Bajaj RE Philippines Tuk-Tuk (Auto Rickshaw)

Bajaj RE Philippines

Bajaj RE Philippines

If you have visited other countries in Asia you are probably aware of Tuk-Tuks. Tuk-Tuks also known as Auto Rickshaws are used as taxis in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and parts of China, the most common of these is the Bajaj RE.

Because they are cheap to buy, economical to run, comfortable for the passengers, small and have enough speed to nip through the traffic they are perfect for the job they do.

For some reason, the Tuk-Tuk never arrived in the Philippines where instead they opted for what they call a “Tricycle” which is a motorbike and sidecar. However, things are changing and the Tuk-Tuk has arrived in the Philippines.

Bajaj Auto which sells more Tuk-Tuks around the world than any other manufacturer has introduced the Bajaj RE 4S model to the Philippines. This is sold through just 2 dealers at the moment “KServico” in Luzon and “Emcor” in the rest of the Philippines.

There has been much written about tricycles by visitors to the Philippines and very little of it is good. The majority of tricycles in the Philippines are 100cc or 125cc motorbikes with a poorly constructed sidecar attached. Tricycles do not give you any comfort at all, if you are over 5 feet tall you will bang your head on the roof in many of them, the suspension often made out of rebar does little to cushion the ride. Most of them have no working brake on the sidecar so rely on the motorbike brakes to stop them, brakes that were designed to stop a maximum of 2 people on a motorbike, not a motorbike and sidecar and anything up to 8 people, braking is not even because of this and you will often see tricycles pull violently to one side when they brake hard.

Tricycles seem to travel at 30 – 40kmph, I suspect there are 2 reasons for this, firstly the poor little engines were never designed to pull that amount of weight so struggle to go faster and secondly the design of them means they are out of balance so any speed higher than that makes them hard to control. The drivers of them seem to have a love of the overtaking lane and drive along it at these low speeds causing a hazard, danger and delays for other road users, not to mention the danger to themselves and their passengers, it also means the only way to pass them is undertaking which is not safe.

The overworked engines of tricycles blow out a lot of pollution, some of the older ones are two-stroke where oil is burnt with the petrol (gasoline) which adds to the pollution, even with the 4-stoke engines it is not long because they are overworked the engines become worn and produce more pollution.

On top of all this is the fact many of the sidecars are simply not roadworthy.

Bajaj RE Safer, Cleaner, more comfortable Transport

The Bajaj RE 4S solves many of the problems with tricycles. It is designed for what it does with safety and comfort in mind, it is factory built not constructed in a welding shop. Bajaj Auto have a whole design team in India, they also have testing facilities to test the designs. The Tuk-Tuk dates back to the 1930s and has gradually been developed into what it is today. Bajaj has been selling 3 wheelers since 1944 and have manufactured them since 1959 when they obtained a License from Piaggio to manufacture its two and three-wheelers. Bajaj now sells nearly half a million 3 wheelers a year.

With all their experience Bajaj have developed the RE into what it is today, a purpose-built rigid chassis with a Muscular SKUDO Design, it has a rear bumper designed to withstand impact. Its curved upright windscreen with wiper gives the driver good viability in all weathers, lights and indicators are fitted the same way they are on most cars and are the same quality with dual headlights at the front.

Bajaj RE 4S Brakes

The Brakes on the Bajaj RE are hydraulic and foot-operated the same as a car and applies braking to all 3 wheels at the same time this along with the symmetrical design of the Bajaj RE means braking is even and does not pull to one side.

The symmetrical design of the Bajaj RE also means it is perfectly balanced which give a much safer, smoother ride and it remains balanced even at high speeds.

Bajaj RE Engine

The engine is a purpose-built twin spark 200cc 4-stroke engine which easily handles the load even on steep climbs. I have taken mine on a mountain road and it managed the hills with ease even loaded with the family, I know many other people that have also done this with their Bajaj REs.

With there being strict emission laws in India now Bajaj changed from 2-stroke engines to 4-stroke engines and a lot of work has been done to make them comply with the emission laws, it also means the Bajaj RE 4s complies with the new emission laws in the Philippines.

Bajaj RE Speed

The Bajaj RE 4S is happy cruising at speeds up to about 70kmph but is capable of about 80kmph.

As the maximum speed limit in the Philippines is 80kmph on open country roads the Bajaj RE is capable of keeping up with traffic. It also handles extremely well at these speeds and I have found the breaking distance at speed is less than it is on a car, probably because there is far less weight to stop.

Comfort for Passengers

The Bajaj RE has an easy entry for passengers you do not have to crouch right down like you do to get in a tricycle, so even old people can get in with no problem. Once inside the passenger can sit upright and has plenty of headroom and legroom, I have had my friend in mine who is 6′ 3″ tall and there was still room above his head. I am a big bloke weighing 90kg and I can sit in the back for hours with no discomfort.

Bajaj RE Philippines Unexpected Market

Judging by KServico (the main supplier of Bajaj RE in the Philippines) advertising they aimed the Bajaj RE 4S at people providing a taxi style service for customers which traditionally used tricycles and that is understandable as that is what the Bajaj is used for in many countries around the world.

However in the Philippines many people that use vehicles only for private use have seen the Bajaj RE and decided to buy one, most have quickly fallen in love with it, for some it is a fun form of transport, others saw it as an ideal way to get around the overcrowded roads in the Philippines, some use it for short trips to the shops etc. while others realised what a tough reliable machine a RE is and use it for long journeys, for some it is a way to have their own transport at a price they can afford, while others already have a car but just fell in love with the Bajaj RE and leave their car on the drive and use the RE. The Bajaj RE is such a versatile machine and so well built it is suitable for all them things.

The love these private owners have for the Bajaj RE in the Philippines is very quickly turning it into a cult following with clubs starting to be formed in a way it was for Scooter riders in the UK back in the 1960s. There is a comradeship forming amongst owners of the Bajaj RE in the Philippines and groups have sprung up on Facebook.

Is the Bajaj RE the Future of the Philippines

The Bajaj RE could be the future for the Philippines, if people got out of their cars and started using vehicles the size of the Bajaj there would be far less congestion, if they were used as a taxi style service customers would be safer and would travel in comfort, it would also mean traffic would flow better as they take up less room on the road than a tricycle, accelerate faster and can keep at a speed that matches the rest of the traffic on the road.

Update: 

There is now 25,000 Bajaj REs on the roads of the Philippines.

Sadly the mentality in the Philippines seems to be everything with 3 wheels is regarded as a tricycle, even though under Philippines law a tricycle is a motorcycle with sidecar. This means the Bajaj RE is not a tricycle and should not be registered as a motorcycle with sidecar.

The Bajaj RE is being unfairly restricted in the Philippines because of this attitude.

The  United Threewheelers Club Philippines is a Facebook Group that is trying to right this wrong.


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10 thoughts on “Bajaj RE Philippines Tuk-Tuk (Auto Rickshaw)

  • Kjetil Lo

    A great article, man. I am a Norwegian, staying long time on and off in the Philippines, and so far I have used single motorbike. Some week ago I got a new side car attached to the Yamaha 125. It is very fun to ride, but also quite challenging and uncomfortable compared the that RE rickshaw. However, it is a question of price still. My new YTX125 had a cash price of 47000 peso, the side car cost me 13000 (brand new, simple style with a big umbrella a roof and no doors etc. But the Bajaj cost around 165 000 peso cash (3150 usd), and if I shall spend that amount of money, I would rather get a used car around 200 000 peso in stead. But you are right about the fun of driving that Bajaj, and it is indeed a much safer vehicle than my tricycle.

  • Ped. (the only name that appears in my passport)

    You primary article on the Tricycle is way off the mark yes there are bad ones and yes there are bad drivers but they are not as bad as you imply and I can say that with some considerable experience. I have had association with the Philippines since 1993 when I met my first wife I now live there with my second wife and use tricycle’s quite often even though I have a driving licence here. Yes the Bajaj RE is better and safer in many respects but this whole article smacks of advertising not constructive journalism.

    • British Frank Post author

      I can assure you I was not paid in any way to write this article and there is no advertising involved. I do admit to being an owner and a lover of the Bajaj RE and I am very enthusiastic about the RE.
      Everything I said about tricycles is from my own personal experience. I find it a struggle to get in many of them as they are so low, I have banged my head on the roof going over bumps so many times I hate to think of the damage it has done to me. In many I have bits of metal sticking into me, or speakers digging me in the back because the owner thinks having a mobile disco is more important than his customers comfort, I have been in one that had to do an emergency stop and ended up on the wrong side of the road as the weight of the sidecar spun it round. I could go on all day about the bad experiences I have had. We would not allow such vehicles on the roads in the west, so yes I welcome the Bajaj RE and hope they will replace tricycles so customers have a more comfortable and safer ride.

    • Philip Van Peel

      If you do some research on what a real motorcycle with sidecar is supposed to look like (BMW, URAL, Zundapp…) you will discover that the sidecar wheel is not only supposed to have a brake and preferably a powered drive shaft, it is also NOT supposed to be mounted parallel with the motorcycle wheels but at an angle of 2 to 3 degrees when seen from above, in other words the front of the sidecar wheel is slightly inclined inwards. Philippine tricycle builders are totally ignorant of this and they won’t even believe it when you tell them because they don’t know any better.

  • Yohann

    I checked the Bajaj RE today and the sales person told me that it can be driven with either a motorcycle or a car driving license.
    I’m a bit doubtful on that but I can’t find any information about it.
    What’s your take on this?
    Thanks

    • British Frank Post author

      I am pretty sure you need a motorbike license as it is registered as a non-conventional motorcycle.
      I had the same problem myself so went to LTO and got motorcycle added to my license, If I remember correctly it cost about 350 peso and I did not need to sit a test.

      • Yohann

        Thanks for the reply.
        That’s what I thought too.
        I have the license for motorbike but my wife doesn’t and the idea is for her to eventually drive it as well. I guess we’ll go to LTO should we go ahead with the purchase.
        Great informative site you have here. Keep up the good work.

  • Robert Gray

    I bought one about 1 1/2 years ago. I can drive it ok because I learned on a standard but GF has a problem with the clutch. Her hand is so small she has trouble depressing the clutch. I can carry 6 people. Five Filipino and one big white guy. Fun to drive. I only need to go shopping in the “Big” city once every week or two. But in a rural area it does not handle so well on rough roads. Great on pavement or concrete but don’t like it on gravel. But overall better than the old trikes than have the sidecar.

  • Rick

    Im a 6’6″ 250 lb american. I had a honda tmx 150 built with high roof. I adjusted my sidecar toe in. Changed sprokets to better handle the extra weight. Never had problem with stopping no pulling. Even with wife and family. 3 kids. The tmx is set up for trike. We have taken it in trips to leyte and mindoro
    We also have a piaggio ape diesel. We prefer the trike

  • George Kuhn

    I am an ex-pat American and just bought a new Bajaj RE from the Emcor dealer in Dumaguete. I really like it so far although it will take some getting used to. I would like to get better (bigger) mirrors and maybe some other accessories, but there is nothing I can find in store or online (other than fancy wheel covers which don’t interest me.) Maybe a decent carrier for my cellphone/GPS would be nice. Is there an online vendor who will sell aftermarket accessories for the Bajaj RE?