Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sym Wolf Classic 150

In thinking about finding a second motorcycle to support my well worn Triumph Bonneville on my 50 mile commute I looked further afield than the elderly Vespa 200 that I eventually settled on.

One retro ride that caught my eye was this Sym Wolf Classic 150, which uses a simple four stroke engine based on the immortal Honda CB 125 from the 1970s. Sanyang Industry Ltd, is a highly respected Taiwanese company founded in 1961 that has built countless small engines for manufacturers and now builds it's own lines of successful two wheelers. In the US they are represented by Alliance Powersports which is building a network of dealers after a disastrous warehouse fire set back the company's expansion efforts.

At the moment Key West's dealer is the badly run Honda shop that the owner is moving to White Street which is where I found this delightful example of the little motorcycle.

I like the details on this motorcycle which is offered at a buck under three thousand dollars. Front disc brake, drum rear, nicely angled clip-on handlebars, full instrumentation and even gaiters on the forks to give that old time look and protect the suspension, just like I have on my Bonneville.

This is a motorcycle so there is maintenance to be done. Tubed tires no doubt with the spokes are a struggle to replace for a wuss like me, a clean four stroke engine has two valves to check and a cam chain to adjust, and fairly frequently in an old fashioned engine like this, every four thousand miles, easy enough but still a fiddle. Change the engine oil every two thousand miles, and then there is always the final drive chain to lubricate and adjust of course, all of which is absent on the P200E Vespa referred to above as my future commuter.

The finish on this machine is good but delivery messed something up on the fuel tank paint:

It's got all the practical touches, center and side stand, grab rail for the passenger and a nice range of colors, seen on their website: Sym USA. Consider also a 3.3 gallon tank at 80mpg will give a real range of 240 miles which is superb.

With a rated top speed of 65mph, not unlikely I think, and possibly 85mpg this is a fine machine for the Keys and anyone with a use for a small bike that will likely give decades of service just like the CB125 by Honda from forty years ago.

I remain a fan of the Vespa concept for my needs but I have to recognize not every rider wants to be seen on a scooter, and many riders enjoy the frequent fiddling of routine maintenance. If this bike goes into a rental fleet I may very well take one for a day and see how it goes. Splendidly, no doubt.

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Bike Week Key West 2012

I noticed a big orange sign in front of Boondocks, the Ramrod Key bar that welcomes people participating in the Poker Run from Miami. That was the hint that first gave me an inkling that this might be Bike Week once again. Then I started to spot elderly gentlemen promenading on the highway. Lots of them.

The Poker Run involves picking up a card at various establishments down the highway then playing them in Key West to win a hand and a prize. That's the ostensible reason for making the ride down the Keys in the deadest season of the year.

It's big business this time of year but not everyone enjoys the motorcycles, as these are mostly hardcore pirates with straight pipes which make a great deal of noise.

The routine is for the majority of the motorcycles get lined up on Lower Duval which is blocked off for them, and by Sunday they'll be leaving.

Key West is used to managing the flow and because this is the low low visitor season other traffic is light which is good for the motorcycles.

Nevertheless these big old cruisers seem to overwhelm some of their riders. This machine on William Street kept me idling in my car for quite a while while he blocked the narrow street trying to maneuver into a car-sized parking spot. My 500 pound Bonneville is like a toy compared to these monsters, and I don't envy them their bulk.

Even as the town fills up with thousands (20,000 the Chamber of Commerce hoped) of Harleys and a few other minor brands, the local fleet of hard working two wheelers claim a few dark corners for themselves.

There is quite a lot of free motorcycle parking around town, even away from Duval.

And parking is art and parcel of the main reason for gathering in Key West - standing around talking about motorcycles.

I like the "Biker..." signs that sprout everywhere. The term refers in the popular imagination to Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen and the Sons of Anarchy.

Not really this lot, wilting in the 85 degree humidity, poor dears.

Lots of gleaming chrome, no rust, no wear and tear on these Chariots of the Gods, thundering like Vulcan at his celestial forge.

The forces of Law and Order are on High Alert trying to keep speeding down and prevent bad driving practices. Very dreary for those of us who like to speed under the radar, just a little, on our way to work.

Locals ride appropriately as they know where the radar lurks.

I shall do my best to blend in as I commute this week. I shall take no pleasure in hearing at work how many "no eye protection" tickets the officers give out on the streets of Key West. I am just an'umble dispatcher and ride with a proper motorcycle endorsement, eye protection and valid tag. And I shan't be speeding either.

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