There will come a time when even die-hard super-sport bikers get tired of crouching race position and a gazillion uncontrollable horsepower raging to be unleashed, making even a trip to the convenience store a dreaded thought. Sure 180 horses at the rear wheel is fun and ego boosting, but after a hard day’s work or times when a peaceful ride is needed to wind down a stressful day, a fire breathing untamed animal is certainly not going to be what anybody would reach for. But sportbikers will always be sportbikers, and the rush to grab a ham-fisted handful of throttle will always be there, always at unexpected times. So how does one compromise? A bit like a mid life crisis/dilemma knocking hard on a battered body with never-ending battling emotions.
Enter street-fighter bikes; relaxed swept back handling and up-right seating position, yet aggressive stance and looks coupled with throbbing gobs of torque feeds racer boys’ hooliganistic appetite and wheelie hunger pangs. Just what the doctor ordered!!
Naza started as an automotive company selling rebadged Kia cars fitted with locally produced parts and assembled at their local plants in Kedah and Melaka. They also sell luxury high performance cars (Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc...). On the two wheeled side, they are exclusive distributors for Ducati and Harley Davidson, and stock up on all the Japanese brands. They have their own brand for motorcycles too, with the same modus operandi as their car division, rebadging another Korean brand as their own. This time its from Hyosung Motors for their big bikes, and a few Chinese manufacturers for their scooters and mopeds. They are assembled at their Shah Alam plant and distributed there and at the Kampung Baru showroom.
NAZA BLADE 250 EFI
I have never ridden street fighter type bikes before, and I typically stay away from unfaired bikes (except for out-of-this-world designs such as the MaddAss125) due to my biasness (craze) towards fully faired track missiles and ballistic top end road ripping rockets. However, after several years of commuting jam infested roads on wrist heavy, back crunching GP ergonomics type bikes, my body has finally called it a day. I still want to have that adrenaline rush every now and then, but 90% of the time that I am at pedestrian speeds avoiding cars and other road hazards, I’d like to enjoy the ride rather than thinking about setting up an appointment with the chiropractor! A call to the Naza factory in Shah Alam afforded me the chance to test the Naza Blade 250 EFI, hoping that I’ll be enlightened that there could be an exciting life after sports bikes. Mr Yazid Halim, Head of Marketing and Sales, almost telepathically understood the moment we met that I would really be interested in the unfaired 250 bike, instead of the sporty looking brother that might (will) scrounge my back and wrist.
After explaining about the company and the product line-up, we (photographer Jep and I) were treated to a factory tour where surprise-surprise, there was a Megelli 250 going through technical setup. Apparently it is also another model Naza will soon release under its banner. Upon returning to the showroom, Mr Din, Head of Assembly and Manufacturing, presented the keys of a beautiful white 250 Blade to me. Like a sweeping eagle to a prey, I grabbed the keys and darted out to the bike, with photographer Jep busily clicking away high resolution pics ready for webBikeworld.
FIRST IMPRESSION AND ERGONOMICS
As I mentioned before, I won’t come close to unfaired bikes, but I have ridden my brother’s naked Momos Boxer RS200, and for my part, I felt it suitable for people with a gentlemen’s outlook on life. Relax, unrushed and serene could be described riding it, completely opposite to how I like my riding served! So when I thumbed the starter on the Naza Blade 250 EFI, I expected the same mellow feeling to buzz all over again. At this point whatever differences between a naked and street fighter bike didn’t occur to me, I just thought they were the same; no fairing, mellow and relaxed. One short ride later proved me wrong.
First things first, the Blade really looks like a Triumph Speed/Street Triple/Ducati Monster as opposed to, lets say Suzuki SV or Kawasaki ER series. Upon sitting on the comfortable but rather forward sloping seat, coupled with rearset foot pegs, it felt like a mid-nineties racer (I used to own a 93’ ZXR750L).The bars are wide and high, but sloped downwards gently and back. Compared to what naked bike I rode, this position seems racier and aggressive.
Although not sport bike racy, it still felt more focused on lower body stance rather than outright, upright comfort. The rearwards set pegs shares the same dimension as its sporty brethren, the 250R, and most of the components, except for fairing and front brakes. I was a bit puzzled as how I was supposed to fit myself on the bike, because the first few miles I felt like I was in race mode; foot set rear and high while the quite large tank made me reach out to the bars. After arriving at a petrol station to fill up, I swapped bikes with Jep, and continued riding to get his opinion on the Blade. Jep’s answer was, “Really long reach to the bars and feet/legs felt slightly crumpled”. So this presented a bit of a scratch-of-the-head for me, but after a couple of day’s riding, I found out how it was SUPPOSED to be ridden; street fighter style!
RIDE, HANDLING AND SUSPENSION
Maybe its just me, but as I said above, I only found a good/suitable riding position and style to work with the Blade after a couple of days. Riding with your arms stretched out really hurts the palms and crumples your legs at the knees. And in this position, your upright body really gets a blasting from the wind; the minimalist fairing offering the minimum of wind protection. Riding past shops with reflective glass doors shows how pedestrian and old gentlemen looking riding in this position is. I decided to experiment a bit. Crouching/lowering my torso, bending my elbows and pointing my knuckles more towards the ground, with my crotch closer to the tank for support and less bending of the knees. Voila! Instant gratification! I rode around for a couple of miles in this position and this really took the pressure off my palms and knees, and the pain that came with the bolt-upright riding position was gone! I also felt more control and stronger over the front wheel. Stopping by another shop with reflective doors shows a startling transformation. I looked like I was ready to attack the next (and every) traffic light, and really felt like doing it. The transformation was not only in comfort, looks and feel, but to my attitude too! Can you say “Hooliganism”?
Coupled with this new knowledge, I went out to KL’s busy freeway on the weekend, ready to devour traffic and any obstacles in my way. One thing I have to say about the ride quality of the Blade is that the damping and rebound characteristics of the front and rear suspension is really appropriate for inner city use. Pot holes, wrinkled and rough wallowy pavements were eaten whole, the travel enough to suck them in without flailing about the bike’s 166kg mass. I’m not expecting hard and stiff suspension, but at 70+mph speeds and cornering quite hard through rippled infested flyovers never had the suspension misbehaving. I noted that for a rider of my size and weight (6 foot and 180pounds +-) the front could do with a touch more preload, but I think that for most Malaysians with more Asian-esque dimensions, it would be just fine. 17 inch wheels adorn both ends, making tyre choice easy as there are a lot of choices in the market for these sizes. The front features upside downies, which oddly has brake caliper mounts on the other leg without the disk, presumably a shared component with the twin disk 250R. The rear shock is very good, the damping and rebound rate are adept at keeping your spine comfortable even on the rougher roads and bigger bumps. Both ends of the suspension are non adjustable, and I felt there was no need for any adjustments under sane use; unless you want to ride really hard where more preload would help. Riding fast, the bike was composed; the perimeter steel box section frame and swinging arm kept flex at bay and made feel and firmness a strong point of the bike. Riding like a hooligan (you know what I mean) does bring the handling to its limits, but you’re sure to feel it as it comes. Short of race speeds, which this bike isn’t made for, the Blade felt perfect and it was hard to keep a law abiding attitude as the more you pounced and pushed the bike, it whispered to give it some more!
Single disk front end with 2 piston calipers slows the Blade faithfully with authority. The feel is good, initial bite is strong and progressive. After thrashing the Blade at hurried speeds through my favourite corner testing grounds, there was no hint of fade. Rear brake consisting of a single disk with single piston caliper gave a good bite and feel, providing good traction due to the front end being high thus more weight over the rear tyre. Again even at 166kgs, the brakes did their work with confidence and modulated without drama. Emergency/sudden stopping with locking of the wheels (done on secluded roads of course) felt controllable and stopped the bike in adequate distance.
TYRES AND GRIP
One thing that anybody who’s buying a motorcycle would look at or change at the first instance would be the tyres. Shinko comes as standard here and I rode them in quite a few conditions and climates and came away moderately pleased. Sized at 110/70/17 and a meaty 150/70/17, they give good bump absorption and ride at straight line speeds, while offering good grip at about 30+- lean angle. More than that, they start to feel vague and squashy at the side walls. Pushing hard gave a lower feeling of confidence, but then again this is not a sports tyre on a sports bike. I rode in baking hot temperatures when I took it from the factory and in the high temperature it felt bendy and rubbery at provocative right hand inputs. In better, cooler weather the next few days, the tyres felt plush and comfy. A chance rain storm on one of the nights left wet roads, and the Shinkos offered adequate grip and feel so long as not being aggressive with the throttle.
These days, all bikes seem to be fitted with some sort of digital meter. Its the same for the Blade here, with a combination of analog tacho with white face and a huge digital speedo. Its really easy to see the necessary info at a glance and aren’t affected by glaze of the bright sun. All the usual indicators for turn, high-lo beam were there and the absolutely useful fuel gauge and clock were also present!
ENGINE AND POWER CHARACTERISTICS
The first time I started the engine, I missed one very important aspect of the bike. Stopping by Jep’s house that same day I took the bike from the factory, he told me what I missed. “Listen to the engine; it’s thumping like a heartbeat”. Aaaah yes, it doesn’t sound like your typical twin cylinder, more accurately in-line twin, because it’s a V-twin. Double overhead cams with 8 valves configured at 75 degrees, with a large oil cooler mounted high underneath the down tubes of the frame. I was thinking to myself as I rode the bike and giving it some throttle, as to why it wasn’t shrieking and sounding like an over-revved chopper, and pulling so strongly from low revs. The V-twin sounds really nice, exactly like what Jep said. It didn’t throbbed, more so it pulsed and the beat sounds melodic instead of frantic. As to whether the V configuration made more grunt than other configuration, I never had trouble with overtaking and hill climbing, in any gear. In fact I rarely changed down gears, just opened the throttle and away we went! There was never a lack of acceleration and I felt the engine was flexible even in a higher gear in any situation. In hard traffic, I kept the tranny in 2nd gear to stop lurching but despite the hefty weight, the Blade could smoothly navigate with just cracking open the throttle. The crispness and smoothness of the throttle could be the EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) mapped so well, and this is actually something quite new in Malaysia for a bike at this price point. The Blade always pulled cleanly with nary a hint of flat spot anyway in its rev range all the way to redline, and after reaching peak power the engine doesn’t drop the power off drastically. It stays at the revs gamely, over revving in a calm manner, letting the rider use the extra holding power to negotiate long corners or extended climbs comfortably.
Looking at the brochures shows a 21.04 N.m of torque happening at 6750 Rpm. So that’s why its so grunty! At the upper end of the rev range there was no outrageous number of horses to blur your vision, just about 19.6 Kw at 10,000Rpm. The good over-rev and adequately low gearing gave flexibility and continued forward push that encourages fun use of the throttle. Riding it in jam infested roads, the light clutch action and pull, with the engagement in the middle of the pull, was a finger saver. I don’t particularly like to travel into the city because of this but the Blade’s light clutch lever and smooth shifting tranny made this a bearable, fatigue-less experience. One thing I have to add here is maybe nit picking, but a louder/more aggressive exhaust note is missing to go along with the street fighter theme. A quiet, almost muffled note emits the exhaust even at high revs. Luckily Naza also sells Yoshimura slip-ons for the Blade so that should improve the image!
On a more important note, the engine is really flexible, with a good spread of power throughout the rev range and is vey unintimidating to exploit. The fuel consumption seems very frugal, with what I saw in the short time that I had with it, sips very little petrol even with ham-fisted riding. With a full tank of fuel at 17 litres, the fuel display showed only two bars of petrol out of six was used after about 120 miles of riding in various traffic conditions. Another good trait is that the engine won’t need much maintenance as a liquid cooled engine, like I mentioned above, as it is oil cooled. This is really a do it all mill. In heavy traffic its tame, on fast freeways its free flowing with adequate power to keep up with even fast traffic, and for scratching on twisty, hilly roads, the grunt gives good climbing power and smooth jerk free acceleration exiting corners. I really like this engine!
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TWO UP RIDING
Quarter litre engines are no power house, that’s for sure, and good torque might not be enough when two people get on board. Even worse, suspension and ergonomics might be tied up in knots if the person at the back is not of elf/midget size and weight. I decided to pick Jep up from his house for our photo shoot so I could ascertain this. Jep, as I mentioned is of more Asian sized and weight, at about 5feet 5inches and roughly 150 pounds. Propped on the rear seat with his camera gear, we head off to the twisty hills. My report; I hardly noticed the extra mass of Jep! The rear was spacious and not as high as some stepped seat equipped bikes. Again the torquey and grunty engine managed us up the hills just fine. The suspension noticeably gave more travel but was still composed due to me not needing to cane the engine for extra push. A revelation. On the way back I requested Jep to pilot and me assigned to passenger duties. My findings are exactly as what Jep had commented. Spacious, plenty of seat and legroom, good height between rider and passenger, and enough power for good acceleration. Another thing worth mentioning is the stylish grab rails. Not only does it look trendy, it works really well, negating the need for Jep/me to hug each other’s round, ticklish belly!
Thanks to Mr Din (left) and Mr Yazid
WRAPPING IT UP
This review has really been an eye opener for me. So many years of riding super-sports and mucho modified race machines have resulted in me having a one track and narrow view of anything other than race bikes. Motorcycles are very expensive in Malaysia, and most anything above 250cc cost an arm (and possibly leg) as well as having to go for higher displacement riding license, adding to the cost. Priced at a really affordable RM11, 000, equipped with fuel injection and up to date components, the Naza Blade 250 EFI has made me appreciate the qualities of riding a different type of ride, not just the machine, but also position, looks and the most important factor to an aging racer, comfort. All of these factors might seem like a compromise to die hard sport bikers, but one factor of the Blade would surely redeem itself is its attitude. You really have to ride and uncork the rawness and potential, which will amount to one thing all bikers share; attitude and I mean aggressive. Can I repeat “Hooliganism”?...
PHOTO BY : JEP (WEBIKEWORLD) / HAIKAL HALIM ( AUTOSHIFT.net )
SPECIAL THANKS TO : DATO ZUL AMIN / EN NIK DANIAL / EN YAZID / EN KAMARUDIN & NAZA BIKES STAFF
: MELODRAMA PHOTOGRAPHY
: MAJLIS BANDARAYA SHAH ALAM , SUBANG BESTARI
Motorsport Blog By Autoshift.net