Lets face it, 1500 quid doesn’t buy you much on two wheels these days, but if you need a bike to simply beat congestion in town, or a solution to our laughable public transport system, then the Kangda KD125TT might be just the job.
True, it isn´t fast and the styling looks a bit dated, but as an alternative to bargain basement machinery like the Honda C90 Cub, or the Suzuki GS125, the Chinese made Kangda aims to offer work-a-day transport, at a rock bottom price. Alastair went to Barnsley to check it out.
Back when I started motorcycling in the glam-rock 70s, there were loads of commuter bikes on the market for one simple reason; petrol cost an arm and a leg – if you could buy it at all. Everyday irritations like miners strike action, petrol coupons, OPEC price rises on a daily basis etc. all combined to make getting to work an expensive pain in the arse.
The thing is, those days could be coming again, as oil slowly but surely runs out and local councils follow Ken Livinstone´s example of stinging every car owner a fiver, just to enter town centres. Then you have pay another tax to park, even if there´s space provided at work. Nasty.
The solution to the government´s endless tax grabbing, is to buy a cheap commuter bike. Something that is durable, cheap to buy, insure, and runs for 70 miles on a gallon of unleaded. It´s a bonus if the bike´s spare parts cost buttons too, as sooner or later, you´ll probably find some brain-dead yob/senile Nissan driver knocks your bike over whilst it´s parked outside the Post Office.
That´s where the Kangda KD125 suddenly begins to look like a sensible answer to a whole range of commuting questions. It isn´t glam baby, but boy, is it cheap.
FLOGGING A DAILY WORKHORSE
Now there are a few misguided people in the world of biking who reckon it´s a good idea to commute on big motorbikes. But they´re wrong. All it does is gradually turn your expensive weekend toy into a rusting, creaking wreck on wheels, as winter grit, rain, and the inevitable high mileage wear `n´ tear, all conspire to turn the bike into near worthless scrap metal. Try taking a 5 year old, 50,000 mile, 600cc plus sized bike to any dealer and see what it´s worth – no really, just do it for comedy value.
Thing is, we´re living in an age where it´s actually cheaper to buy something like a Kangda brand new, then run that as your everyday commuter, just to slow down the appalling depreciation and expensive maintenance costs of using a big motorcycle.
So, can the Kangda do the job then?
I think it probably can. The bike is based on the Suzuki GS125cc four stroke machine, which has been around now since the 1980s, so engine reliability shouldn´t be a problem. Factories like Suzuki an Honda have spent most of the last decade setting up subsidiary businesses in mainland China, to cash in on the local commuter bike boom – so they use tried `n´ tested designs.
The Kangda KD125 has just enough welly to make it past 50mph, with its 5 speed gearbox being slightly unusual, in that neutral is at the top, with all the gears selected by pressing downwards. It´s awkward at first, but you do get used to it.
There is one thing that you might find hard to live with however, which is the engine vibration. The little single cylinder unit wasn´t run-in when tested, but even so, was extremely buzzy when ridden above an indicated 40mph. A couple of thousand miles of use would calm things down, but this is an old fashioned, low-tech bike, so be prepared to accept a few rough edges.
The engine is enough to transport you around town, or on a commute to work of about 5-10 miles. I wouldn´t want to travel much further on the Kangda 125, and the same company have a few scooters in their range that offer more weather protection and rider comfort.
That said, there was nothing uncomfortable about the seat on the ZS125, or the riding position, which was helped by having fairly high handlebars, on two inch risers. The mirrors could do with being set just another two inches further out too, as the current view is too much elbow, not enough road – when many vehicles will be trying to overtake, it´s important to be able to see them approaching.
There´s probably enough room for occasional pillion use, with a handy carrier forming a grabrail too. The nose fairing and belly-pan might not do anything aerodynamically, but they give the bike a little bit of an 80s racy look, which might make the whole thing more acceptable to a teenager, rather than riding a `girly´ scooter.
FROM KWIK SAVE TO KWIK KWAKS
Biking exists because of budget machinery like this, which is manufactured by the million for emerging economies. It might not be as exciting to ride as an Aprilia 125, but the Kangda is half the cost. Plus, if you´re young and daft, then you crash your bike, the KD125TT has spares prices that someone on low wages can cope with; try £6.50 for a mirror, or under £15 for a chain and sprocket kit & thirty quid for a complete rear brake assembly. Result.
You might not impress your mates on a Kangda, but at the end of the month, when their pockets are empty after meeting the finance payments and forking out for fuel and oil at 40mpg, you will still have enough left over for a mashed type weekend at Cream – respect.
This is Kwik Save entry level motorcycling, for people who just want to get from A to B, as cheaply as possible. Then make the same trip a thousand more times before paying to have an expensive service/repair.
Is it still fun? Not compared to a used grey import VFR400. But is it better than standing in the peeing rain, waiting for a bus full of nuggets on a Monday morning? Oh yes, a hundred times better. Because you´re biking, you´re going where you want to go, when you feel like going. You can´t beat that feeling; it´s pure freedom.
In the future, a great many car-driving people, who consider motorbikes to be ridiculously fast, dangerous, noisy things, are going to discover that there´s a cheaper alternative to paying more underhanded government transport taxes. Some of them will get the two-wheeled bug and graduate to bigger, better things, which is all good news.
Enthusiast bikers may laugh at bikes like the Kangda, rating them as `poor man´s transport.´ But years ago, people laughed at the Japanese when they first came to Britain, with their `tinny´ little bikes and funny model names. Yet Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki all learned fast how to make better motorcycles than 80% of the outdated, unreliable sheds that UK factories churned out in the 1960s.
The Chinese producers, with a 10 million strong home market behind them, might just do the same.
Get Carole Nash bike insurance for the Kangda KD125TT.
Engine 4 Stroke, air cooled, single cylinder
Bore and stroke
Gears 5 Speed
Chassis; Steel tubular frame
Forks; Sizes N/A
Rear suspension; Twin shock
Braking System: Disc Front and Drum Rear
Wheels/Tyres: 275 x 18 Front – 300 x 18 Rear
Top Speed: 60mph ( est)
Fuel capacity; 3 gallons ( est)
Buying Info; Colours: Fire Red, Harvest Gold, Yellow
1 year warranty, low cost spares
Price £1,495 On the Road. ( May 2002)