When the inefficient and often chaotic public transport system and daily traffic gridlock is pushing you to the verge of insanity sometimes you can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way. Well, there in fact are several ways; it’s either you swallow the bitter pill and accept that it’s your fate, or you can relocate near your workplace and say goodbye to cramped jeeps and busses. Or perhaps you can quit your current job and look for a new one near your place of residence. But the most sensible thing you can do if you ask me is to learn how to ride a motorcycle. If you don’t like scooters, the Yamaha All-New SZ is a good bike to start riding on.
As most seasoned motorcyclists would tell you, city riding is an adventure on its own. Every day you’re faced with different challenges; bully drivers, unpredictable tricycles, stray animals, undisciplined pedestrians, just name it, they’re all here. While bumper-to-bumper traffic is already a given, it’s the ever changing landscape, or rather make that roadscape, that often causes the mother of all headaches; One day you’re driving on perfectly good roads then the following day you can barely recognize the same road because of unannounced pipe-laying works or some other road repairs. It’s a good thing the Yamaha SZ is up to the task to face all these challenges, and then some.
The SZ is a basic, honest to goodness commuter motorcycle that’s gifted with a handsome styling, a sturdy backbone frame, a fuel efficient yet powerful 149.3cc air-cooled single cylinder motor, compliant suspension and a set of good brakes. What’s surprising about the SZ however is not how each individual parts go about their business but how everything works together as a complete package to give you the perfect urban adventure ride.
On the road, the 149.3cc motor is plenty powerful for overtaking slow moving vehicles and it also allows you to outrun slow moving traffic during the rush hour grand prix. Well, the distance between stop lights should be short because the SZ runs out of breath above 100 km/h. That’s plenty fast for city riding, fortunately the front disc and rear drum brake combination offers plenty of stopping power to prevent you from becoming a hood ornament on somebody else’s car. The SZ’s wide handlebars and small turning radius makes filtering in traffic and dodging zombie-like pedestrians a breeze. For less than perfect roads, the SZ’s telescopic front suspension and dual rear shock absorbers handle most road undulations and potholes, except for the really nasty ones, with aplomb.
We were pretty impressed with the SZ’s versatility so after a week of city riding we decided to stretch its legs and bring it all the way to Lobo, Batangas. A good thing about modern smartphones is that it can plot the best route for you using google maps and global positioning system. What it doesn’t show you however is the condition of the actual roads. So after following the suggested route we soon found out that a sizable portion of the “best route” google suggested is under repair, and that’s an understatement, so we ended up doing our own version of Ewan Mcgregor and Charley Boorman’s The Long Way Down. Again, we were surprised how the SZ tracked on loose gravel and deep powdery sand even on road biased tires. We are now wondering what more it can do if we switched to dual-sport tires. We rode for several hours through scenic coastal roads until we finally reached the small town of Lobo where Faro de Punta de Malabrigo, or Malabrigo Point Lighthouse is situated.
For a little bit of history, the Malabrigo lighthouse is one of only 24 lighthouses built during the Spanish colonial period. The Malabrigo lighthouse is situated near a cliff overlooking Verde Island passage and from afar you can see the island of Mindoro. The lighthouse was constructed by Jose Garcia, but the actual design was penned by Guillermo Brockman. Its architecture was Victorian inspired, with attractive ornate metal grills adorning the fence, balconies and windows. The lighthouse tower and adjoining pavilions were built using red bricks (painted white), while hardwood like narra and molave were used for the beams, trusses, doors and floors. Construction was finished in 1896. The century old lighthouse still sits on its original brick foundation but the upper part was already renovated with new solar powered halogen lamps installed. Surprisingly after 117 years it still uses the original spiral staircase and lantern. On the 27th of November 2006 it was declared a national historical landmark by the National Historical Institute.
It was already dark when we left Lobo, Batangas. As we negotiated the twisty mountain roads of Mount Lobo I was truly delighted with the SZ’s bright and powerful halogen headlight. It throws off a nice beam that slices through pitch black darkness. After several hours on the saddle we finally reached Silang, Cavite. Thanks to the SZ’s comfortable seat, natural riding position and good overall ergonomics I felt as if I can still ride it for several more hours without ever feeling fatigued. So did I? Of course I didn’t. That night my buddies and I enjoyed a steaming hot cup of coffee while reminiscing about our past two-wheel adventures.
Model & Variant: Yamaha SZ
Engine: Air-cooled, single cylinder, sohc, 2 valve, 4-stroke
Max Power: 11.93 hp @ 7500 rpm
Torque: 9.44 lb.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Seat Height: 800 mm
Fuel Capacity: 14 litres
Dry Weight: 133 Kg.
Top Speed: 100 Km/h
Price: PhP 69,900