Honda XR150L first impressions

I remember that before I came to the Philippines I promised myself a big chunky ATV. Because that makes sense in this country with it’s lacking infrastructure. Then I actually got here and it turned out that ATV’s are not a thing in this country at all. They’re hard to get, hard to deal with legally and even harder to not draw all kinds of unwanted attention from Filipinos.

So, last year I bit the bullet and got into riding motorbikes last year. I say ‘bit the bullet’, because I always figured that 2 wheels wasn’t enough for me.
Anyway, in April 2017 I’ve bought a brand new Honda XR150L. And so far it’s been quite a ride, literally. Here is a first impressions kind of thing with some of my thoughts on learning how to drive this motorbike.

So far I’m totally satisfied with it’s capabilities and being a fairly new driver I probably didn’t even come close to pushing its limits yet. Of-course my excuse will be that the engine still has to be ridden in. Also I’m still getting used to driving a manual clutch and all that. However so far it’s been very enjoyable 🙂

Mind you, before getting the XR150L I’d practically never driven a manual clutch before. I drove a Honda XRM125 (below), which is more like a scooter and even shares the same frame as a Honda Wave. But it’s set up for dual-sport riding, similar to the XR150L. You’ll see in the photos that the XRM looks similar to the XR150L from the front, but from behind is more like a scooter.

I did practice a little bit on a Yamaha SZ150 a few days before getting the Honda XR150L. Which, in my brief experience, handles like crap compared to the XR150L. However, it’s a completely different motorbike and at the time I was very new to driving a manual transmission. So not really a fair comparison. Still, I don’t see me buying a motorbike like that anytime soon. Especially now that I have the XR150L.

Driving around

The XR150L drives very light and easy. Accelerates from 0 to 70-80km/h in under 10 seconds if you want it to and feels like it has enough oomph to go over 100km/h with ease. For now I’m fine with doing 60-70km/h though – At lower speeds I enjoy seeing the scenery, too.

It weighs only 129Kg so is fairly easy to deal with in most situations. So far it has been easy to balance and steering appears light and effortless. Which allows for quick reflexes to avoid running goats and potholes if necessary.

Like many similar motorbikes the XR150L has no gear indicator, which means you have to listen to the engine and judge when to shift on how the engine pulls and behaves. It took me a day or so to figure out a somewhat decent shift pattern – When to shift down while slowing down and so on. I’m still working on making that more smooth.

I learned to drive on the Honda XRM125, which has a gear indicator. So it took me a while for me to stop looking for which gear I was in.

Similarly there is no fuel gauge. I figured that would be an issue, but I have my phone calculate the fuel milage and use the trip odometer to measure when to get fuel. Should I screw that up, there is the 3.5L reserve tank.
So far I’ve been doing about 50km/L and that number is going up – Even though I took to the mountains for the last few days. So I guess my driving is improving?

The bigger frame of the XR150L is much more suitable for me as a person than the XRM125 was. Which had me slouch much more and more easily. Which for longer drives was not comfortable. I’m a fairly big guy and the XRM125 was just too small for me.


Getting used to the manual transmission was my biggest issue with the XR150L. Not the XR150L’s fault of-course. Just me not knowing how to deal with it. After a few days I got used to it and now comfortably drive around. I do have to get used to the clutch a bit more. When to use it and what it’s exact capabilities are. But I’ll get there eventually.

Over the past few days I’ve been driving over some mountains on crap roads and that went fine. Shifting down when necessary instead of powering through in high gear. Having 150cc in the engine compared to the XRM125 the XR150L is notably more powerful.

First impressions

I have the standard wheel setup. 19 inch rim front and 17 inch rim in the back. Enduro tires, not too stubby but good for gravel and regular roads. The bigger tire on the back makes for more comfortable riding I think. A thing I already discovered when I replaced the rear tire on the XRM125. But with this bigger XR150L it seems even more notable on rocky roads. The suspension is great on this thing.

My first impressions are that I definitely bought a cool bike that I like a lot. Both for looks and capabilities. It seems perfectly capable of my casually adventurous driving without being overly complex to deal with. And once I get fully comfortable with the clutch it will be even more so.

The only thing I (sort of) miss so far, or rather wish the XR150L had, is a USB charging port near the speedometer and little bit bigger and lockable compartment.

Everyone has a smartphone or GPS these days. Why not let me charge it while driving. And the tiny tool compartment. Fine for tools, obviously. But it doesn’t lock and is already filled to the brim when the toolkit is in there. Not very useful for anything else.

Neither is a dealbreaker of-course. It just seems to make more sense, to me at least, to add a USB port and include a little larger compartment.

Soon I’ll figure out how to put the GoPro Hero5 on there. I’ll need some mounts and stuff to make it fit properly and I can bore you with occasional riding videos again!

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