SYM Citycom 300i: Adult entertainmentComment on this story
Bikemakers the world over are beginning to realise that not all scooteristi are spiky-haired teenagers - although a sufficient majority are to ensure that brightly-coloured cheapies with cartoon-like graphics will always be with us.
But there is also a sizable demographic of adult commuters who don't have the time to wait for public transport, or the patience to inch through the daily gridlock on four wheels. And there is a growing choice of neatly finished, well-specced scooters of 150-400cc for them, such as the SYM Citycom 300i I've been riding for the past week.
Taiwanese manufacturer SanYang's latest ticks all the adult-entertainment boxes: Large-diameter wheels for stability (16" at both ends), adequate power and speed (it gets up to 90km/h in a hurry and will easily break the national speed limit) and neat, metallic-blue paint with a pleasing absence of graphics other than some elegantly restrained badging.
It's quite large by scooter standards, scaling 184kg ready to go, but nimble steering and spirited response enable it to cut through weekday traffic almost as swiftly as the pizza-delivery loons on their 100cc Beijing Buzzbombs - if you have the nerve to follow them, that is.
But larger-diameter tyres and greater mass make it lot more stable, particularly on the rutted, cracked and potholed surfaces of our inner-city streets, giving you a more comfortable - and more relaxed - ride.
The 300i's architecture, however, is more forward-biased than most scooters of this genre; the footwell provides adequate knee-room behind the legshield but the flat floor is short and the seat well forward, forcing the rider into a comfortable but unusually upright, sit-up-and-beg seating position with a very short reach to the handlebars.
It also brings the top edge of the built-in screen to within 300mm of your face while you're riding, which is a little disconcerting on anything but a Grand Prix bike, and throws more weight than usual on to the front wheel.
The brakes, however, are firmly rear wheel-biased, as they are on almost all scooters; the front 260mm disc has a twin-piston calliper and the rear only a single, but the rear brake is a lot sharper than the front, and will lock quite easily if mishandled.
The front brake, which needs real bite on this scooter more than most, has very little, and it takes a big squeeze to haul the Citycom down. If you're carrying a passenger, using both is a pre-requisite for safe stopping distances.
The neat, easily legible instrument panel provides a lot more information than usual on a single-speeder, with analogue gauges for speed, revs and coolant temperature and a large, central liquid-crystal display with a clock, odometer, tripmeter and a bar-graph fuel gauge.
Below it there's a small, lockable storage compartment with a rather ill-fitting lid (it stands out because it's the only place where the Citycom's fit and finish is less than impressive) which houses - in addition to your keys, phone and other everyday gadgetry - the fuse-box, coolant level window and a 12V socket for charging the aforementioned gadgetry.
There's no external lock for the big storage compartment under the seat; instead, you turn the ignition key anti-clockwise from the off position to remotely unlock the seat - which means one less thing to go wrong, and makes theft a little more difficult. It is possible to store a full-face helmet under the seat, if you know how, and a large briefcase or rucksack (or camera bag, in my case) is no problem.
The Citycom 300i has a 263cc liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-valve single, with electronic ignition and fuel-injection. There's no choke, nor is one needed; starting is instant, hot or cold, and the big SYM will idle straight away (on the main-stand - extending the side-stand kills the ignition) while you put on your helmet and gloves.
Once warm, it pulls away smartly; give it a handful and it will outrun most of the GTI Joes away from the lights as the revs shoot up to 6000 and stay there while the CVT belt drive catches up. Response on the move is just as sharp; the 300i is rated at 15.4kW and 23.5Nm, and it's all there on demand.
The test bike was brand new when we got it, so we spared it the usual performance testing, except for a brief blast up to full throttle on the last day we had it, during which it got to a needle's width short of 140km/h on the speedometer (and 126 on the GPS, for a speedo error of just under 10 percent) at 8000rpm, well above the power peak at 7000 but comfortably below the redline at 9000 revs.
Conventional wisdom says that public transport is cheaper than a scooter, but that convenience and time saved make up for the extra expense.
At the time of writing a weekly train ticket from my home in Lansdowne to Cape Town cost R64 and involved a 10-minute walk at each end - nothing serious. The Citycom 300i averaged 3.7 litres per 100km over the test period which, at R9.88 a litre, means that my 15km commute to work would cost me a few cents more than R55 a week - which says more about Metrorail than it does about the scooter.
I sometimes wonder whether Taiwan has a serious problem with scooter theft.
Every Taiwanese scooter I've reviewed has had elaborate anti-theft protection, and the Citycom 300i has two.
There's a hidden security switch (and no, Cyril, I'm not going to tell you where it is) that cuts out the stop-start relay and prevents the engine from starting even if you hot-wire the ignition, and there's a hardened steel plate, operated by an octagonal section on the back of the ignition key, that prevents the ignition lock from being jimmied (and of course, also safeguards whatever you have stored under the seat).
And in the land of the affirmative shopper, that's probably more important.
The Citycom 300i is obviously aimed at adults; its smart styling and less-is-more colour palette testify to that. However, it's anything but boring to ride and it will do one thing the train won't: deliver you to work with a smile on your dial.
Price: R33 499.
Bike from: Suzuki South, Cape Town.
Engine: 263cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single.
Compression ratio: 10.0:1.
Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 15.4kW at 7000rpm.
Torque: 23.5Nm at 5500rpm.
Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Centrifugal automatic.
Transmission: Constantly variable belt drive.
Front Suspension: Conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Dual hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable for preload.
Front brakes: 260mm discs with dual-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 260mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 110/70 - 16 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 140/70 - 16 tubeless.
Seat height: 822mm.
Kerb weight: 184kg.
Fuel tank: 10 litres.
Top speed (measured): 123km/h.
Fuel consumption (measured): 3.7 litres per 100km.
Price: R33 499.
Bike from: Suzuki South, Cape Town.