July 08, 2005 GMT
Philippines (Nov. 2005) - Bike Preparation

Purchasing & Preparing the Bikes

Our search for suitable bikes to tour the Philippines mainly involved keeping a close watch on the bikes listed for sale in the Motorcycle Philippines (MP) free classifieds and using the contacts of Martin Gino, our trusted friend in Manila.

Martin is also the HU Community Contact for the Philippines.

You can buy almost any type of motorcycle in the Philippines, from a Triumph Rocket III to the smallest of Chinese made scooters. Most of the major Japanese brand motorcycles officially released in the Philippines are sourced from China then assembled and badged in the Philippines. A Honda XLR200 released in the Philippines costs P105,000 new. A similar bike, if fully manufactured in Japan, would cost about P300,000 new.

When purchasing a second-hand motorcycle in the Philippines, You basically have three options; Chinese made & imported, Chinese sourced/Philippines assembled, and fully imported non-Chinese. For a percieved better build quality, we decided it was better to buy a fully imported, non-Chinese model.

In determining the type of bikes that would be best suited for this tour, consideration was given to the type of riding to be undertaken. The speed limits in the Philippines are 30kph, 50kph and 80kph (maximum). The roads we would be travelling on vary from good sealed roads to rough dirt tracks. The models had to have reasonable parts availability. The bikes must be properly licensed and legally able to carry 2 persons. With this criteria, we decided on dual-purpose type bikes of 200cc to 250cc capacity. Anything bigger would just be over-kill in both power and mass.

It wasn't long before the first suitable bike came to our attention. It was found in the MP free classifies, a 1991 Honda AX-1, asking P90,000 (about USD1,650 in 2005). The AX-1 was only released in Japan and grey imported into the Philippines. It is the same bike as the Honda NX250 (Baby Dominator) except that has been modified for the Japanese market by fitting duel headlights and replacing the alloy steel spoked wheels with all alloy.

1991 Honda AX-1

1991 Honda AX-1

Martin Gino inspected the bike and reported back that it was in excellent condition with 18,000km on it. The bike is a single cylinder water-cooled 4-stroke with electric start (only) and having provision for a pillion passenger. The only down-side to this bike was that the tyres where starting to perish, no mirrors, and a missing chain guard and front drive sprocket cover.

After the price was negotiated down to P75,000 (about USD1,300), I transferred P85,000 to Martin and the deal was done. The extra was to cover some of the costs for modification and a bit for Martin's time and effort.

The next step was to prepare this bike for 4 weeks of touring on Philippines "roads" carrying a rather large Australian and his gear. First, new tyres were ordered. Not being a common size, the tyres have to be specially imported. This importation involves a lead time of about 3 months. Lucky we bought the bike 7 months before it is needed.

While waiting for the new tyres, work started on the other preparation. This involved-

  • Giving the bike a complete service;
  • Fitting mirrors, chain guard & front sprocket cover;
  • Overhauling the rear shock and fitting a heavier spring for the expected loads;
  • Strengthen up the rear sub-frame to take the expected loads;
  • Replace the existing rear rack (not considered strong enough) with an MMC stainless steel rear rack suitable to take a Ventura/RJays/Gearsack rear bag.

While the AX-1 was being prepared, the search was on for another suitable bike for Greg Haig, my touring partener. This took longer than we expected. Dual purpose type bikes are not that readily available in and around Manila.

While looking for other bikes, our tour group numbers dropped to only two, myself and Greg. The others were unable to get time off work. Greg is more of a gung-ho type dirt rider, so his bike was to be more dirt orientated than the AX-1.

It took another 2 months before we found another suitable bike in good condition. It was a '91 Suzuki DR250 with an asking price of P75,000 (about USD1,350 in 2005), located in San Fernando about 130km north of Manila.

After an inspection by Martin, he negotiated the price down to P68,000 (about USD1,200 in 2005) after all outstanding taxes had been paid and the bike was purchased.

1991 Suzuki DR250

1991 Suzuki DR250

This bike is not standard. Inverted front forks and an after-market exhaust have been fitted and the rear suspension had been beefed up. Like the AX-1, this DR250 also needed some work to bring it up to an acceptable standard for our tour.

  • Giving the bike a complete service;
  • Fitting mirrors, chain guard & front sprocket cover;
  • Getting all the lights to properly work;
  • Strengthen up the rear sub-frame to take the expected loads;
  • Fit an MMC stainless steel rear rack suitable to take a Ventura/RJays/Gearsack rear bag.

Fortunately, the DR250's tyres were found to be still in an acceptable condition for the tour.

Now that the bikes are purchased and being prepared, time can be spent planning the trip.

Posted by rbscairns at July 08, 2005 07:43 AM GMT

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