Friday, November 6, 2015

Living with it - 2013 Honda PCX150

Time flies when you're having fun, and so it is that over two and a half months have passed since my purchase of a 2013 Honda PCX150. As of my arrival at school this morning, there were almost 3200 miles on the clock. So it seems appropriate to address how it is to live with. While there have been changes to the machine for the 2015 model year, they amount to a few minor tweaks and most of these observations will still apply. There are also still many 2013 PCX models available as left-overs and for those seeking a used scooter, this should be of some help.

First off, it is different by far from my old Kymco. The riding position, seat height, wheelbase, torque, horsepower, maneuverability, and any number of other things are not the same, even if only marginally so. Of course, it's a different style of scooter, and indeed was designed  from the ground up to be different from previous scooterly products.

As a review, the PCX-150 was originally billed as a "sports scooter," which is subjective of course. As far as the looks go, with a stock windscreen it has some resemblance to a sport bike from the front, but the profile is closer to that of larger touring scooters like the Honda Forza, and Silverwing, or the venerable Suzuki Burgman. The stock windshield was the first thing to go, as it didn't really live up to the name. Some people like it, but my personal taste is for something a bit taller. The Givi screen has been perfect for my own riding needs, and changes the looks from the front to match the impression given by its profile.

Technically, the PCX is very modern, and though it looks like a bigger scooter, it's still a one lunger with a small displacement cylinder. Fuel injection makes it a peppy little scoot, with quick acceleration and a top speed of 67 mph as tested by GPS.  It's only a 150, so highway travel, while legal, is not recommended. Riding on the highway tanks the fuel economy (I know, bad pun), and even though it is a liquid cooled engine, that kind of constant pounding is not going to do the dinky little piston any favors. While I've run it all over and have done some highway, including a short jaunt up I-83 earlier today,  it's much more at home on the back roads.

On a 2013, like mine, the instrument panel and controls are nicely laid out. The only quibble I have with it is the horn arrangement. The buttons for the horn and turn signals are reversed from the normal placement on most bikes and scooters. This has led to accidentally hitting the horn when trying to signal, or the reverse. Even after two months, I still get it mixed up. Otherwise though, I love the look of the chrome bars and the easy to read instrument cluster. Every time I see it, I'm impressed by just how pretty it looks. That may be odd, but it speaks to quality of manufacture in my opinion.

The engine starts with the stator instead of a traditional ignition motor. I'm ambivalent on whether this was a smart move. Yes, it means one less component, but whether it wears out the stator more quickly, time will tell. So far there have been no issues and starting is nearly immediate.

Braking is supplied by a three piston front disk assembly and a rear drum. The left handle operates the rear brake and the center piston of the front brake, while the right handle puts all of the pistons to use up front. Stopping power is good, though it's not going to stand up on the front wheel under hard braking, not in my experience at least. While I've had no issues, some users of the forums have experienced poor handling and brake lockups on wet roads. I'm not 100% certain, but one of the videos a user posted showed obviously greasy road conditions. Other pictures of crash sites showed poor road conditions as well, which leads me to believe the scooter is not the primary culprit.

The ride on the PCX is somewhat firm, and the last 3200 miles have driven home the fact that a new seat should be on my Christmas list. I wasn't quite sure about the "rump-bump" on the 2013's seat when I first purchased the machine. It wasn't until I started putting my feet on the forward floorboards that it started to make sense. This seating position pushes one's rear back against the bump, helping create a sense of security. Even so, the seat numbs the hinderparts after about an hour of riding.

The suspension is acceptable, if a bit on the stiff side. Eventually, aftermarket shocks will find their way onto the rear, just out of my own personal preference and really more for looks than for practicality. The front fork is sufficient and will probably remain unmodified. There is plenty of bounce and it doesn't bottom out on bigger bumps, though more gravity challenged riders might have a varied experience. If you'll recall, I rode the PCX from Lancaster to Massachusetts and back around Labor Day this year, so it's not so bad as to put a stop to such shenanigans.

The ride is crisp, agile and secure in the corners on a good clean road. It doesn't exactly throw itself into corners, but it's definitely capable in the twisties. One of the roads I travel on the way to and from school has a number of bends that allow for a moderate lean and the PCX travels through them with ease, even on a wet surface. Harder turns are a bit more challenging and the PCX doesn't seem quite as sure. Where the PCX really shines is it's touring ability. It not only looks like a big touring scooter, it feels like one. Yes, the seat needs work and the suspension could be tweaked, but it still travels better than one would expect for something so small.

Maintenance can be a bit of a trial. For the shade-tree mechanic, the PCX is not extremely wrenching friendly. There are bits here and there that lead me to think Honda's engineers were inspired to discourage amateurs from doing more than the occasional oil change, though it's more likely the design was intended to be as space saving as possible. Oil changes require that the rear brake line be moved, which isn't a huge deal, but there are two panels to remove if one needs to work on the CVT, and if any maintenance must be done on the engine itself (like valve clearances), a number of body panels have to come off. This is fine if you have time and a garage, but if your only option is to work outside, that's a bit of a tall order for an afternoon. Once the panels are off, it can still be a bit of a squeeze. Honda has focused so on making everything fit in as small a space as possible, even getting in at the battery has gotten my fingers pinched.

For practicality, the PCX is very good. I can't quite shut the seat with my helmet inside, but it has plenty of capacity. One user on the boards has fit the entirety of a 24 pack of Dasani water in the underseat storage. As seen on my recent camping trip, the underseat storage, crate on the rear rack, and a pair of saddlebags are more than sufficient for a single traveler.

Fuel economy has been a mixed bag. I average about 86 mpg as tracked by Some riders get up to 100 mpg out of their PCX's, but I'll admit I ride a bit hard and have no choice but to travel on the highway at least once a day for a short hop on the way to school, then back again to get across the Susquehanna river on the way to work in the afternoon.

So after nearly three months with a PCX and a good bit of road passed under the wheels, I'm still very happy with it. running nearly 80 miles a day some days is a lot more than many bigger bikes will do comfortably, and the PCX does exactly what I need, with a bit left over for the unexpected. If indeed Honda was trying to blur the lines a bit between scooter and motorcycle, I'd say they've made some strides in the right direction. It's not going to be mistaken for a motorcycle by anyone who knows better, but it does manage to exude less of the geekiness of the traditional small scooter. Now if only the rider would get rid of his silly helmet cover...yeah, not gonna happen.


kz1000st said...

I'm glad you like the scooter Paul, But.

"The stock windshield was the first thing to go, a new seat should be on my Christmas list.
Eventually, aftermarket shocks will find their way onto the rear. Oil changes require that the rear brake line be moved."

Whether you paid less isn't the point, It listed for $3500 when new. A Honda CB300F is a scant $500 more.

Lets try this one on too.

"running nearly 80 miles a day some days is a lot more than many bigger bikes will do comfortably"

Didn't I just read this previously?

"the seat numbs the hinderparts after about an hour of riding." Are you doing those 80 miles in 45 minutes?

I don't know what the "Bigger Bikes" are, Rigid Sportsters?

The PCX is a great scooter, although I hear the SMax is better according to the magazines, but at $3500 in a world of $4000, 300cc motorcycles, it should be.

Paul Smith said...

I can see some clarity is needed. Writing on an iPad is imperfect sadly. Firstly, the windshield, seat, and shocks would probably get replaced on a cb300f too. I'd want a slightly better fly screen than it comes with and that seat pinches when I sit on it. I've yet to ride one, but I've straddled the seat and found it unsuitable to my tastes. Tbh, I can't speak for the shocks on that bike, because I haven't actually ridden it, however, stock shocks often give a harder ride.

As for the oil changes and other maintenance, it's a small hustle, but it can't be denied that it seems Honda wants to encourage the consumer to visit their dealers for service. Smart business, but irritating.

As for the commute. I travel 30 miles to York, go to school for six hours, then travel 20 miles to Manheim or 30 to Lebanon for work, then commute up to 20 more miles home, so at least twice a week I do a full 80 mile total commute. That's not all in one sitting, and I was thinking primarily of hard tail cruisers and such. Tbh, my old Sabre wasn't comfortable for terribly long with it's old stock seat.

Overall though, I do love my PCX and think it is as close to perfect as I would expect from a stock machine.

Paul Smith said...

Hassle,months hustle...dang iPad

Paul Smith said...

And there it goes again. Grrrr

kz1000st said...

Straddling a seat isn't the same as riding. Numerous Road Tests don't mention an uncomfortable seat, praise the wind protection afforded by the fly screen and usually praise the stability of a Cb-F on the Interstate, which would get you to Massachusetts quicker.

Paul Smith said...

No, it's not the same; however, when I commented on it pinching, the sales manager said a lot of people were customizing the saddle. Tbh, I can only speak to my own experience, and that is what I do here, with some speculation thrown in at times for fun. ;)

As for getting places quicker, I've done that already. If i want to get someplace fast, I'll take my car. I don't have a scooter to get places faster, I have it so I may relish the journey. I'll relish it more once I make the seat into something more of a touring saddle. :D

Paul Smith said...

I tell ya what Jim, I'll pop down to Lancaster Honda this week and ask Kevin if I can take one of the 300s for a spin.

kz1000st said...

Well there you go, but I only ask one thing. Don't primarily compare it to a scooter. Another blogger does that all the time. Yes, a CB300 doesn't have cargo space, it's why there are saddlebags, etc.

I recently acquired a low cost 750cc bike strictly for the fun of it. I can tell you already I personally will have a tough time choosing between my 250cc Chinese Helix replica and a big motorcycle for trips. The bike is a major hoot but the Clone is much more comfortable.

Paul Smith said...

If any comparisons are made, they would be of things that warrant such. First I have to get the test ride, but comparisons, in my opinion should be apples to apples. Judging a sport bike, standard, or even a cruiser on storage space would be silly, just like judging a scooter on lack of a shifter. It's not supposed to have it...