Jul 26, 2007

Mailbag #12: Karizma woes... P220?

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1What is the expected life of a modern bike (chassis to be more exact)?

I have a Karizma from 2003 ,one of the earliest. 4 years on the plastics certainly have deteriorated as there is some vibration in the fairings while idling which was not there ( or much less apparent ) earlier ; blame the Pune roads for that which are like monscape after every monsoon. Also the bike doesn't handle as well as it used to, the suspension seems much stiffer ( using same rear shock setting at #3 or medium for some 2+ years ) but the damping seems to have gone bad . I have had 2 crashes on the bike and have changed the fork stanchion few months ago. Yet the front doesn't feel like it should either. I could change the entire plastics for about 5.5K , the rear suspension for 2.2K and entire front fork assy is about 4.5K.

I know of Bullets that are over 30 years old and some HH CD-100s have lasted 12+ years with no major problems. I would assume that the chassis of upper segment bikes ( 150cc and over ) should be built stronger , more durable & longer lasting than the 100c bike's , so how much longer do you think this bike can carry on further without major trouble?

As such my bike handles OK enough , tracks straight sometimes but sometimes seems to veer left when I let go of the handlebar ( not sure whether this is because of the road camber or irregular surfaces but most roads I frequent are not smooth but rather patchy ) , sometimes it seems the rear is unstable under braking . HH showroom folks say everything is fine (suspension works alright they say ) even though I have noticed the rear tyre doesn't have a constant outline while rotating( the wheel has no left-right play ) , is this a wheel alignment problem or is it the wheel rim is bent or is the tyre shape irregular (Dunlop Geocruise , 2+ years old ). Or could this be caused by worn axle bearings?

HH folks haven't been able to diagnose the problem (it's not a major thing as the bike is reliable and apart from occasional gearshift problems has given no mechanical trouble) but I like my bike handle well , and it doesn't handle well consistently (am not sure if this inconsistency is caused by road surface being irregular). So I am thinking of a new bike (Pulsar 220 foremost in mind ) but being familiar with Bajaj's gremlins I am a bit hesitant to rely on the 220 alone in case it gives up one fine day. Other bikes I am considering as the CBZ-X , Apache RTR ( I don't think it's as good as the P180 but I liked the braking ) and Unicorn ,but don't really want to go lower down the cc scale . I like the 220's lights but is the P220 really worth going for... for an existing Karizma owner?

I have been told by a fairly reliable source that Honda will bring a CBF250 based machine late in 2007 or early 2008 , and that the P220 may itself be revised early into a version 2 , and that Yamaha has no plans and may well quit India while TVS has not 200cc + bike planned for 2008. So basically I have few options in the 200cc + segment , and the Honda 250 may well be worth the wait.

What do you suggest? Spend 12K and get my bike back in shape waiting for 2008 and the Honda 250, or get the 220 ( I do know the 220 is constantly plagued by some minor like fuel gauge fluctuation and LED lamp failures ,some more serious issues like the rear disc and ECU , plus long term reliability is yet unproven and there are very few places where it can be serviced).


Hi RevHard, sorry for the delay in replying... I've not been able to access my email for almost a week.

It's kind of hard to remotely diagnose a bike, but four years is a long time for suspension bits to hold together. Especially given our roads and the two crashes you have suffered. There are a couple of things you could do though. Try taking your bike to a HH showroom and take a new Karizma out for a spin (suspension is identical). Then, ride your bike immediately afterward and play with preload and try to recreate the same feel. If the feel does not come, its time to bin the bits and get new ones. Don't be tempted to buy a different brand from another bike... stick with the OEM bits. Also try to figure out which end is more troublesome for you. Forks can come back with a change of oil and if push comes to shove change the springs. Did the forks get bent badly in the crashes? If yes, they could be causing the bike run left and in that case, a full replacement may be needed.

Chassis life is practically infinite, but it's the crashes that kill them. Even in a small off, you could bend forks, triple clamps and other small bits. The bike seems to run fine or a while, but as the bearings grow older the slight deviations begin to become more serious in the manifestations.

Also, check you rear wheel part by part. Compare the hub circumference while rotating to a fixed point, like some part of the suspension to see if that is bent. If that's allright, check the rim edge. And then check the tyre. If the outline, as you put it, is not constant, your handling ills could simply be cured by identifying and fixing the rear end.

To check for worn bearings, just slot the bike in gear on a center stand and try to move the rear wheel (not rotate, move). It should not have the slightest bit of play.

And just ignore the plastics... they will eventually rattle if the going is tough.

Should you plump for the 220, and does it constitute an upgrade from the Karizma. Hmm... I wouldn't. In performance terms, the 220 is definitely ahead, but not that far ahead. Technologically, it's leaps and bounds ahead and all that. But at the end of the day, you're upgrading from a lazy-fast 223 to a faster, sportier 220. And the rest, no matter how long the list of features is, is icing, and not cake. I would rather suggest you save up a bit and ride the Karizma one more year... and see what your choices are then.... There's more, faster stuff coming next year... As far as Honda CBF250 (that'd be great), Yamaha quitting India (no way, total rumour, watch out for them next year)... that's all just speculation.


Revhard said...

Hi Rearset,
Thanx for your inputs. I have mentioned there is no lateral play in the wheels and the rim also visually shows no dents/cracks. The tyre being wider than the rim I cannot check the outline of the rim while rotating - I'll take it to good wheel repair shop for that. I have saved enough to change all the mentioned bits even the alloy wheels but I don't think the wheel is bent.

The idea of taking another new Karizma for a spin did cross my mind and good thing there is a HH showroom not far from home.

But it begs the question : if the rims look undamaged and bearings reveal no play ,what is causing the slight irregularity in the rear wheel outline? Even the swingarm adjusters ( there are markings in each side of the swingarm to align with ) are aligned correctly or so it seems to my eye.

Can you tell me more about what effect a misalinged rear wheel has on the handling - is it a predictable tendency toward one direction ( left or right ) and are the markings on the swingarm reliable enough as alignment indicators ? I ask because it may be that post-puncture fix the wheel may not be correctly installed.


rearset said...

Machines are easy to work with that way. If you think the wheel is perfectly A-OK, check the wheel alignment. Google for 'Wrenching with Rob' and you should find a detailed how-to.

But even before that, if the wheel is ok, the next step is to check the swingarm pivot – if the bushes are worn, they too would add to the interesting handling. Are both rear shock mounts allright? Not bent, broken, loose or cracked? Did you take the shocks and check? Checked the chain tension and wear? Both sides preload is the same? Also check the tail section for minor cracks, just in case... this is a huge list...

The swingarm mountings should be adequate to check the alignment. If the wheel is misaligned, eventually it will cause a crash. The question is akin to asking what will happen if you dropped water on the keyboard – I am certain something would not work properly, not sure what... 8-D

Revhard said...

Yup the swingarm has no play either and same shock preload on both sides.Chain is fine as well (how would chain tension affect lateral stability handling?)
Think I'll have the bearings , swingarm bush & wheel alaingment & balanced checked ...
now rear shock mounts ? Didn't check but I'm sure with our roads any trouble there would bevery apparent not to miss.


rearset said...

Again, look it up on google, but the angle and tension of the chain is a part of the handling character of the bike (I remember a long chapter on chain angle in a Motorcycle Design & Technology book)...

Revhard said...

hi Rearset,

Visited 2 HH largest showrooms today. One doesn't have a Karizma for testrides , the other's test-ride Karizma was away with someone and unavailable for the day.

Anyway asked the most highly regarded technician to ride my bike and diagnose the problem. He returned after the ride saying tyre pressure was low ( 25PSI , bit low yes but after refilling the ride was stiffer for some bumps , same for others ).

Finally he said nothing wrong with rear wheel but he said tyres do get irregular over time ) and if I left the bike he's investigate the forks. I'm not exactly convinced but since I couldn;t get another Karizma for a ride , can't be 100% sure either way.

Now for the crashes : I haven't crashed in 2 years , last crash was over 2 years ago and I didn't have ( or didn't notice ) handling changes then when the fork stanchions were straightended. I replaced the fork tube in March/April this year , shortly after I noticed the handling wasn't like it used to be and suspension wasn't as compliant or comfortable as it used to be. I'm sure both didn't really occur instantaneously but grew over some time but I really felt/noticed the handling and suspension performance drop around Jan-Feb 2007.


a said...


Have been reading reviews on the ZMA and finally bought one after having owned earlier the Bajaj KB-100,Pulsar 150,Honda Shine etc.I have been biking since 20 years and was actually waiting for the Pulsar 220 since September 2006 but after innumerable false alarms of it being launched in Mumbai gave up.

ZMA is supposed to be the best of the indian bike lot but honestly my experience has been not pleasant.
I got my bike on 16 June 2007.On close inspection found that the silencer cover ,leg guard(plastic type on the NEW LOOK ZMA) and the front brake lever was scraped/damaged.I spoke to the dealer who replaced the relevant parts without much ado.

Have been riding it for the last one month and half and find various problems
1.Rear shocks give a feeling that they are made of wood! no shock absorption worth the name!
2.Inconsistent pick up-sometimes you get a feeling that a 100 cc wud be better.
3.Poor gear shift-specially 2nd-neutral-1st combination
4.Poor average.
5.Horn went dead within a month-later problem corrected by dealer
6.Poor pick up
7.Engine/silencer sound is the most worrying-sounds like am driving a minidor tempo with a misfiring sound when decelarating.

I did show the bike to Creative motors in mumbai but got it back with the same set of problems not rectified barring the horn problem.

Here would also highlight the indifferent attitude of service centers,with the bike population expanding like anything the service is woefully inadequate and this is across dealers whether Bajaj/Honda or Hero Honda.

Would like someone to reply back if they can understand the problem from their experience.This kind of product is not expected out of HH stables.

Revhard said...

My experience with the Karizma has been very good ,though there are things that could improve.

About your bike's suspension - what preload settign are you using ? If the new bike was damaged ( showroom mechs often handly the bike roughly and I have seem some bikes been dropped from a few feet while unloading from trucks - that could have damaged the suspension , check for traces of oil leakage).
Since your bike is new , replace the shocks under warranty.

But even that mishandling should not affect the engine. Do check the engine and chassis number of the bike - what if the dealer palmed off an old bike after replacing the plastic ? Dealers often disconnect the speedometer(and hence odo) of test ride bikes which might eventually be sold to someone.

I suggest you look up with comsumer court. It may not be HH's fault as from what I hear they have very good quality control (tahnk Honda for that, better than others in India though not 100% defect proof ) ,but what happens after the new bike leaves the factory/warehouse to the dealer's is entirely the doing of transporter/dealer and I suspect the latter more.

My bike had good supension when new, performance has been consistent although in my case too the gearbox is sometimes a bit rough. For the gearbox, try using a better oil such as Castrol Activ 4T or Valvoline semisynthetic ( I am using that now and it's much better than the HH 4T Plus ).

As far as fuel consumption goes, initially it is low ( I got 26 during first 300km , improved as more km
done and now consistently above 35, even upto 42-45 sometimes ).

a said...

Hi Rearset,

Thnx for your quick response.I delayed my response as just got my bike serviced(1st service) @ Creative Motors,Mumbai and inspite of complaining again got back the bike without any change in problems faced.Can i get this bike checked by a good mechanic who can just ride the bike and tell me that indeed there is a problem or not,have been biking since 1985 and this is the first bike which seems sluggish in the first month and mind u have not over revved and am maintaining the acceleration as per manual.Like mentioned above the service center guys do not care and in fact have written to HH on their website but no response,not even a acknowledgement.


rearset said...

Call my trusted mechanic Zubin at +91-98203-25593. Say you got the number from rearset's blog and tell him your problem. He's in Mahim and very good. Try him.

Pravasis said...

Hi rearset,

I recently got a new Karizma R since a week. but there are some tit bit stuff anooying me.

Firstly at speeds around 60kphr if i leave the handle of my bike it is just vibrating rather than remaining stable.

Secondly the gear seems to be a bit hard. Have just done 250kms on my bike, do u suggest going for an oil change or wait for the reccomended 500kms.

Please provide your suggestions on what should I do for these issues. And for the rest the bike is running good.