Besides photography, another interest that I have is motorcycles. I have been riding since 1996 when I got my first motorcycle license. Here in Singapore, we have a 3 tier motorcycle license system, starting with Class 2B, which allow riders to legally ride motorcycles up to 200cc, followed by Class 2A, allowing riders to ride anything up to 400cc and Class 2 which allows one to ride a motorcycle of any engine capacity.
I clearly remembered the first time I went out shopping for a motorcycle. At that time, being a young man still serving National Service, I do not have much money to buy a motorcycle. I remembered that my budget was about $1,800 and I have no intention to borrow money from my parents or get a loan from a motorcycle shop. The reason was simple. I felt that buying a motorcycle was something that was not a necessity and hence my parents should not have the obligation to support my interest.
I calculated the average running costs of a typical Class 2B 4 stroke motorcycle and felt that the low running costs involved justified the purchase. The time saved in commuting would offset any little increase in transport costs over using the public transport.
So off I went looking for a cheap, reliable commuter motorcycle to full fill my needs.
During that time, the hottest motorcycles under 200cc were the 2 stroke Yamahas. Older folks reading this blog might recall the TZR125. That was the desire of all young motorcyclists then. The “phat phat phat” of the (often illegally modified) exhaust, the way it shot out at the stop lights and overtake any other 2B bikes then was cause of envy among us young men. In fact, as I understand, modified TZR125s have been known to reach 160-180kph though they do not last very long at that state of tune.
Well, being the sensible person that I was, I steered clear of any hot looking sportsbikes simply because I know that I won’t be able to afford one like that. At that time, these TZRs were going for around $3.5K at least.
Anyway, I went looking for some motorcycles and my dad joined me in the search. I saw a Honda Raider that I liked. It was a 10 year old bike, but was ridden by an older gentleman and seemed to be in good condition. The asking price was about $1,500 and I was happy to buy it.
However, my dad told me and kinda pushed me to look at better bikes like the TZR. I told him that I can’t afford one, but he said to just try one and see. So off we went to see one.
Well, I test rode one and was smitten. After riding a sportsbike, I realised that I just gotta get a sportsbike. All my sensible plans were thrown out the window after testing that TZR125.
The problem was the funds. I cannot afford a TZR125 with $1,800.
On one of our visits to a motorcycle shop, we saw a very nice looking sportsbike. It had a 150cc 4 stroke V Twin engine, wide (for a 2B bike) tyres, triple disc brakes and looked stunning! I asked the boss how much and he said $1,500. I couldn’t believe it! This machine was the Yamaha FZR150. Wow…It looked like a proper sportsbike and looked like its doing 180 kph standing still. This one even had a custom paint job that looked stunning.
As I stood transfixed by this sight, my dad, with words of approval (he knew lots about cars, but not much about bikes) finally convinced me to purchase this bike. Being a newbie in the motorcycle scene, it never occurred to me why this seemingly stunning motorcycle was selling at a steep discount to the cheapest TZR125. After I bought it, I realised why. It was a joke of a motorcycle.
Firstly, it was heavy. The 150cc engine didn’t produce much power. And the fastest it could go was 120kph. On top of that it was an unrealiable machine. The engine leaked everywhere and the battery always run flat resulting in push starts all the time. Not only that, the brakes were down right dangerous. In the wet, there was just no bite from the brakes.
My good friend, who was also looking for a motorcycle saw mine and also bought the same model. We were 2 stupid fellas. Mine needed an engine overhaul after 6 months and his bike’s engine seized up not long after. It was a pathetic machine. The only thing that was a plus was its very economical fuel consumption. Maybe mine was a particularly bad example, but I don’t think so. As I found out later, this bike did not have a good reputation at all.
In the end, once I got my Class 2A license, I sold it for $500 and never looked back. It was simply THE WORST motorcycle that I ever owned. Period.
However, the damage done was greater. Due to my dad’s encouragement to try the TZR, my heart was set on the sportsbikes route and my subsequent motorcycles were all sportsbikes. It was not only until the recent past before I came back full circle back to my original purpose of riding a motorcycle – as a cheap and convenient transportation. So dad, all the wasted money, days fretting over the GSXRs, FZRs and ZXRs were the direct consequence of your encouragement “to test ride the TZR”. Hahaha…