The Fight Of The Littleweights
The final scouting run of the 2013 Mad Bastard Rally route offered Editor ‘arris and myself the opportunity to run my Suzuki TU250X long term tester along side a comparable retro model. But which one?
Above the TU250X stands the venerable Royal Enfield Bullet at double the capacity and an additional $1,600 for their base model. Below we have the Sym Wolf 150 at $3,199 – a chunky $2,100 less than the TU250X. Not having previously tested the Wolf and in the small capacity spirit of the Mad Bastard Rally, we thought we’d give it a go.
So this really isn’t a fair fight. It’s kind of like putting a featherweight up against an experienced lightweight, but them’s the breaks and besides, it’s a very CMG type of fight to have.
With a tight schedule, we hopped on the bikes and and prepared for the ride to Prince Edward County for the night. The plan was to make it to Rancho Adler, home to Scooterman (were we supposed to give away his lair?…)
Both bikes fired up easily, the TU especially so with its seamless fuel injection. The Wolf required a bit of a pull on its gauge-pack-mounted choke knob to fire it to life. When warm, a quick push of the happy button will fire it to life without fuss. You can even give the kick-start a whirl if you’re feeling old-schooly.
Once out of the city, it was basically wide-open throttle for the Wolf, with the TU spinning at the higher end of its rev range as well. Both bikes came sans any real mileage, so this was pretty much their breaking-in period…. CMG style.
It only took about 45 minutes each in the saddle of the Wolf before the white flag was waved and my ass-saving Airhawk seat was installed. The Airhawk totally transformed the bike and made it easy to ride for the duration of the next two full days.
We also discovered that the Wolf was likely running slightly rich on the main jet as, when the evening temperatures dropped, the Wolf actually got a bit livelier. Logging a few miles on the bike to aid the break-in was likely helping free things up as well.
The TU, with 65% more capacity, outguns the Wolf and is significantly less vibey.
Having said that, for a 150cc bike the Wolf is surprisingly peppy and pulls strongly with a pleasing exhaust note. Given enough time, we could get about 110kph out of it. We could feel the engine’s vibes though, via our feet and hands but they weren’t really a big deal, although they were enough to cause one of the bar end weights to walk right out of the Wolf handlebars on day three.
Okay, we knew we were pushing these bikes beyond the city driving and short commuting that they were designed for, but they managed the first night’s thrashings just fine.
In fact, both bikes pleasantly surprised us; the TU with its wide comfy seat and larger capacity made for a fairly effortless ride on the back roads that we had chosen. And I was half expecting to use my auto club card to transport the Wolf back to Toronto when it blew up, but despite a good thrashing that didn’t happen.
Day 2 – My Day With The TU
It was a late start the next morning due to a highly entertaining late night with the Adlers in Prince Edward County. This, plus a good dose of Editor ‘arris morning chaos, meant that we connected with Mr. Tate on his BMW about two hours behind schedule… Classic CMG again.
Mr. Harris had claimed the Wolf for the day and that left me comfortably in the saddle of the TU. I was beginning to see why the little Suzuki has developed a sizeable following. Everything is well sorted. The seat, the riding position, the controls are all simply and ergonomically placed.
The cable clutch pull is light and the five-speed gearbox is Suzuki-slick. The motor, once broken in, has enough power to run on highways two-up, with a top end of about 130 km/h, if you give it some time and lay on the tank. From a fuel economy perspective it is positively frugal. We averaged 28 km/l on our two and half day trip and pretty much the same around town. Impressive indeed!
The Suzuki is effortless to ride as it steers quickly and predictably holds its line even when the basic suspension gets a little unsettled in a bumpy corner –although the rear suspension gets a bit harsh when the pavement is not good. The brakes suit the bike well and offer good feedback. The single disk up front and the simple rear drum brake are spot on.
For some reason Suzuki decided to mount the rear signals below the rear passenger seat, thus negating the use of throw-over saddlebags. Our solution for the trip was to bungee a waterproof bag to the rear seat. Not pretty, but it worked.
The situation for our long term TU has since been remedied, as you will note in some of the photos and you can read all about further TU touring mods in my On The Side TU touring update.
You’d think at the end of a long day on board such small capacity bikes we’d be checking ourselves into a chiropractic centre, but no such attention was required. We were both fine by the time we reached our destination of Calabogie for the night. Surprising indeed.
As for the bikes, the best we could do was to extract a few tears of oil from the clutch actuator seal of the Wolf, and there was a slight wetness around the oil filter seal on the Suzuki. Noteworthy though, is that both bits of seeping stopped entirely when the bikes went back to regular city riding.
Day 3 – Getting Home With The Wolf
Day 3 found Mr. Harris entrenched in pre-Mad Bastard Rally chaos, so much so that the decision was made that he would spend another night at Jocko’s Resort in Calabogie while I had to get back to Toronto. As I had yet to fully experience the Wolf in touring mode, my kit was stuffed into the Wolf’s accessory saddlebags and the Enduristan tank bag, and I hit the road solo on the 150.
If you’re wondering how far you can go with the Wolf with the throttle continually pinned, I can tell you exactly: 192km, or 119.4 miles as indicated on our American clock. I actually ran out of gas. As luck would have it I came to stop outside a home with an open garage with five-gallon gas can sitting outside the garage door. The owner of the home graciously offered me what was left in the can and that was enough to get me to the gas station. Gotta’ love small town Ontario!
Worth noting is fact that the low fuel light is a tad indecisive. It will come on to what appears to be half strength and then fade away. It was only about a mile before I completely ran out that it came on fully bright. Speaking of fuel, the Wolf averaged 24.9 km/l on the trip and pretty much matched the Suzuki in the city with a 28.8 km/l average.
The Wolf is physically smaller than the TU and has over-the-triple-clamp clip ons that are two-way adjustable. Editor ‘arris was hoping to spread them to the wider setting but as we could not find the appropriate Allen key to do this in our travels, they stayed put. Personally, I thought they were fine but the adjustment is there and higher rubber-mounted bars are also available from Sym.
Amazingly, both ‘arris and I fit reasonably comfortably on the smallish Sym (we’re 6’ 4” and 6’ 2” respectively). This is mostly because the one-piece seat allows the rider to slide back or forth and find his happy place.
Unfortunately, there is no real happy place for the passenger on the Wolf if you have someone over six feet at the controls. In this case the passenger ends up sitting uncomfortably on the ridge at the back of the seat. Shorter, skinny teenagers that are part of this bikes target audience will probably be fine, although better served by the Suzuki’s more comfortable two-piece design.
As mentioned, the motor is better than you would think and the five-speed gearbox was easy to live with as well. There was however a slight hesitation when you rolled off the power and then rolled on again while in motion. No biggy, but it was noticeable compared to the seamless Suzuki operation.
The Wolf comes equipped with a standard centre stand. The TU doesn’t. They are deemed to be accessories for most bikes these days, so bravo Sym for including one with the cost of the bike!
Controls on the Wolf are well placed and the instrument cluster is quite stylish, complete with a tach, something that is also omitted on the TU (not that it needs one). The only thing that took a bit of getting used to was the signal switch which is designed so that you have to click it back to the centre position as opposed to simply stabbing it to shut them off, as on the Suzuki. We left the signals on a lot. Just ask Mr. Tate…
As for the ride, again, it’s not up to the Suzuki standard with its under-damped rear shocks that tend to leave the bike pogo’ing in the rough. The tires are old-school skinny and create a bike that is quite sensitive to rider input. You actually have to think about what you are doing when dropping it into corners, and any road irregularities will make it unsure. That said, there is a certain satisfaction to getting it just right when you are in the twisty stuff, which is really part of the fun of the Wolf.
The single front disk brake worked well with a good feel and it even had a braided line, although the rear brake didn’t do much of anything to begin with. It eventually bedded in a bit and, if you really stood on it, you could initiate a lurid slide; something obviously important to the teenage crowd it is marketed to. Or at least it was, back in the day…
Arriving back in Toronto I was greeted by a monsoon-like rainstorm. This did not bother the Wolf at all and remarkably, the cheap and cheerful accessory saddlebags proved much better at keeping the rain out than the bags on the CVO Road King we had on test recently.
Back In The City
Both these bikes are extremely happy doing city commuting duty, and scooter-like in their ability to thread through traffic. The TU, with its better seat and less vibey engine also keeps a passenger happier around town.
Compared to the TU, the Wolf has a sportier look to it, with its two-tone paint and café racer styling. As a result it usually got more interest from the general public in our travels. That said, I personally prefer the understated retro look of the TU and Suzuki’s better quality build and attention to detail.
Speaking of which, Editor ‘arris complained that Sym didn’t get the shape of the Wolf front fender quite right and some of the smog control bits seemed to slapped on without much thought. Additionally, the heat shield and its warning text on the lovely peashooter exhaust do not seem to be designed with love. We’re nit picking here though, as the Wolf is pretty easy on the eyes.
Noteworthy is the fact that Sym have a two-year Canadian warranty, as opposed to Suzuki’s one. Price wise, I think they are spaced about right, as I believe you get proportionately more value when you buy the Suzuki. It has a much more refined engine with fuel injection and everything is more polished and solidly built. The TU also has the ability to take you and a passenger further afield in relative comfort.
That said, with the Suzuki somewhat in competition with the CBR250 (which currently retails for $4000 in non-ABS form), at $5299 it starts to look a bit pricey. The TU is made in Japan however, which still means something to many people and the Suzuki is better equipped for two-up riding. Ultimately though, a price around a thousand dollars less ($4299) would see a lot more of them on Canadian roads.
Knocking the $3199 price down on the Wolf would certainly help Sym’s cause as well. If it came in around $2500 it would be more competitive when placed in shops beside similarly priced scooters. It would also help steer new buyers away from the plethora of used 125 CBRs that are floating around in the market at $2000 or less.
In conclusion, we were genuinely impressed with how well these bikes worked and it just goes to show you that you don’t need to spend buckets of money to get out there and have some fun! At the end of the day, neither bike got knocked out during a very grueling match, which says a lot about how well bikes are put together these days, even the littlest ones from Taiwan.
If you’re looking for a scooter alternative for the city you won’t lose in selecting either bike. If you want to go further afield with your sweetie on the back, go for the TU as it will keep your relationship intact.
Enjoy the ride.
Cheers, Mr. Seck
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
Great story and review! I’ve been looking at the Sym Wolf as my first bike for mainly commuting purposes in Toronto. Seems like itl’ll fit that role just fine.
Sym outside of Canada seem to be a great company but for 1 issue . When they email me saying if we don’t sell that model, we ll not stock or order parts for it you SOL, it’s not cool. SYM once before has gone bye , bye in Canada whom to say it can’t happen again leaving you stuck ordering from the USA or Dirrect from Taiwan as some people have done?
Would love to have seen the Wolf swapped out for the CCW Misfit. Same price range as the Wolf and a 250. That and I’m trying to decide between it and the TU 😛
We’re hoping to test some more CCW bikes in 2014, either the Misfit or the Ace. Maybe both.
Awesome article, thanks very much. I’m very interested in the TU, I’ve been saving up for a while and should be getting one soon enough. The Wolf is pretty cool though. Love that they have the kick starter on them (the TU has a spot for one, supposedly they come with them in Japan, I might see if I can’t get one for mine somehow).
Thanks for the comments and high praise. Glad you liked the article and do have fun with the TU when you get it! We’ll be posting the end of season wrap up on ours shortly, so stay tuned.
I was dreaming of getting the Honda CBR250, then came the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and dreamed about it. My economical situation went awry and I was in need of transportation so, I saw a used Kawasaki Eliminator 125 (cruiser) on-line going for $1,200, but the dealer, who knew me from visiting his Bradenton Florida Kawasaki store said to me, “I have just the bike for you John it’s got more power, it’s a used 2011 Suzuki TU250X with low miles in great shape.” When I found out that it was fuel injected I knew it was heaven sent. My brother suggested a cooler spark plug (NGK – DR9EA) since the TU isn’t liquid cooled(and I could care less wether it is or not, it being an old-school retro model motorcycle) and I ride mostly in the city and for long distances. It is a very attractive and elegant machine, perfect for women or smaller riders to control, very light weight and comfortable for a full-sized motorcycle. It hasn’t let me down yet.
I always pictured Rob more lean and tall.
Still tall, not so lean any more unfortunately …
Just wondering, do we know if the TU selling well in Canada? I hope so, there’s something about that big happy round headlight that brings me back to the 70s & 80s bikes I had as a kid. But the price does seem a bit off. As you say, considering non-ABS CBR250s are selling for $1300 less…and with that you get a modern, water-cooled (and similarly fuel injected) 250 engine, a rear disc brake, tach and honda fit & finish…even if it is made in thailand. And if you want to pony up another $500 you can have your ABS too, a real bonus for a novice rider. Or for a grand over the TU list, you could have a CB500F…so knocking a grand off of the TU’s price would seem sensible. A few dealers seem to have come to the same conclusion already. Which returns me to my question…are Canadians buying the TU? The coming GW250 would suggest they aren’t…which would be a drag if that means swapping the fetching TU for the ugly step-sister GW. I can’t see new female riders especially being drawn in by the GW…if my sample group of 1 is to be believed, 19 times out of 20.
I’m not sure how many TUs are being sold in Canada but I did find out that they do have a dedicated following, and I can see why as they are quite endearing. Truth be told, we actually requested the GW as my long-termer but, as it has yet to arrive in Canada, we got the TU instead. The bike turned out to be a very pleasant surprise indeed.
That said, it is a very competitive market and I’m sure we’d see a lot more TUs on our roads if they dropped the price a bit, as mentioned in the article.
Thanks Richard…I guess you don’t have any sense if the GW is meant to be a replacement for the TU?
I don’t really know. However, if the GW is priced aggressively to compete with Honda then it will likely chew into the sales of the TU. I’m really interested to see what happens and how good a bike the GW is. Hopefully we’ll get one soon…
For some reason in Canada Suzuki decided to up the price for the TU. It is in the proper price range in direct competition to CBR in the States. As the matter of fact, I know of some Canadians who went across the border to buy one, when TU was not even available up North (2009 fast red ones).