Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maiden Voyage - Conclusion

A road trip to Pattaya is not one I'd recommend to anybody looking for a thrilling motorcycle ride. A contributing factor is that we live on the wrong side of Bangkok for a trip east, which is where Pattaya is. That means our trip began and ended with an hour-long slog through the center of the city. We left on a Sunday so at least the traffic was bearable. Add to that the fact that the principle "beltway" roads between here and Pattaya are 8 lanes wide to allow for tourism and manufacturing traffic -- it reminded me of driving the NJ Turnpike -- endless factories and development -- fairly ugly from a bike. Next time we make a jaunt it will be in the other direction, to Kanchanaburi and points west. Aside from that we made good time and the new bike achieved a very respectable 86 mpg (36.5 km/liter) for the non-city portion of the tour.

The photo below shows the bike set up for touring. The locking top box was purchased and installed here in Bangkok by Dr Bike on Chokchai 4.  It cost ~6,000 baht ($200 USD) This is an excellent store with a friendly English-speaking owner. Recommended. I bought the saddlebags from Chiang Rai Saddlebags, another excellent outfit. Ordered them on Wednesday, received them Thursday. Cost: 3,000 baht ($100 USD).

My CBR 250 ready for touring
Compared to the Phantom, the bike is pure joy to ride. It's significantly more powerful and because the engine is water cooled, much quieter. At most speeds the new counter-balancing scheme developed by Honda works well and vibration is minimal. In addition, it rode surprisingly well when fully loaded, absorbing the bumps handily. The Phantom would bottom out in similar situations eliciting cries of pain and the occasional curse from my sweet riding partner. Of course, with me and Nut and gear aboard both bikes are overloaded and carrying much more weight than they were designed for. That makes the nice ride on the CBR even more remarkable.

The single cylinder design means lots of torque is available at a lower rpm than you typically get in a twin of similar displacement. If you're in the 4000 to 7000 rpm range and you twist the throttle up the CBR really takes off. Freeway speeds here are significantly lower than those in the states (thank Buddha) and I felt confidant about keeping up with traffic. OTOH, with the Phantom I could be sure that the car I just passed would be overtaking me on the next hill.

And it has ABS, a sophisticated combined front/rear Anti-skid Braking System. I wonder if it might mitigate the situation known as high-siding wherein a rider inadvertently locks the rear brake and the bike swerves to one side bringing the rear wheel sideways to the direction of travel. Releasing the brake at that point returns traction to the rear wheel suddenly with the undesirable effect of tossing you off the "high side" of the bike. Your best reaction would be to keep the brake locked either until the bike comes to rest or you can somehow straighten it out. Good luck on that. With the combination ABS on the Honda, the rear wheel should not lose traction and thus high siding prevented. I hope I never actually find out if my theory is right. In the meantime having it there for slippery pavement situations is reassuring.

I made this little chart to illustrate the differences between the three bikes I've recently owned. My Suzuki VStrom was a beast compared to these little thumpers but I reckon for ease of use and gas mileage the CBR is a fine choice for Thailand. My 650cc VStrom never got more than 55 mpg, for example.

Comparison - dry weights approximate

The single caveat I add is at highways speeds I did feel a slight high frequency vibration in the hand grips that eventually became uncomfortable. Same thing in traffic when you're on the brake and clutch constantly -- the extra weight on my hands on this sportier moto (I lean forward over the tank more), by comparison with both my Phantom and my VStrom eventually caused a bit of numbness in my fingertips. The sheer fun of driving it offsets this problem but I wish the handlebars had the same rubber vibration dampers as the Phantom. Wearing gloves helps quite a bit and I will keep my eyes open for cushioned hand grips.

We took the slow, scenic route along the coast for the ride back to town stopping for the night in the resort area of Bang Saen in Chonburi.  That afternoon we visited a stunning Chinese Buddhist temple nearby.

The Thais call this temple Wat Na Ja (N13.32904 E100.92284)

Column detail
Column detail

Roof detail -- Wat Na Ja
The interior was also spectacular -- especially the colorful murals adorning the walls -- but cameras and photos are forbidden alas. As always I was impressed by the amount of effort and creativity, not to mention wealth, that people are willing to dedicate to the worship and glorification of their various gods.

We saw a troupe of monkeys - Nut was taking no chances

Then later as the sun turned golden and dropped into the sea we walked the beach and found a nice restaurant along the beach quay. It was a perfect night for a romantic walk and a perfect way to end the day. Here are a few photos from that evening's sunset walk. And the obligatory food photo ;-))

Nut at Bang Saen Beach

Notice the careful smile — All I want for Christmas is my new front teeth.
For dinner we had som tam (green papaya salad), an omelet loaded with mussels, a seafood salad of mussells, shrimp and squid, and some steamed cockles Thais love, hoy krang. I was put off these at first because the juice inside is reddish, like blood. But they taste fine especially when dipped in the fiery hot green sauce that always accompanies them.
Our "four plate" dinner at Bang Saen Beach
Sunset — Bang Saen Beach (N13.30143 E100.89814)