December 31, 2012

Koh Chang and the Lifan Cross 200

Just came back from the beautiful island of Koh Chang in the Southeast of Thailand, where I spent a few days of well-deserved rest.
The first day was all about beach and food, but on the second day my right wrist started twitching. I knew what was coming and how to get it out of my system. I needed a bike!

Most of the bikes for rent on the island are small scooters, with a fair amount of Honda Phantoms 200, ugly chopper-would-be and I wouldn't want to be seen dead on one of those. The island, with its steep and partly dirt roads, needed something a bit more powerful and with good handling. At least that was the line I used to convince my wife... ;-)

The rescue came with a LIFAN Cross 200. I've heard mixed reviews about this Chinese bike for some time and I was curious to see for myself. On top of that it was the first time on an Enduro bike, so that just doubled the excitement.

 Lifan is a very big company, in business for many decades already, and it shouldn't be put on the same (low) level as other Chinese brands, such as JRD, Platinum etc.

The first impression was that it was very light, around 130kg I believe and handled well, as you would expect from such a bike. Something I didn't quite like from the start was the gear configuration. The gears are like on the smaller step-through bikes: from the top down...N - 1 -2 -3 -4 -5. I'd rather have the traditional 1 (down) - N - (up) 2 - 3 - 4 - 5. Maybe it's just a matter of getting used to it. The gearbox was well built and the gears engaged easily and noiselessly. When moving you don't even need to pull the clutch. Just step through.

Going uphill I was pleasantly surprised by the power and the power delivery, which seemed smooth and more than enough to tackle even the most extreme inclinations.

On straight stretches I didn't notice any problematic vibrations, which was good. Something not so good however, was the hard seat. After 20 minutes I had to stop to relieve my poor backside.

The bike was pretty new, with only 1300km on the clock. So far no ugly rust on the frame or bolts.
Brakes were sufficient at best. The front disk continuously made lamenting noises, while the rear brake....was there a rear brake?

"The road broken. It's dangerous." :-)

All in all I enjoyed the ride. Would I buy a Lifan Cross? Hmmm I know the price is more than competitive, but buying a Chinese bike still seems risky to me for a number of reasons, which will have to be explored in another post, maybe.
That said, there's a very nice Chinese Motard, called Mbike Delta200....

December 18, 2012

Vintage Bike Meeting 2012 - Kanchanaburi/ Thailand

2 days, 560km and quite a few beers later, another great Vintage Bike Meeting has come to an end.
This was actually the first time for me and it took quite some skills to convince my wife. At first she didn't want to go, but when I told her "Hey, no problem...I can go alone!", she changed her mind. Apparently I'm not allowed to have fun by myself... Anybody else got this?

Anyways, I must take my hat off to her endurance. I did mount the original SR seat just for her as it is more comfortable, but even my hard bum was pretty battered when we got home.


Unfortunately, we had to ride through ueber-busy Bangkok to get there. Trust me, that's not something anyone would look forward to. But once you reach Kanchanaburi, you can ride up the last 60km to the dam along the (in)famous River Kwai, and that makes up for all the stress in Bangkok. By the way: bless the guy who invented the GPS!

The venue itself was great. Inside a National Park, close to the Srinagarind Dam, surrounded by (small) mountains...very peaceful.
Until the bikes came, that is.
And there were loooots of them!

Mostly vintage and classic bikes, but also more recent ones and of course an invasion of Yamaha SR, which is always something to look forward to.

This year we decided to pitch a tend in the area, as far as possible from the main stage, but for next year we'll know better. The relentless music stopped at 3a.m. and the first bikers to wake up, had to wake up everybody else by furiously revving their bikes.
Thankfully I prepared myself for this eventuality by indulging in some Thai beer which kept me asleep through most of the night. :-)

All in all it was great fun and I'll definitely look forward to next year's edition.

And now what you were waiting for: PICTURES!

we took a ferry to cross the Chao Praya river

this one's for you, Angelo...

hmm....that doesn't look very vintage...

an oil-stained bike support

This gentleman built this trike all by himself and you can see from his face that he's rather satisfied with his job. The bike features an old Subaru engine, double front forks and a gigantic home-made tank. Well done, sir. 

in a sea of modified SR, an original really stands out

now that's a beauty ;-)

a strange contraption that surprisingly made it to a stage of honour

one of my personal favourites