Honda 150 PCX versus 125 PCX Road Test

Is it worth it, trading your 125 Honda PCX for the newer and larger 150 model?

The 150 Honda PCX

Upgrading from 125 cc's to 150 really doesn't sound like a lot, especially when we already did an extensive test run between my Yamaha Nouvo 135 c.c. Elegance and Per's 125 c.c. Honda PCX and found the highway performance of the two bikes to be roughly equal.  But this time my upcoming motorbike review was not to be just for the readers of the Looking Glass magazine.  Peter, my loyal Norwegian friend, who inspired the main character for one of my novels, Welcome to the Fun House, the real Menace from the North, really wanted to know if the new 150 PCX was improved enough to justify his trading his 125 PCX in for the larger displacement machine.   Both of us agreed that we had to run the two PCX's against each other on the Thai motorway between Pattaya and Rayong for a round trip distance of 120 kilometers.  We'd run the two PCX's on a busy highway where we'd be eaten alive by faster moving car traffic while having to weave in and out to get around slower moving trucks.  Once again we'd take accurate measurements for gasoline mileage, and hopefully survive another outing among some of the world's worse drivers.  But before my getting into the actual road test itself I feel it's necessary to give a little background information.

Background for the hazardous driving conditions we'd soon encounter

First off, I'll admit to a little fear and trepidation that helped cause me to get only three hours of sleep before Peter and I would get up early the next morning to do our Pattaya to Rayong run.  I had just learned that a friend of mine had been severely injured on his motorbike only several days beforehand.  It was Marty who appears on the following You Tube video where I'm interviewing him on my first trip to Thailand about what makes Thailand women differ so much from Western women

Marty had been one of the leaders of the Man Tour which had taken Big Daddy, Hawkeye, Big John and me to Thailand nine years ago.  Marty had fallen in love with Thailand's people, the climate, and most of all the women, but not necessarily in that order.  After falling in love with a beautiful 24 year old Thai woman, he bought a part interest in the Pattaya Living Dolls Go Go bar, and moved to Pattaya full time.  From the time we first met Marty, who had also accompanied us to Cambodia,  I had only met up with him a few more times, but Big Daddy who owned a strip club in the U.S. maintained much closer connections with him--perhaps because the pair had a lot more in common with each other since both of them were bar owners who employed beautiful women to entertain their male clientele.  Three days prior to Peter and I doing our road test to Rayong and back, Big Daddy had posted onto our Lost Angels Chat Room that a tour bus had pulled directly in front of Marty's motorcycle and that Marty had been unable to take evasive action.  Marty's son riding behind him on the way to the Tiger Zoo was not severely injured while Marty had suffered from significant brain damage and had been given two months to live--tops.

In the eight years that I've now lived in Thailand, tour buses have become a huge problem.  First off, let me point out that not once, as in never ever have I ever seen anyone ever pulled over for a traffic offence that had been caused by negligent driving.  Sure....police stop motorbike and car drivers to check to see if they have their licenses and registration with them, if they are wearing their seat belts or motorcycle helmets.  Being guilty of such minor offenses are great revenue earning activities for government and police officers.  However--I'd say that half the Thai drivers I encounter here in Pattaya routinely drive through red traffic lights while it is equally routine for them to drive against the flow of traffic on one way lanes of traffic.  There is no enforcement of any traffic laws that require good safe driving habits.   In an environment where there is no enforcement of the rules, driving or even crossing the street as a pedestrian is very hazardous.   Among the number one offenders some of the absolute worse are the tour bus drivers. 

Two weeks ago, I drove out into an intersection after looking both ways to see if the coast was clear only have a tour bus suddenly accelerate past me from somewhere off behind me and to the right. The bus narrowly missed me, which scared the living hell out of me so I accelerated to something like 80 kilometers per hour so that I could stay way ahead of the idiot bus driver.  A kilometer ahead of me there was another light with a main road going off to the left that leads to Pratermak Hill.  I decided it would be prudent for me to slow down at this point, but my slowing down enabled the tour bus to shoot ahead of me.  The driver then turned left abruptly ahead of me and I was barely able to keep from rear ending him.  Then, one week later I was driving my Honda Civic down Sukamvit where once again I nearly collided again with another tour bus that had been zooming in and out of the traffic lanes as if it were a sports car.

The evening of the same day Big Daddy had told us about Marty's accident, I was on my way driving down Second Road on my motorbike to Greg's Kitchen when suddenly the traffic got so bottled up that I was completely unable to move forward.  The chief culprit was a tour bus that had taken up the entirety of the third traffic lane on the right.  This was near the Tiffany Center where they were dropping off their Chinese passengers  to see the Lady Boy Shows, and that meant there were several more tour buses immediately to the left of me trying to get down the remaining two traffic lanes.  Thinking of Marty and his tragic accident while realizing that I was only fifty meters from Drinking Street where Greg had his restaurant I decided that I'd take to the sidewalk.  Getting off my Nouvo Elegance, I first lifted its front end over the eight inch tall curb up to the sidewalk, then I moved the bike a foot of two forward so I could then lift up the rear of the bike over the curb.  I was now able to walk the bike down the sidewalk to Drinking Street and onto Greg's Kitchen.  Looking back as I passed the tour bus I saw that no one was in it.  There was no driver in the bus and the tourists, who were no doubt Chinese, were missing as well.   What had happened is the driver had decided to use a busy traffic lane for his own private parking zone.

There was not a single doubt in my mind as to what had caused Marty's accident.  In Western countries such as the U.S. I'd say that at least half these bus drivers would be immediately removed from the roads and have their licenses yanked.   But this is not the U.S. and it's not Germany or Australia either which makes the prospect of driving on highways used by fast moving traffic so scary. 

Comparisons between the PCX and the Yamaha Nouvo models

For the average driver who wants to get a good motorbike for getting around in Pattaya the absolute two top choices are the Honda PCX and the Yamaha Nouvo, either in its old 135 c.c. carbureted model form or its new fuel injected 125 c.c. incarnation.  I'm not going to go over old ground twice because I've already said a lot on this subject in past motorcycle reviews.  I'm also going to soon do a review on the Vespa like Yamaha Filano with its small diameter 12 inch diameter tires, and in this review I'll be going over this bike's good and bad points. Suffice it to say at this point that I recently bought a new Filano for my girlfriend and although I enjoy driving the bike a lot there is no way I can recommend it for someone who wants an all around motorbike to drive in a variety of conditions.  Neither can I recommend much larger bikes which invite their drivers to drive too fast considering all the brain dead people who clog the roads all around them.  A 650 Ninja might be a beautiful bike with the best brakes in the world and although it can be argued that its much heavier weight, anti lock brakes, great shocks and large tires enable its driver to stop much more quickly to avoid accidents, one oftentimes feels compelled to drive it much faster than he would a 125 c.c. scooter simply because it feels so much more competent at higher speeds. 

So what makes a Honda PCX one of the best bikes that one can buy for driving in such cities as Pattaya, and what makes the Yamaha Nouvo SX equally worthy of consideration?  Both are the best of the breed, but of the two the Yamaha Nouvo is the sports car whereas the PCX is the sure footed sports sedan that is capable of taking its driver and passenger to where they need to go both quickly and comfortably.  Since I've already written one article in which I compare the Nouvo Elegance to the PCX I'm only going to dwell here on how the two bikes are setup so differently from each other and how this make them drive so differently from each other.

Key Measurement differences between a
 Nouvo Elegance and the Honda PCX 150

Morning of May 6, 2013

After picking up my 150 Honda PCX rental from a German owned shop a half block up the street from me, I drove the PCX down to my condo building and got out a measuring tape.  The one thing I had noticed from driving a number of PCX's in the past was that the driving position was much farther rearward than it is on both the 135 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo Elegance and the new model 125 c.c. Nouvo SX.  This was not the first time I had used a tape measure so that I could compare the theoretical handling differences between to bikes.  In the past I had measured both the seat height of my old Nouvo 115 c.c. MX and its distance to the center of the front wheel and compared those distances to those of my new water cooled Yamaha 135 c.c. Elegance.  I found that the seat of the new Elegance was 2 inches higher off the ground than it was for the older model Yamaha Nouvo MX.  It was also 2 inches closer to the front wheel.

A few years ago I did a review of the Honda Air Blade which was at the time the flag ship of Honda's automatic scooters.  I had observed that the Air Blade seemed much more closely coupled than my Yamaha Nouvo and that it is  much more responsive turning from left to right.  I felt this was  due to the much longer wheel base of the Nouvo and Yamaha's use of 16 inch diameter tires which tend to give the Nouvo a sense of great straight ahead stability.  In my review I had mentioned that the Air Blade made me want to play boy racer---that is, to keep flicking the bike from left to right.

But when I upgraded my Nouvo MX and its 8.9 horsepower to the Yamaha Elegance's 11.2 horsepower 135 c.c. engine, I felt that the Elegance was far superior to both the Yamaha Nouvo MX and the Honda Air Blade.  That's when I decided to measure all those distances on the two bikes.  What most people fail to realize is that Yamaha was very clever when it designed its 135 c.c. Elegance.  By keeping the old bike's long wheelbase it was able to retain the directional stability of the Nouvo MX which was superior to the Air Blade due to its shorter wheel base.  But by bringing the driver's seating position 2 inches forward of where it had been Yamaha was putting the driver's center of gravity--that is his backside practically on top of the front wheel.  But Yamaha had gone ever further by raising the bike's seat height another 2 inches.   By doing so Yamaha was giving the bike's driver much more leverage.  That is when the driver shifts his weight, the shift is immediately felt through the tires of the bike.   And that is the secret why a Yamaha Nouvo Elegance feels so much a part of the driver.  The smallest steering inputs through slight shifts in one's body position are immediately transferred to the bike's mechanicals resulting in a bike that can instantly react to the commands of its driver.  And yet, the Nouvo Elegance is still able to track swiftly and securely straight down the road at speeds that will make the drivers of far lesser machines feel downright queasy. 

On the other hand the PCX is a completely different animal from its Nouvo Elegance and Nouvo SX counterparts.  For one thing it's going to weigh around 280 pounds whereas the two Yamaha Nouvo's in either its old model 135 c.c. Elegance form or fuel injected SX new model guise come in at a svelte 230 pounds.  That is a huge 50 pound weight advantage or disadvantage depending on how you want to view it.

My tape measure told me that the top of the PCX 150's seat measured 28.5 inches from the pavement whereas my Yamaha Elegance was 1.5 inches taller to the top of its seat.  Even more revealing is the fact that the very center of my Yamaha Elegance's front tire measured only 34 inches from the bottom of my ass while I sat on the bike.  For the PCX the distance was 39.5 inches for a walloping 5.5 inches difference between the two bikes. 

All of this means one thing.  If you are looking for a much quicker turning bike, one that seems to respond to your slightest touch, there is nothing like the Yamaha Nouvo Elegance and the newer fuel injected SX.  The Honda PCX feels downright sluggish in comparison and if you are looking for the reason why....well, now you know.  However, there is a price to be paid for all that responsiveness and that price was as clear to me as the nose on my face once Peter and I got the two PCX's on the road.


The Road Test

I started off driving the 150 PCX while Peter drove his 125 PCX.   Peter did point out to me that he had retrofitted his PCX with even larger tires than stock.  We filled up at the same gas pump while making sure that the attendant filled both bikes to the brim.  By the time we had gotten up a kilometer or two up Sukamvit I already knew that the new 150 PCX could take a straight line down the road with a feeling of significantly more composure than I ever had with my Nouvo Elegance.  Obviously the bike's weighing fifty pounds more had a lot to do with it.  But now I was trying to  to flick the bike rapidly from one side to the other.  It didn't.  But for that matter a Harley won't either.  Now it might seem to be inappropriate to be comparing a 700 pound Harley to a 280 pound Honda PCX but I can assure you that Honda had very deliberately toned down the riding dynamics of its PCX flagship.  The bike is deliberately designed to inspire a huge amount of security in its drivers so that they feel reasonably safe while driving in freeway traffic.  The difference between this 150 PCX and my Nouvo Elegance is huge.  It's like comparing a Mazda Miata roadster to a Cadillac.   With the Miata you feel the wind in your face and you can almost feel the irregularities of the road in your fingertips as you grasp the steering wheel. The sport scar weighs around 2400 pounds while the Cadillac weights over 4000.  This does not mean the Cadillac doesn't drive or handle well.  it just drives completely differently.  As for the driver of the sports car he might prefer driving a car that insulates him more from the road.  Both bikes are damned good at what they do, and what they do has been carefully planned by both Honda and Yamaha.

The bottom line question is, Is the 150 Honda PCX so much better than the 125 model that one should trade his old model for the new one?   The answer is yes. 

First off, the power difference is substantial.  Peter's 125 c.c. PCX could never manage more than 105 kph.   On the highway to Rayong I got the 150 c.c. PCX up to 112.  I felt it would  better that if I just hung on the throttle a little longer.   But I'd have to wring the PCX out for another half a mile in order to extract the last ounce of top end.  I told Peter I thought it might be good for 115, but that it could never manage 120.  Later on, Peter told me that he got the bike up to 115, which is 3 kph more than I ever managed to get out of my Yamaha Nouvo Elegance.  115 is 71 miles per hour indicated on the speedometer which might or might not be a little off. 

The bike gets up to 100 kph pretty quickly.   Peter's 125 PCX struggles to keep up with the new 150 PCX at such speeds.  I could tell that its engine was having to work much harder than the 150's.  We are talking 10 kph more here on the top end with noticeably better acceleration.  That's a 6 mile per hour difference which I feel for bikes of such relatively small displacement to be dramatic. 

Peter has 13,000 kilometers on his odometer, and although he recently put larger tires than stock on his PCX, the new 150 PCX simply felt more solid on the road.  It handled and road better, and all in all simply felt heavier throughout thus contributing to more roadworthiness.  So if one likes the PCX and already has a 125, it's definitely worth upgrading to the 150 due to its noticeably better power and all around better handling.  Peter did point out, however that his bike is no longer new whereas the 150 rental only had 2000 kilometers on it. 

Surprisingly, the fuel economy for the two bikes was identical.  After completing our 110 kilometer circuit, it took just 2.005 liters to fill up each bike.  That's 54.32 kilometers per liter, which is roughly 127 miles to the gallon.  This is terrific fuel economy, especially once you consider that we oftentimes were doing well over 100 kph to pass congestions of slow moving trucks clogging up the road. 

The 150 PCX does 3 kph better on the top end than my 135 c.c. Yamaha Elegance.  I would think the power to weight ratio of the two bikes is about equal.  One thing I've noticed, however, is that larger displacement engines usually do better on the top end even when power to weight ratios seem to dictate that the top ends should be virtually the same.  In the past I had noticed this to be true with a lot of cars--not just bikes.   I think it's because of the momentum that a larger displacement engine can generate even though the body weight of the vehicle seems to be great enough to offset the advantage the larger displacement engine seems to have over its smaller counterpart. 

However, once I had returned the 150 PCX rental I got on my 135 c.c. Yamaha Elegance.  The 135 accelerates from slow speeds like a sling shot, and it most definitely moves more quickly out of the hole than the much heavier PCX.  So although the 150 does better on the top end, the 135 Elegance seems to have substantially better power in city traffic. 
One thing I really like about the PCX is that it's offered in a single color with a contrasting colored seat.  For example, Peter's PCX is back but it's seat is a chocolate brown.  My personal preference runs to a cherry red PCX with a black seat.   Nearly all motorbikes sold in Thailand that roughly fall into the 125 c.c. class are whipped with ugly stick due to their gaudy paint schemes and abundant decals.   They look horrible.  Now I don't know if the Thais that Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki sell these abominations to simply  have terrible tastes or the bike designers who come up with such ugly schemes are just complete morons.  However, with the PCX Honda has delivered a bike that people of good tastes can truly appreciate.  On the other hand there are those who feel that the PCX is just too big for the relatively small amount of power that it delivers.  One of my friends is calling the PCX the ugliest bike being sold today.  He's even thinking about starting up a "Hate PCX web site."  I don't agree with him.  The PCX might appear overly large to some, but still 280 pounds is 50 pounds less than a Honda CBR 250, which really isn't a very large bike.  And when you compare it to a Honda Forza 300 or some of the Sym 300's and 400's out of Taiwan, it's really quite small in comparison. 

Me?  I'm really torn by the minimalists design and svelte appearance of the new Yamaha 125 Nouvo SX which costs only 55,000 baht or so and the 150 Honda PCX now being sold for around 80,000.  Both are terrific bikes and all any man reasonably needs if he's living here in Pattaya.  I have a Honda Civic for traveling longer distances outside my area and feel strongly that the larger bikes will get a man killed much more quickly than the smaller ones because of the complete idiots we must share the road with  and the unwillingness of the powers that be to deal with these maniacs.  Nevertheless for my next bike review I will be renting a Honda 300 Forza.  And after that, I think it will be my girlfriends Yamaha Filano, but I can tell everyone right now that neither of these two opposite ends of the Extreme (one is too large while the other is too small) can begin to match the all around versatility of the Honda 150 PCX or the Yamaha 125 Nouvo Sx.

But Peter just couldn't wait.  He rented Honda's 300 c.c. Forza the next day and followed the same circuit.  He claims he it cost 200 baht to fill up the Forza's tank whereas we only paid 70 baht each for the PCX 125 and PCX 150 to cover the same route.  He got it up to 135 kph and said that it's obviously better than the smaller bikes on the highway, but it still wouldn't be a good cross country bike because the driver would have to bring his own gasoline pump to keep it in fuel. 

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