Honda Motorcycles: Their Fabled Reliability in the Philippines
What's up with Honda motorcycles and reliability, anyway?
According to a study, Honda actually falls slightly behind Yamaha when it comes to motorcycle reliability, though it’s a very tight competition and the two brands are rather very close and not that far apart from each other. Now while this might be statistically true and we definitely don’t have any issues with that, it just tends to appear a little differently in the Philippines.
To explain why, let’s take a step back in time and think about the Honda motorcycles that you remember while growing up. Aren’t they always the motorcycles that were most prized by their owners and were the ones that have that premium feel to them? Yes, your grandpa, or even your dad might have owned a Honda motorcycle or two in the past, too.
Now what we’re trying to get at here, basically, is that it's a common notion for us Filipinos that Honda motorcycles are "bulletproof" and more durable compared to others, and that Honda is the brand to get as it’s simply better than anything and everything else in the market for the most part. While this might not be necessarily true to a certain extent, especially in the present time, one of the main reasons that played a big part in cementing this belief into our subconscious is the fact that it was Honda that dominated the four-stroke (or 4-stroke) motorcycle scene in the country for decades up until the late ’90s. Before that, the whole country was dominated by two-stroke (or 2-stroke) motorbikes. Now how is this relevant, you might ask? We will get into that shortly, but first, let us identify what the main difference between a four-stroke and a two-stroke motorcycle really is.
First off, the terms two-stroke and four-stroke both refer to a type of engine. While both a two-stroke and four-stroke engine complete a cycle, they differ in regards to the piston. More specifically, the number of strokes that are required for the piston to complete a full combustion cycle.
For example, in order for a two-stroke engine to complete the entire combustion cycle or process that, in-itself, consists of five functions namely intake, compression, ignition, combustion, and exhaust, it will need to execute two piston strokes (or one full revolution of the crankshaft).
In comparison, a four-stroke engine’s cycle is completed after four strokes of the piston (or two crankshaft revolutions). Also, both engine types have different exhaust notes, too. A two-stroke motor will have a high-pitched “wring-ding-ding” exhaust sound whereas the four-stroke will have the regular rumbling/banging sound, but do note that these exhaust sound differences will only become obvious when using an aftermarket, open exhaust pipe and not the stock ones.
Now going back to the main point, two-stroke motorcycles had dominated the Philippines ever since the motorcycle industry boomed in the country, and this was a fact up until the late 90s. On the commuter segment, the most common ones at least, we’ve had a whole slew of Yamaha L2 motorcycles, then there’s the Yamaha RS100, the Suzuki X Series (X3 and X4), and the Kawasaki HD series (HD-I, HD-II, HD-III), among others.
For the Enduro or dual-sport two-stroke motorcycle segment, we’ve had the Yamaha DT, the Kawasaki KE, the Suzuki TS, and TSR, respectively. Notice what’s missing? Yes, Honda is missing since Honda’s two-strokes were virtually non-existent for road-going models. Make no mistake however since Honda made very good two-stroke motorcycles, too, but most if not all of them were built for competition and racing. This meant that Honda only produced and sold four-stroke motorcycles in the country. Now due to the fact that four-stroke engines have more moving parts, they tend to be way pricier than their two-stroke counterpart, hence Honda motorcycles being universally equated to as the more expensive and premium brand. This eventually led to the overall idea or presumption that motorcycles from the Honda make or brand are more durable and that they were just made better compared to others out there.
Enter the Honda TMX lineup, also a four-stroke bunch, and that aforementioned idea was forever cemented into our culture and psyche. The TMX or Tricycle Model Extreme was widely renowned to be very powerful and resilient. The said lineup have been very popular ever since that Honda didn’t even bother to end their production and both the 125cc and 150cc variants are still being produced and sold even today. The TMX was loosely deemed as the king of tricycles, so to speak, and it was definitely a well-deserved title.
With all that said, while it’s actually true that Honda motorbikes are known for their superb reliability, our point is that the idea of a Honda Motorcycle being the best was so deeply ingrained into our culture that our perception of motorcycle reliability had been skewed towards the manufacturer’s favor. It's been this way for as far back as we can remember, but it shouldn’t be so bad, right? Honda actually stood their ground anyway and have served us Filipinos in the form of a reliable and dependable two-wheeled transportation, not just moving people from point A to point B, but also forming and furthering their livelihood in the process. From capable tricycles to the trusted "Habal-habal", and even as delivery motorcycles, we are sure that a Honda does not disappoint.
And sure enough, the cost of owning a Honda motorcycle would mean slightly higher than average maintenance costs when it comes down to it, only when the need arises, of course, but it’s a compromise that I’m sure you and I won’t mind. Overall, Honda had been standing side by side with Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki over the years and they have proven to be a very strong force in the motorcycle world ever since we knew that motorcycles are a thing, and that they existed.