2012 SYM Wolf Classic 150 Review

May 16, 2012
Gabe Ets-Hokin
Gabe Ets-Hokin
Contributing Editor |Articles |Articles RSS

Gabe Ets-Hokin is a well-known motojournalist, but he knows scooters well, too: he's been a factory sales rep for Derbi scooters, re-built a Vespa motor in room 107 at the Elvis Presley Motor Lodge in Memphis, TN and has edited several scooter buyer's guides. He unapologetically loves da' scoots.

The Symwolf Classic 150 is an economical choice, with a reasonable
pricetag set at $2,999. The vintage styling is said to be based on
Honda’s CB125, but boasts of some upgraded features.

The SYMWolf is—and you had to see this coming—a sheep in Wolf’s clothing (where tha Misfit is an angry sheep in wolf’s clothing). But that’s not a bad thing in this market segment. Although it’s about the same size as tha Misfit, the Wolf feels lighter and easier to handle, toy like, really. That may be due to the aluminum (rather than steel) wheels, or the lower seat. The suspension is soft, even with spring preload adjusted, but it still feels controlled and damped. Brakes are about as good as tha Misfit’s, which means maintaining the four-fingered squeeze coached in MSF courses is a good idea. In fact, it’s no wonder the Honda CB125 was the choice of many MSF training schools when that model was available in the USA, which should make the Wolf appealing to new riders for that reason. MSF range owners should also look into the Wolf (or tha Misfit) as training bikes.

One flaw both these machines share is footrest location. A true cafe racer has rear-set footpegs, but both these bikes have the same mid-mount location you’d find on a ’70s-era Honda standard. That makes the clip-on bars of the Wolf seem a little silly—tuck in and your elbows meet your knees—and the sleek tank of tha Misfit look out of place. CCW tells me a rear-set kit is in the works, but Wolf owners will have to make or modify their own accessories, at least for now.

Riding either bike gives you the full Third-world riding experience, requiring you to pin the throttle and work quickly through the gears to keep up with oblivious traffic surrounding you. Still, both of these bikes are well-suited for in-town riding, with light clutches, smooth-shifting gearboxes and good throttle response, allowing you to take advantage of the power that’s there. On a twisty road, the bikes are as fun as you’d expect, even if you won’t embarrass anybody on sportbikes. The light weight and wide bars mean confidence and light steering, and there’s ample cornering clearance. The no-name tires probably won’t give you the confidence to really push it in the turns, but that’s not what these bikes are about, despite the vintage boy-racer looks.

On a divided highway is where these little critters might let you down. I had no problem braving the big-rigs and negligently-piloted SUVs packing the right lanes, but a new rider might have been terror-stricken. The Wolf topped out around 60 or 65 mph, and although tha Misfit could do a bit better (although the optimistic speedometer made it hard to judge top speed), both machines strained to keep up with traffic on fast California freeways. You may want to stick to surface streets and keep your freeway jaunts limited to just a few exits, or for slower rush-hour traffic jams. Fuel range is outstanding with both machines—expect 50, 60 or even more miles per gallon (depending on how much you twist your wrist), which means the Wolf should go around 180 miles on a tank, and tha Misfit should go well over 200 miles before you have to call the AMA (what, you didn’t know AMA members who automatically renew their memberships get  free roadside assistance? Maybe you should call 800-AMA-JOIN).

So are they good alternatives to scooters? That depends on you. If all you want is utilitarian, basic transportation, a low-priced Asian-built scooter (from a reputable distributor) is going to be cheaper to run, easier to use, easier to ride and will have more storage. But these little runabouts offer two things a basic scooter doesn’t.

One is fun. You can work the gearbox, slip the clutch, do burnouts and wheelies if that’s your thing. You can also play the gearhead and soup these rides up to your heart’s content, using tuning tricks and parts that have been around since the 1960s—CCW is working with local tuner G&D Distributors to offer a line of performance add-ons like clubman bars, rearset pegs, megaphone exhausts, and a 300cc big-bore kit. Those bolt-ons promise big gains in both looks and performance (though the company is quick to point out that the engine parts are for off-road, competition use only).

The vintage styling of the Symwolf Classic 150 will be sure to turn some heads while you’re out crusing the town.

The other is the cool factor. We here reading this are secure in our man or woman-hood, and don’t feel diminished when we ride a scooter around town, but let’s face it—your average basic scooter isn’t exactly a sex machine. At best, you’ll get slightly condescending comments like “that looks like fun,” or “you must get pretty good gas mileage, eh?”, but you probably don’t need to take an extra helmet with you when you head out to the club for the evening, if you catch my drift.

Riding a small—but vintage-looking—cafe racer is different. “Where did you get that?” or “How much did that cost?” or “Did you restore that yourself?” are common questions you’ll field at the gas station, in the supermarket parking lot, even from curious bus drivers. The uneducated public sees a bike like tha Misfit or the Wolf as something that looks old, special, or collectible, and even knowledgeable enthusiasts nod sagely and ask curious questions about these bikes. The clean, simple lines and classic styling (as well as the eye-catching paint on the Wolf in these pictures) milks the nostalgia glands of anybody over 40 and stokes the imagination of younger riders as well.

And that’s a good thing, no? There are few riders who will argue that the motorcycle market needs more easy-to-ride machines, more small-displacement, bargain-priced, entry-level choices and more bikes styled with the clean, simple lines of yesteryear. The $2999 Wolf and $3195 tha Misfit hit all three targets at once, but they also offer a pretty good dollar-per-smile fun value and a unique way to get around town.

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