Honda Unicorn 41000 kms Review by Shafeeq Rahman

Hello friends I am Shafeeq Rahman from Kerala. This is my fist ever article to any automobile media, and I thank BikeAdvice team who gave me and all of us a platform to share our motorcycling experience. In this article I share all my experience along with a review of my machine; your comments are most welcome.

I startedtwo wheeler lives on my dad’s LML Vespa. It was an excellent machine. I used it for one year and it served me the purpose of early morning dash to railway station. Later in second year of my college life, I asked my dad to switch on to a motorcycle. I asked for 200CC Mania Machine, but he insisted 100CC economy editions.

Well, 100CC, far better was the 150CC Vespa. The game went on, and we finally landed on the average value, 150CC All Round Machine. The Honda Unicorn (UNI). We went to the showroom and booked the UNI in black and red edition. All the colors had the same price tag but the waiting period was less, 1.5 months, compared with, 4 months for others.

Two months over, and I enquired, “Sir Next Week”, Next week, “Sir Next week”, Next Week “Load already dispatched, By End Of Month ”. 3 Months over, I shouted, “_!!_ii_”, Next Week, I mailed Honda, and 3 days later, “Sir Ready”. And that became the most dreadful periodin my life.

Why Unicorn?

It all happened in 2008 when Unicorn was out from my list. I was drawn away by the Pulsar 200 but my dad was drawn away by 70kmpl HH machines. Reliability was another issue that my dad spotted with Bajaj. Take it from me; there is no bike which is not reliable unless maintained properly.

I know Pulsars, CBZs, and UNIs, which have worked till 100kkms, and still working and till 30k kms, and not working. Finally, I was forced to take a decision between my needs and the reliability factor. The answer was my Uncle’s words regarding UNI. Thanks to my uncle who made my dad believe in UNI and to finalize.

Day 1: The Delivery

13. DEC. 2008 It was 7 in morning and I was doing a mad dash at 70kmph on the Vespa to catch morning train to college. There is a railway flyover on the way and I crashed with a guy wheeling on it. Luckily I was not the culprit, but it ruined my Vespa and I escaped with some patches on right hand and right knee.

I learned a lesson that day, ‘A Helmet not only saves your head from injuries but also provide you a safe place to support the rest of the body during a crash.’ Coz When u crash with a helmet, your head is safe, so that you can place your head (helmet) easily on road and take the rest of your body out from the moving mass. This is what happened and I could save the rest of my body from any serious injuries.

Well, crashed in the morning and I went along with my dad to showroom. The UNI was ready there awaiting our arrival. Sadly, I found that it was not cleaned properly and also the Teflon job was not done. I managed not to go wrong with the sales guys and told them to do all the work next time I drop in, coz it’s nearly 4 months and I don’t want to leave my machine on day 1 itself. I guess the above stories gave you a picture of Honda sales strategy, bad, shit, non-sense, carp… Pls add on…

Early Days Of Biking

In the beginning I was keen about the run in period and kept the revs below 4k rpm and speeds below 60kmph. My daily ride was from home to railway station and back which comprise a total of 15kms a day, 75kms a week and 375kms a month. Yup, 1000kms came up on my odoonly after 2 months. During those days I always dreamt of taking my bike to some place and put in frame.

It remained as a distant dream and I used to click at home in rear quarter angle every time I complete polishing with MOTOMAX (best quality polish I have ever tried). The UNI won’t make you WOW over its looks. It looks good, not great like PULSARs, FZs, or odd like CBZ. I like its tank, tailpiece, pipe, alloys, discs, dials, and there is nothing that make you think like it’s designed by apes, no, nothing.

Gaining Speed Knowledge and Crash

Yeah, crash. I still remember the Xbhpguys words in their profile, when launched long back, guess in 2005, ‘If you haven’t crashed yet, then you are not riding fast enough’. As soon as my bike turned 1000kms old I started building speed. 100kmph came out on speedo soon and I started pushing the bike hard. It was not that hard but started shifting gears between 6k to 7k rpms.

Then came my first long outing and counted 110kms on trip in a single day. It may not sound exciting for all you now but for me, back at those times was a big thing. My first crash on UNI happened nearly 11months after the delivery. Again early morning, and was in hurry to catch morning train. This taught me one thing: “Never believe an auto rickshaw standing idle”.

It was in front of railway station, I was moving towards the parking lot, when neared an auto, and it just flicked its front end into my path. Everything happened in fraction of seconds, and I was lying down away from UNI. Again I was not the culprit, and was lucky that the spectators knew what happened.

I started gaining knowledge on my bike. Even though I am an avid reader, the knowledge I gained was kept in mind till this time. I started pushing my bike hard round the corners, and peg scrapping became a regular exercise. A word “Cornering on motorcycle is an art, a dangerous art, perform only at know open corners”. Corners are tricky.

They are the place for hidden danger. Do it at places that are familiar for you. While cornering you must have a clear picture of road ahead, oncoming vehicle and pedestrian traffic, means familiar open corners. During these days only I started to observe my bikes engine, gearbox, ride and handling characters.

Engine and Gearbox

150CC Honda Offset Crank Mill crunches out 13.3 horses. Back in 2004 this was a huge figure, but still the UNI plays a wonderful job in propelling you through the traffic. The motor here is refined and smooth that in traffic when engine stalls you unknowingly will press the starter.

The gear box too is butter smooth. The cog works well and shifts are positive. But there is some dislikes. The 2nd gear engages with huge ‘clung’, and the when slotted to 5th will either slip into 4th or neutral. That was irritating. My bike turned 40k and the ‘clung’ still remains but the other one disappeared.

Ride and Handling

Even though many of my friends have told that UNI rides well, I felt the other way. The ride was way too bumpy. It was too irritating in the beginning, later I found the culprit. The bike being new will have some harsh points in suspension which will soften with time and it did. The tire pressure also played its role.

Except UNI all other 150CC bikes in the market comes with 32psi at rear, while UNI with 29psi (both rider and passenger). Sorted out the local tire shop guy’s recommendation, things changed and the ride improved, also the braking. Lower the pressure better is the tire contact. This also reduced the tendency of rear to step out under hard braking.

Enjoying Long Rides

Riding a bike is fun, and when it happens for long distance its bliss. I have done numerous long rides and all those times my UNI proved to be a wonderful companion. The engine gearbox combo works well in all conditions, the ergonomics are spot on, wide seats with plenty of space to move around, the upright seating position, sound chassis with great dynamic ability, and much more. The headlamp is good, and has good spread and ample lighting. Now let me brief the trips to date.

13/40: It seems like a fraction, but was the actual title for my article in the college magazine. This was my first trip, 430kms and 13hrs of fun. The ride was through one of the most scenic routes in Western Ghats. The route was from Chalakkudy to Pollachi through Valparai. The road featured dense forest, waterfalls, numerous dams, tea estate and 40 number of hair pins. 13th among the 40 is the most amazing one. I can’t explain the beauty in words; it is something that you have to experience. This is how I made the title.

Vasco-Da-Gama’s Land

200kms. Nop, I didnt ride till Portugal, but till Kapad Beach. Kapad beach is nearly 12kms north of Calicut, the place where Vasco-Da-Gama landed in the year 1498. It started with my friend’s plan to go home, who stays at Kapad, near the beach. He planned to go home and thankfully there was no train at that moment.

I decided to help him and told that I will drop him at home, and we started. The destination is 100kms away from our place and reached there in two hours. It is a nice place, and I love it. After two years of this event I made a solo ride, just to see the beautiful beach.

Bangalore Express

840kms. Home – Bangalore – Home on my bike was always a dream. It was a dream even before I started to live with two wheelers. Finally, one day, I achieved my dream. Bangalore, as everyone knows, is a tourist spot. Most of my friends have also been to Bangalore many times. But I did it in style, for the first time, on my bike.

It all happened after my semester exams and we planned a trip. It started like 10 of us in 2 cars. But the plan flopped out as one of the cars was not available. I decided not to give up and asked my friend “On UNI, Tomorrow?”, Yes was the reply, and the next day we started. It was not a well planned trip. Bangalore is 400km away from home and was able to reach there in 7hrs 15mins. The route is Calicut – Bangalore via Wayanad, Mysore.

One glitch I came across with the bike during the trip was on the return ride. While riding on the Mysore Bangalore highway, I encountered a continuous beep sound. Pulled aside and checked, found that the indicator buzzer has undergone short circuit and heated the flasher. I removed the buzzer and waited till the flasher cools, so that the indicators started to function normally. So please friends, please don’t install a buzzer in your bike. It will screw you when you don’t want to be.

Picnic Dreams

220kms. Long before, during my early school days, I happened to hear the word picnic. That day my class teacher explained that our class is going for a picnic to some place called Malampuzha. I had no knowledge about that place, but was excited like every other kid in the class. I went home and asked with parents for permission, and I was replied with a big ‘NO’. There goes the great moments that my mind had constructed.

This incident left some marks inside me and one day it turned out with the decision to ride. Malampuzha is a dam constructed over Malampuzha River in Kerala. It is the largest reservoir in Kerala. I was lucky that I reached there before 9 a.m, and the guard was not there. In Malampuzha you are not allowed to take your vehicle down to the lake. Since it was early morning, I slid my machine down the lake and took some photos. It is a wonderful place to spend time.

Day Break

208kms. It was a lazy morning and I was late to college. I was in canteen sipping tea, when my friend came and started to discuss. Destination was the topic and we planned a quick visit to Peechi Dam located 100kms away. It is again a nice place to spend time. One should do boating here, so that will be able to see tuskers along the bank.

Coast to Coast

1454kms. This was a cross country run from the west to the east. It started from Arabian Sea and ended at Bay Of Bengal. This was awell-planned road trip I have done till date. I did it in the month of November when the weather was cold, and is the best time for touring in the country.

The journey was from Tirur (near Calicut) to Chennai, and route Tirur-Palakkad-Coimbatore-Salem-Krishnagiri-Chennai. I had to cover almost 700kms to reach Chennai, and it took 15hrs to do that. The journey was great except for some distance before and after Avinashi, where highway construction is going on. The NH47,7,46 and 4 was inviting. Overall it was the trip, that I enjoyed the most.

The Nilgiris

400kms. This happened on lastvalantines day. There is again something special for this ride, as it happened after seven months from I paused biking. Again it was not a planned one. The idea just came into my mind while I was in ATM, drawing some money to fill my bike. Soon after I came out with amount, filled the tank, and started to ride.

A distance of 400kms in 11hrs, it was fun riding through the ghats. The route was Home-Nilambur-Ooty-Coonoor-Coimbatore-Palakkad-Home. Just another awesome route to spend time. There are still more, but we can come back to the bike. All these trips and my regular riding made me to measure one thing.

Fuel Economy

To answer in one word, the average fuel economy of my UNI is 54kmpl. It varies with riding style. I have averaged both 48kmpl and 65kmpl on my UNI. If you ride hard it lowers, and if mannered it rise. If you want the best mix of economy, speed and ride comfort, I suggest you riding your machine between 3k to 4k rpm.

Issues Till Date

Everybody says and sings about the reliability of Honda and especially the UNI. But the following things happened to my UNI under 10k kms.

  • Worn Out Head Gasket: My brand new UNI, just after completing a year, was found with a leaking head. When I consulted the dealer, they told that the gasket is worn out and made me replace it.
  • Worn Out Fork Oil Seals: The front forks of UNI started to leak just after 9k kms, and the dealer told me to replace the fork oils seals.
  • I had to replace the front Ball Risers, I guess the name, in order to sort out handle bar movement under braking.

I guess problems like this have not been experienced on other manufactures bikes of same age. But once after I replaced those, they haven’t made any problems.

Problems I Face Now

UNI has now crossed 41000+kms (3 yrs old) and is still working flawlessly. Now I encounter some problem with the noisy chain, which makes a non-sense rubbing sound, and tends to rattle while going uphill. The machine vibrates at 80kmph, before and after which there is almost nothing. Even though it vibrates, it never irritates.

Another one is the problem in the fuel line. I paused biking for seven months and this made some rust to find place in the fuel tank. This when mixed with fuel tends to block the fuel line. I have to stop and blow into tank through the pipe from carb sometimes.

The biggest problem I face now is not with the bike, but with the service crew. I don’t know what to do with that people. I explained the fuel line problem and they told me things like replacing the CDI unit! Bloody, stupid, idiotic service from Honda.

Now let us conclude this review with the following major points:

The Good Bits

  • Good fuel economy under all conditions.
  • Smooth engine and gearbox.
  • Good touring machine.
  • Best machine for beginers.

The Bad Bits

  • Stupid service crew from Honda.
  • Headlight could have been better focused.
  • Noisy chain.

To Wrap Up

If you can live with the Honda service guys, the UNI is a great machine. It doesn’t make you feel like you have made a wrong choice any time. It is a good highway as well as city machine. It is an all-rounder. Suits every one, and does the job of Point to Point transportation flawlessly.

Shafeeq Rahman

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