When the up-grade bug bites, it bites hard and one can not ignore it. “Up-grade” means raise (something) to a higher standard, in particular improve (equipment or machinery) by adding or replacing components. In the biking terms, the meaning is more the same. It means getting a bigger bike in terms of engine capacity and performance than the one currently owned.
Before i begun riding , i wanted to ride a sports bike and i would even brag how i can not ride anything below 600 cc. I was very shocked when i went for my riding lessons and the instructor presented to me a 160 cc bike as my bike for training. More shock was to come when i sat on it and actually rode it. It felt heavy, the torque was high and surely not a toy. It needed precaution to handle. There was my first experience on a bike and the end of my 600 cc sports bike dream. However, i still bought a sports bike “look alike”. A 223 cc Hero ZMR Karizma which i rode for nine months before my “up-grade bug” attack.
CHOOSING MY “UP-GRADE”
After 9 months of riding, i had learned what worked for me and what did not work for me. I knew that i would not ride a bike above 400 cc with the experience i had. I also knew i did not want a laying low seating position. It never worked for my back. I wanted to be able to travel with my bike and so i needed a bike that is dual – meaning can comfortably ride on tarmac and dirt road. I had fallen in love with a KTM Duke 390 and that was the bike i just wanted. My other option was a Royal Enfield classic 350 cc. I liked these two bikes because of various reasons, the seating position, the height (I am 5,3″ with an inseam of 29″ and weigh 64 kgs) and the weight. They fitted perfectly well but on inquiring the price, they were above my budget at the time by quite some money. I had to go back and start shopping for a bike that fits the above spec and affordable.
I had first seen the RX3 250 cc in the King Bird show room and tested it. It was pretty high for me and at the time i saw it, my confidence was still not good enough. I later learned that they had a lower bike that was bigger engine and would fit me well. Their show room had closed in Nairobi and they were now selling their bikes from Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru. I could not view or try the bike and only discussed the spec, size and everything on phone, exchanging images on email and whatsapp.
I was highly drawn to the bike by its look and size. The price was also affordable and that helped in making the decision. I settled for the bike and ordered it from Kisumu.
ONE YEAR LATER
I remember my first day to ride it, i was so worried how i would ride from Westlands through traffic to my office in Industrial area. I was surprised when i hit the road and felt ok other than for a higher torque. I was able to put my feet down, lift the bike from side stand and lane split in traffic. What i thought would be a tough ride ended up being so much fun that i could not wait to ride it back home in the evening. I ride basically everyday not unless there are reasons why i can’t ride like weather, traveling with other people or not well enough to ride.
Besides riding to the office, i have ridden this bike to so many places. I have been to Magadi, Nyeri, Nyahuru, Nakuru, Naivasha, Machakos round coming back through Thika, Baringo among others and finally took a big ride to Tanzania.
It is the big trip to Tanzania that has made me write this article. This trip was a total of 3,100 kilimoters from Nairobi to Tanzania through Namanga, Arusha, Babati, Singida, Tabora, Kigoma, Kibondo, Nyakanazi, Kahama, Mwanza back into Kenya through Isebania. From Isebania i went to Kisumu and later to Nairobi. All these in 10 days.
During this trip, i rode on pure “heaven” tarmac, sand, dirt road, off road, deep fine soil and loose gravel on down and up hills.
This was actually many new experiences for both of us (Bike and myself). It was like being in class and you all are learning new things for the first time but there will be no. 1, 2,3 and so on. My longest ride on a dirt road has been 2 kilometers which is from the main road to my mom’s home and there is none of the above (sand, deep soil, loose gravel). I have also just done it a couple of times. I have been purely a tarmac girl till this trip.
I was not aware of the bad roads when i picked the route. I also did not have the options of changing the route because i was meeting friends at Kigoma. I did what i call “pure heaven of tarmac” from Nairobi to Tabora. Thereafter i had 120 kilometers of sand and dirt roads to Kigoma town and another 350 kilometers from Kigoma to Nyakanazi.
The rider and the bike are equally important in a ride, in-fact, we say the bike is always ok, it’s the rider we are concerned about. Bikes mostly don’t fail, the rider does, but on this one i will tell you that, the bike did very well. The rider (me) an amateur did not fail it and did not do it any much good either. We were a good team at the end.
TYRES: I rode this bike with its original tyres. I have never changed the tyres. They performed very well on the sand, dirt, gravel and tarmac.
HEATING: The bike never overheated. It is air-cooled with what looks like twin cylinder and two exhaust pipes. The shortest distance i did in the 10 days was 260 kilometers a day but always did 350 kilometers and above in a day. Although i had stops for pictures and flexing my butt, the engine never felt too hot to ride.
FUEL: – The tank is 10 liters. From my calculation and performance, the bike gives you about 33 to 35 kilometers per liter. Tanzania has few petrol stations or may be just the route i used. I never let myself go totally dry and never carried fuel on the bike, i however knew i can do 300 to 350 comfortably on one tank.
TORQUE: – I am a slow rider and therefore my highest speed is 100 KPH. Even on tarmac, i maintained mostly 90 to 100 kph. The roads in Tanzania have no traffic and you will enjoy riding in the middle of the road if you want. Its the perfect place to ride if you love doing higher speeds than 100 KPH. However, they have lots of animal crossing points and small towns with human crossing points and the speed limits on those places is 50 KPH.
OVERALL REVIEW OF THE BIKE.
The most important things about a bike is torque, performance, fuel consumption, durability, reliability, parts availability and cost of buying and maintaining.
I would say this bike has met my expectations on all the above. The bike is manufactured in China and sold by KING BIRD who have their showrooms in Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu. They are soon setting up one in Nairobi. The staff are very efficient and reliable that i have never felt like i wish they had a shop in Nairobi.
Parts are available and the bike is not complicated. Some parts are interchangeable with other bikes and so can be bought from any shop.
Given that this is a 400 cc bike, its is affordable selling at 4300 USD and a normal service costs about 30 to 40 USD.
When i was in Tanzania, my instructor said i chose the right bike for my trip and after the trip, i can tell you he was very right on that judgement.
This bike is perfect for short and light weight persons. Tall people would have an issue riding it. Its such a cute caferacer you will always have heads turn and random conversations at the parking lot. I have made many friends that way.
I am thinking of keeping it till i come back from our three years trip. We have had a lovely time together it is hard to say goodbye.
I have received alot of inquiries about the bike and hope this will help to answer everyone’s questions.
DISCLAIMER: Am not getting paid for this article.