Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Choosing the first bike

After getting your license, after that sigh of relieve, one of the thoughts that comes across my mind was, "hmm, what about that bike I saw the other day?" When I started waiting for the TP test in the 2 months period, I was browsing for bikes, and tried to get myself familiarised.

While I've heard about 2 strokes and 4 strokes, and forums mentioned about 2T, I was still confused. Although technically, I don't know what 2T means exactly, but I know it has to be mixed with the petrol for 2 strokes bike, and that means troublesome. *Avoid 2 strokes bike!

Alvin, my reservist friend tried to sell me his 1997 Aprilia RS125. He kindly offered me to take over his bike which he sent for major overhaul at the bike shop, and told me just pay him the overhaul price. I didn't take up the offer. After a long while, he said "Hey, its $1300, you want to take over?"

2 weeks after getting my license, I was getting a bit anxious. I guess some people do, like me, might be afraid of the unfamiliarity of riding again. So I visited 2 sites to get my hands on a 2nd hand bike, sgbikemart and singaporebikes, but my friend JiaJie said "you should go to the forum in singapore bikes to look for direct sales!"

I think the fastest way to choose your first bike is to decide what you want. It was plain simple for me.

  1. Need to be visible at night. Lights must be damn bright or loud
  2. Storage is necessary. I like to ride during my ICT, so I need place to put my stuff.
  3. Easy to maintain and nothing too difficult to manage.
  4. Able to fit your budget, don't get over anxious and take on a heavy debt. There's always another deal round the corner, don't rush into things. 

Since I've been driving almost every day, I get to see bikes on the road. The ONE bike that caught my eye from afar has the brightest tail lights. It also has a big ass look that seemed to have alot of storage. The tail lights are unique and it wasn't long when I realised I was looking at SYM GTS 200. Just nice that I could ride it for a Class 2B license.

I started text sellers and got a few offers about $2200~$2500 for GTS200 with COE ending in 2005/2006. Finally got one about $3.5K with COE ending in 2020. Whilst I didn't want to know the history of this bike too much, but my friend Jia Jie whom kindly went with me to "check out" the bike said it seemed and sounded ok. Although visually it has multiple scratches, on the whole its pretty good.

Things to look out, he said:

  1. Suspension coils, no cracks or leaks of some kind
  2. Disc brake plates, should not be undulating, be careful when feeling the plate, might scratch your hands
  3. Engine, must sound smooth, avoid bikes that has unusual "kak kak kak" sound.
  4. Servicing period, although must take with a pinch of salt, but still try to ask for an honest reply. Ask what was replaced, serviced, etc. 
  5. Hire purchase, ask if still under installment plan, whether you need to pay anything "extra" to settle the hire purchase, or you might want to take over the installment every month. 
[Updated 29 Mar 2014] General for all scooters (based on a post in forum)]:

(I still think that if you are new to bikes, it's best to bring a more experienced friend - and one who has actually ridden a scooter - to go with you).

1. Check if the the radiator is leaking. Radiator fins are very fine, and can be damaged causing leaks. Radiator replacements are expensive. Usually, to know, u would have to leave it at a parking lot overnight and then check if they are drips on the floor the next day. This also applies to checking if there is engine oil drip as well. So, if you can only do a quick check, swipe your hands under the bottom fairing of the bike. You will know whether it's leaking. Texture of radiator coolant and engine oil is also different - so you would be able to tell what's leaking.

2. Check the gaskets and seals of the engine. If you see a grime and oil around the seals coming out of the gaps, it's not good. Replacement of gaskets is costly as you have to dismantle the engine block - and ALL seals have to replaced (even those that were OK in the beginning) as seals can only be assembled ONCE (you can't put back a disassembled gasket).

3. Check the CVT - this is the drive train of the bike. If you are technically inclined (I am), and you have the tools, you can dismantle the CVT cover. You can then inspect the condition of the clutch as well as variator, and also the belt drive.

4. Check the disk brake pad wear, alignment of disk rotors (by spinning the wheels), and also test ride then E-brake a few times separately with only the front and then only the back - to check if your brakes are still functioning wheel. (This is very common, same as what my friend said above)

5. Do a test ride - listen to the sound of the engine (is there any knocking sound?) and also pay attention to the feel of the CVT drive - you can tell if there is something wrong (but not if you have not ridden a scooter before since you have no experience as to what constitutes a smooth drive - thus the importance of bringing an experienced scooter friend). 

6. Ride and see if the bike steers straight. If it doesn't it can indicate bent handlebars, bent forks, wheels that have gone out of alignment.

7. Remove the engine oil cap. There is a dipper stick. Dip the stick in the oil, and see as well as feel the texture of the oil. This would tell you whether the fella maintains his bike regularly or he has over-extended the use of the engine oil (thus causing harm to the engine). Again, you need experience to know how to feel the difference.

8. Bring a voltmeter, and check the battery condition.

There are also other general stuff you could ask, but take it with a pinch of salt.

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