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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ||– Sighs |
|2017 SSR Buccaneer Cafe 250i Specifications|
|Engine Type||250cc air-cooled V-Twin, SOHC, two valves per cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke||49mm x 66mm|
|Horsepower (claimed)||17.4 hp @ 8,000 rpm|
|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|
|Rake/Trail||29.5 deg/4.0 in|
|Seat Height||31.0 in.|
|Curb Weight (Claimed)||316 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity||4.5 gal.|
|Warranty||12 months, limited warranty|