On the virtues of buying a 1981 Honda CX400: The case of the Returning Motorcyclist

This question was posed on Netrider by a returning motorcycle rider who’d been offered a CX400 for $3,700 and was worried whether (as a grey import) it’s odometer reading of 9500kms was trustworthy, so I felt compelled to answer it. I’m putting my response on my blog as part of my drive to push the blog further in 2014. The returning rider had spent the past 20 years wearing down a recalcitrant wife. Also it gets me in academic dress off the top of the blog.

Now, I had a 1980 CX500. When I bought it it had 27,000kms, then 75,000kms, then 56,000kms, then 80,000kms. Each time the fix was because of a stuffed speedometer. And I’m not mechanical. I’d put pretty much no faith in the odometer reading. Like, less faith than I have in Geoffrey Edelstein’s search for true love in strip clubs.

A CX400 is a real, real, enthusiast’s bike. It is not the bike you buy to get into motorbiking; it is the second bike you buy to have in the shed to tinker with when something breaks. If you are looking to ‘save money’ this is not the place. A CX400 was the underpowered version of the gulle-pump and I think meant only for Japan and Europe – I don’t think they even came here originally. Also I think $3,700 is a pretty high price for a CX; I sold my quite-good and running CX500 5000kms a year ago for $3,100 – I still miss it.

Even if the kays are original, the bike is still 30 years old and it is highly likely bits will break as soon as you use them with intent. In my view there are two reasons why a bike has low kays: the person got on the bike and scared themselves and then put it in a barn, or it was always breaking and they got sick of it and put it in a barn. For an older bike that you want to ride, you want to buy a bike that is being ridden.

I guarantee that you will spend the $3,700 in the first year again fixing the bike – waterpump and stator are one of the top five ways to suck money from your wallet with a CX unless you can fix that yourself, or have a knowledgeable friend who works for beer (CXs need the engine-out to fix this fairly common age-related problem). More than likely you will need to budget to immediately replace fluids (brake fluid, coolant, forks) and tyres (>7 years old tyres are a great way to develop a love of ice-skating).

Unless you have a real love of the older bike and appreciate its foibles in comparison with modern bikes, I’d spend the money on a nicer, newer bike. $3,700 will get you into a much more reliable, safer, and daily-ridable bike. I loved my CX, and I rode it everywhere (regularly did 500km days on it) but bits broke with monotonous regularity (ever looked for parts for a 30 year old bike?), skinny tyres did not engender cornering confidence, the shaft is located high in the engine and the bike will twist if revved in an entertaining fashion, and so it was more top-heavy than the waitresses at a Hugh Hefner pyjama party.

Your questions:

  1. $3700 is this to good to be true? A: No, but it’s a bit high (probably for their rarity)
  2. How trust worthy are import bikes? A: Fairly OK but it is what it is – an uncommon variant of a 30 year old model and likely of unknown provedence.
  3. Has the odometer been tampered with, how prevalent is odometer tampering? A: Using my super-powers of mass-fraud detection I can’t tell if it’s been tampered with, but are the kays original? Well I changed my speedo 5 times so yes, if not prevalent it’s accepted practice… of far more importance for a bike that old is the documented service history.
  4. Any feed back would be appreciated thanks. A: For a returning rider with rusty skills and a recalcitrant missus an import CX (low-kay or otherwise) is not the answer.

There are 71 road bikes (naked and sports tourers) on Bikesales that are less than 10 years old and 250-750cc capacity for < $4,000. They are all likely better options. You want to get back into riding, not into ringing your mechanic to find out when you can come and pick it up (if you ARE a mechanic the CXes are fantastic to work on, as I understand it, and I was able to do the basics on mine). For mine, as an older gent of some means I’d stretch the budget out to $5,000, spend some money on gear (say, $1000), and I’d be sure to go for a refresher course as a returning rider (say, $400). If there’s one thing Netrider grimly reminds us, it’s that returning riders are over-represented in the accident statistics.

There are a few nice GS500s in that list for < $5000 but also some CB400s and cruisers and Fazers and all the bikes people on this forum love. I loved my CX and still have one as a project bike, and there’s a terrific forum (www.australiancx.asn.au) for the bikes. If you are serious about the CX I’d go and have a look at that website and read some of the stories of people that have bought these bikes. They’re terrific (the people and the bikes), but I really don’t get the feeling a CX400 is what you’re after.

And so, I got my phd…

My phd was conferred on 23rd May.  Here I am at the ceremony two months or so later in the UQ Centre.  So now, armed with a phd in business information systems, I am trying my hand at a postdoctoral research fellowship with UQ.  More notices as events warrant.

2014 07 23 13 23 18

A bit of a Review – Kit: High Power 20,800 mAh Dual USB Emergency Charger

So.  I don’t do this sort of thing very often.  Never, in fact.

I was asked to review a bit of tech on my blog here.  Specifically, MobileZap saw my blog and asked me to review “a good bit of kit” – a 20,800 mAh USB Emergency Charter.  I said sure – as long as you know it will be an honest review.  To their credit they were happy with that proviso.

Unfortunately, this leaves me with a bit of a bind – at the time of writing, at least, I understand I get to keep the bit of kit they sent me, which is a nice fillip.  Sort of repays some of the blog expenses.  But, if I write a review slamming the thing, they might ask for it back (sending these things back in Australia actually presents a problem – see later).  But if I write a review praising the thing, my legion of blog-fans (hi Mum!) will accuse me of being a bigger sell out than Metallica.  So, I’m going to stick with the honest review and see where that takes us.

Before we start

Obviously, I’ve written this review at the request of MobileZap.  Who I’ve never heard from before, and may never hear from again :).   My experience was about usual.  The item was packed well and was despatched reasonably quickly – about a week to arrive, I think.

Still, I googled the name. If you read the online reviews, there’s a bit of a mixed-bag of experiences with this online retailer.  On ProductReview at the moment they’re about 3.2 stars out of 5.  The negative posts relate to non-delivery or late-delivery of items that, though were marked as in-stock, weren’t.  Overall, these comments seem in line with a lot of these electronic online retailers.

I suppose I will temper that by saying that someone who feels gypped by a product will tell everyone they see (including ProductReview) whilst someone who ‘gets what they expected’ rarely does put up a positive comment.  In that context the comments and ratings on ProductReview are at least about average.  Still, you can get this product somewhere else if it takes your fancy, I’m sure.  They do have a good range at MobileZap, including iPad Air accessories (something they seem particularly proud of on their website).

Let’s take a look at this Emergency Charger

So, what is an Emergency Charger?  On the MobileZap website it looks like this:

And frankly, when I opened up the package at an Australia Post parcel locker (great service by the way), this is what I had.  A fairly heavy, smooth shiny black device.  By heavy, I mean it’s got a good heft about it.  It weighs 443 grams – which is pretty much a pound (sorry, I’m a metric baby).  More than you’d like to put in a pocket but perfectly portable in a man-bag or such like.

So.  To the review.  What matters?  Portability (weight and power source), looks (style), and fit-for-purpose (does it do what it says on the tin?).  In the traditional manner, I’ll talk about its pros and cons, as well as overall value, only after that discussion.

Portability

Upon opening, there’s a USB cable with a connector on one end, three connectors that fit onto the connector, and the charger itself.  That’s it.

Regarding portability – that weight is pretty much fine for what it is.  Yes it’s a pound, give or take, but it’s rectangular and about two centimetres high.  If you were out and about with a shoulder bag you won’t notice it too much – just slip it in there.  It won’t go in your pocket but it’s quite portable.  I believe there are smaller options if that matters to you.

Regarding the power source – by which I mean, can you power it up anywhere?  The answer is pretty much yes.  It’s USB-powered (which takes forever to charge up) so you can trickle charge it from your laptop or a standard USB charger (one of those ones that your mobile phone and/or tablet probably uses.  This good bit of kit does come with an adapter that connects to the USB for charging it up – and you’ll need to keep track of them.  The three adapters are a Micro USB, Mini USB and a 30 pin (old-style Apple) charging adapters.  You could use any USB cable with those adapters permanently affixed, I’ll warrant.  It certainly works for an iPad with a Lightning connector – just use your original cable.

I’d still like it if the product included a small bag or something to keep these adapters together.  Otherwise there will be tears at charging time.  I just put mine in a small zip lock bag, as shown in Exhibit A:

For some reason my photo’s not quite as good as MobileZap’s.  Still, from this photo you can also get an idea of how big it is – for comparison I’ve put a AA battery there.  It’s about 17cm long x 7cm wide x 2cm high.  While we’re talking about things that are missing from the case, it would be nice if it had its own charger.  Yes, they’re a dime a dozen but a dedicated one would be nice.  Particularly I’ve found that if I use a low-amp phone charger it takes ages (like, 24 hours) to charge this sucker up.  But you can just charge it using pretty much any USB port, and without the charger I guess that keeps the costs down and it’s one less thing to lose.  Buy one on ebay if you must.

Overall this charger is really quite portable.  If it is too hefty, there are smaller ones.

Looks

Looks-wise – hmm.  I’m an accountant, so not the harbinger of high fashion.  It’s basic black, so it’s unobtrusive.  Easily lost at the bottom of a dark bag I guess, but realistically that’s not an issue.  It isn’t garish and it’s pretty unobtrusive.  The finish is fine, there’s no pointy bits to catch on anything, and the joins are visible but no gaps.  It’s built well and feels like it’s built well.  That heft gives it a nice feeling of quality, and in an emergency you could use it to fend off an attacker in a dark alley – as it’s shiny black, they’ll never know what hit them.

It seems to be a fairly generic power-kit made in China, so there are no obtrusive logos.  It simply has a power-specifications label on the underside of the item.

Fit-for-Purpose?

And now the biggie – does it do what it says on the tin?

Let’s be frank.  I’d never gone looking for such a thing, partly because I didn’t know they existed, and partly because I didn’t know I needed it.  I do have battery cases that my phone clips into – it then goes from being Slim & Fashionable Phone of 2012 (HTC One) to DorkPad.  Those power cases from Mugen are pretty handy, but this is handier in more situations.  It really does shine as a portable charger for someone on the go, particularly with the ludicrously poor battery life phones still have.  I didn’t take it with me one afternoon and after an hour or two of Facebooking and texting back-and-forth, I wished I had.  My phone went dead, and that’s unhappy-time. It’s one of those life-skills of the 21st century – keep your phone charged.

The battery is mammoth.  Let me get my rave on a bit.  It has 20,800 mAh.  My One XL has 1,800 mAh.  I literally charged this pack up and one week later was still charging my phone from it.  I charged the phone four times from low power (<20%) to 100%, attached it several times when I wanted a perma-wifi hotspot, and the charger was still half-charged.  My biggest gripe about my phone is its lack of battery life – and if I use it for a wifi spot when I am out with my laptop or ipad, I can count on needing to charge it up again pretty soon.  Sigh.

I’ll note that the claim on MobileZap’s website is ’12 recharges of an iPhone 5S’ (which has 1560 mAh).  I think 12 is a bit optimistic (because some of the energy will be lost as heat and battery discharge), but maybe you’d get there.

With this charger I would be able to have literally hours of wifi hot spot (just got to watch that Telstra charge for going over my 1.5gb data limit).

I should note that there are two ‘out’ USB ports.  One is 5v, 2.1amps (that’ll be for your tablets and such), and the other is 5v, 1 amp (for your phone).  There’s also a button on the top – press it, and presto, you’re charging the connected device.  You can charge two things at once this way (a tablet and a phone).  Don’t try and charge a phone from the 2.1amp socket, though – my phone didn’t like that very much.

I guess that this ‘rave’ does highlight a problem with this charger.  It’s big – and because it’s big, I have a ridiculous amount of power to keep my phone running.  Perhaps I’d prefer to have something slightly smaller with less weight.

Still and all.   I can charge my phone and/or ipad wherever I am, without needing to find a power point (useful for international as well as inter-state travel).  The number of times I’ve been inter-state and at the end of the day discovered I’ve got very little charge left.  And since this will allow me to use the wifi hotspot with my laptop without worrying about having no phone, the charger is a definite plus.  It’s definitely fit for purpose.

I can think of a number of good applications for this.  For instance – in the car with children running out of power for devices (yes I can charge from the cigarette lighter but that’s not always that reliable). On the bus while playing Angry Birds when coming home from uni. Or, while camping.  Or, it can be slipped into my motorcycle pack so that if I do have a breakdown I can charge up my phone.

Don’t laugh – it happens!

A good buy?

Or, in a more mundane manner I can travel around the place and just use my phone with impunity – unless I’m away from powerpoints for several days, I’m good to go.

So.  Is it worth it?  At the time of writing, this ‘good bit of kit’ is up for $68.49 on the MobileZap website.  Shipping is $4.50 for standard slow-boat-from-China all the way up to $17.95 for standard and $24.95 for express delivery.  Still the good side of $100 (just).  I’d say it’s well worth it.  I’ve spent more than that in a taxi for a trip away.

So if you are the sort of person who is regularly away from your desk, this could be your new best friend.  If charging devices is not a challenge for you, maybe it’s not worth it.  I think that for me it probably is good value, even weighing up the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Good weight, very portable
  • Looks the goods – unobtrusive and professional
  • Definitely fit for purpose – with the caveats noted below.  You should get a few decent charge–from-empty charges for your phone at least, and you can use it to power your phone while it’s acting as a wifi hotspot without worrying about losing power.

Cons:

  • Those little connector bits should have a little bag to keep them all together – maybe they do in standard orders, but mine didn’t.  The lack of a Lightning connector seems to be an oversight.
  • Similarly – a dedicated charger would be a nice-to-have
  • Precisely because it’s so big, maybe you’d prefer a smaller and less weighty version.  Still it’s pretty light.

Value:

  • For < $100, it’s right proper worth it, if you’re away from a power source regularly.

Overall I hope you found this review interesting.  The charger is certainly a ‘good bit of kit’, with a few relatively minor issues.

Post-Script

Now, there needs to be a post-script to this review, and this relates to the issue of lithium batteries with Australia Post. I googled the product ID and as best I can tell this thing has a lithium battery in it – which is what I would expect.

It seems to be well-documented but you cannot legally send a lithium battery through Australia Post.  Mobile Zap can send you a lithium battery by post, because it’s being sent from China and is thus under their rules.  China doesn’t seem to consider it a dangerous good.  So, Australia Post will deliver the package from China, but they won’t let you send it back.  You have to use a specialist  courier – who are always going to be more expensive.

Yes it’s a silly situation, but there it is.  The upshot is, there is a problem with the charger, or you want your money back, you’re going to have a bad time.  Of course you can do what everyone does, which is go outside the post office and declare it as non-dangerous.  Australia Post can’t open the parcel to inspect it – so they rely on your declaration.  If that’s what you do, that’s between you and your moral code. Legally, you can’t send it back.

This issue seems to be a result of international cooperation gone bad – frankly I can’t understand how it’s not safe to send a battery by post when I can carry it on-board as a passenger.  But there you go.

More information

MNCs in Emerging Markets: International Human Resource Management

Cardwell Christmas Lights 2013!

Dear $FacebookUser – this has cropped up several times in my newsfeed now.

Cardwell does not have a Mosque. No muslim community asked for Christmas lights to be taken down. If you are sharing a statement that says otherwise, it is a hoax, a lie, a hate designed to spread ill.

It says something about Australians though that we are so quick to accept and share such easily-debunked vitriol without question. As a 5th generation Australian (as best as I can tell, anyway), I’d like to think it’s a simple naivety. That’s a best case scenario.

Look, there’s plenty to complain about with respect to a great many things, including Islam, cyclists, motorbikers, dog-breeders, uni students, Christianity, Rastafarianism, academics, accountants, tattoos, Fast and Furious movies and Holdens. There’s really no need to get offended by made-up stuff.