The 2012 SYM Wolf Classic 150 (top) is made in Taiwan and Cleveland CycleWerks’ tha Misfit is made in China.
You and I get it: scooters are cool. That’s why you’re here, browsing Moto-USA’s scooter reviews. But since we’re friends, we can admit it: there’s something a little geeky, a little square about riding a scooter. But we overlook that because scooters are just so fun, convenient and easy to ride.
But in many places around the world, a motorcycle is the choice for urban transportation, and that makes sense, too. A small motorcycle is light, cheap, great on gas and with its more robust suspension, longer wheel travel and flexible manual gearbox, a little better for the busted-up pavement and other obstacles inner cities feature. So if we enjoy getting around town on our scooters, we (okay, mostly me, but M-USA’s editorial staff did sign off on the story) thought you may also get off on one of these two takes on classic cafe-racer style, one from Taiwan, the other from mainland China.
Not only are the bikes from the same corner of the globe, they share a common motor ancestor, have similar weights and are priced within two hundred dollars of each other. So how could they feel so different?
To answer that question, I’ll have to tell you about each bike. SYM’s $2999 Symwolf Classic 150 is built in Taiwan and is the more slick-looking product—not surprising, as SYM has been churning out powered two-wheelers since 1962 (when it started license-building Hondas in Taiwan), building a million two-wheelers and 35,000 automobiles annually.
I’ve been told the entire package is based on Honda’s venerable CB125, a widely copied design originally intended as a low-cost, durable, easy-to-operate machine for third-world and developed markets, and it’s clear the two bikes have similar architecture, but SYM has done plenty of development on this model. Engine capacity has been increased to 149.4cc, and the simple, reliable overhead cam has been retained. Carburetors handle fueling duties. An electric starter and CDI ignition make the bike easy to live with, and the motor is rated at almost 15 hp at the crank—not bad for a 150cc air-cooled motor.
Tha Misfit has plenty of cornering clearance and owes its styling and chassis to the work of Taiwanese firm CPI.
The chassis is also upgraded. It’s still a tube-steel frame, but it also gets aluminum spoked wheels—an 18-incher in front and a 17-inch hoop in back—as well as a 240mm front disc brake with a cute little two-piston caliper and steel-braided brake line. Cheng-Shin tires keep the bike off the ground. Convenience touches include a centerstand, electric starter, tripmeter, low-fuel light, passenger footpegs and grabrail and preload-adjustable rear suspension. It weighs in at a feathery claimed wet weight of 266 pounds, and the MSRP is a buck under $3000—about as cheap as freeway-legal transportation gets.
Standard stuff, but it’s probably the styling that makes this bike special. Deep, bright paint and quality chrome festoon the sporty 3.5-gallon gas tank. Real clip-on bars clamp to the fork tubes above the triple tree, and a cafe-styled seat adds to the look. It needs rear-set footpegs to make it a real cafe bike, I know, but then you’d have no room for passenger pegs and where’s the fun in that?