During my daily commute to work, I see all sort of bikes and scooters on the road. Some of them really struggle to keep up with traffic. Currently South African law states that motorcycles with an engine capacity of 50cc or less are not allowed on freeways, which means it’s perfectly legal to drive your 100cc Chinese scooter with a maximum speed of 70km/h even though you’re endangering your own life and potentially those around you.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of these small capacity, light on fuel and cheap little motorcycles or scooters. I used to own one. A couple of years ago, I needed a bike to commute to work. Roughly 80km a day. I went down to a local motorcycle shop and started looking at a Gomoto Supermoto 200cc. I thought that 200cc would be more than enough power to ride on the N1 and keep up with traffic. I bought it brand new and for the first 1000km I had to ride it under 80km/h to run the engine in. I tried to get that 1000km in as quick as I could to free the engine up. After the run in period, the best I could get out of the little bike was 110km/h.
At that point in my life, I didn’t care about how slow the bike was, I got 31km/l petrol. That was a HUGE saving for me and I rode that little bike come rain or shine. On the highway I just kept in the left lane and cars whizzed past me all the time. For some reason the Supermoto was prone to punctures, driving over a flat rock would probably puncture a tyre. In the course of the two years I owned it I probably had to repair three or four punctures that I picked up on the highway. I have no idea how that happened. Every time I was keeping in my lane and the next moment you just feel the bike lose control and start ‘wobbling’, then it’s time to take out the puncture repair sludge (that stuff really works b.t.w), just to get to work. Besides that problem, there was one other slight issue… The bike’s rear brake really only had two settings, on, or off. That’s it, if you wanted to use your rear brake, the wheel would lock up and drag until you eventually come to a stop. Really safe isn’t it?
How many of you ever felt what it feels like when you’re doing 100km/h and a 18-wheel truck overtakes you at 120km/h? Not good, that’s what it feels like! The side-winds generated by the truck almost pushes you off the road completely, you have to hang onto the handlebars to keep control of the bike, especially when it’s a light motorcycle or scooter. Even cars generate these side-winds, especially if they’re speeding past you. It’s frightening and dangerous for the guy on the scooter or bike to be in that situation.
The build quality on these cheap machines aren’t great. They’re cheap for a reason. Would you fly in a cheap airplane? No? Then why buy a cheap Chinese motorcycle? Your life is equally in danger. Entry level motorcycles of yesteryear, I’m talking two-stoke 125’s like the Yamaha TZR or Honda’s NSR were capable of doing almost 160km/h. Okay, they weren’t fuel efficient, you weren’t going to save a ton of money by using them for a commute, but they were quick and more reliable than most of today’s cheap Chinese imports.
I have no problem with people who get a small capacity scooter to ride the 5-10km to work using back roads, or quickly going to buy bread at the local grocery store. That’s what they were made for. They weren’t made to ride on the N1 with when the the cars around you are doing up to 60km/h faster than you. It’s illegal to ride in the emergency lane, which means you HAVE to stay in a lane, usually the left one, if you’re smart. But even then, you’re going to annoy motorists who are traveling at speed and then suddenly see you in front of them, and they have to slam on brakes. I’ve seen this a hundred times. Someone is going to get hurt, it’s just a matter of time. Don’t let it be you.