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’Tween Wolf

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:

merwolf1

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.

merwolf3The 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.

merwolf4I 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]

Comments

12 Responses to “’Tween Wolf”

  1. Eric AlmendralNo Gravatar on August 13th, 2009 3:46pm

    SYM is knocking them out of the park these days it seems. The Wolf and the Symba could really help distinguish them from the competition here and win some hardcore fans.

    Now what colors is it going to come in?

  2. BrookeNo Gravatar on August 13th, 2009 8:27pm

    I’m not blown over by the SYM line up, personally. But I really want to try the Wolf and see if Merritt’s description of ‘no machine beneath you’ works out for me too. That feel is what makes small scooters so great.

  3. illnoiseNo Gravatar on August 13th, 2009 11:43pm

    I think the Symba and Wolf, while both clearly derivative of more famous bikes, fill a void in the U.S. market and stand out in the sea of identical scooters out there, and they both capture the charm and friendliness of early U.S.-market Honda. The rest of their lineup is solid, but not very distinctive, and a lot of their bikes seem a bit overpriced.

  4. orinoNo Gravatar on August 14th, 2009 12:54pm

    The Wolf and the TU250 are exactly what I was looking for when I decided I wanted a motorized 2-wheeler back in 2003. But they weren’t available then. For these to be true hits, there’s going to need to be marketing outside the scooter/motorcycle universe, but if that happens, places like Portland and Austin are going to start looking like Hanoi. Or at least the traffic will…

  5. jrsjrNo Gravatar on August 14th, 2009 1:22pm

    It sounds great, but SYM has missed the mark on pricing before, noteably with the Citycom, so I’m going to have to wait and see the price. I think they could move a lot of units at the right price point. It’s really up to them…

  6. BrookeNo Gravatar on August 14th, 2009 1:37pm

    There was a short discussion about pricing on the POC FB page. I think the pricing seems OK as long as it doesn’t creep up and is the entire pre-tax price (i.e. including freight and prep). I thought it was steep compared to the market but the Japanese offerings in the range have all seemed to have moved higher over the years except it’s closest competitor, the Kawasaki EN125. So it’s probably fairly priced, if not competitively priced. Though the Kawasaki is really not as interesting as the Wolf unless you like that sort of thing.

  7. rakuchinaNo Gravatar on August 16th, 2009 12:35pm

    The adjustable rear suspension. How did that work out for the testers?

  8. pocphilNo Gravatar on August 17th, 2009 1:24pm

    The price my dealer rep stressed to me is $2999. He said they may have to lose the rear gas shocks to make that happen and go with the more simple preload only shocks found on their home market bikes.

    I’m not wholly against that, at $2999 msrp even if I have to spend an additional $300 to get those gas shocks I think it’s still a great deal. I think to get a big piece of the market they’re shooting for sticking to that $2999 is very important.

    There’s something about the $3000 price point that commands a big segment of the new bike buyer market. We see it in the shop every day folks that show up in $50,000 cars are still not willing to spend $5000+ on their FIRST scooter. They want to try it out, make sure it’s really their thing.

    We tried the suspension in the softest setting and it was too wallowy for me, but worked well for 110 lb. Renae. I set the pre-load at about 70% for me and it worked just fine.

  9. bennierzNo Gravatar on August 18th, 2009 5:51pm

    Maybe I missed this, but is the Wolf in fact, coming to the US?

  10. illnoiseNo Gravatar on August 18th, 2009 9:09pm

    bennierz, not a sure thing but they’re hoping to. It’d probably still be a while

  11. jrsjrNo Gravatar on August 20th, 2009 3:19pm

    Phil is totally right about the $2999 price point. That’s a *huge* psychological barrier in this market. One more dollar and suddenly people start saying, “Well, for only $500 more I could get a xxxxxx. Magically, that thought never seems to enter their mind if the MSRP is $2999. Even if SYM have to make the gas shocks an option (they should also remember to cover this base), they should go for it. $2999. Phil, I hope Carter SYM is listening…

  12. robertllrNo Gravatar on May 1st, 2010 12:58pm

    You may not like what you call the “faux Britbike graphics” on the picture of the 125cc Wolf you link to (“like this”) but to me that scheme is the most tasteful representation of the bike I can imagine.

    In point of fact, I own two genuine Britbikes: a 1968 Bonneville that I’ve owned almost since new, and another 1970 Triumph 650 café racer project that is shaping up a lot like the big brother of that Wolf in the picture.

    I’ve been a fan of small displacement “real” motorcycles for a long time. My daily commute is on a Kawasaki EX250, and despite the fact that my 60th birthday present to myself was an Italian super-bike (a 2004 Aprilia RSV 1000, to be exact) I still want someting even smaller than my Ninjette to show up on in the “green vehicle” area of our parking lot at work.

    If the bike comes to market here in this guise, I’ll be all over it like petrol residue on an Amal monobloc float bowl. And if it doesn’t, well I guess it’s another project bike in the garage!

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