It’s been almost three years to the day since we posted the 10 cheapest bikes of 2014, and, my, has the landscape changed since then. So much so that we thought it necessary to update the list for 2017. Generally speaking, cheap bikes have gone small. Partially due to the uptick in 125cc playbikes sparked by the Honda Grom, but also due to the proliferation of Chinese motorcycles all powered by little engines. Those two clues should give you an idea of the kind of bikes you’ll see in the coming pages.
It really is a fine line between open-minded and cheap, between hip and hopeless, betwixt trending and tanking … and if you ride a scooter, you ride the razor’s edge, my friend. Obviously one has to be secure in one’s man or womanhood to even begin; my male college kid won’t be seen in the same garage with any scooter for fear it will dilute his musk. At the cool end of the scale, there’s our photographer/filmmaker/ballet dancer friend Richard Wright, who also finds time to head up the Bevery Hills Scooter Club and tear up Latigo Canyon on his bored-out Aprilia 250. At the other end, well, there’s yours truly on the Kymco Downtown 300i. How’s that for segue?
As far as scooters go, the Piaggio BV350 i.e. had me pretty excited. The reasoning is simple: its 330cc engine is the largest in this class (I don’t include the Suzuki Burgman 400 due to its maxi-scoot size and price), and Piaggio’s marketing materials highlighted it as being the best of both words – having the power of a bigger scoot with the maneuverability of a smaller one. If I may make this stretch of a comparison, the BV350 has a similar charm as the Suzuki GSX-R750 in that it feels like a hot-rodded version of a smaller bike without the restraint required on a bigger one.
Maybe it’s the Matte Black color that leaves me cold, but I find it hard to get excited about the new SYM Citycom 300i when it’s sitting in my driveway. Its appearance does nothing for me. An old advertising slogan coined for the VW Beetle way back in my youth keeps going through my head: “No style never goes out of style.” However, if I skip over my antipathy for the Citycom’s looks and throw a leg over the saddle – or should I say through the cockpit – the 300i turns from a wallflower into a remarkably competent city scoot.
The Lightweight Nakeds Comparo we did last September was such a hoot we decided to do it again on a few more little thumper/screamers. Flying around sunny SoCal’s freeways and mountain roads like little white blood cells fighting pathogens and boredom in your cardiovascular system is what we do best, flitting from Starbucks to Starbucks, letting the lattes fall where they may.
Whether we admit it or not, most of us crave the familiar. SYM? Never heard of it. How could it be any good? In fact, Sanyang Industries has been cranking out vehicles since the ’50s in Taiwan. After inking a deal with Honda in 1962 to begin assembling motorcycles, it started stamping out Civics in 1977. In 2002, it split from Honda and partnered up with Hyundai, who also makes pretty nice automobiles these days. Sanyang also has a deal with King Long, which builds Chinese buses (and whose name can’t be beat), as well as a deal with Mahindra in India.