First Ride Review – 2021 Honda ADV150

In Japan, Reviews, Scooter by AbhiLeave a Comment

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You know what happens when you make something reliable, practical, and reasonably priced? Old people snap it up. Honda’s been making an excellent scooter in the form of the PCX150 for years, but the average buyer is 55 years old. Younger buyers who dabble in Honda’s lineup are more interested in less functional, more aggressively styled miniMOTOs like their Ruckus and Grom. Hell, I’m guilty of this myself – the PCX150 is cheaper, faster, and much more practical than the Honda Monkey, but when it came to adding one to my garage, I went with the latter. So if you’re Honda, what do you do to make the PCX more attractive to young’uns?

In case it isn’t obvious: ADV150 (left) vs. PCX150 (right).

It looks like they’re betting on…looks. I’m sure Honda won’t appreciate me bringing up a competitor (on the automotive side), but this reminds me a lot of what Toyota did back in 2002 when they repackaged their drivetrains in quirky styling to form the Scion brand in an attempt to bring youngsters into the fold. The pitch was simple – offer up the same practicality and reliability that made their cars appealing to the general public, but put them in designs that were youth-friendly.

Angry faces!

Honda has nine motorcycle design studios around the world – Indonesia, India, Thailand, China, Italy, Brazil, USA, and two in Japan. They were pitted against each other in a friendly (one presumes) internal competition to create a new look for the PCX that was “conscious of global expansion.” The winning effort came from Thailand, and it was focused on adding “tough and adventure elements.” In a country where such a high percentage of people use motorcycles/scooters as commuters, many of said two-wheelers use small engines, and there are lots of dirt/gravel roads, it makes a lot of sense. But does the ADV150 make sense in the US?


First Ride Review – 2021 Honda ADV150
Photos by Joseph McKimmy.


There’s a bit more to Honda’s newest scooter than a restyle and a rename with the three magical letters that are doing quite well in the motorcycle marketplace right now: ADV. You also get fancy new Showa suspension front and rear – 31mm forks with 5.1″ of travel and twin remote reservoir shocks with 4.7″ of travel.

Gold means it has to be good!

Beyond that, the changes are minimal. The steel frame is identical to what you’ll get in the PCX, as is the 149cc liquid-cooled single.

However, minor changes to the intake (longer/narrower air filter duct and a longer connecting tube) are said to shift the meat of the powerband lower (no horsepower figures were provided but Honda Europe claims 14.2 bhp at 8,500 rpm).

Lastly, the exhaust is completely new – but that’s simply for styling purposes to better fit with the ADV theme.

That might not seem like much in the way of changes, though I oversimplified the styling and I think that’s worth a few more photos. First of all, I think the PCX looks frumpy (especially the cockpit) while the ADV150 looks great with the new lines and all-LED lighting.

Much like the styling, the dash gets an update to make it look more futuristic with the LCD screen.

Our test ride was approximately 65 miles, and I got 84.7 miles per gallon in the process.

Another tech-y feature is the SMART Key, which is Honda’s name for keyless ignition. Just keep the key in your pocket and you’ll be able to open the fuel filler, pop the seat, or start it up.

Then it’s just a matter of twisting the throttle, and you’re off!

The LCD screen is quite visible to the naked eye, but my GoPro did not seem to like it at certain angles with respect to the sun. With that in mind, I’ve included my return run a.) so you get a better view of what the dash is like and b.) cause I was amused by Rennie Scaysbrook’s reaction to me surprising him by locking up the rear (there’s only ABS on the front wheel, much like the Grom or Monkey).

Here’s what I see based on that video:
0-10 mph: 1.83 seconds
0-20 mph: 2.88 seconds
0-30 mph: 4.96 seconds
0-40 mph: 9.06 seconds
0-45 mph: 15.13 seconds

I believe the dramatic increase in time between 40-45 mph comes from the CVT programming and not the power, as later in the day I’d find out that the redline-limited top speed is 68 miles per hour and I’d say the ADV can comfortably cruise at 55 miles per hour on level ground. It’s not allowed on California freeways as the engine is smaller than 150cc, so you’re going to have to make the most of the back roads. Thankfully, the light weight (294 pounds ready to ride) makes that easy.

Typically at press events like this, we’ll hop on motorcycles in the morning and then ride to a restaurant for lunch. Things are a bit different now with social distancing in play, so Honda cleverly took advantage of the convenient underseat storage to have us bring snacks and drinks for a picnic-style lunch. The storage capacity is 27 liters, and it’s rated for 22 pounds. Because I had camera equipment mounted on the front and side of my helmet, I could not fit it in this space, but smaller full-size helmets won’t pose a problem.

Water bottle for context.

Proof that you can fit a helmet.

An additional 2 liters of storage can be found in the left side, where you’ll also find a cigarette lighter-style power outlet (12 volts, 1 amp). It’s rated for 2 pounds and it’s the perfect place to charge your phone/keep something small that you’ll want to access without having to hop off and pop the seat.

If you need more than that, it looks like there’s an accessory trunk available (but it’s not up on the Honda website just yet).

All in all, the ADV150 feels well-thought out by its Thai designers – though it’s clear their target rider is shorter/lighter than I am. Even in a normal riding position, my butt is right against the hump in the seat, so I don’t have much room to shift around. When I scooted up an inch or two to mix up the riding position, I could actually feel the seat pan become concave under high-load situations like compression after a bump. Though I could have used more seat room, I found the ergonomics to be quite comfortable for 30+ minutes at a time.

The other thing that feels too small for me is the footrests. There’s enough room on the floorboards, but it looks like there should also be room to bring your feet up (again, to mix up the riding position), and there isn’t enough room for my size 12 feet to rest flush against the surface.

The top of the footrest area has a curve that makes the top to narrow and makes it basically useless for larger feet.

You may notice that there’s a bit of dirt on my shoe, and that’s because part of our route was off-road.

Two things stood out to me about the ADV150 from my time in the dirt:
1.) It is incredibly easy to ride. That’s probably implied with a sub-300 pound automatic two-wheeler, but I was impressed with the balance of the ADV and how well the fueling/transmission worked as walking speed.
2.) The Showa suspension isn’t a gimmick. The professional photos show well-graded dirt roads, but we had lots of 30+ mph bumps and potholes and the ADV150 soaked it up better than I was expecting. There were even some small g-outs with baby levels of air that were no problem. I was expecting budget suspension and a crashing sensation over bumps but I came away impressed. I don’t think lots of ADV150 buyers are actually going to go off-road, but considering most city streets are rougher than the below, the suspension is nice to have.

Back at the Monkey launch a couple of years ago, we were given some free time to explore, so Ryan Adams of Motorcycle.com went out of our way to find some dirt.

When the same opportunity presented itself with the ADV150, we tried to find some tougher terrain. Here’s Ryan getting a bit of air…I don’t think it’s designed for this kind of thing, but it worked.

So I’m a big fan of the suspension. I’m less of a fan of the disc front/drum rear brakes – the nicest thing I can say about them is that they exist. You really have to squeeze them to get any bite, but I think the 1-channel front only ABS is a great feature for this segment. My last complaint is about the horn position, which is going to sound repetitive if you’ve read any of my recent Honda reviews (but I’m going to keep saying it until they fix it), because they have the horn above the turn signal. I think that’s stupid and borderline dangerous.

If it’s your only two-wheeler, you’d get used to it. But muscle memory is a powerful thing!

The last specification I want to throw at you is 2.1 gallons, which is the fuel tank size. I spent a lot of time with the throttle pinned (I had to verify the top speed for you, right?) and still got 84.7 miles per gallon. I see no reason why a normal rider wouldn’t get 95, if not 100 mpg. But for now, I’d feel confident in saying that you’d comfortably get 160 miles out of a tank.

Relaxing and getting triple digit fuel mileage.

Every time I ride a bike that’s a styling evolution of a different model (Monkey vs. Grom, Z900RS vs. Z900, Svartpilen vs. Duke, etc), I wonder out loud if the new model is worth the price premium – a PCX is $3,699 plus $380 destination charge, while the ADV is $4,299 with the same destination charge. Is the ADV $600 better than the PCX? I spent a couple of miles with a PCX at this launch and my gut reaction is no. Sure there’s a better suspension, but I don’t think that’s worth six Benjamins in this case. Go slow with a PCX and you could go anywhere the ADV does. Is the ADV $600 cooler? Absolutely.

CONCLUSION

Let’s go back to Toyota and Scion. Cooler is better, but does it lower the average age of your buyers? Considering Scion doesn’t exist any more, you can probably see where I’m going with this.

I think the ADV150 is cooler than the PCX150, but I don’t think it’s cooler than the Groms/Monkeys/Ruckuses(Ruckii?) that are currently capturing the attention of young Honda buyers. I’m concerned that the end result will be that ADV buyers will still be the 55+ group that buy PCXs, but they just want a little bit of style. Scion had the same problem with the first generation xB – it was practical, comfortable, and reliable, and it happened to also be a quirky toaster-on-wheels. It was more appealing to older folks, who a.) appreciated the blend of practicality and style and b.) actually had money to buy cars, unlike 18-25 year olds.

It’s cool for a scooter and it’s got a great suspension – but in America, scooters aren’t that cool. I applaud Honda for bringing it here and I hope people are open-minded enough to give it a shot because the grand majority of people I know who say scooters aren’t fun haven’t tried them for themselves. Over at Iconic, we just sold the Ruckus we were using as a shop bike, and I think this would make for a fantastic replacement.

And yet…as soon as I finished writing this review, I hopped on Vy’s Monkey to go pick up some dinner. Even though I had to carry a backpack because there’s no storage space, I had more fun on the Monkey than I did with the ADV150. What can I say? I just love winding a motor through the gears.

One of the goals that a Honda representative stated for the ADV150 is that they specifically wanted it to attract more 1st time buyers than the PCX150 does. I think they’ve got that sorted. But significantly lowering the average age of the PCX buyer? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…


Helmet: Shoei X-Fourteen in Matte Black – $742.99
Helmet Design: custom design by Velocity Tape – $140
Jacket: REV’IT Airwave 3 in Grey/Anthracite – $229.99
Gloves: Velomacchi Speedway – $149Shoes: Alpinestars Faster 3 Rideknit in Black/White – $179.95
Backpack: Velomacchi Rolltop 40L

YOUR QUESTIONS

Before I went to this event, I asked if you had any questions. Here’s what you had for me:

The most common question had nothing to do with the ADV150 – instead I heard from several people asking why the X-ADV isn’t available in the US.

Honda’s Motorcycle Media Coordinator, Colin Miller, explained that it has to do with US scooter seat height regulations, which is something that I didn’t know existed before today. Did you know that part of the NHTSA’s definition of a scooter is that “the part of the vehicle forward of the operator’s seat and between the legs of an operator seated in the riding position, is lower in height than the operator’s seat“?

Too close to call? Photo courtesy of Honda

American Honda’s product planning department thinks that the heights are too close to guarantee that the X-ADV will be defined as a scooter in the US, and it doesn’t have foot controls (as America requires of motorcycles), so…it’s not coming here.

Andy H asked, “The Mrs. is looking for a daily commuter (less than 5 miles each way) and around town, grocery getter. How well would this scooter work? She has very little experience so this would be a first scooter for her.
In my mind, that’s pretty much exactly what the ADV150 would be designed for. It’s absurdly easy to ride, the CVT behaves well at walking pace, there’s decent room under the seat, and it weighs less than 300 pounds.

If she doesn’t need the “ADV” styling, she should probably just save $600 and go with the PCX, though. I’ve also heard from colleagues who spend way more time on scooters than I do that she should also take a look at the Yamaha SMAX, which weighs ~30 pounds more and has less suspension travel but can supposedly top 75 mph.

Eric Epton asked, “How terrifying is it on the freeway? That’s the real incentive to buy a 150cc scooter in CA. It’s not a “motor driven cycle” anymore. Does it work or is it as stupid as trying to ride a Monkey/Grom on the freeway?
This is an interesting question. As you note, California allows 150cc+ scooters on the freeway…but the ADV’s motor is 149cc. From what I can tell (but I don’t claim to be an expert on this), I don’t think the ADV150 would actually be allowed on California freeways. I can’t imagine you’d actually get pulled over for it, but it’s just something to be aware of. Ignoring the legality, I don’t think it would be a good idea to ride one on the freeway unless you were just going for one exit or so. As noted above, you’ll hit redline at 68 miles per hour, so you’re pretty much stuck in the right lane and you don’t have any ability to pass if you need to. I will say that the stability at speed is great – if the motor allowed you to go 80 or 90, the chassis feels like it wouldn’t have a problem. Short answer: yes, it’s as stupid as trying to ride a Monkey on the freeway (though I won’t judge because I’ve done that occasionally myself – when it’s rush hour on the 405, I’m going faster than everyone else splitting in the carpool lane anyway).

Cruising at 66.

Ian Thomas asked, “how much frame flex does it have under cornering load? And how is the suspension 2 up?
The frame/suspension is great in the corners, much to my surprise. I think Honda got their money’s worth out of the Showa suspension, as the ADV150 is very planted for something so small, even when leaned over enough to drag the centerstand in corners. I wasn’t able to get any 2-up seat time on it during my short ride, though I’m thinking about asking for a loaner from Honda to putt around town with for a bit because there’s a lot to love about a scooter in town. If that happens, I’ll get back to you about 2-up performance.

Tnel asked, “Seat comfort for one your size and say after 30 min. of riding. Along with that of course riding position in general, and at 6’2″ will I look like a monkey on a child’s toy.?… instead of just a monkey.
I tried to answer this in the review itself, but the short version is: I’m too big for it but for 30 minutes at a time I found it comfortable anyway. Still, it’s one thing to ride one for a morning versus plunking down the money and living with it – I’m 6’2″ as well and I’d look at something bigger or find an aftermarket seat with less of a seat hump. I’m more comfortable on Vy’s Monkey just because it has a flat seat so I can take up as much space as I need, on the PCX I feel limited and I’m right at the threshold of fitting.

Larry asked, “same question I always have, is it coming to Canada and why not?
As you suspected, it’s not coming to Canada. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you why – that decision was made by Honda Canada, and I don’t know anyone there who would be able to give me a non-generic answer.


Small world moment:
Right as the event was starting, a client of Iconic Motorbikes (Brad, who’s behind the bike) showed up at the dealership we were staging at to pick up some parts for his beautiful NC30 that’s been done up to look like a RC30. I thought you’d appreciate a quick peek, as this will be going up on the auction site soon…
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Thanks for reading!

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