Touring on a 150cc: My Love Affair with Smaller Motorcycles
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Motorcycles have been my ally since I was a 14-year-old kid. I remember the summer of 2010 when just out of sheer curiosity, I asked a milkman to teach me how to ride a motorcycle. I would sneak out with my father’s Suzuki 2 stroke Max 100 bike and go to the milkman’s dairy where he used to teach me how to ride it.
This continued for 4 days and on the 5th day, I took out the bike and kick-started it to life, but that day I didn’t go to the milkman, instead, I chose to go towards the open road. Call it my first motorcycle tour. After tackling a few busy lanes, I could see the open road in front of me, there was no vehicle in my sight and I started going faster and faster.
The wind was slapping me in the face and making my t-shirt collar flutter, the air was cool and it looked like it would rain anytime, but I was enjoying every bit of that liberating moment. I believe that it was that very moment which sparked a love affair between me and motorcycles. I became passionate about motorcycles after that and wanted to become a professional racer in India. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Today, it’s been 8 years since my first encounter with a motorcycle, but I still get a goofy smile on my face when I am zipping through the city on one, even if it’s a 150cc like mine.
What It’s Like to Tour on a 150cc Motorcycle
I live in India and I ride a Yamaha FZ16, which is a 150cc naked street motorcycle.
To most people, touring on a 150cc motorcycle may sound challenging, energy sucking and uncomfortable, and I won’t disagree with you all.
If you are about to do a long ride on a 150cc, you’ve got to be prepared. And by prepared, I mean prepared to take the discomfort caused by lack of torque and slowness. That’s what I tell myself whenever I ride for the capital city of India, Delhi, which is approximately 500 km (300 mi) from my hometown, Jhansi. If you’re not ready for this, you might want to consider a better bike for touring.
To me, touring on my more austere bike is just more exciting. In the past three years, I’ve gained a lot of experience while traveling on my motorcycle and I am used to stares of disbelief when I say I have ridden this motorcycle to the Hills of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
To be honest, whenever I am supposed to go to another city or town, the first thing that pops into my head is “Can I take my motorcycle there?”
Preparing For the Ride
I have ridden extensively in the past three years. From winding curvy roads on the hills to doing long highway runs, I have done it all. Nothing of which would have been possible if I didn’t keep my machine properly maintained.
I learned the art of motorcycle maintenance online, there are plenty of guides available on motorcycle maintenance for beginners which can be really helpful. And you can also try a guided motorcycle tour where more experienced riders can help you in case of malfunctioning.
Apart from getting my motorcycle properly serviced before the trip, I keep a few essential things with me which I think everyone should carry while touring on a motorcycle. Here’s what I recommend to always bring with you:
- Chain lube
A well-lubed chain is very important when you are riding distances, especially on a small motorcycle like mine. I keep a Motul Chain spray with me all the time. I use it to lube the chain after every 300 km which prevents it from breaking or any other damage (breaking the chain is my #1 concern when I’m touring).
- First aid kit
My first aid kit is a really small one but packs all the things that can be really useful in case of a mishap. A few bandages, a pack of cotton, a disinfectant, scissors and an antifungal gel. Far too many people have been lost to the road and it’s only right to keep such precautionary things with you.
- Extra luggage ropes
Luggage ropes can help you with a lot of things on the journey. My naked street motorcycle doesn't have a rack for panniers and I have to tie my luggage on the pillion seat. Therefore, I always carry two extra luggage ropes for emergency situations.
- A pocket knife and a toolkit
It’s always good to carry something for your self-defense and I always have a pocket knife with me. While riding at night or riding in areas which are completely isolated and wild, the pocket knife and the toolkit make me feel confident.
- Engine oil
I always carry engine oil with me when I am heading to the hilly areas. This because the oil indicator on my motorcycle normally shows a drop in the oil level at high altitudes.
The Good and Bad about Touring on a Small Motorcycle
Let me begin with the goods bits. There’s a good reason why there are plenty of motorcycle tours on scooters or Vespas. Here are a few things which I feel are an advantage of touring on a small motorcycle:
- Spend less in case of a breakdown. That’s the best thing about touring on small motorcycles. In case something breaks down, you’ll have to spend less to repair it.
- Fuel Economy is out of the world. Small motorcycle = More Mileage (my FZ gives me 55 kmpl/34 miles per liter)
- Easy to maneuver. My motorcycle weights 137 kg, which makes it easier for me to flick it around in traffic.
- Fix small problems yourself. To be able to fix small problems yourself, you need to know a little about your motorcycle. Some basic things like tuning the carburetor, adjusting the brakes, changing the clutch wire/throttle wire, etc. are easier to do on a small motorcycle.
That said, I have to admit it’s not all beer and skittles. Here are the bad bits of touring on a smaller motorcycle:
- It feels slow. Yes, that’s the biggest discomfort while touring on a 150cc, it feels slow, especially while there is an open highway ahead of you where you could probably go at really high speeds but you are limited to a top speed of 105 kph (65 mph). The slowness can feel torturing sometimes, especially when it’s a really hot day.
- Saddle Sore. After riding for long distances, I feel very sore in the saddle. I have long legs and I feel cramped after 2-3 hours of riding. This also leads to more halts on the journey. Generally, I try to ride 70 km (43 mi) before taking a halt, but the stops become more frequent by the end of the day because of fatigue.
- Wind Blast. Windblast is where half of the fatigue comes from. Especially on the head, hands and legs. For this reason, I installed an old windscreen which protects my chest from the incoming wind.
The joy of Touring
We all go on motorcycle tours because it gives us fulfillment, it gives us new experiences and makes us storytellers. For me, whenever I start a journey, I think about the scenic places I’m going to see, the unexplored places I’m going to pass through, etc. The idea here is to trick my mind to look at the bright side of the trip and gain momentum for tackling anything that may lay ahead.
Going to faraway places on two wheels makes me really excited and happy. I’ve cherished a lot of moments while on the road and that’s what drives me to carry on my moto-expeditions, despite having a small motorcycle.
I’ve talked to countless people while touring. I ’ve heard their stories and told them mine. That’s part of the reason why I love going to different places. It makes me feel like leaving my hermitage and returning to the world to share the pain and joy.
“When passion’s a prison, you can't break free” said Jon Bon Jovi in one of his songs. That’s true in my case, I am passionate about traveling on motorcycles and I can’t break free from it.
I look forward to exploring more places in the future and testing the mettle of all types of motorcycles. I urge you to ride safe and stay true to your passions. Maybe we’ll meet in our next motorcycle adventure.