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.

Transmission

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!

Ceres Liner vs. Luggage

Remember I got this fancy, nice looking back pack for my adventures in the Philippines?
You know, this one. Army green, shapely, roomy and cool looking…

luggage-before-travel

Then a Ceres Liner bus happened to it and now it looks like this:

luggage-after-travel

All dirty. And it’s not even proper dust or whatever that you can just brush off, either. This is real dirt that requires soap and hot water to remove. And look at poor simon on top. All black and scruffy looking 🙁

This bus sure was dirty, bleh!

Internet in the Philippines

So far my internet experience in the Philippines has been less than great. From research I did in advance suggested that it would be ok. People I asked that live here said it works mostly fine. Mobile services were mostly present and coverage was good. Even better if you have some form of DSL. So that looked and sounded promising.

floatingcoconut-wifi

When I arrived at the hotel in Puerto Galera there was indeed Wifi. But it was rather slow. After a few hours the signal got even slower. Asking about it got me a bit more insight as to why that was –

Because everyone in town is online now and there is not enough bandwidth to spare.

Allright, so I’ll go online in the evenings and early mornings.

Stop the bleeding!

In order to prepare a little bit for scratches, cuts and blisters I set out to get a few things for that. Last week I went and found a bunch of med kits. Unfortunately most med kits I found are not for travelling and included dumb stuff like baby powder and such. Others included toxic insect repellent. You know, crap that includes Deet. Since I want to live past 40 I opted not to get any of that either.

After some searching I found a basic bandaid kit which included a few bandaids for various things; Heels fingers, waterproof, blisters and whatnot. So I got that.
I’ve added a small bottle of disinfectant, medical tape, Wrist brace and anti-diarrhoea tablets.

medkit

It all fits in a small bag similar to a small toiletry bag. Which goes in my main backpack.

I opted to get a small med kit so I just have it from the get go. Leaving cuts and other bleeding holes untreated in a humid, hot environment that isn’t always the cleanest is just asking for trouble. Even small wounds get easily infected from insects, rubble and just about anything. I don’t want to loose a foot or finger because I didn’t have a bandaid or disinfectant. And neither should you!

Tooled up for the Philippines

Everyone who brings a bunch of electronics and adjustable stuff with screws or moving parts should bring some tools. Over the last couple of months I’ve collected a bunch of stuff and bought a handy roll bag (or whatever it’s called). I’ve put some tools in mine as well as cables and camera accessoires.

Tools and cables

I’ll be bringing an assortment of items to do quick repairs, maintenance or whatever with. Also I need to hook up my gadgets to my computer or chargers.
tools
From the top-left to right:

  • Leatherman bit-set
  • Leatherman Skeletool CX
  • Pointy pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Small break-knife
  • Tweezers
  • 2x small cross screwdriver

The bit-set and Skeletool are multi-purpose, it has larger pliers, a knife and some other stuff. The small screwdrivers are useful to adjust glasses and they fit the screws on the camera gear and external harddisk.

The lower half from left to right;

  • Aux audio cable
  • Mini-USB to USB cable
  • 3x Micro-USB to USB cable
  • 8 GB thumb-drive
  • 2x MicroSD to SD card converters
  • 32GB MicroSD card

The audio cable is for my speaker. It of-course connects my laptop or iPhone to the speaker without the need for bluetooth. The USB cables are for charging and using my Sony camera, Bluetooth speaker. External Harddisk (Which also has a USB3 cable) and one spare. The Mini-USB cable I don’t really need, but i’ll take it anyway. Just in case.
The thumbdrive is to move documents to the print-shop or whatever. And my Camera uses MicroSD cards to recordings. I have a 64GB card in the camera, the 32GB is a spare.

Camera accessoires

Having a Sony Action Camera (AS100V) it has a whole bunch of ways to mount on pretty much anything.

camera-gear

From top-left to bottom-right;

  • Charger with cable
  • Waterproof case
  • Angled mount
  • Converter thingy for if I don’t use the waterproofed case
  • Helmet strap
  • Wrist strap
  • Regular strap
  • Water absorbing tabs

Most of these I’m not sure if I’ll ever use them, but who knows. The waterproof case is of-course super useful. I’ll probably take it snorkelling some time or film the rain from close up. Maybe the wrist strap is fun to play with some time. I’ve used it a few times so far but had it strapped around my laptop bag shoulder band instead. The water absorbing stuff is to soak up condensation inside the waterproof case.

And the whole thing rolls up nice and tight and weighs about 2 pounds (1 kilo).
rollbag-2

With these things I like to think I can deal with a bunch of stuff that may happen along the way. Cutting cables/thread or whatever. Squeezing things shut and whatnot. Maybe even fixing a loose leg on a table 🙂

Final piece of kit: Skeletool CX

While putting together a few tools a little while ago, I suddenly realised that this would take too much weight and space. 4 or 5 screw drivers, a bunch of pliers… Too bulky and clunky.

I knew of multi-tools but from what I’d seen it’s just a bunch of fold-up knives and corkscrew-like crap. Who needs 5 different knife blades and 3 saws in one tool? Nonsense!

But after some someone assumed I’d take a multitool with me and being surprised that I didn’t I had another look and actually found some that were much more useful.

skeletool-cx-folded

I finally settled on the Leatherman Skeletool. Then I found the Skeletool SX which has a black finish. And finally got the Leatherman Skeletool CX, which is partly made of some kind of Carbon Fiber so it’s more lightweight.

skeletool-cx

One end has a carabiner which doubles as a bottle opener. The other leg has a bit holder so it’s a screwdriver, too. For this I got an additional bit set. This covers most common types of screws and stuff.

skeletool-cx-screwbits skeletool-cx-bits

And the Skeletool has a single folding blade.
skeletool-cx-knife

New piece of kit – A bluetooth Speaker

Earlier this month I finally recognised the existence of wireless speakers as a valid product. Up until then I had always thought of these things as silly noisemakers. Mainly used by annoying teens. Blaring their trash music into the streets as if anyone cares for it.

But, I found a legitimate use for bluetooth speakers. Going to the Philippines I may want to listen to some music without using my iPhone or laptop. But also to get a bit better sound than the tinny sounding speakers in those devices. And… With it’s 14 hour battery, it may just survive any brownouts where my Laptop may fall short.

I got a bit sidetracked with a JBL speaker, which sounded quite good. But was constantly loosing connection to whatever device it was hooked up to. Even with the audio cable attached (not using Bluetooth). So I got another one, this time I did a bit more research into the matter – Turns out there are literally hundreds of models.

Finally I decided to get the Mifa F5. Which has stereo sound, bass boost and a SD card reader.
Also it’s apparently water and dust proof.
mifa-f5

Doesn’t that look cool? It sounds great too 🙂
I put my 32GB card with a bunch of my favourite tracks in there for when I don’t want to have my phone or laptop active and well, so far. It just works. Just like it should!

I bought a grip for my camera

So today I finally got myself a grip or handle (or whatever it’s called) for my camera. I sort of need a thing like this because the camera is so damn small and my hand so large. It’s just more comfortable that way. Also now I won’t put my little finger in front of the lens by accident – because my hand sort of cups the entire camera when I hold it.

camera-grip camera-grip2

Always connected!

Today I found some converter plugs for pretty much every size power plug in the world.
Never travel without things like this or you’ll run out of power. And nobody likes to be powerless.

universal-plugs

I got this set for like €4.99. Crazy cheap.