Glenn has submitted this review in our Ownership Review Contest No 13, ensuring himself an assured prize. The contest also offers a chance to win Riding Jacket, Helmet and more.. You can submit your review to us as well. Here are all the details.

Hi guys, i am Glenn from Trichur,Kerala. I had been thinking about writing a review for the BikeAdvice review competition since it was announced way back in November. This is my first review of any sort on BikeAdvice.in and hopefully it will be well received. This review is based on my experiences with my Honda CB Unicorn.

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To be honest I wasn’t a big fan of bikes when I was young. I always fancied cars. Blame it on the Fast and the Furious movies and also the fact that i didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle didn’t help. All that changed when i reached 11th std. My best friend’s dad got him a brand new black pulsar 200 which was a big deal way back in 2008. Oh, the jealousy. Not a moment i am proud of. Suddenly the only thing that i wanted in the world was a black pulsar 200.

I begged my parents for months to get me one. NO was the only word from my folks. As a form of protest, I stopped using my bicycle and started walking everywhere. My parents didn’t budge because they were smart enough to know that there is no way a 16 year old will ride a bike carefully and responsibly, but then again as a 16 year old, you don’t give a damn what your parents think. The heart wants what the heart wants.

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Time passed, I finished schooling and joined Electrical Engineering in Mangalore. I had accepted that the only way I was going to get a bike was if I won it at a lottery or bought it with my own money. In short I had long forgotten about bikes and biking and I never asked my parents for a two-wheeler again. Life was passing by in college when in my second year, my roommate’s parents allowed him to bring his dad’s old hero Honda glamour to Mangalore. Initially it was used for the daily commute to college and weekend trips to the movie theatre. By my 3rd year it was mostly for frequent trips to the bar. I learnt to ride on that beautiful thing.  We started doing short trips to local tourist spots in and around Mangalore.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and the end for the hero glamour came at the hands of a college mate who crashed after hitting a big pothole. So we had no other option other than walking the short distance to college. But as most bikers know, once you start using motorbikes for every small trip, you start hating the thought of having to walk. So after four long years, I brought up the issue of getting a two-wheeler with my parents. Mom still was not interested but dad thought it was OK as long as I was getting an “Activa”.

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Desperate as I was, I didn’t care if they bought me a Scooty Pep. Luckily my uncle, God bless him, convinced my dad that a gear-less scooter and a motorcycle were both two wheelers and a bike would be more economical in the long run. So finally my dad relented and we started looking at our options.

HOW I ENDED UP BUYING THE UNICORN:

As every boy in college, I too wanted to go for Yamaha FZ. But after thinking for a moment, I realized that since i didn’t have any sort of income, i would have to beg my parents for gas money more often than i would like. So FZ was out. The other options i had were the Pulsar, CBZ X-treme, Suzuki GS150, Unicorn and Hunk.

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Since this would be my first purchase, I wanted it to last for as long as possible. And for that reason alone, Pulsar was out, since Bajaj bikes are known to deteriorate quickly after the initial 2 or 3 years. I liked the Suzuki GS150 as it was a well-built bike but opted against it as service centres were few and far between and they had very low resale value. So this left me with the Hero Xtreme, hunk and Honda unicorn. Out of these three, the unicorn was the most trusted motorcycle with very good demand and reputation. So I decided to go for the unicorn.

BREAK-IN PERIOD & MILEAGE:

This is supposed to be the most important period in the motorcycle’s engine or any other as engine as a matter of fact. The first 500 to 1000 km of the bike. Rpm should be kept at below 4500 and pillion riding to a minimum. Avoid rapid acceleration and engine breaking whenever possible. But as I was a novice biker and never having heard the term break-in before, there were a couple of instances I had taken my bike over 70 KMPH during the break-in period.

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Luckily I am yet to see any side effects of this even after owning it for 2 years and 17,000 KMs. Also during this break in period I was  a bit upset since I was getting close to 40 and not the 55kmpl as promised by the Honda dealership, but that gradually changed after the first service and I started getting around 45-50 KMPL. After 2 years of using, the maximum mileage I have got is 56 kmpl on the NH47 and around 52 kmpl in city driving. Average of 54 KMPL, a pretty good number for a 150cc motorbike. Now to the important bits.

PERFORMANCE: ( 8/10)

The CB Unicorn runs on a 149cc, 13.3 BHP engine that has been borrowed from the Honda CRF150. Except for slight modifications due to stricter emission norms, this engine has remained virtually unchanged since the unicorn was launched way back in 2005. The unicorn is unchallenged when it comes to engine refinement and you don’t feel any vibrations until you cross 4500RPM. After that mark, very slight vibrations start to creep up through the front footrests. The power delivery is smooth and linear and throttle response is also excellent. The claimed top speed is 110 km/hr. but the fastest I have been able to go is 102. Acceleration up to 60 KMPH is very quick and then up to 80 its okay but after that it takes its time to reach 100.

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HANDLING: ( 8/10)

We can all unanimously agree that in the Indian 150cc segment, nothing can beat the FZ when it comes to cornering and overall handling. But the second prize must surely go to the unicorn. With its mono suspension and a very well balanced centre of gravity, i have felt that the unicorn is very easy to ride and control in traffic. It’s as simple as riding a bicycle. I have tried taking off both hands (a foolish thing to do) at very low speeds and the bike will continue to move in a straight line without pulling to either side. At a 146kg, it is a bit heavy and a bit difficult to handle when the engine is off. The seat height is a little towards the higher side, and people below 5’6″ will find slightly difficult to plant their feet firmly on the ground.

BRAKES AND TYRES: ( 7/10)

The Unicorn comes with a 240mm disc on the front and a 130mm drum at the rear. These provide adequate braking power for normal use. In my opinion, the brakes could have been a bit more powerful. From personal experience, the front discs are just about okay at speeds above 60 and pretty much useless at anything higher than 70. If there is any need for sudden braking above 70kmph, I would advise you to squeeze the brake levers as hard as you can and start praying to as many gods as possible.

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The front tyre is the MRF Nylogrip zapper fs which is pretty decent but the rear tyre is the 18 inch MRF Nylogrip zapper y, which must be one of the worst tyres ever made. There is no tread pattern at the center of the tyre and hence they are pretty much useless under wet conditions and any sudden use of the rear brakes in rains will send your back end sliding. Also it is made of hard compound rubber, so they are fine under dry conditions but very dangerous if there is some loose dirt on the tarmac. This same tyre can be found on the hunk, extreme and gs150.

COMFORT: ( 9/10)

The seating position of the unicorn leans more towards commuterish than sporty. It has high handlebars which are very comfortable and perfect for riding long distance. The unicorn has very comfortable seating. The seat has the perfect width and has enough padding. I have done some long distance trips and made a lot of trips between my hometown Trichur to my college in Mangalore, a distance of almost 380km without ever feeling tired or having any back pain. It is very comfortable for both rider and pillion.

MILEAGE: ( 9/10)

Here is the one and only thing that most of the Indian population is concerned with. Be it a Ferrari or a ford, you can be sure that if the first question people ask is the price, the second will be the mileage. From my riding, i am getting a mileage of 50 to 53 in the city and almost close to 56 KMPL on the highway. I usually don’t go above 60 KMPH on the highway and try to avoid the most crowded roads while riding within city limits. I am highly satisfied with regards to the mileage.

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LOOKS: ( 7/10)

I think this is the aspect in which my Honda unicorn is lagging by a fair margin. The unicorn, to be honest, looks a bit boring now. The basic design has remained untouched since it was launched and I don’t how much longer Honda is expecting this design to keep selling but it is running out of time. I believe the looks alone will put off a lot of potential young customers. The bike feels big and the tank looks huge once you are seated on it, but when viewed from the side, it does not have the muscular looks of the hunk or fz.

PROS & POSITIVES:

  • Smooth and refined engine
  • Excellent mileage (54 KMPL avg.)
  • Very smooth gearshifts
  • Excellent handling in traffic and good cornering ability
  • Maintenance cost is almost zero. I have not spent a single rupee apart from the regular oil change, chain cleaning, spark plug change every 8k km and filter change after 15k km
  • Comfortable for rider and pillion regardless of distance travelled

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CONS & NEGATIVES:

  • 35w headlight is pathetic for night trips. If you are a regular user of the highways at night, you will have to upgrade to a higher wattage bulb which will require a coil rewinding.
  • No DC setup for headlights. No plug and play option for HID or angel eyes. Will have to spend another 1500 for dc conversion.
  • No digital console. Even some 100cc and 125cc bikes have at least a semi-digital console. I think the unicorn is the only 150 cc that still uses a completely analog console.
  • Paint quality could be a bit better. It doesn’t take much for the paint to get scratched. I advise you to apply polymer coating. Costs range from 400-700 rupees and will last for almost a year and will help keep the bike looking new.
  • The price of almost 77k INR on-road is a bit high for a bike that doesn’t offer the above mentioned features, especially when you consider that Yamaha, another Japanese maker is able to offer all this and more on the fz for a meagre price difference of just 5000 rupees. Clearly HMSI is trying to cash in on its HONDA brand name

SOME MEMORABLE RIDES:

The very first trip I took it on was to Chimmoni dam which is just 40 KMs from my home. There were just 4 of us and we left at around 2pm and came back at 7pm. It is best to visit it just after the rains, from august to October, as the roadside is covered in greenery and a lot of small jungle streams will be present. The dam will also be full. There are very few visitors and chances are you will be alone at the dam site.

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Another road trip that i did and every biker in south India should make is the Chalakuddy-athirapally-valparai-polachi trip on the SH21 and SH17. This route goes straight through dense jungle and you are surrounded by picture perfect scenery on either side of the road. It is around 170kms and the road is open only from 9am to 6pm as it passes through elephant territory and can be quite dangerous at night.

Also you have to give your details at the forest check post and be sure to return before 6pm or report at the check post on the opposite end if you don’t intend to return via the same route. On this trip there were 8 of us. We had 2 Yamaha fz16s, one Suzuki gs150 and my unicorn. We left Trichur at 7am, so we reached the Athirapally check post exactly at 9am. Before reaching Athirapally we visited the beautiful gardens and small dam at Thumboormuzhy which is just located 14km before Athirapally falls.

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As we had visited Athirapally falls a fair few times before, we decided to ride straight to Valparai instead of visiting the falls. It’s only around 80km but will take you almost 2 hours as the route is full of blind curves and you should go slow as there might be animals crossing, especially during the summer months. You should also visit the Poringalkuthu reservoir and Sholayar dam which are located on the same route. We and a family present at the dam were lucky as we spotted a heard of about 8 or 10 elephants on the other bank of the dam. We reached Valparai only at around 1:30PM, and by then it was hot.

We had lunch at some small local hotel and visited the Pachamalai tea estate which is absolutely beautiful. We left at around 3:30 because we had to reach the check post by 6pm. The road passes beside the Aliyar dam and we then took a diversion to Anamalai instead of going straight to Pollachi. We had dinner from Anamalai and continued to Trichur via the NH47. Unfortunately, as the NH47 section between Trichur and Pallakad is one of the worst sections of any kind of road in the country, the 90km journey took us almost 3 hours to complete. But all in all it was a fun trip

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VERDICT:

A very good bike to own. Go for the unicorn if you want a 150cc bike with good mileage, long distance touring capabilities with zero maintenance cost and a machine that will last for 7 or 8 years easily. Even then there will be some resale value left as it is a Honda bike.

RANDOM BIKING TIPS:

  1. Always wear a helmet. A broken helmet is easier to replace than a broken skull.
  2. Never drink and drive.
  3. Don’t ride beyond your own limits or that of your bike.
  4. Maintain correct tyre pressure. Low pressure results in low mileage and excess pressure results in less grip. Check pressure at least every 2 weeks.
  5. Clean your bike at least once a week.
  6. Keep a log book to note oil change dates and service dates so that you don’t skip them or forget about them

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Thank you BikeAdvice.in for giving us crazy bike maniacs a wonderful opportunity to express our feelings regarding our bikes and biking. I have been a regular visitor since 2012 to this wonderful website. Keep up the good-work. Have a safe trip guys.

Adios,
Glenn

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