Who wants to break in a 200cc single? Zac does! The Konker moves to Saint John for some dirt trails and commuting duties.
When I picked up the Konker from Editor ‘Arris on June 19, three things became instantly obvious:
1) The bike is smallish and light, at least when compared to my Suzuki DR650.
2) The bike is not suited for highway travel at all in its current gearing – it’s just too slow.
3) Despite this, the bike is also a whole lot of fun.
Rob warned me about the bike’s low top speed just before I left his driveway, but I naively poo-pooed his warning as I chugged down the streets of Sackville.
After all, I’d been similarly warned about my Lifan, and had no problems riding along at 95 or 100 kph on the highway – nothing to set a speed record, but fast enough to get you from Points A to B in good time.
Alas, the un-broken-in Konker quickly ran out of steam once I merged onto the Trans Canada, topping out at around 80 km/h. There was more power left, but with only 35 kms on the odometer, I didn’t feel like blowing the motor trying to set a new Chinese motorcycle speed record and then explaining that to the boss.
So what to do? I eyed up the ATV trails running parallel to the highway and decided my best bet was to take the bike off-road. So I quickly whipped off the highway, then promptly lost the front wheel in a soggy rut, pitching myself and the machine into a bog not less than ten minutes after picking it up.
Thankfully, with no damage to myself or (more importantly – ‘Arris) the bike, I was back up and on my way in seconds, riding to my night’s destination of Moncton through a combination of back roads, gravel ATV trails, and, when nothing else was available, the shoulder of the highway, wondering all the way if the Konker could handle honest usage. Now, with over 700 kms on the bike, I’m sure it can.
The next day I rode it to Saint John, a trip that normally takes an hour and a half … on the four-lane highway. I knew that was out of the question, so after charting a course on previously unexplored secondary roads through New Brunswick farmland, I set off on the scenic route.
Over three hours later, I arrived home and not once did the Konker fail me along the way – no lightbulbs burning out, no parts rattling off due to vibrations, no carburetion problems, and no engine trouble. Not too bad!
Since then, I’ve taken the Konker everywhere. I’ve ridden it back and forth to work every day since acquiring it, and have especially appreciated it in this role.
It’s actually a pretty enjoyable machine to navigate city traffic in, and it’s always fun to ride in top gear with the throttle open and still not attract attention from the law.
Through back roads and city streets, the bike’s lack of power isn’t that noticeable, and the gas savings are tremendous. Konker’s website claims the machine can achieve 100 mpg, and while I don’t think I’ve achieved that, I’ve still saved quite a bit of coin on fuel (figures to come in a future update).
I’ve also taken the Konker off-road a few times, and enjoyed it. The suspension isn’t that great — hit a big rock in a middle of a turn, and things can get skittish — but it does the job better than a lot of its Chinese competition.
I’m hesitant to criticize it too harshly, as I haven’t yet ridden its Japanese counterparts, the DR200, so I don’t know how the Konker’s springs compare to its closest relative.
The Kenda dirt tires that come with the Konker off-road wheels seem to grip pretty well in the dirt, and bear a suspicious resemblance to K270s. They aren’t DOT-rated for the street, though, so they must be a different rubber compound, which would explain why I’ve had some wheel spin from time to time taking off from uphill stops on the street.
The Konker’s light weight is especially a bonus when off-roading. If the machine starts to wander towards the woods, a simple twist of the bars gets it back on track.
If you get stuck in a mudhole, or a slow speed tip-over leaves the bike on top of you, it’s not a big deal to pick it up and move it around, and you can actually fit between trees instead of steering around them.
That’s something I appreciate even more after wrestling my DR650 through single-track. A fellow rider who took the Konker for a short spin through the woods couldn’t stop smiling after he rode it as he contrasted the bike to his bulky KLR 650.
Takin’ Care of Business
The Konker hasn’t conked out on me yet, but it’s needed some minor maintenance, just like any other machine.
One of the first items of order was changing the oil and filter. Not a problem, I thought – I’ll just get a DR200 oil filter and have at ‘er. I soon realized that wouldn’t work.
Because the Konker has a kickstarter and the DR200 doesn’t (shame on you, Suzuki!), it takes a shorter oil filter. No problem; everything else went quite smoothly. Oil changes are cheap for this machine since the engine only holds a litre of dino oil.
Like most Chinese motorcycles, the Konker comes with a 428 pitch chain. Some people like the lighter chains (the 520 chain is quite heavier), but I do not. Cheap 428 chains stretch like a rubber band, and this one seems to be no exception.
I’ll keep an eye on the adjustment over the next few weeks, but if it continues to stretch, Editor ‘Arris will likely end up springing for a high-quality unit to save him from constant adjustments.
Aside from those mechanical chores, though, I haven’t had to lift a wrench on the Konker yet. But, it does have a few weak points I’d like to improve on.
First of all is the low top speed. I know there’s more power to be had with a simple sprocket change, and I’ve chased down a Suzuki unit that will fit. As soon as that arrives, I think the bike will become a lot more versatile – it’s nice to be able to ride on the highways, even if most cars are passing you.
The Konker also desperately needs a set of barkbusters. Even supermotos come with handguards these days, so I’m not sure why the bike doesn’t have basic protection for the trails. This was one of the first, and best, improvements on my Lifan, so I’m anxious to get a set.
Another issue I’d like to address is the rear rack, or lack thereof. This bike comes in supermoto trim, and the rack would look out of place in that application, but in its current dual-sport state, a rack is pretty much a necessity.
I hear a Yamaha XT250 unit can be made to by cutting a bit of rear bodywork, and I know that aftermarket racks exist back in China, but very few of those were imported over here – and they sold almost immediately. So, this will be another item to take care of.
So, two weeks in to my testing, I’m happy with the bike as a commuter and light-duty trail bike. It’s not as good as a Japanese machine, but it’s reliable. The vibrations, rattling, and squeaking are annoying sometimes, but there aren’t many quiet thumpers out there.
If the rest of the test riding goes as well as it has so far, I’ll be quite pleased. More in a few weeks.