why do I enjoy thousand kilometers of motorcycle touring
I was never a fan of motorcycle. However I had been an active bicycle users from when I was in elementary school until college. When I was in high school (class XI), my father offered me to use his motorcycle to go to school. This was it:
It was a Honda GL-125, 125cc single cylinder four strokes, which of course at that time I didn’t care at all about specifications. What I felt: It was big, it was heavy, and difficult to start (kick starter). I never had intention to ride it even once. (Now I actually wish it was my first bike)
Hearing my concerns, my father was willing to exchange his bike into something smaller — everything for my sake, and I am grateful he did. So he exchanged it with:
Well this time is smaller indeed, a 80cc 3 speeds moped honda bike, Astrea-800. I was intrigued to learn how to ride motorcycle and finally I used it to go back forth to my high school (distance was around 15km one trip). It was not the best bike. My father’s previous bike was totally maintained, unlike that one, which is older and had many issues. I experienced broke down on the road couple of times. But in other hand, during good days, I stroke over flood just fine.
The bike has special memories to me. After I graduated from high school, I traveled to certain place (quite far, outside my small town) to enter university tests. I had to stay few nights there. When I came back, the bike was gone 😆 not because it got stolen. But my father sold it to pay our house mortgage that was due. My father lost his job when I was in junior high school, and since then he had just been doing any odd jobs: part time driver, help building somebody’s house, mechanics — basically any job he was willing to do, to keep the smoke coming out from our kitchen, and of course to pay my school fees. It was a tough, tough time. Every time near end of the term, I never got my test permit directly because I hadn’t paid the tuition.
I was so sad losing the bike. But knowing that I got accepted in one of very reputable university in Indonesia, I took my heart forward. During college I worked at campus as lab assistant and as lecturer’s assistant. It was enough to pay rent near campus and for daily foods, so I didn’t have to burden my parents more. I took the bicycle with me, the same that I had been using since elementary school, as primary transportation mode from flat to campus back forth. As for the tuition fee, i was lucky to had private chat with the vice dean, and I received loan 0% interest from the university — I only need to pay them in installments after I got job. And I did. I also did several commercial projects as programmer and able to buy cellphone, and finally a PC of my own that was very crucial for me to finish my undergraduate thesis.
My professor at campus offered me career path to become lecturer and continue my study abroad. However I could not accept that offer. Remember that my father doesn’t have job at home? Right — I was ready to enter professional world, and I was hoping to be the backbone for my family.
My luck did not stop there — after graduated in 2004, I immediately was accepted to work as software engineer in a multi national company : Siemens. The salary was not the best, but it was enough for our daily needs. I missed riding own motorcycle so badly. Four years at campus only using bicycle and public transportation. Then with my new job I was able to buy with 24 months installments, a second hand motorcycle:
An 110 cc, four strokes, semi-automatic clutch Suzuki Shogun R. That one surely an upgrade from my 80cc honda cup. It felt nice. After two years, in 2006 the installment completed, and I had budget to buy brand new bike, with another 18x installments of course 😆
THIS! was a very cool mopped sports bike, Shogun SP 125cc. It had sporty muffler, sporty wheel and fully manual clutch, just like real sports bike. It even had cool striping and had convenient storage to put my rain coat!
First time I learned how to ride manual clutch motorcycle. It felt amazing. It still does today. I can manually control how smooth or how aggressive my riding style is. All the uncomfortable hiccup while riding semi-automatic shogun R, was gone.
In 2007, I got married 💌. The bikes, I left at home to be used by my brother and my father for their daily needs. While I took another installments for the same bike, Shogun SP. This time, blue one. Looks pretty good huh ?
And I still own it today 😙 My wife has been using it for her needs. Oh yes I surely taught her how to ride manual clutch bike. It is a feat that rarely owned by women, because manual bike is more difficult to use — and the engine is easy to die if you don’t handle the clutch properly.
Q: if your wife used that, then what do you use?
We have been using it together until around 2008/09, I decided to step up my ride. I need a faster bike. I was looking for a affordable, speedy bike at that time. And I finally found this:
Two stroke, 120cc Suzuki Satria with custom color. Wait — the engine capacity is smaller you said, from 125cc goes down to 120cc ?
It is — but it is also a two-stroke bike, which means the machine power is almost doubled from similar size of four stroke. In two stroke engine, the piston only needs to move twice, to produce power. While in four stroke engine, it needs 4 times. This is why two stroke engine produces power bigger and faster. What’s the cons then? It is smokey — because in two stroke, the oil enters the combustion chamber and is burnt together with fuel and air. The burnt oil is causing smoke. The other cons : sound pollution 😅 the muffler sound is very noisy compared to 4-stroke.
After using Satria for around two years, in 2011 I felt the bike was not quick enough for my taste. I needed MORE POWERFUL and FASTER one. Because I was happy with two stroke, I didn’t look other but another 2-stroke bike. The only option was this bike:
Super beautiful 150cc 2-stroke Kawasaki Ninja RR. Some said with correct modification it could go to 180KM/hour. To buy that bike I was actually a bit pushy. I didn’t have enough money so I had to lend money from my friend :( — I bought it from direct user and he only accepted cash.
This bike was a beast. Try pulling the gas and you will be pulled by a demon. My back felt a bit hurt several times because of its sudden power change from low to high rev.
Because it was not new, the bike was not perfect. And in order to make it “better”, “faster”, and have more “torque”, I did a lot of modifications to the bike.
- changed gear ratio
- porting/ polished the engine
- custom muffler
- custom air filter
- tried many racing carburators
The more I did modification, the slower I felt as the result. Perhaps I am not talented to become mechanic 😅 Also the more I use the bike, the more I get used to it. The surprising high speed I felt before, became normal. Also one thing I noticed from 2-stroke bike is: IT HAS SMALLER TORQUE than 4-stroke, although it has higher horse power at high RPM.
The small torque in low RPM is actually a bad message to me. I am not always riding the bike like a racer. Most of the times I am just a good law abiding citizen who drives less than 60KM/h. But in low RPM it does not have power. In Ninja RR I had to pull the gas until it is above 7000 RPM then it will show the true power. The modifications that I did was actually trying to get good power in both low and high RPM. I even visited the best mechanic for two-stroke and tried his bike — IT WAS D*MN TIMID in low rev.
I learned it the hard way. When people modified the engine with porting, it enlarges the output capacity for the muffler, from the default size. And it has reverse proportion with the torque.
- If output chamber size is small — you get big torque (low end) and small horse power (high end)
- If output chamber size is big — you get low torque (low end) and big horse power (high end)
There is no way to get both. Have to choose one. For racing use, of course 2nd option — nobody revs low during the race. But for daily use?
The low end torque is the final limitation with 2-stroke. It gets heavier if you try to take passenger behind you. More weight. Conclusion: it does not suit me, I had to change back to use 4-stroke motorcycle.
In 2013 I was assigned to work in Phillipines, and I took my family with. While being there, I sold my Ninja RR online (with help of my father at home), and purchased different bike — also online (requested help from my friend to buy the bike and deliver it to my house in Indonesia). I had a feeling that I had to buy this bike.
me: “honey, look how good this motorcyle is” (showing the picture)
my wife: “…. is that,…. our living room ?”
my wife: “you meant you already purchased the bike?”
me: “I… yes ?”
my wife: “#!@#!!!@”
^^^^ real story
Introducing — a Four stroke Honda CBR 300. Actually it is bored-up version of 250cc. As comparison, the horse power of standard Ninja RR on dyno meter: ~28HP. My CBR had 36hp. Now speaking torque, Ninja RR: 21Nm, my CBR: 27Nm. And good news, it is four stroke. It has full torque in every RPM from low to high. Very torquey, very fast. Even if I took passenger with me, I didn’t feel significant power decrement.
It was perfect right?
Except for one thing. It has custom engine, which requires custom muffler. Custom muffler means, it is impossible to sound quiet. In indonesia we have traffic law that, muffler sounds must not be loud. And my CBR was very loud. I was not able to to drive the bike outside of city. There are many police officers out there waiting to bust me out.
What’s the point of perfect but I can’t use it for touring far away?
In 2014 I was assigned to work in Madrid, Spain. There I saw many people riding big bikes — motorcycle with large engine size, i.e. 600cc above. That made me think a lot. I am tired with all of this modifications and everything. I just want a bike, powerful, quiet. I can’t get all of them, except, if I upgraded the engine size. I need a powerful bike that is strong by default without me doing anything.
Introducing 4-stroke parallel twin Kawasaki Ninja 650 that I bought 2nd hand from somebody who said, this bike was too big and too heavy for him. Yet he was like 20cm taller than me and weighed perhaps 50KGs more.
First time seeing the bike. I was shocked. It felt so big. I had cold feet and was thinking perhaps I don’t want this bike. But I committed my heart. Next day I took home the bike with me, and it felt — no word can describe it. It was the best riding experience I ever had. So comfortable, so fun!
Before purchasing this bike, I had been watching many articles and also reviews on Youtube. It has all the features I need.
- if Ninja RR was a beast, then this one is a monster, well distributed power from low to high RPM
- riding position is very relaxed, unlike common sports bike
- seat is not too high, I can still have my feet on ground (if using boots)
- sturdy, but not too heavy
- affordable price (I had been saving for a while) compared to other sport bikes that can be twice the price
- fuel economic (I reached 1L:29KM once, compared to other sport bike around 1:14)
- easy maintenance
- never gets overheat if you are trapped in traffic jam
- does not need fuel with octane higher than 92
If you are looking for good looking bike, there are many other prettier and looks sportier. If you are looking for fastest bike, there are many that are faster. But if you look for all in best bike? None other than ER6/ Ninja 650.
I have been traveling ~20,000 KMs in total with this bike to many places in Java. My longest trip was perhaps 2000KM back forth. Unlike other smaller bike, Ninja 650 is very comfortable for long trip. It does not vibrate a lot on hand grip, especially during high speed. Traveling 100KM/hour only needs 4800RPM, and the bike can still go up to 11000 RPM (~200KM/h) easily. It also goes 0 to 100KM/h in 4.5 seconds. The speedometer is very accurate, comparable to GPS speed. If it says 90KM/h then you would see 100KM/h from common cars speedometer.
Q: Do you want to upgrade to other bike?
Perhaps yes, if I can afford. Better bike than this has 3–4 times the price, that I am not sure I want to spend, knowing this one is already perfect for me.
Q: Are you saying your love to sports bike is because you are after speed?
I need powerful bike that can bring me uphills easily and can easily outtake any other vehicle if needed. I never reached top speed with Ninja 650 and most of the times I ride 60KM/h. Why I love motorcycle so much is perhaps I didn’t get access to it for so many years, unlike my friends, who easily owned motorcycle, bought by their father during college. If I see it correctly, those who owned motorcycle during high school and college, they don’t really get attached to it.
Q: what was your longest trip duration in one day?
I departed from home at 6am, going for a trip back forth around 450KM, including meals and rest, arrived home at 12am midnight. And my body was OK, no ill whatsoever. It was easy journey. If you have the correct bike.
Q: And your furthest distance in one day?
I departed from Madiun 6am, and arrived at home around 9pm same day, total ~650KM.
Q: what do you love most during touring?
Touring is about the journey. Not about destination. I am okay traveling anywhere as long as it has no traffic jam, and it is not cold (I am not good with cold area). I enjoyed every gas I pulled and every KM I traveled on top of my bike.
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Thank you for reading, and I hope we can ride together someday 🍻