CLASSIC COMMUTING
“Scooters are not motorcycles”. Whoops, here we go again! Didn’t we settle this in the article “Are They Or Aren’t They”? Well, yes, but I didn’t say that – I was quoting Jason, the owner-operator of Scootaholic. Well, I’m misquoting him, because he didn’t actually say that. What he actually said (in a recent newspaper article) was, “We don’t sell motorcycles, trail-bikes or ATVs – only scooters and scooter-related accessories.” He was emphasising the fact that his business is a scooter-specialist operation. As for scooters being – or not being – motorcycles, well, as the riding-acquaintance I mentioned in that article said, “They are motorbikes; just a different type of motorbike.”
I’m sure Jason would agree; and it sums up my impressions after test-riding a couple of scooters he provided for me. They are motorcycles, but they are very different to a “normal” bike.
Scooters had been sadly missing from the list of bikes I’d tested. One of our readers has owned a few scooters, with his current ride being a Suzuki Burgman 650, and had long been encouraging me to test some scooters. As had a couple of other readers. But it took a while to get the opportunity. It’d been a long time since I’d ridden a scooter; in fact I can’t remember what the last one I rode was. So I didn’t want to go to a city dealer and just take off into city traffic. Give me somewhere quiet to get used to them! But regional dealers either didn’t have anything suitable available for test, or I didn’t have the time to ride one, and so time passed by. But finally I went to Scootaholic, a scooter specialist located in a quiet suburb. They deal in SYM and LML brands. And all the scooters they have in stock are available for test-ride.
This suited me perfectly. While I’d like to have a good run on one of the maxis, I also wanted to test-ride something that fitted the more traditional role – a small-capacity city runabout. But I wanted something with modern engineering – such as proper motorcycle-type suspension, and wheels that don’t look like they belong on a wheel-barrow. That ruled out LNL, but SYM fitted those requirements perfectly.
Okay, firstly a bit of background on SYM. The company that makes them, Sanyang Industries, has its headquarters in Taiwan and can trace its origins back to 1954. They began making scooters in 1961. (“SYM” stands for “SanYang Motors”). They were introduced into Australia in 1999. They produce a wide range of scooters, from 50cc up to 300cc. They are made in either Taiwan or China. The Taiwan-made machines have an impressive 4-year warranty, while the China-made models carry the more usual 2-year warranty.
Now, which one to ride? Not the 50cc ones; and Scootaholic didn’t stock them anyway. The 125 models seemed like a good choice. There are two of those; the Orbit, and the slightly fancier looking Classic. Both are exactly the same under the skin, but the Classic, which costs an extra $500, comes with more, well, "classic" styling, including a windscreen. I thought it looked good, so that was the one I chose.

IN THE DRIVEWAY
As befits the “Classic” name, the styling has a retro look about it. In the brochure they use phrases like “iconic moment in history” and “the elegance of days gone by”. With the silver paintwork and sandy-coloured seat I think it looks quite classy. I like it!
Underneath the retro bodywork is modern componentry. Suspension runs proper motorcycle type forks up front, with twin-shocks holding up the rear. The engine is an air-cooled 4-stroke, driving the usual CVT transmission. The whole engine-transmission unit is mounted direct to the rear wheel, and pivots off the back of the frame. Wheels are a sensible 12”.
A couple of things are a given with scooters; ease of getting on, and luggage capacity. And the Classic scores pretty well with both. Getting on is, of course, just a matter of stepping-through. Once you’ve stepped through and sat down you find the seat is a comfortable place to be; although I did feel that it sloped down towards the front a bit. Perhaps that’s to stop you from sliding backwards at high speed? Err, probably not!
Controls are all where you expect them to be, and are easy to use. On the dash-panel are two gauges. On the left is a big speedo, ambitiously numbered to 140kph. Interestingly, it is also graduated in mph, with the equivalent maximum being something over 80mph.
On the right is a fuel-gauge. Along the top are lights for indicators and high-beam. All very functional and easy to read.
The seat is unlocked by turning the key to the appropriate spot on the ignition-switch. Unusual, but fine once you know that’s how it’s done.
The under-seat storage isn’t the biggest I’ve seen on a scooter, but then it isn’t a big scooter either. There’s plenty of room for a bag of shopping, along with all those other odds-and-sods that we practical types like to carry with us. There’s a rack as standard, and a colour-coded top-box is available as an optional extra. Very practical!
It might be cheap, but you don’t want it stolen while you’re having your coffee or buying the groceries; so SYM have provided some useful anti-theft devices. There’s a steering-lock of course, and under the seat is an isolator security switch to further disable it while you’re away. 
I mentioned the warranties above, and that’s a pretty good indication of quality. The Classic is one of the two-year warranty models, but there is still a feel of quality about it. Chinese it might be, but it’s a world away from some of the cheap-and-nasty stuff; this feels very good!

OUT ON THE ROAD
Okay, time to take it out on the road. Firing it up is a matter of just pressing a button. Yep it’s all very easy, no prodding about with a kick-starter; although there is a kick-starter if you need it. The engine makes a pleasant sound. It’s only a little engine and only has a little sound, but it’s quite pleasant, in that “smooth sewing-machine” type way.
It produces just over 6kW; so performance is obviously going to be pretty limited. To put it into perspective, the little scoot weighs about half the weight of my road-bike, and has less than a tenth of the power. (By the way, the 50cc version has just over 2kW; I can’t imagine how slow that would be! You’d need a packed-lunch just to get out the driveway!). On the subject of comparisons, the first trail-bike I bought was a Yamaha DT125, which I bought new in 1977; and that had 8kW. That mightn’t sound much difference, but when you’re talking these numbers it’s an advantage of 25%! But then it was a 2-stroke. There are a couple of other 125cc scooters that have one or two extra horses over the SYM too; but really, it’s in the same ball-park as the rest. (Quite a few brands don’t tell you the output figures either). Of course, high performance is not what these machines are about; they’re about tootling around the city, nipping down to the shops, that sort of thing. So let’s see how well it does that.
Taking off is a pretty leisurely affair; as you’d expect. Twist the throttle and the centrifugal clutch slowly engages, then you begin moving forwards. Slowly. I’d recommend ensuring you have a big gap in the traffic before pulling out! (Try darting out in front of that fast-approaching semi and you’ll end up being a very expensive hood-ornament!). Once underway acceleration is better, and about what you’d expect given the power and weight figures. For what it is, and its intended purpose, it’s fine. Try to hurry it a bit though and you can easily find you’re giving it full throttle.
Once it’s up to speed it cruises along quite nicely. At 60kph it felt quite happy, and it got to 80kph a couple of times without straining too much. (I didn’t have an opportunity to try winding it out any further than that).
My only real reservation about performance would be when crossing multi-lane intersections and busy roundabouts etc where you often need a bit of instant acceleration. That could get a bit scary I reckon.
I said at the top that it is very different to a normal bike; and you notice this as soon as you move off. The relatively small wheels don’t provide much gyroscopic effect, so I went wobbling off down the street until I got used to the feel of it. Once I did get used to it – which didn’t take very long – I felt fairly confident with it, and even slow feet-up U-turns were easy.
I didn’t have any trouble getting used to the back brake lever being where the clutch lever normally is, but it did feel weird not doing anything with my feet!
Speaking of brakes, at first they felt a bit weak; until I began using more back brake, then they were okay. The front brake is disc, but it’s a bit weak on its own; it needs the back brake applied too. This is another area where it is different to a normal bike. On normal bikes the front brake is the most powerful and the one you use most. On this the back brake – despite being only a drum – feels the stronger of the two and is the one you use most. So it’s kind of back-to-front to a normal bike. (I suppose cruisers tend towards this, but nowhere near to the same extent).
Riding out the driveway I could feel the bumps in the concrete, so I was expecting the ride out on the road to be fairly harsh; but it wasn’t.
The small wheels hit bumps harder of course, so initially you feel the bumps more but the suspension does a pretty good job of smoothing them out. Hitting bumps in corners tended to make it feel a bit skittish, but over-all I was quite impressed with the ride. My test-ride was only short, and involved suburban back-roads, but there were enough bumps and rough patches in the bitumen to give the ride a reasonable test.
The roads I took it on also involved a section of tight corners. Here again it felt very different to a normal bike. If you’ve never ridden a scooter it’s hard to describe. On a bike you counter-steer, and move your weight slightly, perhaps shifting weight through your feet on the pegs; but scooters feel different. Your feet aren’t doing anything; counter-steering kind of works but that’s not what you do. You kind of lean the bike underneath you. As I said, hard to describe, especially if you’ve never ridden a scooter, but something you get used to fairly quickly.
Impressively, there was no tram-lining over ridges and cracks in the road. I expected it to suffer from that, given the small wheels, but it was totally straight and stable over these irregularities. The tyres are a decent width, for the size of the machine, so I suppose that helps.
So there it is – The Old Bloke’s first test-ride of a scooter! When I left the shop I was wobbling along like a learner on a monkey-bike, but when I came back I turned into the driveway feet-up and easy all the way to the parking spot. As I’ve said a few times now, you get used to it pretty quickly.
I liked it! Sure, the power and performance is pretty marginal, and you do feel the effect of the small wheels, but the SYM Classic is a good thing, and does what it says on the box. If anything it’s probably better than I expected.
It’s good value too. Pay much less than this and you’re getting into the cheap-and-nasty type stuff; but it’s still less than some other more prominent brands. If I was buying a scooter I’d be giving the SYM range a very serious look. And this Classic, with its retro styling and classy look, I reckon really makes it a good choice in the 125cc market.   

SNAPSHOT
A classic-styled scooter that looks good, and works well in the 125cc category. It's comfortable, and rides pretty well too. Lack of power could possibly be a problem in frantic traffic and big multi-lane intersections I reckon; but then that's probably true of all scoots in this engine-size. Quality is good and that makes it great value for money.

SPECIFICATIONS:
Engine: single cylinder, 124cc. Power: 6.25kW at 8,000rpm. Torque: 8.33Nm at 6,500rpm.
Gearbox: CVT
Fuel capacity: 5 litres.
Weight: 109kg (dry).
Seat height: 740mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 110 X 12”, Rear: 120 X 12”
Brakes:  Front: 190mm disc. Rear: drum.
Price: $3,490 on-road.
Test Bike From: Scootaholic.

Ridden 2010

UPDATE: 2013.
No changes here, apart perhaps from the paint. Silver doesn’t appear to be an option now.
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