Our good friend Phil Waters of Pride of Cleveland Scooters (POC) sent us his impressions of a CF Moto/Baron V5, a 250cc automatic motorcycle, that came into his shop for service:
“First it’s a candy, then it’s a gum!”
This doesn’t seem to work as well with automatic motorcycles. What Honda did so well with the Hondamatic 30 years ago is being re-introduced by the Chinese, in a typically Chinese fashion.
The CF Moto V5 is currently being distributed by Big Jim’s Wholesale, who has recently taken on the more scooter-friendly name of TwinCityScooters.com.
We’ve been considering bringing them in as a line here at POC and talked to their reps at Indy. Their bikes had intrigued me, but I was skeptical about the quality.
According to the website:
“The bike features a 250cc liquid cooled engine with plenty of power for highway cruising as well as running around town. Other features include a built in MP3 player (you supply the memory stick) with external weatherproof controls. The unique, stylish look is sure to turn heads.”
“This motorcycle is shipped in the original manufacturer’s shipping box by truck. Light assembly is required. Front wheel and handle bars need to be installed for the bike to be road ready. This should take about an hour to complete. We offer two assembly options: Basic and Premium. It might be interesting to note that, the premium option may enable you to acquire a cheap monthly auto insurance plan due to insurance companies acknowledging the safety features. During basic assembly, we put fuel in the gas tank and start the unit up to make sure that everything is connected properly and there are no gas or oil leaks. We also inflate the tires, adjust the brakes, fill up the battery with acid and charge it up. We then reinstall the bike back into the factory crate and you will be responsible for installing the front wheel and handle bars. Basic assembly adds $100 to the final price. Premium assembly includes complete full assembly, road test and everything stated above with the basic service. When you receive an premium assembled motorcycle from us, you can turn the key and drive it right away. If you would like premium assembly service please add $400 to the final price of the bike. With premium assembly, we do not use the original factory crate. We build a new custom crate to accommodate the larger size of the bike. If you’re not mechanically inclined, either of our assembly services are well worth the price.”
So, in short, for $100 you get it shipped EXACTLY as it arrives at their warehouse, except they pop a charged battery in it and fire it up. For $400 you can get an actual road tested unit. I’ve got a problem with this, as the Ohio BMV Dealer laws clearly state that EVERY motorcycle sold in the State of Ohio must be test-ridden and inspected for safe operation. I can’t believe we’re the only state that has this stipulation, therefore their claims of being legal in all 50 states should contain at minimum some sort of disclaimer that you must opt for the $400 assembly option. Or, they should advise customers in those states their only option is the $400 assembly option.
The guys at Big Jim’s were kind enough to give a customer my name as a service supplier (their website says they won’t pay for any labor not at their shop during their warranty period). The warranty form says they will ship me any parts I need to fix the scooter. Working on this bike, we got a good chance to evaluate it.
First off, we noted that it was leaking a LOT of oil. You do NOT want to be the person who has to track down an oil leak on one of these vehicles. This is essentially a 250cc scooter motor (a Chinese copy of the Honda Helix motor) cobbled into a motorcycle frame, and all of the truly ugly (important/rusty) bits are covered up by plastic panels. Just about every panel has to come off this thing to get to any part that actually makes it function.
The oil leak was tracked down to a faulty oil line that was assembled without a required seal. This caused the bike to constantly leak oil directly into the path of the rear tire.
Now, the test ride. First thing to note: it has the exact same riding position as a Honda VLX 600. That is where the comparison officially ends. The floorboards are weird-at-best, and the passenger pegs are really chintzy. The seat padding was not capable of suspending my butt off the plastic pan. The suspension is soft at best, and bottoms out way too easily. I weigh 200 lbs., and had to adjust the preload to the maximum setting before taking it into traffic. Do not attempt to hold your speed through a turn unless it is glass-smooth. This thing wallows like a pig and immediately falls into an oscillation that makes you wonder if there are big rubber bands where the springs should be.
The stereo system is cleverly mounted on the upper triple clamp. The unit is not very easy to use as there is NO display to tell you if it’s still searching for a station, what station it is on, or if it’s just locked on white noise. The FM radio is only practical while you are not riding — the RF interference from the electronics on the bike become your new theme music. “Screeeeeeeeeee-wheeeeeeeeeeeeee,” and it changes pitch with the rpms like some sort of audio tachometer. Wearing a helmet, you can hear the radio clearly up to about 30 mph. After that you have to crank those tiny Chinese speakers to the point of distortion to hear what’s going on. OK, so you’re not buying it for the stereo — at least I hope not — unfortunately, they made it one of the defining features of the motorcycle. They even gave the speakers lovely chrome wings. These items are less manly than Elton John’s tennis helmet.
If you’ll remember from above, the website clearly states “The bike features a 250cc liquid cooled engine with plenty of power for highway cruising as well as running around town.” I’m actually surprised, the speedo seems to be in tune with my GPS. Most Asian products run 10% high. It’s accurate all the way up to an indicated 60 mph. That’s where you hit the wall. Try as you may, it will not crack 60. I’ve ridden just about everything that carries a 250cc liquid-cooled motor and this is by far the most lethargic of the bunch. I wouldn’t tolerate a 150cc bike that couldn’t hit 60, and here’s a 250cc liquid-cooled unit that barely crawls to that speed. I would have liked to report the 0-60 time, unfortunately my timer only goes up to one minute and I didn’t actually hit 60mph within that time. This bike does NOT belong on the highway, and was destroyed in an eighth-mile drag race by a Buddy 125. In its defense, all of the marketing material for this bikes clearly claims a top speed of 100 kph/60 mph. They’re not lying to anyone, you just have to realize what you’re buying.
Okâ€¦ leaks oil, slow, wonky radio, weak and potentially dangerous suspensionâ€¦ other than that is it ok?
No, we have not been able to make this bike operate for more than 10 minutes without significant overheating. At first we noted the thermostat-controlled fan wasn’t coming on. I was able to track that problem down to a faulty sending unit. Once we got the fan working correctly it was still overheatingâ€¦ it just took it a few minutes longer. Bikes with poorly-designed cooling systems or weak coolant pumps often need “burped” to get the air pockets out of the cooling system. We purged all the air pockets from the system at every possible location, but the bike still overheats — especially while sitting at a stop light after a 10 minute cruise. We decided to test the coolant and, as we’ve seen in most Chinese bikes, this bike shipped with what appears to be urine in the radiator. The glycol refractometer and hydrometer both showed the fluid to be nearly useless as a coolant. We replaced it with a good coolant and found that the overheating has now been reduced to only about every 20 minutes now. Still not acceptable. But at least the owner will be able to get to work.
The customer who brought this in has spent $3000 plus $100 for “set-up” and testing. My work is going to set him back about another $150. He has purchased a vehicle that tops out at 60 mph, has a limited (at best) parts supply, virtually no dealer support, and he’s beginning to feel taken advantage of.
Had he purchased a Kawasaki Ninja 250 brand new for the exact same price, he would have excellent nationwide dealer and parts support, a proven motorcycle that tops out well over 85 mph, a 12-month warranty that can be extended to 48 months, and I’d venture to say he’d be riding right now instead of investigating what he’ll have to do to get his money back.
I’m sure there will be a bunch of folks who jump up to defend the CF Moto V5, usually those folks are dealers, or people who just shelled out money and now feel the need to defend their purchase. Remember, we were supposed to redesign cities for the Segway, if only we’d obeyed the marketing guys.
As always; Caveat Emptor.
Pride Of Cleveland Scooters
2078 W. 25 St. Cleveland, Ohio 44113
216-737-0700 / Fax 216-737-0078
Thanks, Phil! In the interest of disclosure, we remind you that Phil is a scooter dealer and sells products that compete with Baron/CF Moto products, but even so, we at 2sb value his opinion above just about all others. Another side note: The CF Moto logo is also a solid clue towards the amount of careful thought that went into the machine.