2017 SSR Buccaneer Cafe 250i

Editor Score: 69.5%
Engine 12.0/20
Suspension/Handling 10.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 6.5/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.5/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 6.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score69.5/100

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then SSR most really be trying to suck up to the Italians. First it was the Razkull 125, the miniature playbike that looks like someone stuck a Ducati Monster 796 in the dryer for too long. Now it’s this, the SSR Buccaneer Cafe, which resembles another Italian: the Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello.

Look at the similarities in the picture below: red frame, white tank, wire-spoke wheels, cafe styling, mini windscreen, number plates, fork gaiters, pseudo-knobby tires. Heck, both even have V-Twin engines, though they’re mounted in different orientations.

Battle Of The 125cc Ankle Biters, Part 1

Battle Of The 125cc Ankle Biters, Part 2

Of course, that’s where the similarities end. The Buccaneer Cafe, as you may be aware of by now if you’ve read our Razkull 125 review, is made in China. It’s powered by a 249cc, air-cooled V-Twin. Bore and stroke measurements come out to 49.0mm and 66.0mm, respectively, and a single overhead cam pushes down on two valves per cylinder. In contrast to the Razkull, however, the Buccaneer comes with electronic fuel injection instead of a carburetor, and it also has one more cog in its gearbox, for a total of five. SSR claims the Buccaneer makes 17.4 hp at 8,000 rpm when measured at its crankshaft.


The SSR Buccaneer Cafe is on the left while the Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello is to the right.

Company of One

There aren’t many 250cc, air-cooled cafe racers these days, so drawing comparisons to other motorcycles is vexing. However, the Buccaneer, along with the rest of the SSR line, makes the biggest case for itself when looking at the price tag. In this case $3,499. For comparison, the Hyosung GT250 naked bike, though not a direct competitor, costs $3,799. Keep in mind, however, that the Hyosung’s air-cooled 249cc V-Twin also has dual overhead cams and twice the number of valves per cylinder. This amounts to 24 hp to the wheel when we last had one on the dyno.

The 250cc air-cooled, SOHC, two-valve, V-Twin is a simple thing, putting out a nice rumble belying its modest displacement.

The 250cc air-cooled, SOHC, two-valve, V-Twin is a simple thing, putting out a nice rumble belying its modest displacement.

Instead of trying to compare it to others in its class, let’s shift gears for a moment and simply focus on the bike in front of us. Say what you will about the SSR, its Chinese origins, or its copying of Italian designs, but personally, I think it looks great for a $3,500 starter bike. The red frame, plush-looking seat, wavy disc brakes, and overall styling are something I would have been proud to sport when I was first learning to ride.

But if looks are one thing, performance is another. Thumb the starter on a cold morning and the V-Twin takes a few turns to finally fire up. It’s not as refined an EFI system as seen on Japanese bikes, as the idle speed climbs significantly before settling back down, but nonetheless it’s a definite step up from carbs, as the system handles fuel enrichment on cold mornings all on its own.

Elegant touches like this plush seat made from velour-like material are not something you expect from a $3500 motorcycle. There’s quite a bit of room fore and aft for riders of different sizes to move about.

Elegant touches like this plush seat made from velour-like material are not something you expect from a $3500 motorcycle. There’s quite a bit of room fore and aft for riders of different sizes to move about.

With only 17 horses at its disposal, the Buccaneer Cafe isn’t a speed demon. But with a claimed weight of 316 lbs (fully fueled) to move around, the little SSR has no problems zipping away from traffic at a stoplight. On/off fueling is fairly smooth, though the lack of power could contribute to the gentleness of throttle application. When riding around town, the SSR makes a fine companion, as its small and narrow dimensions let it get around the city with ease, and 17 hp is sufficient to get the job done. The V-Twin even sounds nice and throaty, too, with a volume that’s somewhat surprising coming from a stock exhaust. Maybe best of all: people look at you when you ride this bike. Casual onlookers dig the styling, while other riders are wondering what the hell it is.

From there, however, the SSR reminds you it wasn’t engineered by a major OEM. The tachometer needle shakes and vibrates wildly as the revs pick up and travels through its sweep. Speaking of shakes and rattles, there’s quite a bit of vibration coming from the right footpeg above 5,000 rpm – an engine speed you’re constantly hovering in since there’s not much power. The bars, too, are buzzy at a variety of rpm. The engine’s 60-degree vee angle and a lack of a counterbalancer are the primary source of the vibes.

With a 29.5º rake angle, the Buccaneer Cafe tends to flop into corners. A sportbike the Buccaneer Cafe is not.

With a 29.5º rake angle, the Buccaneer Cafe tends to flop into corners. A sportbike the Buccaneer Cafe is not.

Second, after clutchless upshifting into second gear, like I do on nearly every motorcycle, the reapplication of throttle will kick the trans back to neutral. This wasn’t just an anomaly as it happened quite a bit. Every other gear shifts without a hitch, and using the clutch for the first-second upchange alleviates this issue.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the little 250 is taxed during freeway riding. Patience, along with a flat or downhill road, is needed to reach speeds of 80 mph or higher. A pliable wrist is important, too, as the long-throw throttle will be maxed out. Keep the throttle pinned once you see an incline, because the Buccaneer loses speed as it tries to climb even the gentlest of grades. Pinned in top gear (fifth), I saw speeds drop from 83 mph, down to 71 mph on a stretch of road I never realized until then was uphill.

2017 SSR Buccaneer Cafe 250i0722

That said, the SSR’s road manners are quite agreeable. Despite the lack of any real wind protection, I didn’t feel like a sail in the saddle. The reach to the upright bars is comfortable, and the peg distance is hardly aggressive. The Buccaneer’s basic suspension (the only adjustments are for the shock’s preload) is sprung towards the soft side, so the ride quality is quite comfortable during day-to-day types of riding, even if it’s clearly not a sporting machine.

But if a motorcycle is going to be styled as a cafe racer, wherein bikers would race from cafe to cafe, then the Buccaneer should have a modicum of sporting chops. With its lazy 29.5º rake and 4-inches of trail, the Buccaneer doesn’t steer with any urgency, but relatively wide bars help the rider dictate where the front is pointed. However, the Buccaneer is hardly a point-and-shoot type of motorcycle. If you’re able to find flowing corners and maintain momentum as you go from one Starbucks to the next, then the SSR will be in its happy place.

Cafe racers don’t normally play in the dirt, but the Buccaneer Cafe comes equipped with knobby-ish rubber. So play we did!

Cafe racers don’t normally play in the dirt, but the Buccaneer Cafe comes equipped with knobby-ish rubber. So play we did!

It’s 17 horses and what it’s able to do – or not do – with it has already been mentioned, so it’s slightly ironic that one of the Buccaneer’s strengths is its brakes. A single 278mm wave rotor up front looks trick and is complemented by a four-piston caliper. The rear also gets a wavy disc, this one 240mm, and a single-piston caliper. Steel-braided lines complete the package. Components like that make for nice line items on a spec sheet, and in this particular application they also work well in practice. There’s nice stopping power from the single front disc, and the lever is also firm and consistent.

Other Odds and Ends

At 31 inches, the seat height is slightly on the taller side for a 250-class motorcycle, though the slim midsection makes it relatively easy to put feet on the ground. Apart from the shaky tach needle, the rest of the gauge cluster consists of digital speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, a single tripmeter, and gear-position indicator. The font is a little on the small side, but a rider adjusts after a few miles.

As a casual commuter and errand-runner, the SSR’s ergonomics are pretty comfy. Just be sure to limit the amount of time you spend on the highway if you’d rather not be a moving roadblock.

As a casual commuter and errand-runner, the SSR’s ergonomics are pretty comfy. Just be sure to limit the amount of time you spend on the highway if you’d rather not be a moving roadblock.

Strange thing about SSR, as we noted in our Razkull review, was the abnormally large fuel tanks it equips on its models. In the Buccaneer’s case, 4.5 gallons. Which is great, except for the fact you’ll have to pull over and let your hands wake up from all the buzzing long before you actually have to stop to refill your tank.

Two For Two?

When we rated the Razkull so highly against the likes of the Honda Grom, Kawasaki Z125 Pro, and Kymco K-Pipe 125, we noted that, objectively, the Honda and Kawasaki were better motorcycles. We were simply willing to overlook the Razkull’s faults because it was so cheap and because it would be a toy, assuming it were ever in our personal garages.

With the Buccaneer Cafe, however, SSR is asking something different. The proposition given by the Buccaneer Cafe is for the consumer to consider it as a main mode of transportation over other small-displacement motorcycles from more established companies. The hook being its inexpensive price tag. While we could overlook the Razkull’s shortcomings, we have to be a little more critical when judging the Buccaneer Cafe. Its lack of power and annoying vibrations are potential concerns for prospective buyers. SSR equips the Buccaneer with a limited factory warranty for one year, but the lack of dealer support compared to the more established brands could prove difficult for a customer to take advantage of.

A red frame, cafe styling, wavy brake discs, and sexy exhaust make the Buccaneer Cafe a very attractive motorcycle. However, once getting past the superficial elements, the SSR is a tougher sell.

A red frame, cafe styling, wavy brake discs, and sexy exhaust make the Buccaneer Cafe a very attractive motorcycle. However, once getting past the superficial elements, the SSR is a tougher sell.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that, unless you’re dying to have a 250cc cafe-styled 2017 motorcycle for less than $4000 out-the-door, the Buccaneer Cafe is too compromised to be a rider’s sole bike in the garage. We’d be tempted to save up extra cash and buy something more refined.

2017 SSR Buccaneer Cafe 250i
+ Highs

  • Attractive styling
  • Cheap price tag
  • Throaty exhaust note for such a small bike
– Sighs

  • Lacks power
  • Buzzy
  • Fit and finish could be a little better
2017 SSR Buccaneer Cafe 250i Specifications
MSRP $3,499.00
Engine Type 250cc air-cooled V-Twin, SOHC, two valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke 49mm x 66mm
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Horsepower (claimed) 17.4 hp @ 8,000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed
Final Drive Chain
Front Suspension 37mm conventional fork, non-adjustable
Rear Suspension Single shock with spring preload adjustability
Front Brake Single 278mm disc, four-piston caliper
Rear Brake Single 240mm disc, single-piston caliper
Front Tire 100/80-17
Rear Tire 130/90-15
Rake/Trail 29.5 deg/4.0 in
Wheelbase 56.7 in.
Seat Height 31.0 in.
Curb Weight (Claimed) 316 lbs.
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal.
Colors Red, White
Warranty 12 months, limited warranty

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  • scott.

    I’d spend an extra grand for a Suzuki TU250X if I was looking for something in this class. Not as cool looking but the reliablilty wouldn’t be in question.

    • Born to Ride

      Unless you live in California

  • Old MOron

    Hey Trizzle, this is going to sound funny, but here goes: are you sure that’s you in the pictures?

    I can’t say anything definite because of the dark face shield, but it’s clear that the pilot is wearing glasses, and I’ve never seen you with glasses. Additionally, in some of the pictures it kind of looks like the pilot has a mustache. And you don’t have a mustache.

    But there is a guy who wears glasses, has a mustache, and is also of Asian heritage, Thai Long Lee. Is it him in the pictures?

    • DickRuble

      You’re clearly spending too much time on this web site. Get a life man.. go fix your bike or something. Whoever it is, he’s too ashamed of being seen on this “bike” and won’t admit.

      • Born to Ride

        He’s got a brand new bike. Nothing to fix.

        • DickRuble

          Must be a boring bike if has time to spend on the web reading reviews of hay mowers. He should at least do some waxing and chrome polishing.

          • Old MOron

            Ha ha, that’s for Harleys. Anyway, we’re having some rare rainstorms in SoCal, so I’m patiently waiting for the sun to come out.

    • TroySiahaan

      What are you, Sherlock Holmes? Well, yes, when it came time to take pictures Evans fell ill and couldn’t do it. So I roped in Thai to be my photo model while I clicked off the pictures. One of the few times I was behind the camera instead of in front of it.

      • Old MOron

        Actually, I’m just a fan. And as a fan, I try to read carefully. That was pretty sneaky, putting Thai in your helmet. But no offense taken or intended. In this case it’s a cool looking little bike, regardless of the rider-photographer combo.

    • Shit… busted. I knew I should’ve shaved for this event!

  • DickRuble

    It does look like something designed and produced during the Cultural Revolution.

    • SerSamsquamsh

      Like the ashes of a burned-down pagoda or pile of skulls? Nothing was made during that period. Although I read they retired to build a submarine factory in the Gobi desert.

  • Fivespeed 302

    I like the way this bike looks, but you could pick one up on Craigslist in 4 or 5 years for a grand or so. I agree that the Raskull is probably a better buy when new.

  • Larry Kahn
  • Ron Hayes

    Looks like the CCW Misfit Gen II, Sym Wolf Classic , and the Suzuki TU 250 are the three it could be compared with similar low end power. Could be a fun comparison? I think the Suzuki would shine in this group but it would put 2 Chinese, 1 Taiwanese, and one Japanese bikes in this comparison:-)

    • TheMarvelous1310

      I second this, as a Misfit fan. Small-displacement bikes are the best, you can gun the engine and ride like a madman and still not break the law provided you don’t forget your blinkers! I call it the Miata effect, but ironically not even the Miata can deliver it these days-too much power. I wish more people thought about usability as a metric instead of just hunting for big numbers.

      • Douglas

        They won’t tho’……

  • Starmag

    She’s a real looker. Shame about the dealers, vibes, power, tach, etc.

    Drug store “cowboy”. Cafe “racer”.

  • Kenneth

    Something expressly for cheapskates – again. But yes, it looks good.
    I am beginning to be surprised at the painfully-slow development of these little Chinese bikes. There are so many examples of well-designed and built, low-cost bikes available from Japan, S. Korea, Thailand, and India. I’d have expected more-competitive products from the Chinese, by now.

  • Mark D

    I like the concept but not the overly sporty styling. As mentioned, it isn’t a sport bike, or even a sporty bike. It is, however, a cheap, cool, good-looking urban runabout. So why the solo seat, high pegs, and lame “cafe racer” accessories? This would look much better in slighty-sporty UJM style, like a TU250x. Upright bars, broad passenger seat, full fenders. I love the small V-Twin! Throw a lady (or man) on the back and cruise the neighborhoods or head to the beach. There are some good, cheap bones there, but its tarted up as a poseur bike now.

    • Larry Kahn

      If you google image this it comes up as being sold in Nepal under the “Italjet” name. They are doing some interesting things..http://www.italjet.com/ and are (still) an Italian company.

  • halfkidding

    It’s exceedingly odd that anyone would design an engine with such racially under square dimensions? Maybe the engine has a long history in China, but still, it wasn’t designed in 1937 was it?

  • TheMarvelous1310

    I would buy it for one purpose, and one purpose only: To graft the seat, swingarm, fenders, pegs and tank onto a Sportster… Or maybe just graft an 883 motor into the Buccaneer frame! But would it fit? This bike is actually cheap enough that I might just go for it and find out-A CHALLENGER APPEARS!!! http://static1.squarespace.com/static/524c5aa4e4b0aac0d82f7c71/55c16940e4b074f3e214af04/5605f621e4b051094faab5d9/1443231274898/2016+250cc+Misfit+Side+Profile.jpg

  • clumseyfingers

    That engine actually looks pretty sweet.

    • GIBBED

      It started out as a Yamaha Virago 250cc. Design was sold to Lifan.

  • Donald Hill

    Why can’t you just say “it’s a pile” and move on? Or try riding it for a year and note how it falls apart and ends up on the scrap heap? You’re enabling …

    • Campisi

      A taxonomy of piles exists. There are many piles: some of straw, of compost, of treasures and of rubble. As leading lights in the heap classification industry, their job is to dig in to all of the smoking piles to find out exactly why they’re steaming. They shovel sh*t so you don’t have to!

    • TheMarvelous1310

      I second this, the second part anyway. Every bike under five grand should get a long-term test, even if it’s from a major manufacturer.

      I don’t think it’s a pile, though. I’ve seen worse new bikes, just not on this site.

  • Kevin Polito

    Other than the paint scheme, there’s little similarity. Might as well say it looks like a Harley because it’s a V-twin.

  • Martin Buck

    As your comparison to the Guzzi Stornello shows, this bike is a “Scrambler” not a “Cafe Racer”. So if it can play in the dirt, all the rest of its foibles can be forgiven. although a slow, vibey motor is a turn off. Might as well have a Harley…

    • TheMarvelous1310

      Slow is a measurement of the RIDER, not the bike. I could outrun you on a Harley-Davidson anywhere but a straight line.

  • Jeevan Chaukar

    Frankly in my opinion, making a cute looking V-twin just for the sake of having a multi-cylinder bike is not making that much sense. I am Indian. We are as conscious about cost and fuel economy as Chinese folks if not more 🙂 Whole Indian mindset is such that first question a majority of us ask after seeing any vehicle is “Kitna Deti Hai” literally meaning “How much (mileage) does it give mister!” – it could be Suzuki Swift OR Bugatti Veyron…It could be a BMW S1000RR or some anonymous 100 cc Scooter (e.g. Honda Activa – which by the way sells in millions).

    But EVEN THEN having a 250 V-Twin with just 17 BHP is just not done. That is way too low. $3500 for such a vehicle in fact isn’t very low cost. It is a bit too much then…Purely charging for its cafe racer looks. Most 150-200 cc single cylinder bikes made in India are doing more than what this one is doing! And they definitely cost a lot less!

    And we in India always were craving about powerful bikes that Europeans/Japanese and Americans enjoyed for long…But thankfully now a days the big ones are accessible to all (as long as you have the bank accounts overflowing of course 🙂 )

    So, despite cute looks, this bike possibly will not find too many buyers. I think America and other developed countries have faster traffic which will end up straining this bike and its life won’t be too long. It also will not last on our roads which prove challenging to any motorcycle that is not made locally!

    Disclaimer – this is all just my feeling as I have no way of really riding this bike – but I do keep visiting Motorcycle.com now and then..

  • Craig Hoffman
  • mog

    Styling wise, the bike is spot on. The capacious tank fills the bike out to correct proportion. The fork angle and wheelbase are a bit much, needing a little tightening.

    I could really appreciate flogging the Buccaneer to death around town. Of course that might not take too long but would definitely get the attention of gawkers while it cools down at the local pub.

    If it had about 5 degrees less rake, a reliable twin cam or SOHC 350cc and adjustable forks, it could be a real game changer. At $3,500, the SSR Buccaneer has gotten very close to a winner. Please do not stop at this design.


  • David Lowry

    Hmm.. Im still interested in this bike!

  • David

    Despite the name, you should point out that the styling is definitely more street tracker than cafe.