So it's been almost 8 years since I've moved to Hong Kong and feeling very fortunate to have been able to avoid any accidents (One of the bikes dropped but that was with it falling after a few hours of parking it on center stand on loose gravel) People back home always tell me "You ride motorcycle in Hong Kong? That's so dangerous, I can ride in Canada/US but I don't think I can ever ride in Hong Kong". I think that is a misconception of Hong Kong, for some reason people seem to think it's more dangerous to ride here than it is overseas when I see it's the opposite:
- in HK almost 95% of intersections are controlled by traffic lights. There are no left turns on yellow like in Canada/US that causes 40-60% of motorcycle fatalities.
- in HK the speed limit is very low compared to highways overseas or in China.
- in HK the distances are so short between the next red light or stop sign that people don't usually go above 70 or 80.
- BUT I do see that people don't really have a lot of highway manners; ie moving to the fast lane before reaching a highway on ramp so that people coming onto the highway can take the slow lane, etc.
So really if you pay attention on highways (ie not ride in the blind spot of a 18wheel container truck on Tuen Mun highway for 5 minutes), it's so much safer in Hong Kong than overseas and I try to explain that to anyone who tell me it's dangerous to ride in Hong Kong.
A little write up:
My first bike was a 2008 VFR. I put 24,000kms (if I remember correctly) on it over 4 years but 2 of those years I was spending 90% of my time in mainland China. It was a fantastic bike and I rode it to work everyday rain or shine, 3 degrees or 40 degrees. The only complaint I had was the engine heat which literally scalded my thighs in the summer! It kept up most of the time with guys on Sunday breakfast rides and the vtech was always fun when it came on.
The second bike was a 2007 Vstrom 1000 that I traded my VFR for. I was starting to do a lot of commute close to 90kms a day so it was logical to find something more upright. Unfortunately the stock windscreen was too short to provide wind protection but tall enough to make turbulance at my head level. The lack of fairing compared to the VFR actually made me more wet during rides in the rain; my legs and feet would be 80% dry from the VFR's fairings whereas I would be soaked after riding the Vstrom (have to keep extra set of clothes at the office during summer). It felt much more powerful than the VFR with better acceleration and torque from the 1000cc motor and the Vtwin sound was amazing with the aftermarket 2 Bros pipes.
But after a year I began to feel the Vstrom was too much bike for my needs and I began to feel the 98 or so horsepower lacking the umph that I craved. And I started researching my next bike again.
I've dreamt of the BMW K1300R since it came out in 1200cc form and of course who hasn't dreamed of a Ducati? I won't post my reasons for not going with those two as I don't want to say anything bad about brands that I never even owned. But in the end it was the Kawasaki ZZR1400 (ZX14R) that ticked all the right boxes for me. I needed something that's reliable 24hous/7days/365 days rain or shine (NOT saying that BMW/Ducatis are not reliable). And as with anything mechanical, an issue will probably come up that requires repairs and I want the bike NOT to have to sit at a shop for weeks at a time waiting for parts. Lastly, I'm not a rich second generation with a trust fund so I can't break the bank everytime it needs an oil change or valve adjustment (though I plan on doing my own maintenence after the warranty runs out). Plus it needs to keep me entertained for years to come and I think 200 horsepower ought to do it! I began watching youtube videos of the ZZR1400 and I can't help but just laugh everytime I see the INSANE acceleration.
So now that I chose my next bike, I faced the problem of getting rid of my existing ride. This is something I didn't find enjoyable at all in Hong Kong. Whereas I was used to the idea that one can just trade it into the dealer who you're buying the new bike from, I was told by friends that most dealers wouldn't accept that. And after posting on websites, I received tons of negative comments from people who has too much time on their hands (some people actually stalk those websites and track how many times they've seen it sold! talk about people with no life!). I tried calling the shops that advertise as taking cash for any old bikes and willing to accept taking a hit and even they turned me away! In one last attempt that I thought would result in disappointment, I called up Kawasaki and asked meekly if they'll take my old ride. My eyes literally lit up when the nice lady told me to bring it down to their shop and have a look! I asked when they close and made sure I got my ass there before then on the same day. The staff there was very helpful and cheerful in their conversation and made it a very pleasent experience (I find some people involved with bikes everywhere are very defensive and just try to show off their knowledge which is kind of annoying).
Lessons learned from the 2 close calls I've had since riding in HK are both tires related:
1. Don't do anything stupid within the first 5 mins of the ride when the tires are cold. The first winter I had the VFR, I was at a traffic light turning left, as soon as the light turned green I turned the handle bars and cranked the gas. The VFR was already very well mannered and even that tried to spit me off with a high side when the back tire hopped and lost traction and found traction again. Thankfully nothing happened.
2. Take a few slow rides first when you are moving from one bike to another especially different types of bikes. The third day I traded my VFR for the Vstrom, I went on a sunday breakfast ride and almost rear ended a truck when the back tires locked up under braking. I didn't take into account the touring tires are not the same as the VFR's sportier tires. Also I didn't take into account I don't have linked brakes like on the Honda anymore nor ABS! The VFR made me so used to using a lot of back brake since it's linked up to the front as well that I have a bad habit of using too much back brake.
So if you ever move to Hong Kong and wonder if you should get a bike, by all means you should! Riding is only as dangerous as you make it!