really good public transportation. I haven't really investigated what the protocol is. I'm sure that once I get living somewhere and I know the neighbors, it would make sense to pick up those who I can see are going to walk to town, if I'm headed that way. That would be just fine, so long as they don't become dependent on me for transportation. I don't want anyone knocking on my door for a ride unless it's a medical emergency. I talked to a white guy, who has a car about that, and he said that it is expected,  that anyone with a suitable vehicle may be called upon in an emergency.

My friend in Kenya would only have one leg if she hadn't been picked up by the right people in a private car after a bad accident. They had to get her to a private Hospital where they would repair a broken femur rather than amputate. Health problems are serious business in places like that. The Philippines has pretty good health care for people who can't afford it. It's basic, but they don't let them die on the side of the road. I will have to investigate the legalities of giving first aid in the Philippines. Here in Canada, you can't get sued if things go wrong. In the US it's a different story. But that goes well beyond the choice of a bike.

I did a pretty exhaustive search the other day and I'm almost certain that I'm going to drive away with a Yamaha 155 aerox. The company I'm working for is finalizing the schedule tomorrow. It looks like I may be able to leave as early as June 1st. I will buy a 3-month ticket but I'll pay the extra so that I can change that, in the event that Nova is given a Visa during my visit. Then we will fly to Canada and work here until the weather turns in November. The bike will stay at the house where the family lives, and it will be locked up so that no one can use it. I have to check out storage insurance. It's a housing complex that has a gatehouse. But there's always a chance that the people running the gatehouse could act in collusion with thieves.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I talked to a woman this morning at Starbucks, who has extensive experience with small bikes. She moved from a 200cc model to a 250, because she does fairly long trips at up to 120 kph. Her mechanic told her that sustained run time close to the red zone was the reason she needed regular repair. And she was going through a lot of fuel. The new bike is burning less fuel. She's about half of the combined weight of myself and Nova. but it's only about the weight on acceleration and on uphill runs. Based on the driving conditions I described, she thinks power will not be an issue. During most of our driving, we were only asking the bike for about a third of what it could do.
 
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