Riding Small
- Lester Dizon () - April 28, 2010 - 12:00am

Despite the sweltering summer heat, I’ve been riding my motorcycle around Metro Manila to get to business meetings and media events. No, I don’t ride my 2003 BMW R1100 S Boxer Cup Replika in everyday traffic because it has become too valuable and too heavy to ride on our unruly and chaotic roads. Besides, after finding out that my Randy Mamola signature-edition BMW has become a collectible motorbike that’s one of 200 in the whole world and one of only six in the Philippines, I’ve decided against using it as my everyday ride.

Instead, I’ve been going around in my new 2010 Kymco Free LX 115.

Now, the avid motorcyclists among our readers might be snickering at me for choosing a small Taiwanese scooter over my mucho-macho Bavarian Sport Motorrad but I have my reasons. For one, I feel a bit guilty about burning fossil fuels with my current vehicles. My 1971 Chevrolet Camaro, which I occasionally drive to work, does only about 6 to 7 kilometers to a liter with its 5.7-liter V8 engine while my big BMW sport bike, with its 1100cc Boxer Twin motor, averages about 13 km/L. After watching some Discovery Channel and National Geographic features about global warming, the diminishing oil supply and the Aztecs’ and Nostradamus’ prediction of the end of the world, I felt that it was my duty to conserve some fuel for the future generation or at least minimize my contribution to the global oil supply’s rapid decline and the melting of the polar ice caps.

And conserve some fuel I do with the Kymco scooter, the likes of which are being marketed as automatic motorcycles because of their shift-less “twist and-go” riding convenience. The 115cc forced air-cooled single-cylinder motor of the Free LX makes around 9.2 horsepower at 7500rpm and about 9 Newton-meters of torque at 6500rpm while delivering around 41 kilometers per liter. Yessiree! One liter of fuel will allow you 41 kilometers of actual riding around our traffic-snarled city streets and that’s actual riding with sudden acceleration to jockey for space, hard braking when another bike gets the space, and some dead-stop idling when the traffic gets too tangled even for a small scooter to pass through.

I can hear the cynics say, “But some motorcycle companies advertise that their bikes can do more than 60 km/L” and they may be right. These factory-tested fuel-efficient bikes must have manual transmissions, friction clutches, lean carburetors, slightly-over-inflated tires and a clear test track to achieve fantastic fuel mileage figures. My Kymco Free LX has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) belt automatic which allows a little bit of slip and it has a comfortable ride for the actual journeys through Manila’s pot-holed, asphalt-overlaid, over-priced streets. And it gets 41 km/L even when the engine is still new and tight, with only 300 kilometers on the odometer. I can’t wait until it gets broken-in.

If you sense that I’m really enjoying the small Kymco scooter, it’s because I am. It leaves the common 110cc commuter underbone motorbikes behind and no production economy car can match its zero-to-60 acceleration during impromptu stoplight-to-stoplight drag contests. It stops very well with its “Super Disk” front disc brake and rear drum brake and it has enough storage room under the seat for the stuff I need to take on meetings and events. The powerful motor can take it to a top speed of above 100kph and it can cruise easily at 60kph all day. Plus, I don’t need to stop for gas as often.

The only downside to my motorcycling joy is that my clothes are a bit dusty and I’m a bit sweaty when I get to wherever I’m going. That and I get to observe how road courtesy, traffic enforcement and road construction has deteriorated in our country, which used to be known as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas”. Riding a motorcycle along our city streets is neither a pearl nor a peach. It’s a killer.

Our streets are being made in such a way that it is becoming dangerous to ride a motorcycle on them. In some major roads, the asphalt overlay has been stacked up so high that the gutters are now more than a foot deep and when the front wheel of a scooter or even a big bike slips into the gutter, it can swallow the bike and throw the rider off the saddle. Quezon Avenue in Quezon City is a good example of how dangerous the gutters have become.

Some manholes were constructed in such a way that they look like a wheel trap for motorbikes. If you’re not careful, the right side storm drains at the southbound side of the EDSA-Shaw Boulevard Crossing underpass can catch your front wheel and stop your bike in mid-stride. If you’re lucky, you’ll just get a bruise or a bent front fork. However, if a bus was tailgating your motorcycle and you were thrown into the bus’ path, let’s just hope that you get thrown between the wheels of the bus…

The frenzied road excavations made by the Manila Waterworks and Maynilad left the once-smooth streets with inverted speed bumps that can damage the rims of a passing motorbike. I don’t know where MWSS and Maynilad got their contractors but somebody please tell them to fill the holes they made with cement or concrete and not merely with soft sand. Also, these water companies and their contractors should be penalized for littering the streets with the road diggings that they leave behind after they’re finished.

Perhaps because of the sweltering heat and the unusually heavy summer traffic, drivers begin to lose their tempers and they take it out on passing motorcyclists by making sure that riders get stuck in traffic as well. Let me repeat the international law about lane sharing: Below 40kph, motorcyclists can ride between lanes but at 40kph and above, they are supposed to ride in the lanes like a car. Unfortunately, many car drivers and motorcyclists do not know this law and equally unfortunate, so do traffic enforcers.

And that’s the sad part. Because of the rampant graft and corruption in government, little money is spent on the actual improvement and the maintenance of law enforcement units. Our cops aren’t trained well and aren’t motivated enough to do their jobs well so they do not enforce what they’re supposed to. Some well-trained and well-equipped motorcycle cops have even become road bullies, escorting VIP sons-of-b****es and slicing through the heavy traffic that they caused instead of doing their duties as motorized traffic enforcers. Reality check, boys: It’s the taxpayers that are paying your salaries and not those S.O.B.s. With attitude like these from the trained motorcycle cops, what can you expect from the less-trained traffic aides?

Since enforcement is weak, road users wantonly violate traffic laws, even on the national highways. Just ride your motorbike through McArthur Highway from Bulacan to Ilocos Norte and you’ll see motorcyclists riding against the flow of traffic and riding without headlights and taillights at night. It’s a miracle that there aren’t as many highway deaths because of this.

And then, there are the maniacal jeepney drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, tricycle drivers and other road hazards that we’ve been writing about here at The Philippine STAR. Has the government done anything about their road manners? Of course not, it can wait after the elections.

Thankfully, riding the thrifty Kymco Free LX makes me forget these, at least temporarily. Stupid jeepney driver? Just twist the throttle and he’s suddenly far behind you. Bus driver trying to squeeze you into a congested lane? Just squeeze the brakes, fake to one side and throttle past him on the other side. Problem solved. Spiraling fuel prices? P250 can fill up the tank and last you two weeks, heh-heh. Smelling like Eau de EDSA after a ride? Take a nice cool shower and feel good that you’re already home – way ahead of the other road users who are stuck in traffic in their cars and buses.

I hope you now realize why I choose to ride a small scooter. Like the song says, “My world is getting smaller everyday…” and riding small is the right thing to do – it’s practical, economical and convenient, too. And because of the freedom that riding small represents, you might even feel like singing a few bars from Burt Bacharach’s hit song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. I especially like the part that goes, “Because I’m free… Nothing’s worrying me….”

Here are some of your Backseat Driver reactions from James Deakin’s “Dear Mr. President (Part 2)” and one from Ray Butch Gamboa’s “It ain’t fair but it’s legal – or is it?” plus a little welcome note to the newest member of The Philippine STAR’s Business Motoring team, Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo…

Nice suggestions from the author. Our traffic system is getting worse by the minute and our government seems to be complacent about it. Its so frustating to see how philippines were years behind its neighboring SEA country when it comes to traffic and road safety. – ryu_33


Hey, can I add one more suggestion? Something that many car owners will probably be happy about if the next president can do it – straighten up those major roads and streets! It’s really hard to drive when you will encounter some bumps and potholes in the next 10 meters or so. For example, along EDSA – this is the famous EDSA we’re talking about and yet they can’t even try to repair parts of it! Did they (whoever is responsible) really intend to have those bumps and potholes so that motorists can’t accelerate? It’s really irritating. – kEnshiNxXxHiMura


Confiscating your driver’s license for a traffic violation is not right. Tungkol naman sa fine kung walang driver’s license ay hindi rin dapat. In other countries like Malaysia and Singapore (a fine country) ay nagbibigay sila ng oras to produce your license. They might take some of your ID just to be sure you will come back. It is possible naman na makalimutan mong dalhin ang license mo dahil di naman nakadikit sa katawan mo yan. Para naman duon sa ayaw magbayad ng multa ay simple lang, huwag kayong mag violate ng traffic rules kahit na walang enforcer or kahit na may malakas kayong padrino. Be honest to your self. – phawaii

Cool… Congratulations! – junjunz

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