Test Ride: Tomos Bullet

0
76

Words: Rob Harris   Photos: Richard Seck

 

It’s just a hit with the gals.

 

Riding this thing exceeded any expectation I had – an array of women of all ages gawking at me as I rode by. At my first stop, a young lady loading grocery bags into her car stopped to eagerly ask me how fast it went, how did I like it and how much did it cost? After years of test riding seriously sexy bikes, this was the strongest (and strangest) chick magnet. Ever (although they were looking at the bike more than me)!


Tomos are a Slovenian company and have been making mopeds since 1954, but until recently have not been available in Canada. Our Tomos was supplied by Mr. Moped (667 Fourth Line, Oakville, On., 905-849-9400).

Unlike 50cc scooters, mopeds are half motorcycle, half bicycle creations, in as much as you can either let the motor do all the work or turn it off and use the pedals like a bog standard bicycle. However, unlike a bicycle, they’re a chunk heavier and there are no gears available when you’re using pedal power. You could maybe use the pedals to get outside of a campground (where they might not like the whine of motors), but the Tour De France is definitely out of the question. Actually, let’s be realistic, using the pedals under any circumstance is pretty much out of the question.

Which begs the question, why bother with the pedals at all?

The Mr. Moped gang.

Pedals are what define a moped (and they probably were engineered to be a tad more useful back in 1954), and a moped is given certain leeway across the Provinces (and Territories) of Canada. We’ve added a handy chart at the bottom of the article, but if chart analysis isn’t your cup of tea, let me do some of that for you:

For starters, in some places, pimply 14-year-old oiks are allowed to ride mopeds. Anywhere else, 16 is usually the age of moped legality. Licensing requirements are also significantly slacker than for any other 2-wheeled beast. Requirements range from having any valid licence to a special quickie test specifically tailored to get you on your ‘ped in as quick as 20 minutes. However, the free (well inexpensive) ride stops there. Like any motor powered two wheeler, you still need a helmet, plates and insurance (although they’re significantly cheaper than for your R1).

So, let’s presume that you’ve taken the quickie test, attached two straps on mum’s salad bowl for a lid and saved up enough pennies from your paper route to cover the plate and insurance. What are you going to ask daddy for that all important birthday? A Tomos Bullet, perhaps?

Choke and fuel on/off switches are located on the rhs, just above the motor.

It’s a spine type framed machine – two steel pressings welded together down the middle with a motor slung below, two wheels and a seat .. pretty well anyways. The front part of the frame doubles up as a fuel tank (didn’t Buell just invent that?) and there’s a separate two-stroke oil tank located beneath the seat. I’d hazard a guess that it’s still basically the same beast as forty years ago, but with a sporty plastic fairing up front and “Induction Cowling” around the motor. Oh, and let’s not forget the “Custom Mag Wheels”.

Getting on the Bullet there’s no denying the fact that it’s teeny and not really designed with the 6′ 4″ rider in mind. There’s no electric start (as there’s no battery – the electrics are powered straight from the alternator when the motor’s spinning), or ignition switch for that matter (use the steering lock for antitheft), but there is a starting procedure. First, turn on the fuel, push on the choke, turn one of the pedals to the right point and push down hard. Success is achieved with a muffled “ringgggg .. a .. ding-ding”.

Oil tank can be found under the seat.

Twisting the throttle to full open and it oh-so-slowly begins its quest for forward motion – I found that a quick spin of the pedals at this time would significantly help in this process. Since it’s a two speed automatic, there are no gears or clutch to worry about. It just gradually winds itself up, and then just as you think it’s going to blow (at about 25 km/h), it lunges into gear two and the whole process begins again, stopping somewhere around red line with the speedo firmly buried past the max indicated 60 km/h.

This is about as simple as you get, but it can get a tad tiresome if you’re trying to take a hill. Gear two is a bit of a stretch from one, and as the little Tomos proudly accelerates up to 25 km/h and then jumps into second, it’s as if it suddenly realises that it’s being a little too optimistic and slows back down, quickly dropping back into first. Like a child brought up in a house with lead water piping, it then gleefully whisks you back up to 25 km/h and second gear, only to once again struggle, ultimately repeating this fast-slow-fast-slow game to the top of the hill. Of course, I should reiterate that I’m 6’4″ and 230 lbs, so a rakish 14-year-old oik may not experience the same sensations.

There’s a whole two horses on tap and a max torque of 2.58 ftlbs in the 49cc two-stroke, reed valved motor. Actually, our model came with a “Biturbo” expansion pipe ($199) fitted, which probably eased another half pony from the motor and added to the Bullet’s ‘sporty’ image, (oh yes it did).

Power, I need more power.

Unfortunately, the ‘performance’ pipe does not allow for the centrestand, and stops it from coming anywhere near fully retracted. If you so much as think of leaning it over, it grounds out, especially in a bumpy corner, where the bouncy suspension gives a whole series of crunches, until it finally regains its composure. Notching the centrestand to accommodate the pipe is not just recommended, it’s compulsory.

As you may have already guessed, the suspension is woefully under-damped. In fact, there’s no damping at all as far as I can tell. It’s more pogo than motor vehicle, each dip and hump making it more fairground ride than vehicle. Mr. Moped’s mechanic was good enough to let me have a ride on his customised Tomos Targa with the optional ($115.00) heavy duty rear shocks. These did a vastly superior job of taming the bucking beast and also helped in the overall handling of the machine, which tends to be a bit wobbly at slower speeds (although a steering damper might help here too :)). Recommended for all fatties/racers.

Pushing the Bullet to the max and then some.

Since it’s an automatic, the front and rear brakes are both located on the right and left side handlebars respectively. Both brakes are cable operated drums and are quite naff (hard use of the front will bottom out the forks and cause the cable to bend into the wheel and slap merrily against the spokes). However, we’re not talking heavy and powerful here, so they do enough to keep the Bullet under control.

But we’re not talking sports/tourer either, and I’d hazard a guess that 99.9% of Tomos owners would not take it further than the local shops (there’s always going to be that sad 0.1% who insist on donning full leathers and riding it for 35km – but more on that later). And of course, this is what the Bullet was designed for. In fact, the whole thing is about as wide as you are* and so you can squeeze through just about any gap that comes your way.

I found that for slow speed traffic you should ride it like a bicycle, but once you’re up to speed, you need to claim some road space, much like a motorcycle. And that brings me to my next observation. I have never been cut off so much as when riding this moped. I’m not sure what the cagers were thinking, but I guess I didn’t look aggressive/fast enough, and so they would regularly turn in front of me, unaware that I might actually be going faster than 10 km/h. Regrettably, a pissed off, long push on the horn gives what can only be described as the noise a dying duck might make. It’s somewhat entertaining, but has the effect of making the errant cager look up for falling fowl rather than straight ahead at a nose diving, cable slapping moped rider.

Givi tail trunk is big enough to hold a full face lid.

If you make it passed the never ending stream of killer cagers and actually get to the local shop, then the Givi top box ($199) is a much needed accessory. It’s big enough to hold a lid, and it takes a surprisingly large amount of groceries too. Its box-like shape allows a simple ‘dumping of bags’ as opposed to the careful loading that the side mounted moulded hard bags require.

But what about slapping on a full set of racing leathers and taking it for a tour? Okay, I had to do it for the photo shoot (and to see what kind of road reaction I’d get), which happened to be on the day we had to return the ‘ped. So, I decided to make a complete prat of myself and ride on after the photo session, all the way to Mr Moped’s headquarters in Oakville, a total tour of 35 Kms. This resulted in two more observations:

1) I still got the looks from the gals, but this time there were more expressions of disgust than wonder. They didn’t dare approach me anymore, either.

The pipe doesn’t let the centrestand fully retract – as can be seen by the scaring on the stand itself.

2) Being forced to take it slow and stay off the highway is quite relaxing. Instead of always looking for the passing spot and keeping the peripheral vision under constant scanning for errant cagers, I could sit back and smell the roses … well, fumes. Although it meant that a 20 minute trip took over an hour, I didn’t really mind (except for all the pointing and laughing that went on).

However, all was not roses. Coming into Oakville I hit a long downhill stretch, adopted the racing pose and held the throttle wide open. “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ….. screeeetchhhhhhh … (silence)”. The Bullet had momentarily seized (locking up the rear) and then let go again but failed to fire back up, coming to a halt at the bottom of the hill. Hmhhhh.

Applying the starting procedure had the thing firing again immediately, albeit with a bit more top-end noise. Never one to be gentle, I carried on in the same manner – seizing and then freeing the motor twice more before getting back to Mr. Moped.

“And then … well … it died”. Editor ‘arris tries to explain the top end rattle to Mr. Moped.

Mr. Moped himself seemed somewhat concerned by the turn of events, but didn’t know what may have caused them (the two stroke oil tank was still full). I suggested that the Biturbo pipe might result in a weak mixture, which in turn might have caused the seizing, but he said that they do not require rejetting and he’s never had a problem with them to date. Maybe it’s just the amazing Editor ‘arris’ ability to break almost anything he touches (which I think makes me a good tester), as I am at the upper limits of the design window of the Bullet after all.

For the duration of the test, we managed to get one gas/distance reading (it goes absolutely forever on a tank), which averaged out to 36.8 km/litre, or about $2.50 for 140 km. Two-stroke oil usage was negligible.

And that was the end of our first moped test. At $2,399.00 it’s actually $50.00 more expensive than Yamaha’s Vino and only $250 cheaper than the excellent B-Wizz. However, the Tomos has those all important pedals, therefore allowing one to bypass the killer motorcycle-level licensing requirements demanded by most Provinces. As such, it appeals to a totally different market, (shown by their lack of availability in motorcycle shops, and their adoption by the car dealers and exclusive shops such as Mr. Moped): like the would-be (but too nervous) motorcyclist or the family that needs a second vehicle to pop to the shops but doesn’t want/cannot afford another gas guzzling SUV.

*Unless you’re one of those people who’s culinary preference is McDonalds. You know the type, with those unfeasibly large hips. They come almost straight out from the top of the hips with such severity that you could probably place your Big Mac, large fries and super sized pop on the ledge and not spill anything all day. Anyway, if you find that you can do this, sans spillage, then you’re probably considerably wider than the bike. Trying to get through the smaller gaps could cause damage to your Big Mac and/or spillage of your fries/super-sized pop.

Thanks also to Alternative Transportation Solutions (905-643-8673) for providing the bike and plates to Mr. Moped .. who in turn provided them to us.

MOPED RULES AND REGULATIONS:

Province  B.C. ALTA. SASK. MAN. ONT. QUE. N.B. N.S. P.E.I. NFLD. YUKON
Designation limited speed motorcycle moped limited speed motorcycle moped motor assisted bicycle moped motor driven cycle motor driven cycle moped moped reg’d as motorcycle moped
Maximum Speed 70 km/h 50 km/h 70 km/h 50 km/h 50 km/h not known   50 km/h 70 km/h 50 km/h 50 km/h 50 km/h
Automatic Transmission Required Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
Operable Pedals Required No No No No Yes No No No No Yes Yes
Minimum Driving Age 16 14 16 16 16 14 14 16 16 16 16
Driver’s License any valid drivers any valid drivers moped “J” endorsement any valid drivers any valid except “L” any valid or Class 6D any valid or Class 9 Class 6 or 6D any valid or Class 8 Class 6 Class 6
Vehicle Registration Required Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Insurance Mandatory Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Helmet Mandatory Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

                              Specifications

 

Bike

Tomos Bullet – 1 year/6,000 Km warranty

MSL

$2,399.00

Displacement

49 cc

Engine type

Single cylinder, air cooled two stroke. 1.5kw/2hp

Carburetion

Carburettor with oil injection. Reed valve induction

Final drive

Two speed automatic, chain drive

Tires, front

n/a

Tires, rear

n/a

Brakes, front

SLS drum

Brakes, rear

SLS drum

Seat height

n/a

Wheelbase

n/a

Dry weight

n/a

Canadian colours

Teal, silver, black

Join the conversation!