Sunday, 22 September 2013

2013 Honda 'Airblade'

I watch motorbike releases in Malaysia quite closely, especially those in the somewhat ubiquitous 100-125cc range.  This one though slipped under my radar and I'm glad that my relatively frequent visits to the Boon Siew Honda site have picked it up.

The bike pictured above is the 2013 'Airblade'.  For those who don't know the Airblade has been a fantastically popular bike in Malaysia's neighbouring countries, especially Viet Nam and Thailand (where it is extremely popular with expats who, generally being somewhat taller and heavier than many Thai nationals, find some of the other popular bikes there too small).

The 2013 Airblade sports several technological innovations that really do make this bike stand out, including:
  • 125cc engine
  • Honda's famed PGM-FI (fuel injection)
  • Integrated ACG system (smooth, friction reduced starting - more fuel efficient)
  • Engine 'Idle Stop' (the excellent fuel saving innovation previously seen only on the top-range PCX)
  • Combination braking (pulling just one brake level applies both front and back brakes in correct proportion)
  • Remote key bike location (pressing this will sound the horn and flash the lights allowing you to quickly locate YOUR bike amongst what can often be hundreds of parked bikes)
  • Side stand engine cut-off (engine only starts if side stand is up)
  • Twin projector headlights
Honda's excellent PCX 150

I have always been a fan of Honda's top end scooter, the PCX (see here), and if my riding involved regular longer distances I would go for the PCX without doubt due to the great handling and greater long-distance comfort. One problem for me though is that I'm tall (6'03") and I do find that this pushes me quite a way back on the PCX's seat.  Being so far back from the handlebars in a slightly low, cruiser-style, riding position makes bikes a little less manoeuvrable FOR ME in the heavy traffic I often encounter where I ride in both Penang and Thailand.  Being a long-term bike rider, in such circumstances you will often use your hips and body weight to 'flip' the bike from side to side when manoeuvring between lanes in stationary traffic, easier to do if the riding position is more upright (e.g. you'd not get much success trying this on a Harley 'Fatboy').  No doubt though, I and many others consider the PCX to be the best scoot money can buy, especially if your riding includes longer distance commutes, and I'd recommend it without any hesitation whatsoever.

Honda Click 125i
However, for heavily congested town traffic and in light of my ride position concerns, I actually find in Thailand that I prefer Honda's equally superb new Click 125i and it's my small 'scoot' of choice for riding in busy town traffic there. The Click 125i is not available in Malaysia though (or at least not yet) and previously I held off getting a PCX for the reasons given above. The release of the new Airblade though changes all that AND also deals with three other 'issues' that I have with the Click.

Firstly, the Click has a 'floorboard' (traditional scooter) style configuration whereas the Airblade has the step-through 'underbone' layout.  The construction type does affect the weight distribution particularly in terms of the placement of the engine and fuel tank.  I have personally always preferred the latter in terms of handling and stability, possibly as a result of being a long-time 'big bike' rider, as a result of which I've become more familiar with the more traditional bike layout (step-through).  Secondly, the Click also has a single rear shock-absorber vs the Airblade's twin rear shocks which I personally favour more in terms of both durability and comfort for long term use.  With the size and weight of many Thai nationals, even two-up, the single shock on the Click is likely pose no problem at all, increase the weight though, either by way of rider/passenger and/or loads and I'd always go for twin shocks if at all possible.  Finally, tubeless tyres are 'standard fit' on the Airblade, this is a definite plus point as those used to frequent punctures on the small tyres fitted to scooters will vouch for.  As can be seen the Airblade addresses all of these concerns and for me would be the better prospect for purchase even if the Click was available in Malaysia.  The only thing I find slightly off-putting with the Airblade is the fuel-tank capacity which is just 4 litres.  Hopefully the bike will have good enough fuel economy to make visits to the gas station less frequent than one might expect (even the Click 125i has a 5.5 litre tank!).

Honda Airblade in 'Pearl Metalloid White'
Available in three striking colour schemes the 2013 Airblade is a great bike and at RM 7,700, given the bike's features and technological innovation, is competitively priced IMO and of course there is the comfort of knowing that the bike is a Honda. The Airblade is yet another very welcome addition to the bikes available in Malaysia and IMO one which will make the decision between a PCX or an Airblade a much tougher one. You can take a closer look at the Airblade and download the brochure here, or better still, visit your local authorised Honda dealer and see the bike for yourself!

NB: See here for more coverage of the Honda Airblade and an on the road review.

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