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Two-Wheeled Trucks

Another Motorcycle World Out There

By Ujjwal Dey
5/7/2009 12:11:14 PM

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Wide tire bike in another part of the world.

There is little that motorcycle enthusiasts don’t do with their bikes. They cruise, they go cross-country, they commute, they stunt and they just ride free of worries.


In most Western nations, bikes are not a necessity for the buyer. Most buyers would have a passion for motorcycles or be attracted to the biker image portrayed in the media. If you bought your bike after seeing Evel Knievel or after the Hollister motorcycle parade on July 4th or even after watching American Choppers on Discovery you don’t know the full potential of two-wheelers yet.

For most Americans and Europeans motorcycling is associated with adventure, free-spirit, recklessness or drifters.

An employed person buying a bike does so as a hobby. A passionate one buys it to customize it and make it an extension of his personality. Once you step out of this privileged world you would see that bikes are not for fun and custom bikes are a novelty not a necessity.


Commuter bikes of the Third World

Countries like China, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, etc are great examples of fuel efficiency albeit in hazardous modes of traveling. Here people don’t need a bike as a morale booster. They need it to go from point A to point B and make a buck. So introducing the concept of ‘Commuter bikes’ to all you chopper fans is embarrassing.


The low per capita, income in each household where mostly the man is the only earning member and coupled with high rates of inflation, it is elementary that people in these countries want to cut costs wherever possible. So the people need a cheap form of transport and buses and trains are the best bet. For those who have businesses or odd work-hours, when the public transport is not available, they are often forced to invest in a vehicle of their own.


Cars are increasing in numbers in India and China but are still a luxury. For most, a motorcycle is the first vehicle they own. These bikes are called ‘Commuter Bikes’ because they promise great fuel efficiency and low maintenance costs.


A typical commuter bike is a 99cc motorcycle with a bhp of 10 or less. This when driven under ‘test conditions’ promises 70 to 80 Km per litre. Even after riding on the poor roads in these nations congested cities you can still manage 60 KM per litre output.


Most students, office goers, small businessmen prefer these commuter bikes so as to get to their destination without being dependent on unreliable public transport systems. Most of these bikes have four gears and top speed is 90 KMPH. It is unadvisable to rev any engine to reach that speed, as it would damage such engines and also not provide the fuel efficiency expected.


The Market

The market for low-end bikes is almost monopolized by the Japanese fare. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha continue to cater to the third world with pansy bikes that would be subject to ridicule if seen alongside their other products such as Honda CBR, Kawasaki Ninja, Suzuki Hayabusa or Yamaha R1. If you think the top-end bikes are the most desired of the lot, think again, or better join a third-world economics class.

Here’s a shot of the very first Honda Super Cub.

Such is the popularity of cheap, mileage driven sales that Honda’s Super Cub which started production in 1958 has crossed a world record (and a first record) of 50 million units produced in February 2006. So even before this model celebrates its 50th anniversary, they sold 50 million Super Cubs. No other make or model of motorcycle can boast such success.

50 Millionth Super cub shot exclusively for Bikernet.

In India, Hero-Honda (Joint venture) and Bajaj (with Kawasaki) have had great success with low-end commuter bikes. Hero-Honda is a market leader with enough mettle to match its partner. In 2003 Hero-Honda was the first two-wheeler company to cross the milestone of 2 million units sold in a single year. Due to restrictions in the joint-venture, Hero group can sell only in India while Honda who has a world market were beaten by Hero-Honda hitting nearly two-and-a-half-times the motorcycle sales of Honda for that year.


Poor man’s Chop or the two-wheeled truck

So what modifications would a poor man do to accommodate his poultry, pigs, fresh fish, fruits & vegetables, LPG cylinder or construction materials? Yes, these and whole families are transported on two-wheelers in developing nations.


Bikes such as Honda CG125 and assortment of mopeds in sub 100cc class are chopped to add platforms in place of the pillion seat. Cheap Chinese bikes such as by JBW 125-3, Kinroad Xintian XT125 Fly, FADA LF125, etc. flood the roads. One Chinese manufacturer has gone one step forward towards the consumer by offering a three wheeled moped - CTM AUPA with its CTM150ZH-5. This 150cc moped can carry 350 KG and has a top speed of 60 KMPH.

Chinese manufactured CTM utility trike.

After removing the pillion seat, most of the customization includes mounting a platform which can have rubber strips of a tyre’s inner tube used to fasten the goods. Baskets made of straw carry poor miserable chickens or flowers to the market on early mornings. One or two little piggies would have the misfortune of being transported alive in bamboo cages mounted on these platforms to the fabled market (The cage has a wooden stick running through it so that two men can carry it).


Farmers with their produce of bananas tied together or grains in jute sacks load it all up on their bikes. Fresh fish are kept in tin or aluminium containers with lids. These are mounted on the fisherman’s bike and his wife hitches a ride on top of the container as they make their way to the busy marketplace for selling their goods to roadside stalls or fast-food corners.


BTW There is no drive-in concept. You just park your bike near the food-stall and the cook cum server cum manager will whip-up a spicy treat. Not recommended for the delicate stomachs of Western tourists.

Other businessmen may modify the rear of the bike and weld metal supports with a vertical beam and a horizontal platform such as to hold huge cartons or plywood, glass or some even delivering washing machines through two-wheels.


Not all choose to alter their rides. Many manage to lug around jute sacks or propane tanks along with helpers or passengers on their stock bikes. They don’t have the fat rear chopper tyres but still flow smoothly along dirt roads to deliver their goods. And it’s not just one tank they carry; the dealers of cooking gas deliver multiple cylinders on one motorcycle. In India it’s dangerous for the deliveryman who uses his motorcycle to haul three heavy cylinders.


Stock bikes are used in their original structure to carry as many as six passengers. These are mostly two adults and four children or sometimes three adults on a single motorcycle. The riders are confident of their skills and it’s commonly seen that ‘motordupe’ (motorcycle taxis) carry as many as four children to their school on a stock motorcycle.

Even parents carry infants on bikes and think nothing of placing three-year-olds on top of the bike’s tank to monitor them while riding through traffic-prone city roads. For extra measure a basket is fixed in front of the bike to place miscellaneous stuff.


Typical specifications for two-wheeled ‘trucks’ are:
* 100cc to 150cc 4-stroke engine,
* 4 or 5 gears,
* Top speed – 90 to 120 KMPH
* Dry weight – 100 to 130 KG
* Drum brakes and optional disc brakes
* Wheels: rear 150/60/18, front 120/60/17


Interestingly of all the changes done to carry goods, no performance modifications are ever implemented. The bike’s engine capacity remains the same. How long they will continue to enjoy the mileage after such abuse is doubtful. In villages of India where petrol is considered expensive they even run their bikes on kerosene. It raises a stink but gets them to their destination. It surely shows that even stock bikes can do much more than expected from them. The skill lies in the rider and innovative use of his existing structure.

Here's some follow-up number UD researched regarding the number of motorcycles buzzing around dusty roads in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India and Thailand. Check it out:

It is estimated that Vietnam alone has 10 million motorcycles out of the 12 million motorised vehicles there. In Cambodia there is no license registry for motorcycle riders.

Motorcycles make up 95% of vehicles on the road in Vietnam, 80% in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, 75% in Cambodia, 73% in Indonesia and 51% in Malaysia.

India has the second largest road network in the world with over 3 million km of roads of which 46% are paved. The 40 million vehicles using the roads have a terrible toll on human life, killing over 80,000 people with over one third of a million victims requiring hospital treatment. Some states have made helmets compulsory while others have too many riders to keep them in check.

The vehicle fleet in Thailand is estimated at about 26 million vehicles (2004) which consists of a majority of two-wheelers.

Wait a minute. Where did she come from? This is a serious article.

If in USA you believe that, “if you have it – it came by truck,” then in developing nations rest assured – it was delivered on two-wheels.

****THE END****

Copyright Ujjwal Dey 2006
Bhandup (west). Mumbai
Maharashtra State. INDIA.

Published on Bikernet October 28, 2006

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