Ever wondered what it’s like to ride a 16 incher? Hold on thee Pablito, we’re just talking scooters with large diameter wheels. CMG goes for a dirty weekend and a scooter-swapping threesome.
Intro (by Samantha Dye)
When Editor ‘Arris asked if I would be interested in test riding a scooter for CMG, I jumped at the chance. Then he told me that his plan was to head out to Ottawa (from Montreal) and use a trio of scooters to pre-ride the main Mad Bastard Scooter Rally route – all 600 km of it.
I gulped and hesitated. I’m not an ex-racer like Costa or a seasoned rider like Rob. But then again, I’ve always been up for a challenge and I wasn’t about to back out of this one.
The scooters up for test were a selection of the large 16” wheel variety, ranging from 125 cc to 171 cc. Being the smallest of the riders, I was to ride the 125, a KYMCO People S 125. Costa would ride a Sym HD 200 (actually 171 cc) and Rob would be flogging a Honda SH 150.
Then Friday came, the temperatures dropped and rain was predicted. Lots. Costa and Rob gave me another chance to back out, citing terrible weather and an extremely long and hard day but there was no getting through to me. And besides, Costa had borrowed a trailer so that at least we could get the scoots up there on the Friday and be fresh for the long hall Saturday.
I was in, and that was that!
Editor’s note – sadly said trailer would only fit two scoots, but I was okay with that. I like riding in the rain, wind, and single-digit temperatures.
Really, it was a pleasure. Bitter, me? No, it’s all part of living the dream …
When we started out from Gatineau very early on the Saturday morning, it was dark, raining and cold. Hmm, this had the makings of a very long day, indeed.
KYMCO People S 125 (by Sam Dye)
At first glance, the KYMCO looked good: nice lines, larger windshield than the others and easy-to-read dials; the trip meter is backlit a blue colour and looks cool, too. It had both a side and centrestand, and being a 125 it was also quite light, so it was easy to move around when the engine was not running.
The underseat storage was acceptable for a scooter and it had an additional storage space in the front (courtesy of the air-cooled engine’s lack of a radiator).
As we headed out of town, the first thing I noticed was the wind protection was pretty good and I was experiencing little buffeting. There was plenty of room for my feet and someone larger than me would have no problem either.
The brakes were responsive and easy to reach, and although it was a little sluggish off the line, it still moved well in town. Another thing I noted was the turn indicators were loud, making it hard to forget to turn them off.
As we left town and the speeds picked up the KYMCO began to struggle. The smaller engine worked hard to keep pace on some of the hills, and although I was tucked in with the throttle pinned, I saw the speedo slowly backing down.
Downhill faired much better and I saw 110 km/h. Costa told me later that the speedo was off by quite a bit compared to his GPS, but it said 110, so that’s what I’m claiming!
At speed the scooter had a tendency to weave which made it a little
disconcerting at times. Costa saw this but did not experience it
himself when he tried the scooter. We agreed that maybe rider size and
seating position was at play.
At the end of a very long day, I found that although I was exhausted, this was not the fault of the scooter. In fact, the seat was very comfortable.
The only faults I found were mostly minor – the opening for the fuel tank should be slightly wider to allow for clumsy filling and I would have liked a little more power, though the People S 200 would take care of that. Also, the headlights seemed a little on the dim side.
I had a lot of fun, though I would not recommend using the People S 125 on the highway unless it’s a short jaunt. It really showed its limits at 90-95 km/h and I felt very vulnerable. Besides, it is rather unnerving to keep the throttle at maximum all day.
Keep it in an urban surrounding and you have a great commuter.
Honda SH150 (by Editor ‘Arris)
Brand new to Canada, the SH150 has been a good seller for Honda in Europe for a few years now, and for good reason. Underneath the sharp, modern styling and excellent fit & finish lies a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled motor with a three-way cat to keep emissions down.
Firing up the SH is instant, and it is super quiet with a steady idle off the get-go. It’s so smooth that you don’t know it’s there most of the time, but it’s got some umph off the line and is sufficient to get ahead of traffic at stops, pulling well until it eventually starts to run out of steam towards the 100 km/h mark (for me anyway).
Which is fine for urban use, but I did find myself of clenched posture zipping along the highway to Ottawa in Friday’s rain (did I already mention that?) trying to keep a steady hundred. Granted there was a stiff headwind and I’m on the lanky/lardy side, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the speedo to register above the tonne.
The chassis is very good with motorcycle level suspension compliance and – thanks to a strong frame and the large diameter wheels – the handling is remarkably stable. I guess I’m used to the twitchiness and harsh ride of small-wheeled scoots, but when Costa and I let rip in the hills west of Ottawa, despite the lower speeds, we had just as much shits-and-giggles as you would on a so-called real motorcycle.
At certain speeds there is a quite severe wobble in the bars if you take your hands off, but I never sniffed a hint of this as long as one paw was on the grips. We’re not sure why this may have occurred although the likely culprit is the top box (which comes as standard equipment with the SH) and holds its contents high and far back.
As for braking, Honda have fitted the SH with their linked braking system (left lever operates the rear and the front a tad, while right is front only), which I found works well when you’ve been a bit distracted and suddenly need to scrub off some speed.
Grabbing a handful of the left lever will at worst cause the rear to lock (and then I only managed that on gravel), but never the front. That’s what the right lever is for and it will lock if you’re hamfisted with it.
Oddly the SH comes with a parking brake too. Odd because it doesn’t have a sidestand, which is when you’d need such a thing. Oh yes, and I would have liked a sidestand, because I’m lazy and like to be able to jump off when I’ve stopped rather than properly dismount and make a process of the whole thing.
Ergonomically, I did find the seat a tad on the hard side but my main beef was with the rider/passenger cut-away. Honda claim the seat to be the lowest in class, which means the sculpting is significant and that transition is exactly where my arse wanted to be. I could sit forward with relative comfort, but over six footers are likely to find the same issue.
Thanks to the topbox (openable and detachable with the ignition key), storage is excellent. There’s little underseat capacity due to the large wheels, but enough to throw in some spare gloves, waterproofs and a bottle of water.
It also gets warm under there which is great when it comes to changing cold wet gloves for warm dry ones, but not so good for a hot day and a gulp of warm, tepid water.
At the end of the day on my highway ride home from Ottawa to Montreal I did manage to break that tonne. Of course, the wind was now at my back as I zipped in and out of cars – passing as many as passed me – at a respectable 115 km/h.
I might have been happier with a few more ccs and a taller, flatter seat, but my 1200 km weekend (no short Sunday or trailers for me!) proved to be perfectly well served by the SH.
Sym HD 200 (by Costa Mouzouris)
Yeah, so I’m an ex-racer; I’ve even ridden you-know-who’s MotoGP machine. So why do I still get excited at the prospect of riding scooters on a 600 km loop to scout the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally? Well, it’s like that old cliché of dating an ugly girl; you know she’s going to have a great personality.
I’d first heard of Sym scooters last year, and having never seen one I expected another cheap Asian product. How mistaken I was. At first glance, plastic panels on the Sym HD 200 appeared well aligned, controls felt solid and its styling didn’t offend.
Its carburetted, liquid-cooled engine with automatic choke started effortlessly and ran quietly. I expected the HD 200 to have a horribly weak frame and uncooperative suspension, just because I thought it abnormal that an unfamiliar product originating in Taiwan could have no flaws, but again I was proven wrong. Well, it did reveal one flaw, which I’ll get to later.
The HD 200 pulled away from a stop with surprising vigour (for a 171 cc scooter, of course), and it did so smoothly. With the throttle pinned along winding roads, the indicated speed varied between 110 and 120 km/h, and it was at these speeds that the Sym really impressed. It handled confidently and remained remarkably stable even when hitting bumps mid-turn.
Slowing from those speeds took a fair amount of effort, and feel at the levers was rather wooden, though the brakes easily got the job done.
The Sym easily maintained rural and secondary-road speed limits, with some reserve power available for passing obedient automobile drivers insisting on keeping their speed well below the limit.
The seat was remarkably plush (Rob noted it seemed almost too plush) and suspension action, although it displayed a small amount of harshness, worked better than many motorcycle suspensions. Underseat storage was rather limited, however, and an owner would be wise to add an accessory top case.
The bike’s biggest flaw was a poorly designed sidestand, which Rob quickly discovered when he bent over to wipe the wheels dry after a wash. The sidestand retracts automatically, which in itself is problematic, but it is also too long so the machine doesn’t lean over far enough when the stand is extended.
All it took was one swipe of the terry cloth for the bike to roll off its stand (it has no parking brake, as do some other scooters) and topple over. At least this mishap revealed that the Sym falls well, with almost no visible damage to the machine other than a tiny chip in the handlebar end and a few minor scuffs on the fairing’s underbelly.
After our almost 600 km loop, I parted with the Sym HD 200 impressed. Instead of confirming what I anticipated (if workmanship were shoddy and performance poor, I would have boasted “I told you so,” but it was not), I was pleasantly surprised by a competent machine capable of competing head-on with more commonly known brands.
I may now have to consider replacing my moped as my Mad Bastard ride …
Next week we’ll be doing the comparo of the three scoots to see just what the differences in capacity, brand and price will get you.