Thursday, 15 July 2010

A motorcycle used as everyday transport from a narrow-boat.

What is the best motorbike to use as everyday transport when living on a narrow-boat? This is a bit like saying what's the best length of string to have. As a biker who enjoys anything in the two wheel realm for recreational fun or the commute to and from work, I shall try to answer the question from personal experience.

The Honda Dax (Monkey Bike) might be one option. However, these machines have an almost cult status and command a high price. The carrying capability of such a bike is very limited. It might come down to what you can carry on your back using a rucksack.

There are Chinese copies of the Honda Dax available which seem to be more and more popular with the younger end of the biker spectrum. Prices are far lower than the original Honda Dax.

If space is at a real premium then you should consider the Honda dax or one of the Chinese copies with folding handlebars.


You can fit just about any type of motorcycle to a narrow boat. After all some people have even had cars such as the Mini or the Fiat 500 onboard. However, in the human world - size matters in most things.

Link Narrow Boat Belle who's design was modified to have room for two motorcycles.

Here the criteria we are looking at is to bring aboard everyday transport over modest distances, say 25 miles radius. With no or very limited modifications required to be made to the boat.

Q1. Where is it to be fitted on your boat?
If you have a Trad or Semi trad narrow boat the front cratch area is going to be the limitation. On a cruiser style depending on layout you might have other space options available.

Q2. How heavy a motorcycle can you manage on and off the boat?
The simple answer here is to look for a motorcycle with the lightest weight for a given engine size. NOTE The bigger the engine size the more the bike will weigh.
Q3. What if I only have a car licence.
Lightweight motorcycles come in two flavours. Moped (often automatic) with a 50cc engine, single person limitation, which can be driven on a car licence. Small motorcycle between over 50cc and under 125cc (manual or automatic) which you will need to do a one day training course for (CBT) Compulsory Bike Training at a training centre. You can't carry passengers until you have passed your two-part motorcycle driving test.
Q4. I know nothing about motorcycle maintenance?

Motorcycle maintenance is the biggest rip-off on Britain's roads. Most run of the mill maintenance will involve changing the engine oil, occasional oiling of the chain and changing the odd bulb. Small motorcycles built in the far ease are legendary for covering huge distances whilst overloaded and with minimal or no maintenance.

Q5. So what is available that will do the job?

My preference would be for one of the Honda Cub C50, C70 or C90 or one of a number of similar bikes. These bikes also have some rudimentary leg protection from the elements. A C50 if you have a car licence, or a C70 or C90 if you do the CBT.


JAMES MAY (AKA Captain Slow) of the BBC Top Gear show said "The Honda Cub is a thing of beauty and long may it endure - throw it in a canal, come back in 10 years, and you can still ride it to work."

In fact he had a great deal more to say on the subject. Here is a much shortened version of his thoughts on the Honda Cub. "A while back, America’s Discovery Channel conducted a series of destructive tests on a Honda Cub motorcycle, rather in the vein of the films we made at Top Gear on the Toyota pick-up. They drowned it, blew it up, set it on fire, ran over it and generally tried to suppress its dogged, willing spirit, but by the end of it all the Honda still worked. They therefore declared it the greatest motorcycle ever made."

"Let’s look at the figures. In the last 50 years, more than 60 million Cubs have been built in 15 countries, making it a best-seller to make other best-sellers look like mere fads. But it’s more than that. Most will have had several owners, and in Asia many of them will be transporting three or four people at a time. It’s therefore conceivable that a body of humanity the equivalent of America’s population has been granted its freedom by a single-cylinder step-through runabout. Liberating armies rarely achieve that. 

Because it was designed for poor people in rural Japan, it will go anywhere. Second gear is a town-biffabout ratio, third is for the cruise, where you might achieve 40mph. But first is so low that the Cub will climb Fuji. It will do this slowly, maybe at not much more than walking pace, but do it, it will, even with a fridge on the back. I believe, too, that Honda knew that Cubs would never be maintained properly, because a Cub will still work when everything on it is technically broken.

As a two-wheeled institution the Cub will probably never die, and as an individual bike it won’t either. You can throw one in a canal, leave it for 10 years and then fish it out and ride to work. It even looks good in brown. It is a thing of humble beauty that will endure forever."


Many examples of the Honda Cub C50-C70-C90 can be found on eBay. From around £200 upwards depending on year and length MOT.

Total length 1,800 mm (71 in)
Total width 660 mm (26 in)
Total height 1,010 mm (40 in)
Wheel base 1,175 mm (46.3 in)



Later.....

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