The Looking Glass Magazine

 Krabi Thailand Yamaha Nouvo, Honda click and Air Blade tests
by Jack Corbett

Honda Air Blade
Jack Corbett's test comparisons of the automatic 125 c.c. class motorbikes, Honda's Airblade, Honda Click and Yamaha Nouvo

The trio of Motorbikes, the Yamaha Nouvo, the Honda Click and Honda's latest and greatest, the Air Blade, represent the quintessence in low horsepower, single cylinder, motorcycle technology in the 100 to 125 c.c. displacement class.  It would be a mistake to dismiss such machines as toys or vehicles fit only for those who cannot afford anything bigger.  The bottom line is they do the best job of getting rider and passenger from point A to point B in the quickest, cheapest and most efficient manner in Asian cities such as Pattaya for the most people.  By comparison cars are unwieldy leviathans that are hard to park especially when parking places are few and far between and simply too large to get around or through traffic jams.  Larger motorcycles, of the 400, 600 and 1000 cc classes although better than cars are still no match for these easy to drive lightweights. Moreover, all that surplus of power that impresses readers of cycle magazines and which produce good high speed interstate cruisers is wasted on busy Asian streets.  This new breed of fully automatic lightweights will still get up to 70 miles an hour while delivering fantastic gas mileage.  They are the cats meow as fun to drive, practical everyday urban transportation.  Unfortunately there's very little information available on these machines on the Internet.  Perhaps this is because they are unavailable to the American market.   Horsepower and performance figures are either scanty or non-existent so I'll just have to fill all that in by my seat of the pants impressions.

The Yamaha Nouvo

Yamaha Nouvo

Here in Pattaya the Yamaha Nouvo is the most coveted motorbike of them all.   The new second generation model improves on its predecessor.  I've heard reports that the first model of Nouvo had transmission problems.  Undoubtedly Yamaha has put all that in the past since Pattaya now is filled with new Nouvos and one never hears of any of them giving any problems.  I certainly haven't had the slightest trace of any problems whatsoever with mine which now has 4,000 kilometers on it.  Moreover, one hardly ever finds used ones for sale in the local papers and when one does the asking price is way up there. 

While earlier models had a basket mounted on the front like most other motorbikes, the Nouvo MX has a large seat which opens up to a compartment that is large enough for a bag of groceries, a helmet, or other things.  An owner of the earlier model with the basket mounted in the front complained to me that his bike didn't handle very well due to its being front end heavy.  With the new model's primary carrying facility being in the center of the bike under the seat, handling remains excellent. 

It is this large comfortable seat that separates the Nouvo from all those Honda Waves and other bikes which have narrow smallish seats that are more well suited to small Asian drivers than large Western drivers who often drive their bikes with a pretty woman on the back. 

The Nouvo also has significantly larger floorboards on which the driver rests his feet than either the Honda Click or Air Blade.  It is these floorboards which help keep the driver's feet dry in a rain storm. 

The Nouvo also is the longest of the three bikes providing it with a longer wheelbase which tends to keep the bike stable.  It is also the most sensationally styled bike of the three.

Yamaha's Nouvo has a much smaller stable mate, the Yamaha Mio, which although it shares the same basic transmission and the same engine as its larger brother,  is an entirely different kettle of worms.  The Mio is 10,000 baht cheaper, but its seat is much smaller and narrower, and its wheels and tires are far too small to put it in the same league as the Nouvo.  I think it's too unstable over bumps or at high speeds to be even reasonably safe, and for two up driving, it's simply too small.

An English friend of mine once recommended that I get a 400 c.c. Honda since it's a far better machine on the highway than my Nouvo, but thinking about giving up that very smooth automatic transmission of the Nouvo for a chain driven manual transmission that one constantly has to keep shifting in city traffic made me think that I'd be trading downwards for an inferior bike even though the much larger motorcycle completely outclasses the Nouvo in horsepower, top speed,  its ability to absorb bumps as well and its finesse in highway driving.  Truth is, there's no real highway driving to be done in Pattaya.  The Nouvo, even when I put my 95 girlfriend behind me has all the power I need to handle anything Pattaya's city driving can throw at me. 

With the Nouvo, you simply twist the throttle and the thing goes.  The transmission is a variable speed unit that transmits power through a long life drive belt.  One never feels the bike shifting.  Driving the Nouvo at speeds as low as three miles an hour is a snap, and as I have already mentioned you can take the thing all the way up to 70 by simply twisting the grip.  Its uncanny and it's fantastically smooth, with the driver having a very intuitive device that takes very little effort or thinking to get the job done.  This leaves him more time to do more important things such as enjoying the scenery or thinking about how to avoid all those horrible Pattaya drivers  who seem bent on killing him.  The bike's brakes are excellent with a disc in the front and a drum in the rear.

The Honda Click

Just one month ago my girlfriend and I spent a week in Krabi where we based out of from which we planned on doing a lot of snorkeling and sightseeing from various kinds of boats.  But it rained everyday for the whole week and the first two snorkeling outings we had signed on for were canceled.  So we rented bikes so we would have something to do between the rains.  We rented a Honda Click for two days, and on one of these days we drove more than 40 kilometers one way to a place up the coast that was highly recommended to us by the man we rented the bike from.  My girlfriend drove most of the way while I sat behind her taking pictures.  But my wanting to take pictures wasn't the real reason I had her do most of the driving.

I must have driven the Click all of half of a mile.  Appearance wise the Click seems about midway in size between a Yamaha Mio and the Nouvo.  Its tires are significantly larger than the Mio's and the diameter of its wheels is also significantly larger.  But as soon as I eased the Click out onto the road, I found its handling to be very quick and for me at least, twitchy.  I didn't like it.  But for 10,000 baht less than the Honda Air Blade, it shares much of its larger brother's new tech wizardry.  Leave the kick stand down and you can't start the engine for one thing.  This is for safety although I've dragged lots of kickstands in my life without mishap.

The Click also shares with the Air Blade Honda's latest improvements in braking.  Put too much pressure on either one of the two hand brakes and the pressure is equalized between the front and rear tires making braking a much safer proposition than on most motorcycles.  The Click has the same automatic transmission as its more expensive cousin.  It also shares the same  engine.

The Nouvo has a 115 c.c. air cooled engine whereas both the Honda Click and the Air Blade have 110 c.c. water cooled engines.  I do know that the Nouvo produces around 8.8 horsepower, but I've not been able to find any figures for the Click or the Air Blade.  However, water cooling does give a motorcycle manufacturer the ability to safely produce substantially greater horsepower for the same level of displacement.  For example, when I had my 650 BMW twin cylinder air cooled motorcycle a couple of my friends were driving 1000 c.c. BMW road bikes.  My 650 generated 50 horsepower whereas the larger 1000 c.c. bikes developed something like 60 horsepower.  Later I got a water cooled 1000 c.c. BMW K100 RS four cylinder machine and that thing cranked out 90 horsepower which gave it a 140 mile per hour top end.    Why Honda developed a water cooled single cylinder 110 c.c. motorbike is beyond me as well as its actual horsepower figures.  Suffice it to say, that the technology is there to produce significantly more horsepower than Yamaha's 8.8 Nouvo.  The question is whether Honda used water-cooling as a means to build more long life into the engine, get better fuel economy, obtain more reliable cooling for sustained highway driving, or to get more acceleration and top end.  

Honda's Air Blade

In Krabi the Click rented for just 150 baht a day which was the same as one could rent a Nouvo.  But for the Air Blade I had to ante up 250 baht--probably because the bike we rented was most likely the only Air Blade in town.

When I first looked at an Air Blade back in Pattaya its proud owner pointed out to me its long travel shock absorbers and springs.  They were much longer than the shocks and springs on my Nouvo.  Obviously Honda had something in mind when it overly engineered the springs and shocks for this small a machine. 

The Air Blade is a much shorter coupled machine than the Yamaha Nouvo.  In fact, my girlfriend, who weighs just 95 pounds always liked the Honda Click since it was smaller and handier than the Nouvo which made her feel a bit overwhelmed driving it and particularly when she had to wheel it in and out of parking spaces or making tight U turns.  Ying has also repeatedly contended that the Air Blade was small enough to make it an equally appealing alternative to the Click. 

But when I look at a Honda Air Blade and Yamaha Nouvo side by side the Honda appears to have slightly larger tires, but this might be my imagination.  When I first mounted the Air Blade I noticed its seat was not quite as long as the seat on my Nouvo, but it was large enough and noticeably harder which I felt would make it very supporting on a long drive. 

The Air Blade was not nearly as twitchy as the Honda Click although it did seem to be a little quicker turning than the Nouvo.  I quickly found the Air Blade to be a superbly handling bike.  Keep in mind that driving around Krabi is completely different from driving in Pattaya.  For one thing there are not nearly as many cars and bikes out on the roads.  We also had the opportunity to drive a number of miles out into the countryside where the roads were good and scenic with lots of hills although the grades we encountered were not very steep, in startling contrast to all the 90 degree hills we saw around us. 

This time I did more of the driving than Ying simply because I really loved driving that Air Blade.  We drove about 20 kilometers one way to Krabi City from Ao Nang Beach, had lunch and then drove back to Ao Nang.  Driving the little 110 c.c. Air Blade reminded me of my first motorcycle, a Honda 350 twin which I bought in the early 1970's.  For one thing, I felt the same urge to push the little bike hard around the corners as I did when driving the 350.  And even though I knew I had just 110 c.c.'s beneath me, I never felt the little bike was underpowered. 

But I couldn't allow myself to drive the Air Blade as fast as I wanted to, largely because of my girlfriend who was sitting behind me kept urging me to slow down every time I got a little too fast around the turns for her tastes.  I don't think I got the bike much past 50 miles an hour.  At that speed I felt I could cruise two up all the way through Thailand.  I didn't have a Nouvo to test on the same roads under the same conditions but I did feel that the Air Blade had more power. 

Although aesthetically the Nouvo is more pleasing, the Honda did seem to be more of one piece---more rigid, thus inspiring more confidence.  Like I said it felt much more like a 350 than a 110, which really makes me wonder what its real horsepower is.  Its brakes were as expected, outstanding.

For awhile I thought there was something wrong with the bike's gas gauge since it never came off full in over 40 kilometers of driving.  Then, just as I took the bike back to our hotel, I noticed that the needle finally registered a hair off the full mark.  Later Ying told me that Honda's engineers had done some things to the Air Blades engine that gave it significantly better gas mileage than the Click or the Nouvo. By contrast when we drove the Click more than 40 kilometers one way I noticed the bike's gas gauge getting down to a quarter of a tank as we approached the outskirts of Ao Nang Beach.

Unlike the Nouvo, the Air Blade does not have that little hook on the console in front of the driver which is very handy for hanging a grocery bag or two as well as other items.  The Air Blade does not have those two small open compartments near the hook which are useful for carrying small items such as gloves, a hat, sunglasses, etc.  The cavity beneath the Air Blade's seat is not quite as deep as the Nouvo's but it is significantly longer.  

I was very impressed with the Honda Air Blade and would have even considered getting one while selling the Nouvo.  I do feel it's better on the open road than the Yamaha.  However, when I got back to Pattaya I asked the Swede who has a shop near my condo if he still likes his Air Blade.  The man replied that he thought it was coming down with transmission problems although he wasn't sure. So it could be that Honda hasn't gotten all the glitzes out on its  first fully automatic models.  I'm sure Honda will and in short order.  On the other hand, what is Yamaha going to come out with next for an even more improved Nouvo?

Jack Corbett Motorbike Reviews

 

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