The Looking Glass Magazine

Best Motorbike--Yamaha Nouvo Elegance
by Jack Corbett

picture of Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135

 

Currently, on May 4th, 2009 the Yamaha 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegance is the finest motorbike-motorcycle one can have for Pattaya, Thailand driving conditions.  Pattaya is where I live, and I don't want a bike to tour Thailand on.  If I did I'd want something else and I might choose another mount if I lived near Krabi or somewhere else in Thailand.  But here for daily use in Pattaya the 135 c.c. water cooled Nouvo is king, and I'm going to tell you why in the Looking Glass, which will give you a better and much more detailed explaination than you are going to get anywhere else. 

The Best motorbike is the one that best meets the driving conditions you are going to Encounter

While driving in Pattaya, anywhere else in Thailand or for that matter anywhere in the world the most important thing is to keep alive.  Let me say this again in a slightly different way just in case you forget.   Pattaya is full of brain dead people running the red lights, driving on side walks, going the wrong way down one way streets.  In countries such as the U.S. where driving is considered a privilege and not a right these morons would lose their licenses within 24 hours if they were ever able to get them in the first place.  Drive a motorbike too fast in Pattaya when suddenly someone pulls right in front of you from a side street and you are going to either die or get seriously injured.  I don't care how good your brakes are, how good of a driver you are, how great your reflexes are, when that fool puts his motorbike four feet in front of your front tire, there's nothing that's going to save you.  Sure, I'd love to have a cool looking fast 650 c.c. machine (in the U.S. I was running a 1000 c.c. BMW) but it's human nature that when you have all that terrific speed waiting to be unleashed on two wheels, sooner or later you are going to want to use it, just to feel that rush of adrenaline.  Every now and then I'll be telling myself, "the traffic's not half bad, I'm taking this baby up to 8000 rpms in the first three gears.  I want to feel that acceleration."  Suddenly I'm hitting 60 or 70 miles an hour and then the unexpected happens.  A brain dead Thai who always got away with driving any which way he wants to drive, who never had to answer to the police suddenly pulls out of a side street without looking.  I see him driving right at me driving the wrong way and he's only ten feet in front of me.    I'll be either dead or  wind up in a wheel chair for the rest of my life. 

You are going to want enough power but not too much.  A 125 c.c. Wave or the old air cooled 115 c.c. Nouvo's got enough power for Pattaya, but the 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegance has 11.2 horsepower to the air cooled 115 c.c. model's 8.9--good for a 25 % increase in power.  Either one is up to the job.  The new 135 c.c. model just feels so much better doing it.  So let's now move onto the second consideration for staying alive and out of the wheel chair while negotiating Pattaya's traffic or traffic conditions similar to what one finds in Pattaya.  And that's driving a machine that is so easy to drive that one can devote one's full attention to avoiding all the idiots around you.  Even if you are sold on a manual transmission, when you have to worry about shifting you cannot possibly be quite as focused on the drivers around you.  So it's no contest between the automatics and manual transmission bikes. 

The third aspect is roadworthiness.  The smaller bikes such as the Yamaha Fino, Yamaha Mio and Honda Clicks are not even in the same league as the Yamaha Nouvo and the Honda Air Blade.   These two machines are more costly than their smaller siblings but well worth it.  All three of these smaller machines use a single shock to the Air Blade's or the Nouvo's twin shock absorbers.  And speaking for myself, I've had a big guy sitting behind me with my girlfriend sandwiched between us, not often, but when this happens I am not going to want just a single shock absorber taking on all that additional weight.  Also, these three smaller bikes simply do not begin to measure up to their larger brothers when it comes to tire size.  The Air Blade's front tire is 80 millimeters wide while its back tire is 90 millimeters in width.  Honda's smaller Click's tires look puny compared to the Air Blade's.  The Nouvo has a taller wheel than Honda's Air Blade at 16 inches to the Honda's 14 but both its front and rear tire are not quite as wide at 70 mm and 80 mm.  The Air Blade's tires at 14 inches won't quite have the straight line stability as the Nouvo's 16 inch tires due to their being able to employ more centrifical force but the relatively wide tires give it other advantages so when comparing the two it's like comparing apples to oranges.  However, both the Yamaha 135 c.c. Spark which has a manual transmission and Honda's Air Blade have skinny tires.  Both bikes use tires that are just 60 mm wide in the front and 70 in the back.  Now you might be telling yourself right now that this is no big deal, but the fact is, these manual transmission bikes are simply outclassed by the Nouvo and the Air Blade when it comes to roadworthiness.

Both the Yamaha Spark and the Honda Wave are further outclassed in roadworthiness when you consider that neither of these machines have under the seat storage compartments such as the Honda Air Blade and Yamaha Nouvo have.  So what you wind up with is a basket sitting on the front of the machine right over your front tire.  That puts a lot of additional weight right over the front wheel especially when you put things in the basket.  Sure you will get used to it, but the bottom line is the handling of any bike with a basket on its front is going to be complete crap.  But both the Air Blade and the Nouvo let you put things right under the seat in the exact center of the bike right underneath your ass, thus giving you a perfect 50-50 weight distribution.  And that my friends is superior design. 

Now many of you are going to be claiming that the manual chain driven bikes such as the Honda Air Blade can be much more cheaply maintained than the belt driven automatic transmission bikes.  Well, I had my 115 c.c. Nouvo for three years and I never touched the transmission or any of its parts.  But when I used to drive chain driven bikes back in the U.S. I was constantly adjusting the chain.  Yamaha recommends a belt change every 20,000 kilometers while Honda recommends one every 24,000 kilometers.  in three years driving around Pattaya I put on just 13000 kilometers on my old air cooled Nouvo.  Belts are quite cheap at around 500 baht each.  And even if one replaced some other parts while one was replacing the belt and in a worse case scenario suppose I had replaced all these parts after three years and paid as much as $100, that's just $33.00 per year.  And I've been told that chains wear out more than twice as often as Yamaha's and Honda's drive belts. 

In three years driving my old Nouvo I think my biggest repair job was replacing a rear brake drum for 180 baht which was less than five bucks.  I put on a new set of tires even though the old ones were not worn out yet and that cost less than thirty dollars.  And I replaced one light bulb for the head lamp for around a hundred baht or so.  The machine was dead reliable, never leaving me stranded and it always started.  I never even had one flat tire with it.

Truth is, the best of these new automatics, both the Honda Air Blade and the Yamaha Nouvo represents the new state of the art, making the old manual transmission chain driven bikes of the past look like dinosaurs in comparison.  And you can't even get them in the U.S.  I'm sure that most Americans are not even aware that they exist.  That is, unless you consider such machines such as the 400 c.c. Yamaha Majesty or its 500 c.c. Trimax.  They are excellent machines--for the U.S.  But they employ two drive belts to the Air Blade and Nouvo's one and they cost around $7000.  Consider that both the Honda Air Blade and the Yamaha Nouvo will get the job done in Pattaya better than everything else and that they cost just $1500 and you will instantly see that cost differences between say a Yamaha Mio and a Yamaha Nouvo are so small as to be practically meaningless.  For that matter a 40,000 baht Wave versus a 52,000 baht Air Blade represents just 12,000 baht difference which amounts to just $333.00 and if you drive the bike for three years that's just $100 more for each year, part of which you are going to get back due to the larger machine's higher resale. 

What you are getting for that $1500 is a transportation device that can go 65 to 70 miles an hour, while delivering something like 100 miles to the gallon, with electric start and a kick starter just in case the electric start fails.  It's got enough under the seat storage for one or two grocery bags and it has a hook on the underside of the console in front of the seat upon which one can hang up to four more grocery bags.  It also has hooks behind and below the seat upon which one can easily attach bungee cords which one can use to strap all sorts of things.  For example, on many occasions I've even strapped a desktop computer behind me on the seat and taken it on my Nouvo for repairs.  Try that on a Harley and you will see what I'm getting at here.  These things are extremely practical, especially in Thailand where it's warm the year around and one can drive a motorcycle everyday. They are good to go right out of the box with no need to add on saddlebags, a front basket or unsightly luggage compartments that one bolts onto the rear of the bike.  They are dead reliable and the most easily driven two wheeled machines one can buy.  Lastly they are light weight and narrow which means one can easily slice in and out of all the cars and other bikes in bumper to bumper traffic jams.  Try that on a Harley or Harley look alike Cruiser.  You might be able to do it but there are going to be a lot of narrow spaces in the traffic you are going to be able to get through on that Air Blade or Nouvo that you aren't going to be able to squeeze through on a larger machine with wider handle bars.   The Yamaha Nouvo and the Honda Air Blade are the best machines you can buy for driving in Pattaya and places like it.   The only question is, which one's better?

Yamaha came out with its Nouvo and Mio automatics a couple of years before Honda woke up to the fact that Yamaha had claimed for itself a significant share of the Asian small motorbike market.  So Honda introduced its "newer and better" liquid cooled Click and Air Blade automatics while claiming that its Air Blade was the quickest automatic in the 125 c.c. class.  That's simply not true.  I've raced my old air-cooled 115 c.c. Nouvo against an Air Blade several times up to 50 kilometers per hour or so and found the acceleration to be about the same.  However, once I reached 50, the Nouvo would start to edge past the Air Blade.  Being shorter coupled than the Nouvo the Air Blade looks more like a traditional motorcycle and its fatter smaller diameter tires complete the image.  Having the longer wheel base, the Nouvo no doubt rides a little better than the Air Blade and it definitely wants to track in straight lines whereas the Air Blade keeps asking its driver to play Boy Racer and to turn, turn, turn.  Now don't get me wrong, the Air Blade feels very stable, but it's definitely a much quicker turning machine.  It's not that the Nouvo isn't an agile bike, it's just that the driver needs to concentrate more to get the most out of it.  Choosing between the two is a complete tossup depending upon what the buyer prefers.  The Air Blade because of its liquid cooled engine is quieter.  It has better brakes.  It's not quite as fast on the top end.  The Nouvo feels larger, therefore it might appeal more to large Western drivers.  The liquid cooled engine might last longer.  But I believe this is a moot point because the average owner of either one is going to have to drive his bike for many years before either engine is going to wear out. 

But the newest line of 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegances simply aces everything out there, including the 115 c.c. air cooled Yamaha Nouvo MX which Yamaha is still offering.  In my opinion when Yamaha introduced its first series of 135 c.c. Elegance bikes, it really flubbed it when it came to its color schemes, but for that matter so had Honda when it first came out with its first Air Blade and Click automatics.  For instance Yamaha put red colored rear springs on a bike that was black and silver.  This is from the same company that at the same time was putting color coordinated air valve covers on its Mios so that a red Mio had a little red colored valve cover on its tires.   And its dressing up its Mios to look like the old Italian Vespas along with the name change to Fino was a marketing masterstroke resulting in a gorgeous little scooter.  So I knew it was only a matter of time when Yamaha would introduce a new lineup of Nouvo Elegance bikes that would correct its blunder.  Which Yamaha did, just as I expected.   What resulted were four new color schemes, each employing two-tone paint jobs that not only were visually very pleasing, but also acted to make the bikes appear less lengthy than they actually are.  What I am getting at here is how major Navies in the world have used paint to disguise their ships.  For example, the British during World War II might have painted a battleship in such a way that it actually appeared to be much smaller than it actually was so that the Germans might actually think it was a Cruiser and therefore much less lethal than a battleship.  Or the Germans painted a Cruiser that was accompanying its super battleship, the Bismarck, to appear as large as the Bismarck so that its British adversaries would mistake it for the Bismarck. 

Mechanically the old series of 135 c.c. Elegance and Yamaha's new lineup are the same.  When I got my new Elegance one thing I noticed is that it seemed to be much quicker steering than my old bike.  So I got a measuring tape out and found that the 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegance has its seat positioned 2 inches closer to the bike's front tire.  And not only that, Yamaha had also moved the machine's seat 2 inches higher than it had on its 115 c.c. MX models.  Being 2 inches higher up, the new seat enables the driver to get more leverage on the bike when he moves his butt around on the seat.  And by sitting 2 inches closer to the front wheel, the driver doesn't have to work very hard at getting the new Nouvo to turn.  The result is a Nouvo that handles much more like an Air Blade than the 115 c.c. Nouvo does while not giving up any of the advantages that come from having a longer wheel base such as a smoother ride and superior stability. 

And at 11.2 horsepower to the old Nouvo MX's 8.9 the new Nouvo Elegance comes to the road with a 25 % increase in power over its predecessor.  The new Elegance has much smoother brakes than the 115 c.c. model and it's every bit as quiet as the Honda Air Blade.  Overall it simply acts and performs like a bigger stronger brother to the Air Blade.  Recently Honda has started offering PGM-F1 fuel injection to both its Click and Air Blade automatics while claiming 15 % better fuel economy along with a significant level of increased performance.  Now I don't know how much more power the new fuel injection system gives the Air Blade if any.  But the Air Blade is only 110 cc's.  Which once again is ample for Pattaya driving conditions.  The Nouvo Elegance is 135 cc's and it actually does produce 25 % more horsepower than the old 115 c.c. air cooled models.  To sum all this up, the new 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegance is simply the finest motorbike-motorcycle for driving in and around Pattaya or anyplace like it.  It offers everything the Air Blade offers, quietness of its engine, superior brakes, quick turning and all around smoothness along with a longer wheel base and significantly more power.  The Air Blade would be my second choice as its a fine machine in its own right.  Its just that Yamaha was first on the market with the automatics and Honda's still having to play catch up. 

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