After visiting Dealer Expo twice, I feel entirely justified in questioning the quality of Chinese scooters just based on build quality and looks, but I’ve had limited experience actually riding them. This weekend, I got the chance to ride a cousin’s “Boss” brand Chinese scooter (Qingqi, maybe?). Aside from the steering column’s desire to whip to the left or right if nudged more than a few degrees from center, and a less-than-peppy engine, it wasn’t the worst bike I’ve ever ridden… until I tried to stop.
Good brakes are critical on a motorcycle or scooter, especially on the front wheel. This scooter’s prominent fork decals promised “ABS,” which got me wondering. She paid $1300 for it and ABS usually costs $500 or more as an option, is available only on top-tier maxiscooters, and and involves a pretty sophisticated computerized control unit and sensors.
The point of ABS is to maintain maximum braking power while preventing your brakes from locking up. It’s common in cars and starting to take over the motorcycle world, though detractors claim that even the best ABS systems create a false sense of security, and that they may reduce stopping distance in an emergency.
Turns out my suspicion was justified. Chinese scooter ABS consists of a mechanism that basically prevents you from applying the brakes quickly, which is just silly and dangerous. POC Phil explains it better on his $999 Chinese scooter warning page:
…when you apply the brakes HARD, they open a valve that dumps about 50% of the braking energy away from the brake calipers. These systems are DANGEROUS and result in losing half of your braking energy when you need it the most. In the worst case scenarios we’ve seen these systems get jammed up, completely locking the front or rear wheel causing the scooter to lose control and pitching the rider to the road.
I can’t speak from experience to the jamming problem, but the braking distance was embarrassing for a modern scooter with a disc brake. the 30-year-old barely-functioning front drum brake on my Vespa Primavera works better, and I get nervous riding around on that one. If you’re riding a Chinese scooter with “ABS,” see if it’s possible to bypass the “ABS” system, stat.
Is her scooter a worthless piece of junk? Maybe not, it was fun zipping around the subdivision, and it started right up after 8 months in the garage, but why cut corners when your safety is at risk? For several hundred bucks more, she could have had a well-engineered, safer, much more attractive bike that goes faster and handles loads better. Once again, you get what you pay for, caveat emptor, etc.