Fortunately, small bikes are making a comeback. Kawasaki’s Ninja 250R and Suzuki’s TU250X have won the hearts of beginning riders (and even some veterans), one for its sporty performance, the other for its simplicity and ageless design.
Kymco attempts to capture a bit of each of those machines’ appealing traits and package them into the Quannon 150. It features sporty styling and a twin-spar steel frame, but the plastic panels wrap around a simple, air-cooled, five-speed Single. We had a chance to ride a preproduction Canadian model, which is identical to the U.S. model except for the metric speedometer and Taiwanese warning stickers.
The Quannon’s 149.3 cc SOHC Single has four valves and breathes through a carburetor. Despite the Kymco’s 20th Century fuel mixer, it fires instantly from cold with the aid of an automatic choke. It needs a few moments of warm-up before it could be ridden away or it would bog on take-off.
The engine produces a claimed 14 hp at 9500 rpm with a peak torque of 7.3 ft-lb at 8500 rpm. Those modest numbers are adequate and enough to keep the Quannon ahead of city traffic. Twisting the throttle wide open in third to fifth gears produces a moderate amount of acceleration, and the bike can reach an indicated top speed of 126 km/h (78 mph).
In fact, the Quannon attained its top speed almost too readily. Final-drive gearing feels short; the bike could easily pull taller gearing. Getting into a chin-to-the-tank tuck, the bike maxed out in top gear, its engine tapping the rev limiter (or the engine to cut because the carb couldn’t keep up with the high revs, we couldn’t tell which) and prevented even higher speeds. Taller gearing – or a sixth speed – would drop the revs allowing a slightly higher top speed while making highway riding more relaxed. It would also reduce mechanical noise.
At speed the Quannon produces considerable mechanical clatter, its cooling fins doing little to stifle the tapping of the valves and slapping of the piston in the cylinder. It also buzzed – not uncomfortably so, but enough that next to the engine noise, it was the bike’s most noticeable trait. It also produced a significant intake bellow, which combined with the mechanical noise and buzzing to give the bike an altogether industrial feel.
The Quannon has a wheelbase of 53.3 inches, just under a quarter-inch longer than the Ninja 250R, and from the cockpit it feels closer to a full-sized bike. An average-sized rider will find the Quannon a nice fit, with ample space between the seat, clip-ons and footpegs. The riding position is more standard-bike upright than sport-bike crouched, and the relatively wide seat is quite comfy and ready for a full day’s ride.
Instrumentation is basic, though it does combine an analog tachometer with an easy-to-read digital display that shows speed, time, odometer, fuel gauge and resettable trip meter. What it lacks is a novice-friendly gear indicator.
With a claimed dry weight of 299 pounds the Quannon was easy to manage, especially when snaking through inner city congestion. It uses a 110/80 front and 140/70 rear tire, both in 17-inch diameter. Steering is light and neutral, while the bike’s relatively long wheelbase enhanced stability at speed. 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 are kept relatively low, 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. This was aggravated when we hit the local racetrack for a morning of lapping and photos.
The Kymco protested to being flogged around the racecourse by bouncing around, bobbling about and trying to buck its rider off at every opportunity. It was quite unnerving, actually.
Adding to the excitement was a gearbox that revolted, at times by popping out of gear, at others by locking up and refusing to shift. Maybe this was just a problem with this unit, but combined with the sloppy suspension, it didn’t inspire confidence.
The Quannon 150 can make a decent beginner bike. At $2999, it’s affordable, unintimidating and economical (we managed 62 mpg on average with the throttle cable stretched tight most of the time). That’s a grand less than either the Kawasaki or the Suzuki, which is a considerable chunk of cash when a new rider also needs to buy riding gear and other riding necessities.
However, aside from the aforementioned quirks, overall quality is not up to par with current entry-level Japanese bikes, even the paint on the frame was thin and chipped easily, the bare metal beneath showing signs of rust.
The Quannon 150 does come with a two-year warranty, which might inspire confidence in some riders, but add to the mix the forthcoming Honda CBR250R and the Quannon might prove to be a tough sell for someone looking for a trouble-free entry into motorcycling.
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