Encounter with a Hooligun

Scott Colosimo says CCW hasn't made a final decision on tires yet. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Words: Zac Kurylyk   Photos: As credited

History

Cleveland Cyclewerks hasn’t been around that long; they first started attracting attention when their made-in-China chopper, dubbed Tha Heist, appeared on the market back around 2010.

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Since then they’ve expanded their line up with a couple of other bikes based on that machine’s air-cooled single-cylinder motor (a 229 cc motor that appears to be have its origins in Honda’s CG125 powerplant). Now they have a cafe racer (called Tha Misfit) and a standard (called Tha Ace).

For a while that seemed to be what CCW were going to be about, but in the spring of this year, one of their distributors started showing off photos of a new 450 dual-sport to be called Tha Hooligan, which was recently confirmed by CCW.

According to CCW founder Scott Colosimo, the bike’s genesis came when a Chinese manufacturer was trying to finalize their design and asked CCW to come on board and help them finish developing the machine. Once that process was done, Colossimo says, his company decided to brand and sell the bikes themselves.

The Hooligun is more suited to urban action than highway hijinks. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Hooligun is more suited to urban action than highway hijinks. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The bike boasts specs equal to its competitors; liquid-cooled motor, aluminum frame, USD fully adjustable forks and even a kickstarter (remember those) to back up the electric boot. For a while now, Colosimo has been saying he wanted to build a machine with performance to equal the Japanese machines, and this is his company’s move in that direction.

Cleveland Cyclewerks big boss Scott Colosimo preaches that bikes should be light, easy to handle, and easy to hoon around on ... and he practices what he preaches. Here's evidence. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Cleveland Cyclewerks big boss Scott Colosimo preaches that bikes should be light, easy to handle, and easy to hoon around on … and he practices what he preaches. Here’s evidence. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Just before this year’s Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, I had a chance to pop into Cleveland Cyclewerks’ offices and hop on the new 450 cc supermoto for a day, to get first crack at the bike. Granted, that’s not as extensive a test as we would have liked, but it gave me an idea of what the 450 thumper is capable of.

The bike was very close to what will come on the Canadian market – a few things like tires may change, but the rest of it is basically what will be on showroom floors.

The Ride

Supermotos started off as dirt bikes with street rubber, and that’s what the Hooligun rides like, which is both good and bad.

The 450 cc motor is geared more towards urban hooliganism than the highway, where it will top out around 85 mph and get pretty buzzy as you pick up speed. It’s also got a small eight-litre fuel tank (although CCW will also have a bigger fuel tank available) and the seat shows its dirt bike heritage – it feels like a padded plank. And, since no self-respecting supermoto rider would have a windshield, there’s a lot of windblast at highway speeds, same as any other naked bike.

That's a stainless steel exhaust - much nicer than the stovepipe-like units found on most China bikes. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
That’s a stainless steel exhaust – much nicer than the stovepipe-like units found on most China bikes. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Keep it around town, though, and when you take off from a stoplight, you feel that the front wheel is pleading for a chance to rise above the pavement, if you’d only just scoot your butt back on the seat a few inches. See a curb you want to hop? Done. Is the law chasing you now, necessitating a quick U-turn? No problem, amigo. Err, to go back and find out what the officer wants, of course …

The model we get in the Great White North will have slightly different headlights, to meet Transport Canada standards. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The model we get in the Great White North will have slightly different headlights, to meet Transport Canada standards. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The bike I rode was carbureted, but CCW is working to add fuel injection. I did find I had to open the throttle more than I expected when letting the clutch out; thanks to EPA regs, the Hooligun doesn’t have the snap at smaller throttle openings that I would have expected.

Of course, that’s the sort of thing many owners can tweak. There’s a lot more power available out of this motor, if a non-environmentally-friendly owner wanted to get rid of the power sapping EPA add-ons.

Although the motor felt pretty usable, the five-speed gearbox didn’t feel as affirmative on as its Japanese counterparts, especially on downshifts, and it took me a while to get used to shifting to neutral from first – requiring more effort than I’d expect.

Thanks to its light weight (264 lbs/120 kg dry) and wide bars, the machine is extremely maneuverable. It feels like you’re riding an off-road bike, but instead of dodging trees and bushes, you’re whipping between traffic cones and around pot holes.

The front USD forks are adjustable for rebound and compression, but the test bike I rode had the adjusters disabled, as the shop tech wanted to retain the machine’s settings. The rear shock is adjustable for preload and compression damping; I wouldn’t have minded fiddling with it a bit to see if I could take off the edge of some of Cleveland’s larger potholes, but alas, time did not allow.

The Hooligun has an upright seating position, like you'd find on a dirt bike. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Hooligun has an upright seating position, like you’d find on a dirt bike. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The 240 mm front and rear discs slow you down efficiently. There are no funky fake ABS cylinders, as so often seen on other Chinese bikes; of course, most supermoto riders wouldn’t want ABS anyway. The brake lines are braided stainless steel, not cheap rubber units.

The front suspension will be adjustable for rebound and compression, but the test bike I rode had the adjustments disabled. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The front suspension will be adjustable for rebound and compression, but the test bike I rode had the adjustments disabled. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

I only had a day aboard the Hooligun, and the majority of it was around-town riding through Cleveland. This is the bike’s natural environment, but I did manage to get to a few short miles of twisties in a local park. The bike took to these backroad corners naturally, handling as light as a 250 through the curves, but with much more grunt.

Fit and finish were superior to any other Chinese bike I’ve ridden – the plastics are dyed, so if you scuff your bodywork, you’re not left with big white scratches. The dash is limited to just a speedometer and tripmeter, both of which can be changed from miles to kilometres at the press of a button.

Conclusion

The Hooligun includes a kickstarter, but Zac was a little out of practice and relied on the electric foot. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Hooligun includes a kickstarter, but Zac was a little out of practice and relied on the electric foot. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

As with any Chinese bike, pricing is going to play a major part in this machine’s market success. At around $6,000, the Hooligun’s closest competitor, the Suzuki DR-Z 400SM, is about $1,700 more (priced at $7,699 in Canada), but hasn’t really changed much since its introduction in 2005.

The Hooligun isn't the first liquid-cooled Chinese bike, but there aren't many on the market yet. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Hooligun isn’t the first liquid-cooled Chinese bike, but there aren’t many on the market yet. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Furthermore, if Colosimo follows through with his plan to assemble the bikes in Cleveland, they’ll likely shed a little of that made-in-China stigma, as he should be able to keep a handle on quality control.

He’s also working on a dual-sport version of this machine, and since the chassis has been designed in a modular fashion, it would be easy for him to build other street-based designs around this platform as well. I saw some design mockups for a pretty aggressive street bike while I was there, which would certainly interest a lot of people if it came to market.

He isn’t really planning on making these his company’s main line anyway (the 230s seem to be his main focus); telling me that he aims to sell 1,000 to 1,500 of these bikes annually.

If they prove reliable in the long run, who knows where that number could grow to? One thing’s for sure, during my day’s ride, an awful lot of people took a moment to stop and admire the bike’s lines.

Cleveland Cyclewerks is also working on a dual-sport version of their 450. Photo: CCW
Cleveland Cyclewerks is also working on a dual-sport version of their 450. Photo: CCW

At time of posting, the Hooligun is tied up in EPA regulations at the moment, but it should be available in the Canadian market sometime in 2014. There will be aftermarket parts available for the machine at some point as well, including aluminum hubs and some carbon-fibre and magnesium bits.

A Quick Factory Tour

Here's Scott Colosimo's "slightly customized" BSA, om display in the corner of CCW's headquarters. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Here’s Scott Colosimo’s “slightly customized” BSA, on display in the corner of CCW’s headquarters. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

When I picked up the Hooligun at CCW’s headquarters, I naturally asked for the grand tour.

The company’s HQ is a pretty neat place – it sits in a re-purposed rubber-and-steel factory, a leftover building from the days when Cleveland was an industrial powerhouse.

The whole building oozes gritty DIY character. You’d really think you were visiting a back-alley chop shop.

Inside, there’s some retail space at the front of the building, where you can buy CCW parts or a T-shirt. In front of the counter, there are two CCW bikes that Colossimo used to set land-speed records (small capacity class of course), as well as his customized BSA chopper, complete with GSX-R USD forks and brakes … obviously, the people who work at this shop worship at the temple of DIY speed.

Sure, it's an air-cooled made-in-China cafe racer with a 229 cc motor, but the Misfit was a lot of fun. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Sure, it’s an air-cooled made-in-China cafe racer with a 229 cc motor, but the Misfit was a lot of fun. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

I couldn’t resist a quick ride on CCW’s Misfit café racer, either. I only had time for a quick spin around a few nearby city blocks, but I was very impressed with this quarter-litre charmer. The engine is far smoother than any other made-in-China 250 I’ve ridden, without any obnoxious mechanical noise.

A line of hardtailed Heist choppers sits in the Cleveland Cyclewerks garage. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
A line of hardtailed Heist choppers sits in the Cleveland Cyclewerks garage. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The brakes were slightly stiff  (but not as bad as another made-in-the-USA large-displacement cruiser I recently rode, with a price tag about $14,000 higher!), but overall, I was surprised at how much fun this bike was.

The bike was fitted with one of CCW’s aftermarket exhausts, but there are many other trick bits available for the machine too, including performance heads, jet kit and race carb; there are more fun parts on the way, including upgraded brakes and even a big-bore kit from Wiseco.

Everything about the place, and their bikes, has that old-school, hands-on ethic that has been sadly missing from motorcycles lately. Yes, the bikes are manufactured in China, but if Colosimo is to believed, the CCW badge will ensure the much needed quality control. CCW certainly has the right attitude, the rest is up to the customer.


GALLERY

Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.

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The front counter in CCW's retail space is lined with customized bolt-on bling for your bike, mostly made in the US. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The Hooligun has an upright seating position, like you'd find on a dirt bike. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Cleveland Cyclewerks big boss Scott Colosimo preaches that bikes should be light, easy to handle, and easy to hoon around on ... and he practices what he preaches. Here's evidence. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Zac rides the Hooligun into CCW's parking lot.

birds eye rear

Photo: CCW

duo

Cleveland Cyclewerks is also working on a dual-sport version of their 450. Photo: CCW

hooligun

Here's the dual-sport version of the Hooligun, currently under development. Photo: CCW

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Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The model we get in the Great White North will have slightly different headlights, to meet Transport Canada standards. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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There are no fake ABS bits bolted on to the Hooligun's brakes. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The front suspension will be adjustable for rebound and compression, but the test bike I rode had the adjustments disabled. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The Hooligun isn't the first liquid-cooled Chinese bike, but there aren't many on the market yet. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The gauges can be configured to show in either kilometres or miles. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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That's a stainless steel exhaust - much nicer than the stovepipe-like units found on most China bikes. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The Hooligun includes a kickstarter, but Zac was a little out of practice and relied on the electric foot. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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While it's made in China, the Hooligun features specs that are close to its Japanese counterparts. Fussier critics might complain about the esthetics of the frame or something, but that's hard to notice when you're pulling a huge wheelie down a side street. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Scott Colosimo says CCW hasn't made a final decision on tires yet. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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CCW's headquarters is pure industrial Cleveland. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Photo: Zac Kurylyk

worms eye rear

The Hooligun has a 520 chain, not the wimpy 428 chain often found on smaller Chinese bikes. Photo: CCW

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Here's Scott Colosimo's "slightly customized" BSA, om display in the corner of CCW's headquarters. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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Sure, it's an air-cooled made-in-China cafe racer with a 229 cc motor, but the Misfit was a lot of fun. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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A line of hardtailed Heist choppers sits in the Cleveland Cyclewerks garage. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

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The Hooligun is more suited to urban action than highway hijinks. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The front counter in CCW's retail space is lined with customized bolt-on bling for your bike, mostly made in the US. Photo: Zac KurylykThe Hooligun has an upright seating position, like you'd find on a dirt bike. Photo: Zac KurylykCleveland Cyclewerks big boss Scott Colosimo preaches that bikes should be light, easy to handle, and easy to hoon around on ... and he practices what he preaches. Here's evidence. Photo: Zac KurylykZac rides the Hooligun into CCW's parking lot.Photo: CCWCleveland Cyclewerks is also working on a dual-sport version of their 450. Photo: CCWHere's the dual-sport version of the Hooligun, currently under development. Photo: CCWPhoto: Zac KurylykThe model we get in the Great White North will have slightly different headlights, to meet Transport Canada standards. Photo: Zac KurylykThere are no fake ABS bits bolted on to the Hooligun's brakes. Photo: Zac KurylykPhoto: Zac KurylykThe front suspension will be adjustable for rebound and compression, but the test bike I rode had the adjustments disabled. Photo: Zac KurylykThe Hooligun isn't the first liquid-cooled Chinese bike, but there aren't many on the market yet. Photo: Zac KurylykThe gauges can be configured to show in either kilometres or miles. Photo: Zac KurylykThat's a stainless steel exhaust - much nicer than the stovepipe-like units found on most China bikes. Photo: Zac KurylykThe Hooligun includes a kickstarter, but Zac was a little out of practice and relied on the electric foot. Photo: Zac KurylykWhile it's made in China, the Hooligun features specs that are close to its Japanese counterparts. Fussier critics might complain about the esthetics of the frame or something, but that's hard to notice when you're pulling a huge wheelie down a side street. Photo: Zac KurylykPhoto: Zac KurylykPhoto: Zac KurylykScott Colosimo says CCW hasn't made a final decision on tires yet. Photo: Zac KurylykCCW's headquarters is pure industrial Cleveland. Photo: Zac KurylykPhoto: Zac KurylykThe Hooligun has a 520 chain, not the wimpy 428 chain often found on smaller Chinese bikes. Photo: CCWHere's Scott Colosimo's "slightly customized" BSA, om display in the corner of CCW's headquarters. Photo: Zac KurylykSure, it's an air-cooled made-in-China cafe racer with a 229 cc motor, but the Misfit was a lot of fun. Photo: Zac KurylykA line of hardtailed Heist choppers sits in the Cleveland Cyclewerks garage. Photo: Zac KurylykThe Hooligun is more suited to urban action than highway hijinks. Photo: Zac Kurylyk


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  Cleveland Cyclewerks Tha Hooligun
MSRP  TBA
Displacement  449 cc
Engine type  liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, SOHC, four-stroke
Power (crank)*  43.5 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque*  42.5 Nm @ 6,500 rpm
Tank Capacity  Eight litres
Carburetion  Carburetor
Final drive  Chain
Tires, front  n/a
Tires, rear  n/a
Brakes, front  single 240 mm disc, two-piston caliper
Brakes, rear  single 240 mm disc, single-piston caliper
Seat height  960 mm
Wheelbase  1500 mm
Wet weight*  n/a
Colours  n/a
Warranty  n/a
* claimed

13 thoughts on “Encounter with a Hooligun”

  1. Hats off to these guys, like the folks at Ryca, they are roll-up-your-sleeves and get-it-done kinda people. I wish them all success.

  2. Considering the test bike is 49 state model because the vented fuel tank, the MSRP and or his cost will be higher. Adding fuel injection will add another few hundred dollars to the price. Realistically it will retail for about the same as the DRZ400 in Canada. The DRZ has a unblemished track record for reliability and dealer network.
    Lighter weight, more HP means nothing if you are waiting for parts.

    Cheers

    1. I’m fairly certain CCW realizes they can’t compete with Suzuki, and I would expect the price to reflect that. The prices stated in the review were clearly ballpark figures.

  3. I owned Heist #221. I would suggest prior to buying any CCW product you do your homework and check on the reliability issues, Selling “upgrades” as replacement parts that break, Ignoring warranty issues on bikes with 100-500 miles such as Cush drive bushings failing causing rear wheels to fall off at speed, fork seals failing, Calipers falling off during first rides by another magazine, Electrical issues like the headlight bulb wiring shorting out, turn signals, et cetera, Forward control welds failing leading to them spinning freely during rides, Rivets failing causing the front fender to fall off, The common “fix” of drilling the gas cap because of vapor lock, the list goes on and on. There is a steady following of people either suing CCW or building the case for a class action lawsuit, and that list grows larger every day. This chinese bike exporter is no different than the others: Quality control is a real issue, and someone is going to get really hurt. Weaver Rides has made a killing upgrading bikes to make them somewhat more reliable, and once you add the cost of a stock bike and all of the “upgrades”, you are in the price point of a much more reliable, safer, and more capable motorcycle. CAVIAT EMPTOR!

    1. tested out a Heist and Dustin is spot on. Something fell off as i pulled out of the lot, half a block down the road… dealer couldn’t figure out what it was. Decided after a food once over to take it out for my test drive still… Speedo was locked at 60 KPH, gas cap had to be undone to avoid vapor lock, couldn’t get over 90 KPH on the highway, and when i got back break fluid was dripping from under the front fender, all over the front tire. scary.

  4. The Hooligun is a rebranded PZF 450, a Chinese clone of the CRF450 that’s been on the market for years. It isn’t like their previous bikes, where they can at least claim they had some input on the design rather than simply providing better-than-average marketing for a cheap Chinese bike. The only thing CCW adds is a new set of stickers.

  5. This bike THA HOOLIGUN, is sold and known in many countries, under different names :

    Argentina (Heikon TT450, Backfire BXF450),
    Australia (Odes MCF450E),
    Brazil (Tokens TXR450),
    Chile (Takasaki LX450),
    China (Asiawing LD450, Lannmarker MXR 450, Toptom TT-DB450, Kinbo KB450RX, Fastran FR450RX, OMOW DB7-F 450, Asian Xiang LD450, YaXiang LD450),
    Czech Republic (Václav Vizinger VV MX450),
    Finland (Menopeli LD450),
    France and other border countries (Upower PZF 450),
    Germany (Borossi BT 450 LX),
    Italy (GioItalia 450 Motard),
    Netherlands (Asiawing LX 450X, GoMax 450 FE),
    Russia (Forsage 450, Geon Dakar 450),
    South Africa (BigBoy SMR450),
    Spain (Impormotor IMR 450R),
    Sweden (Monstra 450),
    United States (Christini AWD 450, CCW Hooligun 450).

    And also in competitions : cross, enduro, supermotard.

  6. These Chinese-made bikes would have to be sold at a major discount compared to their Japanese equivalents to get me to buy one. If the Chinese manufacturer(s) had any faith in the quality of what they produce, they’d be trying to establish a brand name of their own that they would stand behind. That they don’t tells me that they don’t care about their reputation (since it can’t stick to an anonymous Chinese company), and thus, don’t really care about quality. And, so far, everything I’ve seen suggests that these Chinese machines are made of poor quality materials, with poor tolerances on internal mechanical parts, and poor fits and finishes on external parts. Why take a chance on that to save a thou or two? You’d be further ahead buying a used bike from an established manufacturer who actually takes some pride in what they produce.

  7. The DR-Z400SM came out in 2005, not 2003 as stated in the article. I own a 2007 and have been waiting forever for the Japanese to come out with a 450 version. I got tired of waiting and purchased a CRF450R motard with all the race goodies instead. Its an absolute blast on the track. I’m still leary about buying a Chinese motorcycle but commend CCW on bringing one to market.

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