Honda Forza Review
With over 5000 kilometers and two counties traveled (Thailand & Laos), the 2013 Honda Forza 300CC has been put through its paces. Before purchasing this motorcycle in Thailand, I combed through the internet for reviews and information in an effort to dissuade myself from buying it. Before making any major purchase, I always look for a reason not to buy something. If my thorough search for negatives turns up few and far between, then I know the product is worthwhile, or too new for criticisms. This seems to be the case for the 2013 Honda Forza. Here is my comprehensive review of my experience with the Forza.
The selling point for us on the Forza was the seat/storage. The Honda Forza comes equipped with a massive seat which gives way to huge under seat storage. Two critical things to consider when traveling long distances on two wheels are first and foremost comfort, and secondly, how will I get all of my junk to my destination with me. The Forza kills two birds with one stone with the seat/storage setup. I have traveled extensively throughout Thailand on five different “big bikes,” and the Honda Forza is, in terms of comfort, leaps and bounds ahead of the Honda Phantom, CBR, PCX, Kawasaki Ninja, and KLX250. The under-seat storage is big enough to fit two full-face helmets or two laptops (in a backpack), chargers, and two pairs of tennis-shoes.
Price of the Honda Forza
Next, and as some would consider the most important factor to me in life, is price. The Honda Forza boasting 300CC of power is priced perfectly at 160,000baht, or roughly $5,200USD. We did however; find that prices vary greatly (to the extent of 10,000+baht) between dealers and cities. The best price we found was 160,000 baht in Khon Kaen and included no surcharge for credit card usage. Cha-Ching, I can smell the sweet scent of skymiles now!
Compared to its counterparts, the KLX250 priced at 160,000baht, the CBR250 at 135,000baht, the PCX125 priced at 85,000baht, Honda Phantom no longer in production but previously priced at 80,000baht, the Honda Forza is priced competitively especially considering the additional 50CC of engine power gained compared to its closest power competitor.
Power is the only category that deserves questioning when purchasing this motorcycle. Sure, the Forza comes equipped with 300CCs of Honda power, but the issue lies in the automatic transmission. In an uphill battle a manual motorcycle will leave the Forza in the dust all day, every day. This is a consideration to make if you plan to race through the mountains with your buddies running around on KLX, CRF, CBR, etc. On the flipside, when you reach a town, especially in Southeast Asia, and it comes to weaving through traffic, the automatic transmission will dominate the manuals every time. The only time you will notice a lag is in an extreme incline. Throughout Southeast Asia these are few and far between. I have had my Honda Forza up Doi Inthanon (the highest point in Thailand) as well as through the highest points in Laos, and I was able to keep up with every other big bike (including 650CC) that I was riding with. Although the Forza may lose speed in hill-climbing, that speed is more than made up in cornering due to the much lower center of gravity compared to a traditional motorcycle. I tend to cruise at 90kmh, which gives me the best fuel economy and a little juice in the throttle for passing.
Riding up, down, and sideways with two passengers and way more gear than we need, I average about 28km/l or about 60 MPG. This makes for an extremely economical mode of transportation. The Forza has an 11.5litre tank. I can usually cruise 300Kilos comfortably before worrying about the red zone E reading on the fuel gauge. Riding solo, with no gear, I will push upwards of 32km/l.
Changes I would/have made:
You always think you have enough room, up until the point you try to cram two laptops, bathroom accoutrements, rain gear, and weeks worth of clothes into your storage compartments. I don’t care how much storage room you have, you will always find a way to fill it. Keeping with this line of thinking, more is always better. The easiest and most practical solution for the Honda Forza is a top box. The largest available in Thailand is 45L. The debate between Shad vs Givi will be ongoing, as these are two of the top quality competitors. Either brand will be sufficient and durable. I went with Shad because it was what was available to me at the time, and with the mount cost 7,400baht.
Suspension-Have not yet made
Suspension was never an issue until I crossed the boarder into Laos. Laos’s roads resemble Swiss cheese more so than asphalt. I don’t care how good of a rider you are, if you ride throughout Southeast Asia, you’re going to run smack-dab into a pothole. Wham! Damnit, I wish I had stiffer shocks. That was my thoughts while riding through Laos. Additionally the road that contain “whoopties” especially on the route to Nong Khiaw, Laos, will almost launch you’re back passenger off the seat. I had many of fingers lunged into my spine due to riding through the whoopties too fast, and the upward jolt of the shocks just about launching my ol’ lady into outer space. She wasn’t happy. All kidding aside, if you plan to ride long distances with two passengers, I suggest upgrading the shocks. In Thailand, the best option is the YSS TG362-400 which allows for manual dampening adjustments. The TG362-400 runs about 15,000baht in Thailand, and the cheaper version missing the manual dampening adjustments are about 7,000baht. Ohlins shocks are also available, but are significantly more expensive, and I am told in Thailand the “Ohlins” shocks are manufactured in Taiwan which are nowhere near the quality grade of the Swedish manufactured product.
I am one to always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In the case of a manual motorcycle, a dead battery is rarely a concern, as push starting (dumping the clutch) is always an option. On a classic Southeast Asia automatic scooter this is negated with the presence of a kick-start. The Honda Forza, being fully automatic, and lacking a kickstart can cause worries, especially in the remote villages of Southeast Asia. If would be nice to have a backup plan in the event of a dead battery.
These are my only three complaints on the bike. In my opinion, if these are the only three complaints I can come up with, then the bike as I have mentioned, is SOLID. More importantly, the Forza is more than worth it considering the price tag.
Rear Kickstand (the one you put it on in tight spots, or in order to do maintenance)
Do NOT push down slightly and pull backwards to engage the kickstand. Why on earth would you do that? Simply because every other motorbike functions this way! The kickstand has been beautifully crafted to use downward force, and NOT backward force, to engage. This is an extremely valid point to make, as I struggled for weeks and looked-a-fool many a-time as a “bigger guy” in Thailand shown up by Thais one-third my size.
The Honda Forza uses a tubeless tire. This is another HUGE difference compared to the zillion of other motorbikes on the road in Southeast Asia. In the event you get a flat tire on a Honda Forza, do not bother going to your local corner bike-repair shop. They will stare at you and point you down the road….not like I know from experience in the middle of nowhere Thailand….
Because the Forza uses a tubeless tire this leaves you with two options: Patch the tire or replace the tire; the former being much cheaper, but also much more challenging. In Thailand anyways, they do not patch tubeless motorcycle tires. Why? Turns out, it actually makes somewhat of sense (contradictory to my cussing and screaming when trying to figure this out). Tire shops (for passenger cars) do not have the tools to take the tire off a motorcycle, and on the flipside, motorcycle shops do not have patch kits. Do I smell a possible business opportunity for those more business-oriented individuals???? Maybe.
The only way I found a way to patch a perfectly new tire is to go to a Honda dealer and ask them to take the rear tire off. This will cost you roughly 100 baht, and countless strange looks. Take the tire from the Honda dealer and walk/hitchhike to a passenger car tire repair shop. The passenger car repair shop will do a spot-on patching job in less than 15 minutes and cost about 200 baht. Proceed to walk back to the Honda dealer and have them mount the tire. Way more hassle than it should be, but saves you a lot of money, and in my case, time, because chances are the Honda dealer will not have a Forza tire in stock.
Somewhere in my never-ending search to debunk the reasons for buying the Honda Forza, I stumbled upon a forum in which raised caution in regards to oils changes. In typical Thai-style, changing an oil-filter is seen as a waste. Why on earth would you change a perfectly new oil filter at 1,000 kilometers? Aside from the fact that this is precisely what the owner’s manual calls for, the first 1,000 kilos is the most likely time for metal shavings to be introduced into your engine. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that metal on metal friction is NOT a good thing. Thus, changing your oil filer and getting those metal shavings removed from the engine is paramount. The problem lies in when you take the motorbike into the shop for an oil change and tell them to change the oil filter. Much like the issue with a flat tire, chances are, the Honda dealer/shop will not have the oil filter in stock. This will leave you settling for no oil filter changed and risking seriously damaging your newly purchased motorcycle.
How to prevent this issue: Because I knew that obtaining an oil filter was going to be an issue, I went into the Honda dealer 200 kilometers before needing an oil change. After every staff member in the shop explained to me that I was not due for an oil change for 200 kilometers, I was able to convey to them, I simply wanted them to order the filter so it would be at the shop when I was due for an oil change. Strange logic, I know. This is likely the only way to ensure the Honda shop has an oil filter in stock when bringing the bike in for an oil change, at least for a year or so until the bike becomes much more popular. Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you physically view the new oil filter. There are multiple reasons for this; first and foremost, to make sure that they actually have the oil filter in stock. You would be surprised how many times I had to ask to actually get this ordered… Secondly, to make sure that the oil filter is the correct filter. The correct part number is seen above. If you want to be super anal, much like myself, try to take a look at the oil that was drained out from the first oil change, just to see if any metal shavings are visible. I didn’t not notice any shavings present in my first oil change; therefore, I think the Forza is a pretty battle-proof engine.
The Honda Forza 300CC is the perfect price/power/comfort combination available on the market in Thailand according to us, The Trading Travelers. I am more than happy with the machine, and it has not had a hiccup yet, knock on wood. Although I don’t recommend driving this machine in an off-road situation, the Forza will in fact get you through just about anything you can throw at it. Check out the videos below to see just how rough the terrain was in Laos, and how the Forza performed.
Video Review and Tour of the Honda Forza
The importance of your first oil change:
UPDATE February 2014: Flashing ABS Light Honda Forza
We just completed a 2000 kilo trip through Central and Northern Thailand and on the last day of riding the ABS light began flashing randomly. The flashing would last for different lengths of time, and was triggered at random speeds/times. There was no consistency with ABS Flashing Light. I decided to push through and make the additional 150 kilo drive, to come home and read the owners manual (of course the manual in the bike is all in Thai). Here’s what the English Honda Forza owners manual had to say.
This sent me into panic-mode as the manual gives no information other than get the bike to the shop ASAP. So, that is what I did and this is where the problems arise. Finding a competent Honda Forza Mechanic in Thailand is every bit a challenge. I first took the bike to Honda Big Wing in Chiang Mai. Immediately, I could the mechanics were completely delusional when it came to Forza maintenance, especially with this issue. I tried my best to remain confident in them and let the techs do their job. I was told to come back 4 hours later, but rather I stuck around to see what the issue was.
Surprisingly, the techs did have a code scanner in the shop, and hooked the bike up to the computer. The pictures above will show you where the connection for a code scanner is. As you can see, the tech had manuals opened up trying to diagnose the issue. Four hours later, I was told the issue was a dirty fuse, and the issue was taken care of. Something told me the issue ran deeper than a dirty fuse…
Sure enough, while on the drive home, the ABS light triggered again. This time, the engine was revving up randomly. RPMs were bouncing around between 800-1400 RPM while sitting still, something I had never seen before on my Forza. I should also mention, that while the ABS light was rapidly flashing and the turn signal was engaged, the turn signal would flash rapidly as well. Again, both symptoms intermittent.
Rather than going back to Honda Big Wing, I decided to go somewhere else, hopefully somewhere with competent techs. It just so happened my uncle was at another Honda dealership with his PCX getting a new battery. He claimed the techs spoke English, so off I went. I arrived to Nat Motor Honda, and immediately it was a different vibe. The owner was on site, and no one was sitting around. Techs were flying around, the place was running like a well-oiled machine. I showed the tech the issue, and immediately he took off on my bike to assess the situation. I was given a ticket and told to come back in 2 hours. I decided to mull around BSing with my uncle.
The Honda Forza Flashing ABS light resolved! The best I could understand between the tech and owner of the shop is that the terminal connection between the ABS/Battery was faulty. They replaced/cleaned the terminals and completely disassembled the ABS system to reveal this. This diagnosis makes sense considering the RPM variations. Nonetheless, if the ABS light is flashing on your Honda Forza, it could likely be a loose/faulty connection within the ABS system. If you are in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I suggest Nat Motor on Huaykaew Rd. These guys actually know what they are doing.