If you do much riding in SE Asia beyond Thailand you will encounter countries with motorcycle engine capacity limits and find these two bikes in rental shops. I have completed two tours on each and kept a couple of notes.

I first rode the XT125 in southern Vietnam from HCM City then later in Myanmar from Mandalay. In HCM there just wasn’t a bigger option. In Mandalay there were CRF250F’s but too expensive. For me the XT125 did a reasonable job. It’s a tried and tested reliable model. Its light so easy to take off road and very fuel efficient if you run it on 95 fuel. There is no fuel gauge or light just a reserve tap so you need to always reset for trip meter and keep and eye on mileage, same applies to the Honda.

Power wise the XT was ok for Myanmar where you really need to take it easy but borderline not enough for the mountain roads in Vietnam. However in both these countries trying to go bit faster is often asking for trouble as you round a corner and are staring at two oncoming trucks or some other crazy hazard. The only real negative of the XT is its seat. No exaggerating it is hard as wood and narrow so you must bring a seat pad with you if renting this model.

The XR150 is a significantly better machine. For a start its comfortable with a wider and lower seat which helps makes the bike a little easier to maneuver at low speed, not that either are difficult. I rode this model in the north and middle of Vietnam and the engine feels very different. An extra 25cc capacity surely cannot make such a huge difference so it must be the other aspects of the Honda’s 150cc engine. Don’t get me wrong, it still a low powered bike but the XR has some torque where as the XT is lacking in that department and requires constant revs.

For the roads in the areas I used the XR150 it is ideal. It’s smoother with easy shifting gearbox and tours quite happy at the sort of speeds fitting for Vietnamese back roads (and would be great in Myanmar). Its also very fuel efficient on 95 fuel. I am told the Honda is made in China. Would also be ideal bike for riding Taiwan and fits within the capacity limits that apply to foreigners riding there so wonder why nobody has thought to rent some.

Both bikes have kick start which is handy if you blow a fuse as happened to me. Since both these bikes are not commonly in use you cannot expect any parts to be available on tour, not even a fuse. Best to make sure the bike you are renting is in good working order and obviously they use tubes so be sure you have a plan for that scenario – actually a few tools and some macgyver repair items take up no space.

On tarmac both are decent. Note I don’t try to ‘carve corners’ on them. That would be little silly riding remote roads with unknown conditions on no-name tyres. But they don’t wallow around and hold a line well at intended road use speed and being light means you can have fun on tight roads.

In summary I am a fan of these small dual purpose bikes. I need not worry when turning off the road onto a track or onto the beach or riding through a small creek. They are so light you can easy handle them on any surface. Not the case with those colossal 270kg ADV bikes. So don’t turn your nose up at these small bikes. You will enjoy exploring places at very low rental cost. I just wish more places had them.

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