When living a while in one location, you establish a base, from where you can travel to other places. What mode of transport you prefer, is up to you, in Asia’s equatorial weather, for me the best way to get around is by motorcycle.
Driving 20.000 km around Bali and surrounding islands over the last 2 years, I used a Honda Vario 110ccm CBS, which was a great way to use as my day-2-day vehicle. So when Honda came out with the 2012 model, I naturally had to take a closer look. Here is what I think about that bike after using it for 1 month and app. 1.000 kilometer:
Indonesia – a biker’s paradise
Indonesia is a vast country, consisting of more than 15.000 islands with diverse natural settings; mountains, hills, beach, curvy slopes, ride paddies with quite a modern road infrastructure, compared to other, less developed Asian countries.
I prefer riding an automatic Scooter here, which offers the best ‘bang for the buck’, while still having sufficient performance to master, what nature throws at you. Also your feet are protected from spray water and you have lots of storage space and a hook, to transport at least 4-5 full Carrefour plastic bags all in all. And who needs manual gear shifting in this day and age?
You can rent or buy scooter motorcycles here from Yamaha (Mio, Nouvo), Suzuki (Skywave) or Honda (Beat, Vario), which offer more or less the same features and compete in their respective categories. Of course, there are higher powered bikes available as well, which usually come with manual gears and more ccm, like Yamaha Byson and Vixion, Honda Tiger or to a lesser extend, street- and offroad Kawasakis. Some chinese copies (Minerva) thrown in and you are quite spoilt for choice, if you are not too tall and of ‘normal’ size.
Why I chose Honda
My previous Vario didn’t give me any troubles over the last 2 years, except that I didn’t like its CBS (combi-brake-system), which basically automatically breaks 70% the rear and 30% the front wheel, when pulling the left break handle. While this is definitely an advantage for lazy drivers on smooth roads, on gravel, slippery and sandy surfaces that could lead to disaster. I had a few instances, where the front wheel was breaking out on me and one incident, where I slid off road when breaking in a dark rainy night, thankfully nothing serious happened.
I rode before some rented Yamaha Mio and Nouvo, but for me they always felt more like toys, undermotorized and with inferior build quality compared to the more sturdy Honda Beat or Vario. My friend Micha road a Suzuki Skywave while visiting here for 10 days and while it had nice acceleration, the plastic feel of it didn’t tempt me too much. Suzuki also doesn’t have the wide dealer and support network, especially on smaller islands. Kymco pulled out of Indonesia a couple of years ago and while there are still bikes sold under this brand, the service and maintenance situation remains unclear at this point.
So I went with Honda again, couldn’t go wrong, as any mechanic in the smallest garage in Indonesia can service and help you, when anything is wrong with your bike.
The newest model Honda Vario Techno 125cc PGM-F1 Matic, which was advertised since January 2012, has the following advantages over the old model:
125ccm instead of 110ccm
While the jump to 125ccm doesn’t seem much, the new Vario definitely reaches higher end speeds. My previous one maxed out at around 80 km/h or maybe 90 km/h, when driving down a hill with the wind coming from the back. This new one can go 90 km/h easily, on straights reaching 100 km/h with 2 people and my feeling is, that I didn’t even reach the max speed yet. Definitely a plus when riding longer distances on long, empty roads.
Acceleration seems to be unchanged, at least I didn’t notice any improvements here, but no decrease either. If at all, there is a slight kick, when accelerating faster than 20 km/h, speeds below seem to work with lower revolutions (rpm), maybe to save gasoline when driving in city traffic. But the speed and power is there, you just have to turn the acceleration handle at will. Nice!
This was my biggest gripe with the previous model, the small tank, which could only hold around 3.5 liters was the reason for a relative short range of about 75-90 km with one tank-filling.
The new one can hold more gasoline (5.5 liters) and that combined with the new ‘esp system’ (which means ‘enhanced smart power’ in Honda Jargon) makes for an almost doubled range of 150-160 km. I’m definitely happy with that!
The seat is a bit wider this time, because the room underneath was expanded as well. That has 2 advantages, you can ride longer distances without getting ‘bum pain’ and finally even lock your helmet in the space under the seat (a feature that other scooters had quite a while already), thus avoiding direct exposure to rain and dust for your helmet or even to thieves (who love to just cut off the helm bands) when parking it somewhere. The previous pins to attach 2 helmets under the seat are still there, although moved more to the middle, making it a bit more fiddly to attach them there.
Longer Service Intervals
Honda seems to be quite confident with the new Vario engine. The service manual now asks for you to do regular service checkups every 4.000 kilometers. The first should be done when you reach 1.000km (previously 500km), then next at 2.000km (previously 1.000), then 4.000km and every additional 4.000km only. Alone for warranty reasons this is great, as you have to visit a garage less often to maintain your initial warranty in the first years of owning the bike.
Those are the main improvements, rather gimmicky is the new digital odometer and gasoline gauge, at least the latter doesn’t seem to be very accurate. The former could be a concession against manipulation of km numbers, but I don’t know for sure, if the new odometer isn’t manipulated just as easily.
Also the headlights can’t be switched off anymore (the switch is missing), probably to enforce Indonesia’s new traffic laws, that bikes have to drive with headlights on even during the day. Not a big problem for me, though. The switch to dip the headlights further is still there, though.
The side mirrors have a more rombus shape now, which makes for smaller mirror area and better design. Definitely a plus for young Indonesians who seem to despise rear mirrors (who even drive without mirrors in the small kampungs and areas with less police presence). For me, it’s a big minus, as I love to overtake and knowing – what’s going on behind me by checking my mirrors is therefore essential. Call it different mindset, but hey, something’s got to give, right?
Another new gimmick is the seat/saddle release to access the tank and under-seat storage – it now can be opened with the press of a button next to the ignition, which makes for less fiddling to find the saddle keyhole in a dark night. Also saves you from bending over too often, when opening the saddle storage, which is quite convenient.
The sound of the horn changed as well, sounds more deep and full now, but the sound might have less range at higher speeds, not sure about that yet.
The overall build quality of the Vario seems to be a bit less top notch than the previous model, some gap dimensions are bigger than necessary (like the seat/saddle, where it’s almost possible to reach under with your hand, even when closed properly). Or the seat cover has some hollow space under it, let’s see how long that will last. The board where you park your feet also has a more plastic feel and even creaks, when stepping too hard on it.
- 125ccm, higher end speed with similar acceleration
- Bigger/wider seat, more space for storage and helmet
- Bigger tank, making for higher range and less stops at Pertamina
- Longer service intervals during warranty period, make for less spent time at the garage
- Digital Odometer/Fuel Gauge, Snap Release for opening under-seat storage seem rather positive
- New free helmet and rain jacket as a goodie, when you purchase a new Honda bike, unchanged but still welcomed
- Build/assembling quality slightly decreased, but nothing to cry foul about
- Smaller mirrors
- Lack of headlight switch (maybe a point for someone, who wants to escape some corruptors in the dark)
Overall, the new 2012 Honda Vario model with 125ccm is a great overhaul compared to the old one. The useful improvements outweigh the disadvantages by miles. I’m the happiest biker with my new ride and can’t wait to go on another 1-week long drive around Lombok within the next couple of weeks.
What do you think? Worth buying? What to you drive in Indonesia and why?
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