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REVIEW RIDE: Honda CB500XA

10 Jul

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Honda Motor Co. Ltd had revised its popular trio of CB500-series – the CB500F, CBR500R and CB500X for Year 2016. First announced during the EICMA Show 2015 held in Milan, Italy, the revised trio made their international debut approximately 6 months later and were available in Malaysia since the beginning of September 2016.

All 3 models retained the proven and reliable 471cc parallel twin engine featuring a maximum horsepower of 47 from their original versions introduced back in 2012 for Year 2013-2015. What’s revised with the new trio are better styling, improved brakes, adjustable front forks, new exhaust pipe (except for CB500X) and LED-type headlights.

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The trio are available in both ABS and non-ABS versions but for Malaysia, the CB5500X also comes with ABS, hence it is designated as CB500XA. Non-ABS type is also available. Both the CB500F and CBR500R are initially also offered without ABS in Malaysia. This is based on the preference of local riders opting for non-ABS models from the original 2013-2015 editions, according to Boon Siew Honda. However, both models are now available in ABS.

Having the same 471cc engine does not mean all 3 bikes are the same there are differences in terms of handling and performance. For starter, the CB500XA, as reviewed here, is equipped with default trail tyres that are meant for minor off-road riding and touring, as it is designed for adventure and touring, as compared to its 2 siblings which are utilized for sports enjoyment and speed.

In addition, the CB500XA has a taller seat height, and a higher volume fuel tank capacity, at 17.3-litre, which is unchanged from its predecessor to ensure a longer ride without interruption for fuel top-up along the way. Given the fact that all 3 models are fuel economy machines, the CB500XA could go all the way to Alor Setar with just a full tank in cruising mode (110km/hr to 145km/hr) starting from Jalan Duta Toll Plaza, or to Johor Baru.

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The default trail-type tyres, are longer lasting than the grippy Dunlop D222 installed on the CB500F and CBR500R. However, this affects the CB500XA somewhat in terms of extreme leaning angle and cornering as the grip level is unable to cope with such a demand. Since these tyres are aimed at touring and adventure riders, extreme cornering is not something they would want to try with the CB500XA.

For those who do, it is just a matter of swapping the default tyres to sporty type which offers superb grip at the corners. I had a moment with the CB500XA when I subjected it to extreme cornering at one of my regular corners – the rear wheel slipped mid-cornering but still managed to upright the bike without any incident. It is not the fault of the CB500XA but the limits of the default trail-based tyres have been reached.

A maximum lean angle of 45-50° will be just right for the CB500XA when cornering with these tyres. The revised 41mm Showa front forks offer adjustment, as compared to its predecessor but only for preload. There’s no provision for rebound damping nor compression. Bear in mind the CB500XA is just an entry-level motorcycle, so the features it has, are adequate for novice riders especially those who have upgraded from riding a moped and 250cc models.

While extreme cornering in the dry condition is not recommended, rest assured the default tyres allowed superior grip when riding in the wet including cornering without any tendency to slide. However, do make sure the rear tyre does not venture into white lines and white arrows on the tarmac when raining as these could cause the CB500XA to wobble or lose grip while riding.

Having said that, it is to be noted that both the front and rear suspension, in their standard settings, delivered superb comfort when riding over bumpy stretches of road surface. I had subjected the CB500XA to a bumpy segment, and unlike a few models from competitors’ which felt those bumps harshly throughout the ride, the CB500XA absorbs all of them in its stride comfortably. A biking buddy of mine who followed me on that journey on his rival brand touring model, had lamented of that segment’s bumpy surface.

As for the brakes, both front and rear used Nissin pads, with a 2-piston caliper supplying the power to stop the single 320mm for the former and a 1-piston caliper on the single rear 240mm disc. A single-sided brake for the front is a bit on the risky side for anything above 300cc, but with ABS, the CB500XA is able to thwart most tendencies to skid when last-minute emergency braking is applied as it ensures there’s no locking of both wheels.

With Malaysian drivers having a reputation for bad and reckless driving, with tendency to change lanes without warning, the inclusion of ABS in the CB500XA is definitely a welcome feature regardless of how most riders may feel about the function interfering with their braking style when riding fast.

On paper, a maximum horsepower of just 47 derived from a 471cc engine sounds like not much where performance is concerned. When the CB5500-series was first announced in November 20102, the trio’s specifications had many bikers and motorcycling media gasping in disbelief. Many of them had their doubt wiped off the moment they tried those bikes for actual riding.

Any doubt about the CB500-series’ performance has been casted away once the rider started the engine, engaged the clutch and rides off. Yes, 47hp is nothing spectacular, to say the least but Honda has tuned the parallel twin engine to maximize the performance out of it. It is super smooth all the way from the moment one accelerates the CB500XA from 0km to its top speed of 185km/hr.

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Granted, most bikers cruised at between 120km and 155km/hr on the highways, and relishing the challenge of tackling twisty old roads at speeds between 80km and 125km/hr so the CB500XA and its siblings have been tuned to offer superb acceleration for these kind of rides. It maxes out at 185km/hr – that’s where the 47hp makes the difference, or the limit. Bigger capacity bikes, such as the Honda CB650-series, have twice the power (new for 2017 editions have been revised with 90hp) or the company’s newly-announced 2017-edition of CBR1000RR standard and SP/SP2 models, which feature 189hp!

The higher horsepower of the bigger capacity Hondas allowed them to go beyond 240km/hr for top speeds, in addition to superb acceleration from 0-100km/hr and better feel when cruising at between 110km and 155km/hr on highways and twisty roads!

For riders who have no interest in cruising beyond 200km/hr when riding, the Honda CB500XA is more than enough to meet their needs for a motorcycle during a weekend leisure ride or even as a daily commuting bike.

UPDATED: For experienced riders, the CB500XA delivers the kind of performance and handling similar to bigger capacity models on twisty roads particularly riding at between 125 and 155km/hr. Coupled with the default suspension settings, I found the CB500XA absorbs majority of the bumps with ease, allowing me to ride much faster than bikes with stiffer settings. While ensuring that I do not overdo it at the corners with the CB500XA, the bike is able to handle cornering duties with ease, clearing multiple S-curves with just 4th gear, with the downshifting to 2nd or 3rd when encountering steeper parts or slow bends.

In fact, riding the CB500XA up the Ulu Yam-Goh Tong Jaya road needed 4th gear for ¾ of the ride, with 3rd being the only gear in negotiating the steeper S-curve segment just before the police beat base. The same applies when riding the bike up Fraser’s Hill, only 3rd and 4th gears were utilized to reach the top from Gap point below, with 11 minutes taken for the ride up, and 15 minutes for the way down thereafter.

However, the twisty road towards Sang Lee New Village after riding down from Fraser’s Hill is very bumpy nowadays, with numerous patches and potholes but the CB500XA’s suspension is able to absorb most of them with ease, allowing for a decent speed throughout the ride until reaching the area’s iconic sculpture of a hand holding a durian (photo below).

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As noted earlier, the CB500XA is one of the fuel saving motorcycles to ride. I did 2 separate long distance rides with it over 2 consecutive days, the first being a 293km and the other a 375.5km journey. Both rides, the CB500XA was fully filled to its 17.3-litre capacity. The 293km ride only consumed approximately 10.9 litres while the 375.5km trip used up 14.5 litres. I have never been able to clock more than 330km on other brands of motorcycles with engine capacity above 500cc with just a tankful of fuel like the CB500XA is capable of.

The figures mentioned are based on the bike’s electronic sensors – which gave the usual data like average consumption per 100km, average usage on actual riding moment and the amount of fuel remaining – the last part is a more detailed data than the fuel gauge on the LCD speedometer, as it countdowns to the amount of main fuel capacity before switching over to the reserve amount of 2-litre right after 15.3-litre has been utilized. From there, the Cb500XA would calculate the amount of the final 2-litre remaining as I racked up the mileage while looking for nearest station of my preferred brand of petrol – either Caltex or Petron.

The fuel remaining data is very accurate – if it has indicated that I had used up 1.3-litre of the reserve amount, that’s exactly what’s left inside the tank as the next top-up literally filled up with only 16.3-litre. This gave me an assurance I have nothing to worry about when looking for a station as I could push the CB500XA until the 1.8-litre warning mark.

The fuel consumption nature of the CB500XA is a noteworthy feature because it is a 6-speed, liquid-cooled 4-stroke, 471cc parallel twin engine with 47hp. When you compared it to a Kawasaki Ninja 250R, a Z250 and the Versys X-250 variants, all of which featured a 17-litre tank, similar 249cc parallel twin engine with 34hp but good for 395km mileage overall, the CB500XA is the better choice among them, with faster acceleration and top speed (185km/hr vs. 170km/hr for the 250cc trio).

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REVIEW RIDE: Honda MSX 125 aka The Grom and Honda Wave 125i

10 Jul

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The MSX 125 aka The Grom (as it is known in North American market) looks corny and cute when it was first announced by Honda way back in 2012. But it quickly became popular in the North American market (USA and Canada) where the popularity also spread to other continents as well, especially in South East Asia region, where it is manufactured in Thailand by AP Honda.

For Malaysia, as usual, takes quite some time for anything new or exciting, to enter its market. First obstacle for the MSX 125’s entry to the Malaysian market is the selling price, which at RM11,128 w/GST, thanks to the various import and excise duties imposed, would make The Grom costing more than a standard 125cc moped from Honda itself – something in the range of twice the price, as in the case between the company’s Wave 125i and The Grom.

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Both are fuel injected, 124cc small motorcycles, with 4-speed transmission each. While the Wave 125i, being a moped or Cub, has a clutchless 4-speed transmission, The Grom features a clutch-operated version, with an operation similar to bigger bikes – 1 down, 3 ups vs. the all-forward style used by the Wave 125i.

Additionally, the Wave 125i has a faster top speed than The Grom at 120km/hr vs. 110km/hr – according to their respective speedometers after riding for quite a while at full throttle operation or riding downwards from high-level areas. Actual top speeds for both are 110km/hr and 100km/hr respectively as measured by radar speed guns – riders on either bike are unlikely to be penalized for breaking Malaysia’s speed limits for highways.

In terms of actual riding, one could easily reach 90-100km/hr with the Wave 125i and 80-90km/hr on The Grom, as according to their speedometers, under normal conditions.

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For the price it commands, The Grom offers more than just speed. It has better supporting parts over the Wave 125i – full length telescopic front forks vs. half-length type, more rigid rear absorber, and comfortable riding with its plush seat, an advantage over longer distances than the Wave 125i, and wider, smaller front/rear tyres that enable the rider to perform extreme cornering without fear of The Grom skidding or sliding the rear wheel. These features alone made The Grom justifies its higher selling price over its Wave 125i cousin.

For fuel consumption, both the Wave 125i and The Grom are almost equal in performance although the latter can be slightly more guzzling overall especially the comfortable feel of riding it gives the rider the tendency to be more throttle-happy as compared with riding the Wave 125i. The Wave 125i sips fuel at 40km/litre, and with its 5.4 litre capacity, literally takes the rider to a distance of approximately 220km before needing any refill. On the other hand, The Grom has a tank capacity of 5.7-litre and consumes the equivalent of approximately 35km/litre for a distance of nearly 200km. On a round trip review ride for a distance of 315km, The Grom only used up 8-litre of fuel.

I must admit there’s some reservation initially on my part of how well I could ride The Grom as compared to the Wave 125i especially my overall height is nearly 180cm. Any Honda Cub model is not an issue to ride for people with varying levels of heights so there’s no reservation in riding the Wave 125i to anywhere.

Since The Grom has a lower seat height than any Honda Cub, and with my tall legs – the first image I could visualize of myself riding it would look more on the awkward side. Then again, enjoying the ride is what makes motorcycling fun and it doesn’t really matter to me what others think when tall person like me riding a super cute little motorcycle like The Grom around town or going for a long haul ride.

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The above photo shows me riding The Grom.

City and town riding aside, the older twisty roads are where The Grom shines as it is able to tackle multiple S-curve with ease, thanks to its superb suspension and small but very stable tyres. It is even better than most Cubs and bigger capacity bikes in this situation. However, slick as it is on those old twisty, the moment the tarmac segment of the next S-curve is connected with a longer straight of 300-500m in length, the bigger bikes would easily out-accelerate past The Grom in reaching the next bend first.

The Wave 125i could do the same but the default tyres may not give the feeling needed to inspire the rider’s confidence to go faster at sharper corners. The Wave 125i’s default tyres are decent and grippy for such a task but their thinner profile may prevent newbie riders from having the confidence to undertake the corners with the utmost confidence.

Upshifting and downshifting the gears between The Grom and Wave 125i are totally different. The Grom behaves like any sports or naked sports featuring a manual clutch lever while with the Wave 125i, a rider just need to step forward for upshifting thanks to its automatic clutchless transmission system. But it is not the same as having a quickshifter or Honda’s own DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) like Honda’s NC750X and Africa Twin 1000 as the jerking moment upon each downshift still occurs, as the Wave 125i is basically a Cub/Moped or as Malaysians would called it – a kapchai.

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Using a manual clutch, the downshifting on The Grom is jerk-free thus enabling an experienced rider a much smoother transmission when riding fast approaching a corner particularly on twisty roads. The downside of having a manual clutch is one needs to downshift 3-step to engage Neutral when the bike is idle at traffic lights junction but the Wave 125i only need to step forward once (from 4th) to enter Neutral mode after stopping. This Honda patent was first introduced with the Fame 90 Cub of 1985, and has been featured in every kapchai model Honda has introduced to the local market ever since.

The Wave 125i has many Cub-based rivals in the competitive Malaysian kapchai segment but The Grom only has 1 – from Kawasaki’s Z125 Pro, which was developed to tap into the success enjoyed by the Honda MSX 125 globally. In terms of performance, features and handling, The Grom has a slight edge over the Z125 Pro – LED headlight, better suspension feeling (it’s Showa vs. KYB) and smooth, superbike-like engine/exhaust pipe grunt.

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The Z125 Pro sounds very much like a kapchai despite having better features than any of the Moped particularly when it maxes out at full throttle unlike the smoother Grom.

The Wave 125i has one feature that comes in handy over The Grom – a storage compartment underneath the seat, which is a surprise to me as I have not anticipated that as this is a feature only a modern scooter would have, such as the Honda Air Blade or the Honda PCX 150. In fact, I had to double-checked that the Wave 125i is indeed a Cub and not a scooter due to this “discovery”. Since scooters also feature an automatic transmission, the Wave 125i is obviously a kapchai as it does not have a hand-operated rear brake lever on the left handlebar, and upshifting/downshifting of the gears are required despite the absence of a manual clutch lever.

Any limitation to both The Grom and the Wave 125i during my review rides of both?

A few but nothing much to gripe about, really. For The Grom, it is the top speed which come up a bit short than expected. Yes, 100km/hr is a lot to some people but I am expecting it to be able to achieve at a true 110km/hr, given the fact it has much better components than any kapchai, not to mention the selling price, which is more than double in some cases over a 110 or 125cc Cub bike.

For the Wave 125i, it’s the thinner profile for its front/rear default tyres where fast cornering can be a bit daunting. It probably won’t cause the Wave 125i to flip up or skidded while negotiating a bend at faster speeds but the rider could feel the rear’s tendency to slide a bit when doing that, which is due to the rear suspension being a little too soft for that kind of feat.

Last but not least, which bike would I choose between the Wave 1255i and The Grom? If it is for city riding and daily commuting, the former fits the description well. However, if one prefers to do both as well longer trips to another state or as far North to Penang or down south to Johor Baru or across the Causeway to Singapore, The Grom is the better choice as you are unlikely to experience rider fatigue or “fried butt” in the long ride process with it.

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The photo above of The Grom was snapped using the Canon EOS 80D at Tanjung Sepat near morib in the state of Selangor Darul Ehsan.

 
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REVIEW RIDE: Honda RS150R Sports Cub

10 Jul

Four stroke technology in smaller engine capacity motorcycles continues to improve by leaps and bounds. This improvement is thanks in part to participation by the Japanese manufacturers like Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha in the annual MotoGP Championship series where 1,000cc prototypes are entered for competition.

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What has MotoGP got to do with the R&D on the performance of such kapchai bikes?

Plenty. Chief among the improvements is the ability to make 4-stroke technology to be as agile and faster than the discarded 2-stroke version over the years after 4-stroke MotoGP prototype bikes were introduced in 2002 to take over the mantle from those 2-stroke-based, 500cc machines in the Championship.

Of course, those MotoGP prototype bikes are 1,000cc beasts, which are doubled the capacity of the 2-stroke 500cc. But that’s needed in order for a 4-stroke version to outperform a 2-stroke bike. However, conventional 4-stroke kapchais are mostly in the 100cc to 125cc range, almost the same for their 2-stroke counterparts.

So how does this translate into better and faster performance over their 2-stroke cousins?

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The answer is both Yes and No.

Yes, in the sense the modern 4-stroke version is much faster and agile than those 2-stroke bikes produced during the 90s, and throughout first decade of the 21st Century as not much new development has gone into the latter as the world has more or less embraced the cleaner engine combustion, thanks in part to the compulsory emission control via Euro4 now enforced in Europe, as well as the United States where all kinds of 2-stroke bikes are simply non-legal on public roads.

No, in terms of – if R&D on 2-stroke technology is still ongoing strongly between the Japanese manufacturers, then the modern 4-stroke bikes would have a harder time in beating those speedy and lighter 2-strokers.

For the nearest comparison, it is safe to say all the latest 4-stroke kapchai would be able to outperform any outdated 2-stroke bikes that are still roadworthy in the present day.

Case-in-point would be my ageing Honda NSR150RR – a 2-stroke sportsbike against the latest Honda Cub/kapchai in the market – the Honda RS150R, a 150cc 4-stroke with a 6-speed transmission and bigger tyre profiles for front/rear than a conventional Cub. Oh, that 6-speed transmission is not automatic as a manual clutch lever is needed to operate the RS150R.

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Where standard acceleration is concerned, the Honda RS150R is as fast as my NSR150RR. In fact, I came across a rider on the RS150R prior to doing this review, challenging me while I was on the NSR150RR. Of course, tried as much as he could, there was no way he could overtake my NSR150RR on the highway leading to Purtrajaya from Bandar Salak Tinggi located in southeastern area of Selangor. Nevertheless, that RS150R rider was very close behind. The higher top speed of my NSR150RR also prevented him from overtaking me as the RS150R’s top speed maxes out at 145km/hr (on speedometer) while my bike could hit 165km/hr (measured). Yes, it was the NSR’s top speed that prevented the RS150R from being ahead.

Had I came across that rider while negotiating S-curves on twisty old roads, there’s no doubt the RS150R would have outperformed the NSR150RR easily as old 2-strokers are somewhat slower in getting up to speed in such a condition as opposed to riding on wide-open highways.

Honda normally designated its 4-stroke street bikes with the R-code to denotes its racing heritage, such in the case used for its 1988 VFR750R aka the RC30, the RVF750R aka RC45, both of which are WorldSBK-championship winners during their era. The latest R-series street bike with racing heritage is the RC213V-S, a limited edition 1,000cc racer-replica of HRC’s Championship-winning RC213V MotoGP prototype which took Spaniard rider Marc Marquez to the titles in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

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So with the 150cc kapchai being given an R-designation in the form of the Honda RS150R, you can rest assured of its intended racing heritage when the standard parts are replaced with race kits. Yes, the RS150R is designed to win the annual Cub Prix Championship in the 150cc category so where performance is concerned, it is definitely not a slouch.

What exactly the RS acronym stands for, I have absolutely no idea but my hunch is it could be for “Racing Standard 150 Racer” or “Racing Series 150 Racer”.

Also, HRC used to have the RS-designation on its line-up of production racer bikes of 125cc, 250cc and 500cc during the 90s era of the 2-stroke championship, each designated as RS125, RS250 and RS500 respectively.

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The list of features is extensive, to say the least. Starting with the LCD panel aka as the Advanced Digital RPM meter displays info such as RPM, speed, gear engaged, fuel gauge, odometer and tripmeter in a clear and precise manner that is clearly visible for the rider. Its headlight is LED-based, which gives a brighter illumination at night as compared to tungsten bulbs used by many kapchais in the market. Even the taillight is LED and designed to be stylish while still providing a bright backlight that gives better visibility to other motorists during daytime and night.

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Engine-wise, the RS150R is equipped with a 6-speed DOHC 150cc single cylinder engine equipped with a liquid cooled system. The exhaust pipe is made from the same material that is used for the company’s recently-introduced CBR250RR sportsbike built in Indonesia but is yet to be marketed elsewhere other than domestic Japan.

I managed to achieve a top speed above 140km/hr based on the LCD panel readout with the RS150R. And unlike its siblings of kapchai in Honda’s line-up, the RS150R comes with tubeless, high performance tyres, with the rear featuring a 120/70 of 17-inch size, which is the same specification as the front type used in most bikes with engine capacity of 600cc and above.

Despite loaded with mouth-watering features, the RS150R has one limitation. Given the actual engine capacity of 149.16cc, the bike only has a fuel tank load of 4.5-litre, which is less than the MSX 125cc that holds up to 5.7-litre, and enough to last a mileage of more than 200km as opposed to the RS150R, which gets you to nearly 180km mileage per full tank, given its higher capacity and power.

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The 20km+ difference will be felt more when you realize the nearest petrol station is 15km away but your bike only has enough to last another 10km or less. This doesn’t make the RS50R a petrol-guzzling beast, it is just the tank capacity is a little on the smaller size given it’s a vast list of features and performance to complement them. To be fair, as long as you are riding the RS150R within the city or from a small town to the next, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you are planning a long haul trip, you will face more stops for refueling at those towns along the routes particularly when riding at speeds above 120km/hr.

Overall impression of the RS150R is – it’s the best motorcycle available right now especially if you are looking for a compact, lightweight and easy-to-ride model below 200cc, with power and acceleration factors that are more agile and better than the dozens of kapchais out there.

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REVIEW: Riding the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R on twisty roads

24 Jun

It was nearly 5pm when I rode the new Ninja out of Kawasaki Malaysia’s office, and found myself joining the start of the evening rush hour traffic. “What perfect timing it was – a chance to verify if the 2016 ZX-10R is as good as its predecessor in navigating the congestion” – I thought. I made the decision to head towards Sungai Buloh town to gauge further how the Ninja would respond in that kind of situation. The 2015 bike had very little issue with filtering thru rush hour traffic, both in the city and suburbs. But the 2016 bike does have a minor problem with this, though. More on this minor issue later.

This is strictly a review on public roads. For my review of the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R at Sepang Cirucit, you can read it here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/philip-chong/riding-the-2016-ninja-zx-10r-at-sepang-circuit/1039750096072858

Me astride the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R powering along the start/finish straights of the newly-resurfaced asphalt of Sepang Circuit

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All the new features and improvements in the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R over the 2015 edition have been covered everywhere else on the Internet since the motorcycle was officially launched in October 8, 2015 by KRT’s (Kawasaki Racing Team) WorldSBK riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes in Barcelona. This review will just focus on how much of the benefits do those features translate into improvements in actual riding on public roads over its predecessor. Among the improvements of the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R is the slightly higher position of the rearview mirrors installed on the newly-designed full fairings, making it impossible to negotiate rush hour traffic as the new position would come into contact with rearview mirrors of stationary cars caught in the congestion. This is the “minor” issue mentioned earlier.

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The higher position is designed to enable the mirrors to be closed without hindering the steering ability of the bike as the older model’s lower angle would prevent full steering maneuvering when both sides of the mirrors are closed, blocking the path of the handlebars’ turning angles. The closing function of the rearview mirrors, available with most sportsbikes above 500cc, is to prevent them from being intrusive when the bike is parked at crowded parking bays but most riders nowadays would simply closed them to filter thru congested traffic.

As mentioned, on the older bike, the closed mirrors would prevent full movement of the steering angle but on the new Ninja ZX-10R, they are above the intrusive point but leaving them on default level makes it a hassle in lane splitting the bike during rush hour traffic. The alternative option is to close either one or both mirrors fully to cut thru the traffic but as the bike is quite new, it wasn’t that easy to do so while riding. The opportunity came when the Ninja bike and me were forced to remain idle for a few seconds, and that enabled me to close both mirrors and got the Ninja making its way thru once the traffic had resumed movement. The lower position of the mirrors on the 2015 Ninja allows it to cut thru traffic easily as neither side would grace the mirrors of idle vehicles caught in a congestion except for cars like Perodua Kancil and Kelisa models.

Having cleared the rush hour traffic, I was able to accelerate the ZX-10R out of the congested area towards the main road leading to Sg Buloh town. But the idea of tackling the old twisty roads from the town which would take the bike and me to Rawang town and back was cancelled as it was getting late, and decided to ride the bike home after the first “pit-stop” in Sg Buloh town itself.

Below is the map of where I had started from “Stage 1” – the Petron station in Taman Sri Sendayan/Metropark

ZX-10R-Routes

Riding towards Kepong/Batu Caves via MRR2 expressway from Sg Buloh town was another opportunity to test the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R’s ability in conquering a different type of rush hour traffic, a slow moving variant that could stretch all the way till Ampang or Cheras but which most motorcycles particularly kapchais, scooters and 250cc models would have no problem navigating thru regardless of the situation. The 2015 ZX-10R had no issue either thanks to its lower positioned rearview mirrors. It was just perfect to find out if the 2016 version could accomplish similar navigation easily as compared to the trickier situation I was in earlier.

Fortunately, the entire MRR2 journey was a smooth flow for the Ninja ZX-10R as the traffic, although congested as usual between Setapak and Cheras sections, lane filtering wasn’t a problem as the gap in-between the slow-moving vehicles was wide enough for the bike to go thru easily, and its acceleration power also enabled it to overtake most kapchais and other slow moving motorcycles with ease whenever there’s a lull in the traffic formation.

Ninja ZX-10R-Parking

The following day, which was the period I spent riding the Ninja ZX-10R for over 308km distance with a fast thinning Bridgestone Battlax rear RS10 tyre (20% thread pattern left). The day started with a brief ride to the Glenmarie Industrial Zone area, from which I headed towards Elite Highway. Was toying with the idea of refueling the bike at the Caltex Elite station but decided against it as I would like to find out how many kilometres the bike would last since it was only filled up to 15 litres when I collected it from Kawasaki Malaysia. Like its predecessor, the new ZX-10R has a 17-litre tank. It had managed to do 191km when the low fuel warning lights up, and the nearest station, a Petron, along the routes I was taking is still 31km away!

Of course, there are other stations nearby but they are not located along the routes so I resumed my ride on the Ninja towards the direction of the intended fuel stop. Like its predecessor, there’s 4 litres remaining the moment the low fuel warning lights up, and the 2016 Ninja would only consume approximately 1.5 litre for the ride to the intended station, at faster speed, or just a litre if riding at economical mode, with 3 litres remaining. But I decided to give it a good run, knowing very well there should be 2 litres left by the time the Ninja reaches that petrol station. I was right, as 15 litres were enough to fill the tank to its brim!

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With fuel no longer a concern, it is time to experience what the new Ninja ZX-10R could do. One obvious difference of how fast the new bike reacts is the shorter time it took to complete Stage 1 (Petron Sendayan) of the route since leaving the petrol station, and arriving at Stage 3 (Rantau) within 11 minutes from Stage 2 (Siliau), reduced from the usual 16 minutes it took with the 2015 bike! From Stage 3 towards Stage 5 took another 20 minutes to complete as there were a few traffic lights junction in-between but the speed with which the new Ninja was able to negotiate the twisty bends within Stage 3 and 4 (Mambau) was remarkable as the suspension and engine responded precisely to what I wanted them to do. Riding from Stage 3 to 5 is a combination of 3rd to 5th gears, with 1st and 2nd only used to resume the ride on each interval.

Stage 5 was a bit complicated as it involves entering and exiting Seremban city towards Kuala Klawang/Jelebu area (Stage 6), with the occasional city traffic, indecisive motorists and a few more traffic light junctions. But the new ZX-10R handles everything that came its way with ease. In fact, the handling is so smooth and precise, it is even easier to ride than its smaller siblings such as the Ninja ZX-6R and Z800! Within 8 minutes, I was already out of the city and heading towards Kuala Klawang on Route B6, which took another 21 minutes to reach!

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The ride between Seremban and Kuala Klawang, it is obvious the ZX-10R is benefitting from the newer Showa suspension, electronics and RS10 tyres as the older model took nearly 29 minutes to complete the same distance a few months earlier, with weather being excellent and near zero traffic condition. After spending approximately 10 minutes finding the best angle for a photo session of the Ninja ZX-10R with the town’s fruits icons, the journey of Stage 7 began, which was to ride to Titi town, known for its sweet pineapple orchard, a distance of 8km away aka 5 minutes but actually took me close to 12 minutes due to some slow traffic.

At Titi, the ZX-10R was parked next to some murals in the town centre for some photos as memories of completing Stage 7 before resuming with Stage 8, which is the twisty road to Pekan Batu 14 Hulu Langat (end of Stage 9) in Selangor via Semenyih Dam (end of Stage 8). The twisty route took about 24 minutes to complete (till the Dam), just 5 minutes faster but the asphalt for this segment has been resurfaced with approximately 60% completed since the last time I rode thru it with the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R.

Below (top photo) is the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R parked at the same spot as the 2016 but photographed from the opposite angle as the murals were behind me. The bottom photo is of the 2016 Winter Edition Ninja ZX-10R.

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Stage 9 to Pekan Bt 14 Hulu Langat took just 12 minutes to complete, and the final sprint (Stage 10) to MRR2 via Jalan Kuari and Route B62 was another 14 minutes, thanks in part to a couple of traffic lights in-between after reaching Taman Putra in Cheras. Route B62 is an uphill twisty segment when riding from Hulu Langat town towards Cheras or Ampang area, but a downward cruise vice-versa.

The uphill sprint was fun to ride with the new Ninja ZX-10R, still set to S-KTRC Level 3 and mostly at 3rd/4th gear adventure as the asphalt is sometimes scattered with leaves, becoming greasy or damp due to mountain dew but the traction control was able to take care of the hassles of riding thru this segment despite the rear RS10 tyre was running thin for its thread pattern in the middle but still OK at both edges!

Reaching MRR2 means completion of Stage 10, and I would say the new Ninja ZX-10R finishes the journey with approximately 30 minutes faster than its predecessor. The overall time could be at least an hour better as certain segments along the routes were not conducive for faster cornering as the rear Battlax RS10 was already running thin with its thread pattern wear!

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REVIEW: Kawasaki Ninja 300

24 May

Ninja300_1

Other than the increase in engine capacity from 249cc to 296cc, there’s really not much difference between Kawasaki’s Ninja 300 twin-cylinder over its 250cc sibling. Both machines share the same chassis, full fairing, front/rear suspension, rims/wheels and tyres. Other than the engine capacity bump, the other differences are rather small, which range from the former comes equipped with ABS and smoother acceleration towards top speed – both features which the latter either is lacking or struggling to achieve.

The Ninja 250/300 series and their cousins, the Kawasaki Z250/Z300 twin-cylinder bikes are virtually the same design, apart from the engine capacity and horsepower boost. Going by these specifications, their performances should be the same, right?

Ninja300_2

Uh, not really.

Acceleration-wise and reaching the top speed, both the 300cc bikes are of course much faster than their respective 250cc siblings. But where performance is concerned between the Ninja 300 and Z300, there are some differences, which only the experienced rider could feel.

The Z300 is easier to ride and more agile than the Ninja 300. This may come as a surprise as normally, a full fairing version handles better than its naked counterpart but that is not the case here. The Z300 gets up to 185km/h quite easily, the Ninja 300 could not – the closest it recorded was 173km/h on the straights! Other than a mild buzz and slight vibration on the Z300, there’s no wind resistance encountered when getting it towards the top speed.

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But tried doing the same with the Ninja 300, it seems reluctant to hit faster speed as the Z300. 165km/h was its “top” before it gradually reaches 173km/h after a few minutes of straight road riding with the throttle fully open!

Another oddity between the pair is the Z300 seems to be good at negotiating twisty left-handers while the Ninja 3oo is best at tackling right-handers. This tendency is hard to fault, though as it could be my imagination that both bikes seem to be better than the other where left and right cornering are being done. Most Malaysian bikers will say it is easier to negotiate a left hander than the right as we drive/ride on the left, not the right.

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Z300_1

But for a person who have mastered both sides on cornering, this shouldn’t be the case with both bikes. I had overshot twice with both bikes while negotiating twisty old roads – left handers with the Ninja 300 and right-handers with the Z300. Overshot a corner means understeer technically but if that was the case, the fault should be evident with either side, not just one.

Suspension performance, whether front or rear, weren’t at fault other for the inability of both bikes to handle the corners. So I guess the guilty part should be with the default tyres both machines are fitted with – Thailand-made IRC Road Warrior type, which is standard item on all CKD bikes assembled there for Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha.

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When lane filtering during traffic congestion, the Ninja 300 is the better of the two as its narrower clip-on handlebars allowed it to clear the tighter situation than the wider option of the Z300.

Other than those differences between the pair, both the Ninja 300 and Z300 perform more or less the same in most situations including fuel consumption and braking ability, thanks to the ABS fitted to them.

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EOS 80D @ Malaysian Launch of the All-New Jaguar XF

26 Apr

Today the new EOS 80D was utilised for an actual assignment where its ability to capture news events was tested during the Malaysian launch of the all-new Jaguar XF sedan at EX8 located deep inside Subang’s Industrial Zone. Prior to this event, the EOS 80D had been used on two occasions where the coverage wasn’t an assignment but nevertheless, its ability were explored at those functions with ease.

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With the previous EOS DSLRs I had used, such as the EOS 700D, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS-1D X, all of which are great performers for events like this but lacking the ability to upload to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram immediately. This is where the EOS 80D comes in handy, having inherited a much improved, built-in Wi Fi feature first seen in its predecessor, the EOS 70D.

Within minutes of the unveiling on the all-new Jaguar XF, all I had to do was to enable the EOS 80D’s built-in Wi Fi function, as well as my smartphone’s own Wi Fi feature to enable the images captured by the former to be selected directly from the latter. I quickly selected 5 of the images, and uploaded them straight to Facebook.

Of course, the time spent on selecting the required images from the smartphone till the entire batch is uploaded to Facebook can’t be compared to the speed from direct uploading by the Android-based phone if they have been captured via the cellular device. But the final image quality captured by the EOS 80D after uploading is far more superior to what the smartphone is capable of – for one thing, the ability of the DSLR to use various types of EF lenses can be visually apparent in the captured images including a full frame Fisheye lens, which is not available from most phones unless it is an add-on digital effects.

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As for the all-new Jaguar XF, it is launched by Jaguar Land Rover Malaysia Sdn Bhd as part of the company’s continuous renewal of the Jaguar sedan range. The all-new XF is formed around Jaguar’s lightweight aluminium-intensive architecture, which sits between the recently launched XE and the top-of-the-range XJ, brings an unrivalled blend of design, dynamic capability, luxury and technology to the premium business car segment.

The XF’s dynamic, coupé-like design combines the outstanding proportions, elegant surfaces and perfect lines which define all Jaguar cars, with a longer wheelbase, more interior space and exceptionally low aerodynamic drag.

This photo below was made possible by raising the EOS 80D above the audience, and composed the scene via Live View from the camera’s swivel LCD screen. And unlike Live View from smartphone, the swivel LCD screen enabled me to compose this scene with the surrounding walls and projector screen to be parallel to the film plane instead of tilting backward.

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For the Malaysian market, the fully imported All-new XF is available in two variants – the XF Prestige and XF R-Sport.  They are priced from RM450,000 for the Prestige and RM460,000 for the R-Sport.  Prices include GST but exclude registration, road tax and insurance. For a premium ownership experience, every All-new XF comes with Jaguar Care, an exclusive programme that comprises a five-year warranty, five-year servicing and three-year roadside assistance.

Both available XF variants are powered by a 2.0-litre i4 turbocharged petrol engine with a maximum output of 240PS and 340NM of torque and matched to an 8-speed electronic automatic transmission with Jaguar Sequential Shift.

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The Prestige variant comes with distinctive features such as 17-inch Lightweight 15-spoke wheels, perforated leather seats, metal tread plates with Jaguar script and multi-function soft-grain leather steering wheel. True to its name, the XF R-Sport features a sport suspension, 18” Helix 10-spoke
wheels and R-Sport body kit, R-Sport branded multi-function soft-grain leather steering wheel and R-Sport branded metal tread plates.

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Both XF variants are equipped with technologically advanced features that befit its status as a premium business sedan.  These include JaguarDrive Control, Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS), Torque Vectoring and All Surface Progress Control (ASPC).

The latest XF uses Jaguar’s aluminium-intensive architecture to enable weight savings of up to 190kg lighter than its predecessor plus an increase in torsional stiffness of up to 28 per cent. It forms the foundation of the car’s impeccable ride, precise handling and superb dynamics.

The aluminium double wishbone design for the front suspension, widely considered as the best configuration for the front, is modelled closely on the F-Type’s for precise handling and steering response. Combined with Integral Link rear suspension and the near 50:50 weight distribution, the All-new XF is a joy to drive.

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REVIEW: Kawasaki Z300 Street Fighter

22 Apr

Z300-Me

Kawasaki Motors (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (KMSB) launched the Z250 Street Fighter, a naked sports for its Z-series line-up back in September 2013. The twin-cylinder proves to be popular with the motorcycling public, and sold very well. From June 2015 onwards, the company introduced the Street Fighter’s elder sibling, the Z300, together with its sports cousin, the Ninja 300, to the local market.

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Obviously, both the Z250 and Z300 look the same, appearance-wise, as both share the same design, chassis, fuel tank capacity, tyres/rim sizes, brakes and suspension. What’s not so obvious are hidden from general view, as in the difference of their respective engine capacity – 249cc vs. 296cc. With an increase of 47cc to the engine, the Z300 has the edge in performance, pumping out 39hp over the Z250’s 32hp.

The increase in horsepower thanks to the extra 47cc of engine capacity means the Z300 is easier to accelerate to its top speed of 185 km much faster than the Z250. The Z250 hits 155km/h easily but needs to remain at full throttle for quite a while to enable it to gradually reaches up to 165 and finally 170km/h and stays there.

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In the same circumstances, the Z300 gets up to speed much faster, reaching 169km/h without breaking a sweat, and from there it goes up to 180km/h without hesitation the moment you push the bike to its full throttle position. While the Z300 is proven to have a much better top speed than the Z250, there’s no immediate feeling of it been actually faster than the latter where acceleration from 0-100km is concerned.

In this aspect, both bikes felt the same in the acceleration stake, just that the Z300 pulls toward the 170km/h speed more willingly than the Z250, which struggles to reach higher than 155km/h for the same feat. As with the Z250, the Z300 suffers from the tendency of its rear tyre and default softer shock absorber setting that wobble the bike when travelling at 170km/h and above at high-speed corners.

This rear side’s wobbling tendency can be solved by setting the shock absorber to harder setting by two levels and change the standard front/rear Thailand-made IRC tyres to better quality ones, such as those from Bridgestone, Michelin or Duro. In terms of overall weight, the Z300 is only slightly heavier than the Z250, weighing in at 170 kg with ABS vs. the latter’s 168 kg, which is offered without ABS for Malaysia.

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The inclusion of ABS made for safer riding especially with the way Malaysians drive their vehicles and using the motorcycles in the country, as lane changing and exiting the T-junctions without warning seem to be a favourite pastime with those road users. The Z250 tends to lock its rear wheel during hard, emergency braking which in turn cause the rear to slide and should the front end locks up as well, the whole bike is in danger of skidding off the tarmac particularly if it is wet.

The ABS in the Z300 ensures this tendency of both the front/rear wheels locking up during such a situation is greatly reduced, and the bike stopping in a straight line and remains planted to the tarmac without any sign of skidding or wobbling in the process. Any wobbling or skidding effect will be felt if the default IRC tyres are in contact with wet patches in tiled pavement or flooring particularly the metallic speed humps on bike lanes and the white lines/arrows on the roads.

Again, this wobbling and skidding tendency can be solved permanently by switching to better quality tyres on the Z300. If you choose to wear out those IRC tyres before switching to better ones, do put this in mind when coming across those situations in the wet and of clueless drivers sharing the same road.

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Great as it is, the increase in engine capacity of 47cc for the Z300 over the Z250 means that holders of the B2 license wouldn’t be able to ride the former legally as the Malaysian traffic regulations require the rider to be in possession of having either B1 or Full B license to do so. For those who possess either one of the required license, then it is not an issue.

In terms of fuel consumption, the Z300 has a slight edge over the Z250 – I managed to achieve close to 400 km distance of mileage on nearly 17 litres of RON95 fuel as compared to 380 km on the Z250.

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REVIEW: 2016 Kawasaki ER-6N

19 Apr

Kawasaki’s popular ER-6N made its reputation in the country by being one of the most reliable workhorses around as an affordable larger capacity motorcycle. If you ask most of the Malaysian motorcyclists (from 2006 onwards) what is the model of their first motorcycle after “graduating” from the likes of kapchai (moped) and 250cc types, their answer is surely the ER-6N!

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The ER-6N was the first affordable larger capacity motorcycle offered in Malaysia for the 21st Century. Previously, the mantle was carried by Boon Siew Honda and Hong Leong Yamaha in the 90s with their short-lived Shadow 600T and Virago 535 respectively at a time when cruisers were more popular than sportsbikes and naked sports. But the ER-6N, being a parallel twin 649cc, liquid-cooled naked sports bike, changed the course of the local motorcycling scene, which the Honda and Yamaha failed to entice.

For 2016, the ER-6N’s specifications remain the same as its last upgraded version back in 2011 but is now available in a new colour scheme – glossy black with grayish white. And the great news for Malaysian riders that have been eyeing the ER-6N for quite some time, the latest version comes with two goodies thrown in – 3-year Unlimited Mileage Warranty and upgraded OEM tyres from the previous Dunlop Sportmax D222 to the grippy Dunlop Sportmax D214 version!

All Kawasaki motorcycles imported or locally assembled in Malaysia come with a 2-year, 20,000 km limited warranty, whichever comes first but the 2016 ER-6N is the first for the manufacturer to be offered with an unlimited mileage warranty for its first three years of purchase date to the buyer. This bodes well for the ER-6N especially for the motorcyclists who used the bike as a daily commuting transport, which could raked up the standard 20,000 km limited warranty mileage within 10 months or earlier!

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By giving potential buyers of ER-6N an unlimited mileage warranty within the first 3 years of ownership, this shows that Kawasaki Malaysia has the utmost confidence of the model’s reliability in this aspect as a hardcore rider could clocked a distance close to 100,000 km within the said warranty period!

Having an unlimited mileage is one thing but how much difference does the switch to Dunlop’s Sportmax D214 tyres affects the handling and performance of the ER-6N? 

Quite a lot, actually.

One of the most common feedback by those who rode the earlier versions of the ER-6N could testify that outright handling is one of the issues that prevented them for riding faster than they wished. Of course, tyres are not the only aspect that affects a bike’s handling as suspension settings, chassis and swingarm stiffness also play a part. While the rear absorber unit can be altered up to 5 steps for harder suspension feel, the front forks are non-adjustable at all.

Also, the ER-6N uses a tube-type chassis and thinner swingarm than those available on the Vulcan S 650 and Versys 650, both of which featured the same 649cc parallel twin engine but retuned differently than the naked sports bike. Personally, I have always like the grunt and torque of the ER-6N even during the older days when it was fitted with the Sportmax D222 tyres. I have very little preference for bikes with ultra-friendly rider-ability, preferring bikes with massive grunt and enough torque to outgun rival makes when powering out of the corners!

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Inline four 600cc/650cc motorcycles may have smoother powerband than a parallel twin, which made them much more responsive and rider-friendly but this tendency also requires them to be higher revving to get similar torque when powering out of the corners than a twin-cylinder engine. With the Sportmax D214 fitted to the 2016 edition of the ER-6N, getting the bike into and out of the corners felt much more planted, allowing me to sometimes drift the rear tyre for more traction to get the most performance out of the combo.

With the Sportmax D222, the rear sometimes feel like its floating when speed is up to 145 km/h entering/exiting out of the corners but with the D214, the ER-6N could do the feat at up to 175 km/h without feeling any tendency from the rear tyre to give way nor slipping from traction. It’s really that good with the Sportmax D214 tyres! 

In other words, the D214 tyres also solved one of the major handling woes of the ER-6N, enabling the bike to be rode like a genuine naked sports, tackling the corners at higher speed with last minute braking and sliding the rear tyre if required, and still clear the bend without the machine slipping or understeer. 

In the one week of having the ER-6N (this review is standard, not long term), I have managed to give the rear Sportmax D214 a great workout but still not able to lean the bike to use up the edges of the tyre. There’s still half an inch of the tyre’s edges oon both sides that have not been graced by the tarmac yet. The front tyre, while very planted with solid feel at the corners, has not reach the extreme edges when it comes to leaning the bike into and out of the corners yet.

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All the glorious performances of the Sportmax D214-equipped ER-6N are housed in the same overall appearance as the previous years as there have been no cosmetic changes for 2016 other than the colours. And the fuel tank capacity is left unchanged at 16-litre, which holds 4-litre as reserve once the final gauge bar started to blink rapidly. Fuel consumption is a respectable 340 km of mileage after 15.5-litre! 

With its new 2-year unlimited mileage warranty and fitted with the better grade Dunlop Sportmax D214, the ER-6N has been given a new life force to compete with the rest of the naked sports bikes in the 500 to 700cc class. At a price that’s quite reasonable too.

ER-6N-4

 
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2015 Ninja ZX-10R: Overall Verdict

15 Apr

Having approximately four months of riding the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, which focused mainly on using it as a daily commuter motorcycle as opposed to track day adventure, there’s only 1 way to sum up the feeling – EXCELLENT!

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Of course, great as it is, there’s no such thing as a perfect motorcycle from any brand, and the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R does have its share of limitations although the benefits it has do outpaced most of them. Basically, the 2015 edition is not much difference from the previous three versions of 2011-2014 models other than it featuring the 30th anniversary colour graphics of Kawasaki’s Ninja celebration plus the inclusion of the KIBS feature which was excluded from the earlier models for the Malaysian market.

Make no mistake, while the limitations are there, the 2011-2015 model year of the Ninja ZX-10R is the base machine that won the Japanese manufacturer the World Superbike Championship title twice in 2013 and 2015 by KRT riders Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea respectively, as well as finishing as a very close 1st-runner-up to Aprilia machines in 2012 and 2014, also by Sykes.

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Of course, the Ninja ZX-10R used by Sykes and Rea have been modified from the base version to become the powerhouse that clinched those WorldSBK titles, and those modifications have made their way to the successor model, which is the 2016 edition of the Ninja ZX-10R, first unveiled by both riders on October 8, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, where the Team KRT is based.

That said, with the 2016 edition having been announced, launched and officially on sale almost everywhere globally including here in Malaysia, does this overall verdict has any bearing on the 2011-2015 model year anymore?

There’s plenty, actually.

The new 2016 model costs more than its predecessor, and Kawasaki had sold a substantial number of the predecessor model everywhere, with hundreds more been homologated for used in various national superbike championships. Due to its high volumes sold from 2011 till the end of 2015, the older bike is also widely available as excellent used units and they are indeed a great buy for those wanting to upgrade from a 600cc but couldn’t afford to get a brand new, 2016 edition yet.

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Let it be made clear there are ways to solve whatever limitations there are of the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R, which requires the use of either Kawasaki’s own race kit parts or after market accessories for riders planning to take part in their national superbike championship. However, this long term review is done solely with the Ninja ZX-10R in its stock standard form, with no modifications whatsoever.

Which means, the bike is still fitted with the older Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 OEM rubber as the default tyres, with the not-so-great looking steel exhaust pipe to boot. The stock exhaust pipe gives out a smooth but flat note which won’t rattle the neighbours if one rides it home after a night’s out till the wee hours of the morning. All the other accessories that come standard with the bike remain, as none have been removed.

Yes, it is true most sportbike owners would immediately remove or installed new accessories on their newly-purchased machine to get that extra performance out of it, where the default items may not produce the desired results they were looking for. But that’s not the purpose of this long term review.

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This review is to experience what the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R could do in its stock standard form, and how to overcome most of the limitations merely by changing the settings, by way of the suspension and electronic aids. The performance of the electronic aids are also connected to the default exhaust pipe, which, if replaced by an after-market version, would surely negate the handling. This is one aspect which users of the 2011-2015 Ninja ZX-10R do not realise that many of the after-market pipes remove the bike’s S-KTRC ability in controlling the rear wheel’s traction.

Within the four months of riding the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R, there are indeed cases of coming across various motorcyclists who used after-market pipes on their bikes at the traffic light junctions. While those exhaust notes are crispy to the ear as opposed to the low audible, smoother type coming out from the Ninja’s stock pipe, there’s hardly any boost in actual performance in reality by bikes fitted with non-original pipes.

While I don’t actually race nor tease those bikers to a sprint challenge, once the lights turned green, the Ninja ZX-10R is able to go the distance far smoother and faster than all of those bikes combined – it was still on the limits of its 2nd gear when all the bikers had reached 3rd or 4th gear in their bid to outgun the Ninja. The Ninja won the sprint acceleration by two bikes’ length by the time the “chasers” had entered into the 6th!

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After that, it was time to shut the throttle and let those bikers on their way while I resumed my review bike ride towards its own destination. With the standard exhaust, it is possible to ride the Ninja ZX-10R in super slow speed – 40 km/h and below when encountering city traffic congestion in 1st or 2nd gear. With an after-market pipe, the bike needs to be high-revving to keep the engine running or it would just died, making commuting in the city a real hassle.

From the instruction manual, Kawasaki stated the following recommendations (Geez, who actually read manuals nowadays???) in using the S-KTRC function:

Level 1 – optimised for track day and winding road ride with the minimum intervention
Level 2 – optimised for winding roads and travelling with exceptional intervention
Level 3 – optimised for wet weather and slippery roads riding with full intervention

In addition to the 3-level S-KTRC, there’s also the 3-power mode levels, which can be used in conjunction with the traction control, giving the rider a choice of 9 separate settings. The standard setting is via S-KTRC Level 2 with Middle power mode, which would take the rider to anywhere he wanted to go, without the intervention making the bike feels slow.

S-KTRC Level 1 with Middle Power mode gives the Ninja ZX-10R more bites in negotiating roads with multiple S-Curves better, which may feel sluggish or somewhat unresponsive if it is set to the standard option.

S-KTRC Level 1 with Low Power mode makes the Ninja easier to ride in the city during traffic congestion and passing thru smaller towns. As mentioned earlier, Kawasaki recommends S-KTRC Level 3 when the tarmac is either wet or slippery (from morning dew or overnight moisture). Combining it with Low Power mode gives the Ninja the best handling when riding on the wet, with the default Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 tyres.

If you are more adventurous or daring, then S-KTRC Level 2 with either Middle or Low Power mode gives more excitement for riding in the wet roads after a shower or a thunderstorm had passed – the exceptional electronics intervention still allows the Ninja a bit of leeway to slide or drift the rear tyre but still preventing the bike from any possible slip if the lean angle and speed combo are deemed too excessive.

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Full Power mode is best enjoyed with the S-KTRC set to Level 1 instead of 2 or 3. This gives the Ninja the least intervention and allows me to get the best handling out of the bike when riding really fast on twisty roads and changing direction immediately without the bike’s tendency to hesitate due to TC interventions. You will feel a mild intervention if the S-KTRC is set to Level 2 while the bike’s handling can be a bit sluggish on Level 3 despite riding at Full Power mode.

However, it is still not as sluggish as riding the Ninja ZX-10R at its Middle or Low Power mode in conjunction with S-KTRC Level 2 and 3 if I go for the Full Power option.

Of course, nothing beats the traditional RHTC – Right Hand Throttle Control option. You can shut off all the electronics aids the Ninja ZX-10R has to offer except the KIBS and let your riding skill handles the rest. That means Full Power mode and S-KTRC to OFF. To ensure safety when the TC feature has been switched off, Kawasaki has designed a fail-safe function in the Ninja ZX-10R where the S-KTRC will reset itself to Level 1 whenever the bike’s ignition has been switched off and restarted again.

Since the long term review for the Ninja ZX-10R has been to ascertain its effectiveness as a daily commuting sportsbike, the fuel consumption pattern is considered to be excellent for a 1,000cc machine. I was able to achieve a constant mileage of above 260km per tank load of 17 litres of fuel. The highest mileage ever recorded was 312km, with 0.3 litre of fuel remaining in the tank. The bike’s Eco fuel consumption mode is possible up to 145 km/h when cruising on 6th gear!

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As such, the Ninja ZX-10R is averaging a consumption of between 16 and 18 km per litre when cruising at speeds of 135-145km. The number increased to approximately 20 km per litre when riding on the highway within the speed limit of 110 km/h. For riding within the 110 km/h, give or take 105km/h or 115km/h, I was able to ride the Ninja ZX-10R up till 260km of distance when its low fuel warning lights up, on the highway. It was filled up at the Awan Besar RnR off Kesas Highway prior to the journey up to Penang via the PLUS Highway. At the 260km distance, it was right up at the Bukit Gantang RnR near Changkat Jering! Whenever the low fuel warning lights up, there’s approximately 4 litres remaining.

The Ninja ZX-10R is tuned to work with fuel having a minimum octane of RON95, and for most of the entire time the bike was under review, it was filled with this octane grade fuel. Occasionally, I had the Ninja ZX-10R filled up with RON97 fuel to smoothen the power delivery, and to prevent engine knocking, which does occur at times when using RON95 fuel. I had the Ninja ZX-10R filled up once with the new RON100 Blaze fuel from Petron, and the power delivery was much smoother than what RON97 could do, and it even made the fuel consumption to be more efficient as compared to RON95!

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For a motorcycle designed as a contender for WorldSBK honours, the Ninja ZX-10R is surprisingly slim to navigate thru the city traffic via lane filtering. As a comparison with the other bikes in Kawasaki’s line-up such as the Versys 650, Z800, Z1000, Ninja ZX-636R and Ninja 1000 would encounter minor congestion by getting stuck in-between vehicles temporary due to their wider handlebars and the width of the rear-view mirrors, the Ninja ZX-10R could whizz pass the traffic with ease as its side mirrors are positioned much lower than the rest, even lower level than those of cars, with the exception of Perodua’s Kelisa and Kancil models.

At a glance, the Ninja ZX-10R does look intimidating especially its huge fuel tank design, which carries 17-litre of fuel. However, despite its huge appearance, only 40% of the tank actually holds the fuel capacity, with the balance hiding the Ninja’s huge air boxes/filters underneath. Once you start the engine and actually riding it, any intimidating feeling of the bike quickly disappears from the mind as you realise how agile it is in tackling the corners and cutting thru the city traffic.

While it is slim enough to bypass the city traffic quickly, there are times where the Ninja ZX-10R won’t be able to get out of tighter situations, such as entering a basement parking for motorcycles at most shopping malls and office buildings in the city as these are designed mainly for mopeds and scooters of 150cc and below. I could ride the Ninja into those parking lots easily and park it there very early in the morning. It only becomes complicated when you need to leave the place in the afternoon or a few hours later as the area would be packed full of those smaller capacity bikes, making riding the ZX-10R out of its parking lot a very tedious affair.

But this sort of hassle will only be encountered if the Ninja ZX-10R is used as a daily commuting motorcycle instead of a track day or weekend ride machine.

After having the 2015 Ninja ZX-10R motorcycle with me for four months to do this review, what do I think of it overall?

One word – Excellent.

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Of course, as mentioned in the review, there were some limitations, which could be solved just by altering the suspension and electronic aids settings to get the right feeling with the bike, and actual owners of this model could resort to changing the default OEM tyres to better quality rubbers such as the Bridgestone Battlax RS10 or the latest Battlax Hypersport S21 and Pirelli’s Super Corsa for the added grip.

This long term test is based on stock standard applications as supplied by Kawasaki for media review, with no modifications whatsoever other than altering the basic settings to more optimum levels. Further limitations which cannot be solved with the 2011-2015 editions of the Ninja ZX-10R in stock standard form have already been sorted fully by Kawasaki in the form of the latest, 2016 edition of this motorcycle.

 
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Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 fitted on CBR1000RR SP & 2016 Ninja ZX-10R

18 Mar

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Prior to getting on the bikes at Yas Marina F1 Circuit in Abu Dhabi, I had studied the layout of the track via the various maps and photos available online. But those are merely 2-dimensional version of what the track actually is. The reality is, the circuit is built for Formula 1 and other 4-wheel action than it is for motorcycle – this is the reason why both MotoGP and WorldSBK are not being raced here but at the Losail circuit in Qatar.

The Yas Marina F1 Circuit has 14 turns that are L-shaped in design – great for cars to navigate thru successfully with the 4 wheels fully planted but for bikes, that’s pretty much intimidating, to say the least.

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I guess that’s the reason why Bridgestone Europe has chosen the Yas Marina for the introduction of the new Battlax Hypersport S21 tyre – the afore-mentioned Losail track was used by MotoGP teams for their final 2016 pre-season test sessions for the same dates the Japanese tyre company held its launch in Abu Dhabi. The other tracks throughout Europe were still in their winter period of the Northern Hemisphere – while it is not everyday you see these circuits covered in snow or ice forming in some parts, the risks are just too high for Bridgestone to have the introduction of the S1 on them.

With 35 motorcycles to choose from, I had settled on the CBR1000RR SP as the first machine to test the Hypersport S21 on. The Honda came factory fitted with OEM Pirelli Super Corsa tyres for the consumer market as opposed to the standard type which is fitted with Battlax S20 EVO so it is interesting to see how well the SP model would fare on the new Bridgestone S21 tyres.

The new Hypersport S21 replaces the four-year-old S20 EVO. The new S21 now sits a step below Bridgestone’s track tyres – the RS10 and RS10R, and aims to give similar levels of dry-weather grip and acceleration performance but with longer mileage, which the Japanese company claims to have increased by a whopping 36%!

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The Hypersport S21 is primarily a road tyre that can handle the odd wet-weather day so the Bridgestone engineers have created a tread pattern they claim offers greater stability over the outgoing S20 EVO type with a better seat-to-land ratio. The new tyre’s grooves have been repositioned on the carcass so as to give more tire on the ground at maximum lean angle, thus aiding stability on braking and acceleration.

However, you can ignore the finer thread pattern found in-between the standard ones as these are merely cosmetic, which has no bearing on the actual performance of the S21. According to Bridgestone, it would take a rider just a few laps on the track to get rid of them. That is indeed true – by the time I came into the pit at the end of my first 5 laps session onboard the CBR1000RR SP, the left sides of both front and rear tyres had already disappeared from view, leaving only the right sides intact.

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The Yas Marina F1 Circuit has more left-handers than right ones so it is not a surprise that every rider utilised the left side of the S21 tyres for more grip than the right sections. And the right-handers are mostly slow corners where the riders hardly shredded them in the process of negotiating the turns and bends.

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Bridgestone has attempted to maintain the wet-weather capabilities of the old S20EVO and doesn’t claim any major breakthrough in this area. The majority of concern regarding the tread design was based around improving the mileage and dry-weather performance. However, the entire duration of the 10-day test sessions (each day with different region of media riders), there was no rain at the circuit, so we will have to wait for the S21 to be available back home to gauge Bridgestone’s claims on the wet-weather ability.

Bridgestone has used their standard three-layer compound (3LC) with high-stiffness bead fillers in the front S21, with a harder center construction to aid that massive claim of an extra 36% gain in mileage. The front tyre’s crown is slightly smaller compared to the S20EVO with the shoulders also a touch lower. This is aimed at increased turn rate and side-to-side agility, while still remaining stable when cranked over. Again, more tyre on the ground equals more traction.

As for the rear tyre, it’s the opposite of the front in that it now features a larger crown for increased stability under acceleration. Bridgestone is claiming the rear S21 tyre has 30% less slip in the contact area than the older S20 EVO, enabling the former tyre to lap two seconds faster than the latter at the Sugo test facility in Japan.

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The rear tyre is made up of five separate compounds with the stiffer construction again in the center, but the softer compounds in the shoulders of both the front and rear tires are all-new, proving a larger micro-contact patch that aids turn-in speed and greater mid-corner stability.

The CBR1000RR SP is a very easy motorcycle to handle at the circuit, without all the electronics save for the ABS feature. As such, the moment I got on the bike, the first lap was spent following the group leader to understand the layout of the circuit before he let us all to our own to experience what the new S21 could do. I spent the next 3 laps circling the Yas Marina F1 Circuit as fast as I could with the CBR1000RR SP fitted with the Bridgestone Battlax S21. Where previously I could feel the tendency of both the S20 EVO and BT-016 to slip on entering the corners quite fast, on the Hypersport S21, there was none or very little feel of such tendency.

The final lap prior to pitting in to mark the end of the first session, I rode the Honda on its cruising mode to get a feel of public road riding with the S21 – the rest of the riders in Group B had by then quite far ahead of me by the time I shut the throttle to let them overtook me at the end of lap 4 so I had the track pretty much to myself and finished the session as the last few riders to enter the pits. And the performance is superb with the S21 as I was able to run a much tighter line on the corners.

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The second session was accomplished on the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The Ninja is fitted with the Battlax RS10 as its OEM tyres but as it is the newest model among the bikes offered by Bridgestone, I have yet to sample it with the stickier tyre. It is my first ride with the new Ninja and it is already fitted with the Hypersport S21 for the 2nd session.

The 2011-2015 editions of the Ninja ZX-10R has certain limitations where agility is concerned on twisty public roads but a force to be reckoned with when used on the race track. Still, the massive improvements Team Green has made on the 2016 model means the bike could corner and navigate all the bends and slow corners of the Yas Marina F1 Circuit as easy and fast as the superbly agile and nimble CBR1000RR SP.

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How much of that is due to the new Hypersport S21 fitted to the Ninja is open to debate as I have never rode this bike previously anywhere, not even in Malaysia yet. Before I rode the Ninja into the track, I had noticed its electronics aids have all been set to “Race” mode – which means the minimal intervention except for the cornering ABS. The acceleration of slow turns is much better with the Ninja than the CBR SP, which in turn allowed me to go for deeper cornering whenever a bend came up but I made sure not to overdo it at some of the L-shaped turns particularly the 4-in-a-row left-right combo handers from Turn 16 to 19. Turn 16 is quite fast but Turn 17 is hard braking zone while Turn 18 and 19, the Ninja/S21 combo allowed me to just open the throttle and take the both corners with ease.

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Just as the CBR SP, I had reserved the 5th lap of my 2nd session on the Ninja ZX-10R on cruising mode to gauge the performance of the Hypersport S21 on less brutal riding. Again, the feeling and handling of the S21 tyres are superb on the Ninja.

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So the question is: How does the new Battlax Hypersport S21 holds up as compared to its predecessor, Battlax S20 EVO? Stay tuned for the next article when the S21 undergoes further test rides on more bikes such as the CBR600RR, 1299 Panigale S and BMW S1000RR.

 
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