We had a really fascinating morning last week. Craig Langton called us and asked if we would be interested in riding a 24 odd-year-old Hero Honda, which shares an amazing similarity to the current Eco Deluxe. Loving tiddler bikes the way I do and intrigued by such an old, yet still rideable bike, Bjorn (Junior Editor at ZA Bikers) and I were off to Hero Bryanston in a heartbeat. To recap Hero’s history very briefly. Hero started up in 1984 and entered into a joint venture with Honda (Hero Honda) producing their first bike at the time the Hero Honda CD100.
Over the years they grew to the number 1 selling brand in the huge Indian domestic market. It is thus no coincidence that many current Hero models show technology that is clearly derived from Honda.
2011 saw the parting of the ways, with Hero dropping the Honda part of their name. Hero powered to new heights which must have had the Honda management weeping into their saké at having agreed to a split. February 2018 saw Hero sell 769,000 motorcycles in, wait for it, one month! 2,1 million bikes in three months. Flip, I can’t even begin to imagine what distance that would cover if we parked them nose to tail! Probably just short of 40 kilometres of Hero’s?
I digress, sorry, I just get amazed by the scale of it all. Back to the nub of this story. The Eco Deluxe sports a 97,2cc OHC air-cooled single which develops 8,36 PS and 8,05 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm. Anyone a little long in the tooth like myself will see the Honda roots of this motor immediately. It has a derivative of the motor used in various capacities from 50cc to 125cc in bikes like the legendary unkillable C50 Step through, to the Grom in their current line-up.
Following the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy, Hero have developed this motor even further. It has an amazing fuel-saving feature, utilized in premium cars, where the motor cuts at idle, like when waiting for a robot to change. Pulling in the clutch to engage 1st gear immediately fires up the motor and off you go. In order to do this, the bike has a robust starter motor which dispenses with the need for a kick starter.
What amazed me when looking at the new Hero Eco standing beside the ‘old’ Hero Honda, is how good the old bullet looks. It has the obvious patina of age, yet the styling, for this genre of bike, is pretty spiffy, even when compared to its young whippersnapper 2021 upstart. I cannot even begin to calculate what distance the old bike has travelled, but it has to be at least 100,000 kays. Look at the photos, and see for yourself.
The CD100 SS, as it was called back in the day, is still a sprightly and dapper old fellow. We decided to take the bikes for a spin in their natural habitat, the urban sprawl of greater Jo’burg to see how they stacked up. Ok, it’s not a fair fight, I concede, but somehow something told me that the old codger was going to surprise us. And so it was.
I dibsed the first ride on ‘Uncle Hero’ as I rode out the gate of Hero Bryanston. I was amazed that there was still decent damping in the suspension. I really expected a pogo stick on two wheels. The old boy still rides surprisingly well. The engine, can you believe it, does not sound like a bag of bolts being shaken. It picks up its skirts and gets going with a hint of verve.
Granted the new bike is smoother and more refined, especially in vibration felt through the footpegs, but closer inspection of the Uncle revealed footpegs that are definitely not original. The footpeg rubbers on Honda’s of the day were substantial, and I suspect that with the original rubbers it would be quite an old smoothie too.
The new Eco Deluxe obviously has more punch, but the Uncle does not give away that much. It is actually quite hard to believe that it is as old as it is. It speaks volumes for the inherent quality of these Indian motorcycles. I am not so sure that bikes from the land of the Coronavirus would fare so well. Time will tell. I must say, disc brakes have certainly upgraded braking ability on motorcycles. I realized after riding the drum braked Hero’s why I was such a demon into the corners on my Honda SS50 GT with its little drum brakes. The biggest change when pulling on the brake lever on the old Hero is the expression on your face.
I would imagine that the brake shoes resemble some Karoo fossil by now, they certainly do not have any proper friction properties anymore! The youngster feels like good Brembos by comparison, but certainly could do with a disc brake upgrade. We do need to remember that these bikes were designed to provide the most economical and reliable option available at a basement price.
All in all, it was a huge amount of fun riding these bikes around the ‘burbs. With modern lubricants and even more accurate manufacturing ability, there is every reason to expect even better service from your modern Hero. No wonder they are prepared to offer decent warranties on their products. Thanks, Craig, we had a blast!
For more information on Hero motorcycles visit: www.heromotorcycles.co.za