August 13, 2009
Phil Waters from POC Scooters had the chance to take a road trip on SYM’s Wolf 150, here’s his report:
Ever since we first spotted the SYM Wolf 150 at DealerExpo in Indianapolis in February, we’ve been pretty well enamored with it. Some of us readily admit that our love of scooters goes hand in hand with our love of motorbikes so seeing the resurgence of the small displacement motorcycle is pretty important to us.
When Suzuki unveiled the TU250X, “The bike that nobody noticed,” it got me all hot n’ bothered because, say what you will… there wasn’t anything wrong with the 1974 Honda CB125S.
SYM took a chance by unveiling a pre-DOT, pre-EPA bike covered in Engrish — “Best Function” prominently displayed on the side of the gas tank probably would have gotten a taste of my heat gun before being viewed by potential dealers and customers. I made it clear to my SYM rep that I wanted one ASAP so I could see what it was all about. With AMA Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio Racetrack coming up, it was the perfect time to put my plan in motion.
We offered to split our booth with SYM products in exchange for the chance to hang on to the Wolf for over a week and take it to the Detroit scooter rally. I did my best to play it cool the whole AMA weekend and managed to not joyride the thing all over the place. Nope, not excited one bit… business as usual. That ended when I got it home Sunday night in my very quiet neighborhood. I can tell you it wheelies easily in first and can be coaxed into lifting the tire in second, not too shabby. But let’s not wad up this pre-production demo bike on its first night.
The first thing you notice about the Wolf is that it loves to rev… seriously, you can just wring the crap out of this thing. It feels more like an electric motor than any sort of reciprocating piston. Optimum shift point seems to be around 9000 or 10,000 rpm. Doing so will have you launching from the lights with very few folks keeping up with you. 53 km on the motor? Let’s jump on the freeway! The speedo indicated 130 kph on my first blast to work, which seemed unbelievable. We’d need the GPS for this one. My best honk was GPS confirmed 82 mph, full tuck, tailwind. There’s a lot going on from those 150cc’s at 80+ with a 210lb+ rider on board. I can best compare this bike to a Honda CB200 in power, but it’s more modern-handling, and the brakes are perfect.
After a week of commuter duty and getting huge thumbs up from James and Renae who both proclaimed it “best city bike” we decided to ride it to the Detroit Rovers’ Scooter Rally. Showing a little over 400 kms on the odometer, I changed the oil, which showed small metal particles and shavings consistent with other 150s we’ve tested. With a small backpack full of the essentials, Merritt jumped on a new (less than 30 miles) Royal Enfield C5 and I climbed on the Wolf. We thought we’ve give it a try on the freeway first to see if it was safe and reasonable to try to make the entire trip at highway speeds. Holding the GPS at 65 seemed to be the butter-zone. The bike was turning around 7500 rpms and everything just felt “right”. The cafe-racer riding position is not comfortable for long hauls, but the long seat gives you plenty of options for scootching around. The clip-on handlebars work great for full-tuck operations and the tank is just the right height for good support with a tank bag.
I decided to give the bike a short break every 50 miles or so to keep an eye on fluids and other safety items. The Wolf never missed a beat. I had my GPS unit suction cupped to the tach, which became a problem when Merritt indicated her “fuel” light had come on. I craned my neck down to look under the GPS mount… you guessed it, fuel light “on,” brightly. We exited at 7 Mile (not a good neighborhood) where the Wolf promptly died at the top of the ramp, within sight of the “Fort Apache BP.” Leaning the bike all the way over to the left put what little fuel was left into the fuel tap, and we limped into the station. Here’s the fun part: Merritt’s Enfield took 2.9 Gallons… the Wolf took… 2.9 Gallons! Neat, both bikes were getting around 85 mpg. The GPS said we’d averaged 64 mph with a top speed of 75 mph. We arrived at the Theater Bizarre, ate well, partied well and retreated to our hotel. After breakfast the next morning we decided to skirt around Detroit, we worked our way down to Port Clinton where I was more than ready to get a good meal and swap bikes. Merritt rode the Wolf the rest of the way home on Route 6 at more sedate speeds which gave me a great opportunity to get a few pictures of her on the bike. Merritt says the bike is so small and light it’s like you are flying down the road at 65 mph with no machine beneath you. Merritt said it was unusually comfortable and easy to ride thanks to its small size, light weight, and low seat height.
We turned the bike back over to Ken from SYM with around 960 kms on the clock. I pulled the spark plug and everything looked great. My only criticism of the bike would be that it can be very difficult to find neutral (not broken in yet) and I wish they would just skip right to fuel injection. Call me a believer, I’ll be the first kid on my block with a Wolf 150 when they get released to the public.
[Editor’s note: I happen to love the “Engrish” graphics, and I don’t think the bike would have the same charm without ’em. Obviously, they’re probably going to change the graphics a bit for the U.S. market, but my worst fear is that they’ll give it some sort of horrible, pandering faux-chopper or faux-britbike graphics (like this), or (even more likely) godawful tribal decals. It’s a small, cute bike and it needs to wear its retro-Asian-ness proudly to set it apart. The scooter market may have slowed down, but this bike has the opportunity to fill a nearly-abandoned niche of commuters and ex-scooterists that want a small, inexpensive, and friendly old-school motorcycle. —illnoise]