With the addition of the new Quannon 150 to KYMCO’s fleet, we thought we should put it back to back with Honda’s CBR125R. Read on to see how they fare.
Sitting on a patio having breakfast, it was hard to tell the two bikes parked across the street apart. My friend Jean-Pascal Schroeder, who met up with Roxanne and me on his BMW R1100S, was convinced the red machine was the Honda CBR125R.
It wasn’t, it was the KYMCO Quannon 150. Being the one who rode in on the KYMCO (a preproduction model and currently the only one in Canada), I should have placed a bet and got a free breakfast.
In pictures, too, it’s hard to distinguish the Taiwanese machine from the Japanese one (the CBR is actually made in Thailand), with similar styling cues from the twin headlights to the tailpiece.
Up close, however, the two bikes are very different …
The KYMCO is much larger than the diminutive Honda; at 1,355 mm (53.3 in.) the Quannon’s wheelbase stretches a significant 61 mm (2.4 in.) longer than the CBR’s. It’s also taller, has fatter tires on its 17-inch wheels and overall is sized more like a 250 cc machine.
As a full-sized adult I found the KYMCO a much better fit than the Honda, with more space between the seat and the clip-ons, as well as more legroom. It also had a larger, wider seat, which was actually quite comfy and ready for a full day’s ride.
The differences continue under the similar-looking bodywork. While the Honda’s skin hides a liquid-cooled and fuel-injected 124.7 cc single (measuring the displacement to the decimal is important with 125s, but more on that later) with six speeds, the KYMCO’s plastic caches an air-cooled, 149.3 cc five-speed single that breathes through a carburetor.
Despite the KYMCO’s 20th century fuel mixer, it fired instantly from cold with the aid of an automatic choke. It needed just a brief warm-up before it could be ridden away or it would bog on take-off.
This is not the case with the EFI Honda, which could be whacked wide open as soon as its little motor sparked to life — not that we abused it in that manner, of course.
On the move, the differences are even more prominent. Despite the CBR’s tiny-bike stature it exudes typical Honda feel and refinement with a counterbalanced engine that is remarkably smooth and mechanically quiet, and an exhaust note that is silent enough to fool you into thinking it isn’t running when at a traffic light.
The KYMCO, on the other hand, produces considerable mechanical clatter at speed and its cooling fins do little to stifle the tapping of the valves and slapping of the piston in the cylinder.
It also buzzes more, not uncomfortably so, but enough that next to the noise, it’s the bike’s most noticeable trait when boarding it immediately following the Honda.
Although the KYMCO’s exhaust note is not much more noticeable than the Honda’s, the KYMCO produces a significant intake bellow, which combines with the mechanical noise and buzzing to give the bike an altogether industrial feel.
At least the KYMCO’s additional acoustic accompaniment is not for naught. KYMCO claims 14 hp for the entry-level sport bike, which is just half a pony more than Honda’s claim for the CBR, but that additional equine power propels the Quannon with relatively more gusto and when you’re talking an eighth of a litre or so, every bit of power counts.
Twist the throttle in third-to-top gears and you can actually feel the machine accelerate. In contrast, wind the throttle to the stop on the Honda in the upper gears and you mostly hear a change in the exhaust tone, but feel no noticeable difference on the motion side.
Part of the KYMCO’s boosted acceleration is lower final-drive gearing that feels short – the bike could easily pull taller gearing. Taller gearing — or a sixth gear as found on the Honda — would drop the revs, which would reduce mechanical noise, make highway riding feel more relaxed and give the bike a slightly higher top speed.
Despite the Honda’s languid acceleration, it still outran the KYMCO on longer stretches, though the CBR didn’t have enough power to pull top gear and attained its top speed in fifth. For heavier riders (ones that weigh more than a skinny 14-year-old) it’s more sensible to think of the CBR125R as a five-speed with a fuel-saving overdrive sixth.
Following the CBR as closely as I could to get into its draft, the KYMCO maxed out at an indicated 126 km/h, as its engine tapped the rev limiter (or the carb couldn’t keep up with the high revs, causing the engine to cut, I couldn’t tell which) and prevented me from passing the CBR, which then pulled slowly away.
When the roads get twisty, the machines are even further apart, each one exhibiting a different set of engaging and not-so-engaging qualities.
The ultra-light Honda zooms along effortlessly and quietly, its relatively firm suspension doing a very good job of keeping the bike composed over smooth and rough roads.
But, it feels like a scaled down motorcycle, and it’ll keep you busy in the cockpit as its lack of torque causes your left foot to twitch over the shifter, switching gears two and three at a time to maintain momentum.
Also, its anorexic tires cause the machine to turn in almost too quickly, prompting regular line correction until you get used to it.
This can be remedied with larger tires, but finding a set that will fit the super-skinny 17-inch wheels won’t be easy – unless you settle for a pair of 110/70-17 fronts like the CBR125R Challenge racers use.
The Quannon feels more like a full-sized bike and exhibits more neutral steering due to its longer wheelbase and fatter rubber. But — and this is a big but — the Quannon’s suspension really isn’t up to the task of keeping up with the machine’s chassis, which is otherwise fine.
Damping at both ends is very light and spring rates are overly soft, both of which are noticeable as soon as you sit on the bike.
This actually gave the bike a plush, comfy ride quality around town, where speeds were kept below 60 km/h, but as soon as we hit the open road, the bike wallowed and weaved through turns, undulating on its suspension through turning transitions and long sweepers.
TO THE TRACK
This was aggravated when we hit the racetrack for a morning of lapping and photos. Here the Honda railed along, composed and without complaint despite carrying my oversized, leather-clad ass, while rolling on the equivalent of slightly oversized inflatable O-rings. The skinny IRC tires provided enough grip to scrape footpegs and the brakes slowed the bike easily with little effort and no fade.
The KYMCO protested being flogged around the racecourse by bouncing and bobbing about and trying to buck its rider off at every opportunity. It was quite unnerving, actually, and even though it pulled a bit harder than the Honda coming off corners, there was no way it could keep pace.
Adding to the excitement was a gearbox that revolted, at times by popping out of gear, at other times by locking up and refusing to shift. These anomalies may be attributed to the bike’s preproduction status, or maybe they were just problems with this unit, but either way, they didn’t inspire confidence.
FOR THE SCOTTISH WALLET
Both of these bikes can make excellent, true beginner bikes. They are affordable, unintimidating and economical, though neither of these machines will make you popular with oil execs.
The KYMCO managed a very respectable 3.8 L/100 km (74 mpg), while the Honda sipped the dino-juice at a remarkable 3.1 L/100 km (91 mpg) – and both bikes managed those numbers with their throttle cables stretched tight most of the time.
The $3,495 Quannon 150 can offer good value for novice riders (its suspension and gearbox issues notwithstanding), with the added benefit of being more adult-sized than the CBR125R, so a new rider might hang onto it for more than a season.
If you live in Quebec then it also has another ace up its sleeve: it’s legal on limited access highways, something a CBR owner must avoid due to its sub-125 cc displacement.
The $3,599 CBR125R will easily usher the greenest of riders into motorcycling, though it’s a small motorcycle in all senses of the word, with limited use and will probably be outgrown after just one riding season.
But by then it will have done its job and you can be assured that the experience will be an enlightening one and its rider most likley hooked.
|Bike||Honda CBR125R||KYMCO Quannon 150|
|Displacement||124 cc||149 cc|
|Engine type||Four-stroke SOHC single, liquid cooled||Four-stroke SOHC single, air cooled|
|Power (crank)*||13.4 hp @ 10,000 rpm||14 hp @ 9,600 rpm|
||7.8 lb-ft @ 8,250 rpm||8.3 lb-ft @ 7,500 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||10 litres||13.5 litres|
|Carburetion||EFI with 30 mm bore||Keihin 22 mm carburetor|
|Final drive||Six speed, chain drive||Five speed, chain drive|
|Brakes, front||Single 276 mm disc with dual-piston caliper||Single 276 mm disc with dual-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||220 mm disc with single-piston caliper||220 mm disc with dual-piston caliper|
|Seat height||776 mm (30.5″)||800 mm (31.5″)|
|Wheelbase||1,294 mm (50.9″)||1,355 mm (53.3″)|
||127 kg (280 lb) (wet)||137 kg (302 lb) (dry)|
|Colours||Black; red/black; red/white/blue||Red; blue; white|
|Warranty||12 months||24 months|