150cc Scooter Comparo Part I

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Words: Rob Harris Photos: Wilfred Gaube

Introduction

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The four horsemen; (l to r) Lee, Glen, Chris & ‘arris

A while ago we did a call-out for a prospective Editorial Assistant to help Editor ‘arris with his masses of actual work, so that he could free up some time for scotch drinking and his painstaking research of “adult” sites on the Internet (Already done – ‘hornton).

The end result was the hiring on of Steve Thornton from Kamloops, British Columbia, but it seemed silly not to try out some of the runners-up as potential test riders, especially since they all live in Ontario and so have relatively good access to the manufacturers’ test fleets.

But then which bikes do you put three unknowns onto? The last thing (contrary to track record) that we want at CMG is to crash bikes, and the idea of a gaggle of pumped up and excited new test riders on anything fast and sporty spelled trouble.

With the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally looming and no defined route on which to send them, everything pointed towards a very CMGesque scooter test that also laid out said MBS Rally route. After all, how whacko can you get on board a scooter (don’t answer that)?

A scan of what the scooter companies are importing these days revealed that the 150 cc category seems to be one of the more popular sizes of scoots, so we thought “what the hay, let’s do a 150 cc shoot out.”

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The four steeds (l to r); Vespa LX, PGO T-Rex, KYMCO B&W, CMI E-Charm.

A few phone calls later – and considerable logistics – and we had four funky 150 cc scooters: A Vespa LX150 (Italy), a KYMCO Bet & Win 150 (Taiwan), a PGO T-Rex 150 (Taiwan) and a CMI E-Charm 150 (China).

Each scooter was assigned to a test rider (who had to check their manhood at the door – which was quite entertaining unto itself), and given the responsibility to write up their impressions of said scoot. During our two day recce each tester got to sample all the other scoots and provide notes to ‘arris for the grand “we think this is the best scoot” comparo.

What we’re going to do is post the results in two parts, the first one being each tester’s thoughts on their own scoot followed by the comparison, thoughts and final verdicts in part 2 (which we’ll post next week).

Alrighty then, let’s get on with it …


Vespa LX150 – La Dolce Vita

by Glen Marchand

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“I am beautiful, si?”.

Scooters, eh? Yeah, you know, civilized motorized transport for the urban fashionistas. Super fuel-efficient motors housed in stylish lightweight frames, at ease slicing and dicing through intense gridlock, or putting down to the local bean-roasters for the morning cuppa.

So when Editor ‘arris called to say he had a bevy of scoots to test, visions of a weekend cruising cobblestone roads in a relaxed search for sun-drenched patios and the perfect latte flashed through my mind. Well, until he reminded me whom I was working for, “Mate this is CMG, we’ll be gone for three days of riding through rural Ontario.”

One thousand one hundred and seventy-seven kilometres, twenty-six hours of riding and a couple of handfuls of Robaxecet later I file my report …

I was tasked with picking up a new 2007 Vespa LX 150 from Vespa Ottawa, and along with Lee riding a PGO T-Rex, planned on meeting the rest of the CMGers in Trenton.

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Glen was happy with the Vespa’s pull (in all ways).

I was initially impressed with the Vespa’s styling. It is a slender, pleasing machine to look at, and this latest incarnation retains the same unmistakable lines Vespa has made famous for the last 50 or so years. Overall fit and finish was above reproach with choice dollops of chrome accenting the transmission cases and trim. This LX came in graphite black with sand (seat) colour, although a total of five other colours are available for the colour conscious.

Pulling away was impressive for the 150 cc air-cooled single and after some adjustments in riding style, I quickly settled in. Being a light, low centre-of-mass machine (225 lb dry) with small 10/11” wheels, it was twitchy by nature. Any thought of movement made the Vespa change course in an instant, something of consequence at the outset but intensely fun after some saddle time and traffic slaloming.

Speed records aren’t what these machines are about but green light “drags” were a hoot as I was constantly keeping tabs on my fellow riders in the rearview mirrors. When it was time to bring the little machine down from some impressive speeds, a single piston hydraulic 200 mm front disc brake and a 110 mm mechanical rear drum adequately handled the task. It was a two-finger pull for the front, although the rear needed a wee bit more persuasion.

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What was most impressive for me was the comfort. The seat and suspension were fantastic. All road imperfections (and there were lots) were smoothed out by the advanced single-sided trailing link front suspension and coil-over rear shock. The seat was expansive and offered plenty of real estate to move around on.

My only real concern about this scoot was when refueling, as the 8.7 litre fuel tank resides under the seat and requires removal of any bungeed gear for access (no luggage rack supplied as stock). But the real concern was the amount of fuel wasted by spillage. The design of the filler neck requires the attention of some engineers as the fuel always found a way of overflowing no matter how much I concentrated on the task.

Overall I picked the Vespa as the scoot to have. Anyone who stopped by to chat inevitably gravitated towards the Italian as well. But then it’s a Vespa – a scootering icon – and at a cool $5,699.00, style and quality don’t come cheap.


KYMCO Bet & Win 150 – Workhorse

by Christopher M. Emanuel

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The B&W goes for the popular “sporty-scoot” look.

Riding the KYMCO Bet & Win 150 over the better part of 1,300 km in three days is an exercise in humility. One had better be secure in one’s manhood and willing to discuss same with, well, just about everyone. Oh, and being okay with getting laughed at helps, too.

But humility isn’t the only required asset, a good dose of patience helps when confronted with the B&W’s top speed. The best I could wring out of the carbureted, 149 cc four stroke single was a wind-aided indicated 110 kph … and that was in a full tuck!

The unsophisticated suspension and 12” Chen Shin tires allowed the B&W to weave a little on high-speed corners – not worryingly so, just noticeably. The suspension jack-hammered a little over bumps as well. I’m not sure what to put that down to, as the only suspension adjustment available was rear preload, and that was on the softest setting. Turn-in was crisp and overall grip was good though.

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Floorboards that go up the front give plenty of different foot locations.

Comfort-wise, the B&W’s floorboards extend a full 2/3 of the way up the “sail” at the front (for lack of a better term) offering the most options for feet position, tuck or no.

Out on the open road, the B&W simply goes about its business in a completely mule-like manner. One gets the feeling that this mule will doggedly and determinedly get you where you’re going. No high-stepping style and spirited whinnying going on here, just an uninspiring bray from the exhaust and a slow steady pace.

The CVT transmission pulls away smoothly, although 12 hp is hard-pressed to move 500+ pounds of rider and scooter with any urgency. It takes a healthy twist of the wrist to get underway. Even so, fears of great, honking queues of traffic behind me were unfounded.

It’s on city streets where the B&W comes into its own, with performance more than adequate to stay with inner-city traffic. Of course, it’s in inner-city traffic where the humility comes in. Most of the smirks and outright laughter I noticed over the weekend were on the faces of those in cars.

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Those smirks turn to sneers when they note the relatively modest damage the B&W inflicts on your wallet at the gas pump. It’s also at the pumps where we’d get the most interest though any conversations were always shortened by the convenient forward placement of the filler neck, which meant I could gas up without dismounting or unloading (unlike with the other scoots).

Quality is good and the rich blue paint, body-coloured mirrors and faired-in turn signals look almost handsome. Controls feel traditional-motorcycle-like, with all the switches feeling solid and falling readily to hand, and where expected.

Thoughtful touches include the “met-in” light, which illuminates whenever the seat is not latched, a sturdy hook on the ‘sail’ for groceries and a valet light in the underseat storage bay. Also included is a view port to check coolant level, and even heat vents! Points scored for functionality/practicality then – even if the heat vents are easily defeated by cross winds.

With an MSRP of $4,299.00 the B&W provides decent fuel economy, enough performance to do the job, some thoughtful features and useful functionality. It’s a competent scooter although I’m not sure I’d venture out of the city on a longer trip too often!


PGO T-Rex 150 – Tyranomatic

by Lee Malette

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Much like the KYMCO, the PGO goes for the sporty look.

It’s been said that scooters are like fat chicks: fun to ride but you don’t want your friends seeing you with one. Well, I have no friends (especially fat ones – ‘arris). So, I checked my masculinity at the door, and went for a ride.

The ride in question was a PGO T-Rex 150 and simply put, this thing is a blast. Get past the fact that scooters don’t offer cutting edge performance or technology, and then you can appreciate how well they actually perform.

Around town, you can flick this thing around the gnarliest of potholes. It does an adequate job of soaking up most road imperfections even though it’s limited to 12” tires and minimal suspension. Sound and power delivery felt more like a dirt bike than the other scoots. Initially, the T-Rex experienced a small flat spot just off throttle under acceleration, but it wasn’t as pronounced after 1,000 kms of riding.

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The more Lee thrashed it the faster it got.

On back-roads and highways, including a quick jaunt on the 401, the T-Rex offers excellent wind protection. It handled well in corners and long sweepers pinned at a top speed of 110 kph with no drama. One thing I noticed about the T-Rex and the other scooters we tested was the lack of annoying vibration as the revs climbed. Surprising, since these are essentially small displacement, single cylinder four strokes.

Fit and finish on the T-Rex is well done. Controls and instruments are the most “motorcyclesque” of the bunch., and the Rex was one of only two models that could fit a full-size helmet in the storage compartment under the seat, albeit sized for a tiny melon like mine. It offered an additional, open storage area in the cockpit. Convenient for things like a wallet, water bottles, etc.

The ergos on the T-Rex fit my 5’ 10” frame well, providing plenty of leg and seat room to move around on during extended trips. My derriere didn’t get sore until two hours of solid highway with only gas stops in between. Bear in mind most people won’t drive these at sustained speeds of over 100 kph for hours at a time, but then again, we wouldn’t be CMG if we followed conventional thinking now, would we?

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The T-Rex did have its flaws though: Worst brakes of the bunch, mirrors offer a good view of your elbows, and the tail light functioned sporadically before quitting altogether. It offered decent power around town but large hills were occasionally an issue as the T-Rex had a harder time maintaining its speed than the others.

Although offering exceptional fuel economy, my only other gripe was the smallish fuel tank required more frequent fill-ups than the others.

While not as sophisticated as some of the other models, its $3,995.00 price tag puts it as one of the cheaper scoots we tested. All that’s left is to hop on, ride, and laugh your ass off!

Just remember to be comfortable with your masculinity first …


CMI E-Charm 150 – Almost Charming

by Editor ‘arris

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Looks are not bad but the details are.

China, China, China. It’s the hot topic of the moment and with the boom in China’s industrial growth comes a new wave of small motorcycles and scooters. The E-Charm is part of the new wave of Chinese bikes hitting Canadian roads, but the question is; how would it perform?

My first impression got a little dented by rough edges such as dinky indicators, horribly designed clocks and an exhaust that seemed to have been pre-rusted! But then I expected some of these growing pains and the E-Charm hit some high notes too with decent styling, 16” cast wheels, disc brakes and a large rack at the rear (sadly lacking from the other scoots in the test).

On the road the E-Charm performed competently. The motor fires up easily and its 12 horses propel it along at a decent clip, with a smooth delivery of power from its 153 cc four stroke motor. One thing that struck me was how it retained all the fun characteristics of the smaller 50 cc scoots but with much-needed additional power.

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Wonky shades and tongue out – either lots of concentration or ‘arris is pushing one out …

During a speed check with a GPS, the E-Charm topped out at 115 km/h, although for some reason the speedo is in mph and is hopelessly optimistic, reaching an indicated 80. Tuck in and the needle passes the end of the scale – motor panting, although never missing a beat.

Handling is not bad thanks in part to the large wheels that help the bike roll over irregularities. However, it feels like someone forgot to add oil to the suspension and the result is a bit of a pogo-like ride, aided somewhat by cranking up the preload in the back.

The disc brakes are super keen, which I really liked as sliding to a stop with a screeching rear is always fun. However, there’s a good argument that they could be a bit too much for most scooter riders and riding in the rain required a light touch. Oh, and the front had a nasty tendency to squeal like a piggy at a redneck swingers party – a constant reminder of the E-Charm’s rougher edges.

Ergonomically it’s quite spacious with a well-padded seat and accommodating of my 6’4” chassis. The only complaint is that you are locked into one position, and – unlike some of the other scoots – given no options for different foot placement. I also found that the seat comfort dropped off with time, but then how many users are going to be doing 10-hour shifts in the saddle?

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The large front fairing does a decent job of keeping the weather at bay, and the mirrors give a reasonable, if slightly distorted, view of the rear.

At the end of the trip the E-Charm left me with mixed thoughts. Although it managed to cope with most of what we flung at it, the omissions in quality were always present. The “hot pipe” warning plate on the exhaust fell off, the floorboard rubbers were wrinkled, the pipe was already rusty and the “Made in China” sticker on the clocks was peeling off.

All relatively minor things, but they conspire to reduce overall confidence in the machine. It didn’t break, though, and we pushed it hard, so I’m giving it the thumbs up, but these smaller points need to be addressed.

Thankfully, the $3,600.00 price tag makes the E-Charm the cheapest of the bunch and by over $2,000.00 on the Vespa. When the Japanese started out back in the ’60s, they suffered from pretty much the same issues. Only a fool would dismiss the Chinese today.


NEXT WEEK …

It’s time for the grand comparo. How did all our testers rate each scooter? Which one came out top? Which one wet its pants and sat there dribbling in the corner? Click here.

THANK YOUS

Thanks for the scoots (and not freaking when they came back with over 1000 additional kms on the clocks …)

Canadian Scooter Corp/Ottawa Vespa
KYMCO Canada
PGO/Canadian Scooter Import
Canadian Motor Imports (CMI)

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