Gomoto Supermoto - get there grinning
Cape Town - Gomoto seems to be finding its feet as a brand; its first offerings on the South African market were clones of 1960's Hondas - durable, affordable, easy to ride and about as stylish as rice pudding.
But these days the guys at Gomoto don't take themselves so seriously any more; our previous test machine from this company was the distinctly attitudinous Nippi scooter - now Gomoto has come up with the 200cc Supermoto.
OK, mechanically it's still based on old Honda technology - a 193.3cc, air-cooled, SOHC engine with one carburettor, two valves and five speeds - but it's housed in a sturdy, tubular-steel, monoshock frame with upside-downies for the front wheel and a gas-charged monoshock at the rear.
It has twin-piston disc brakes at each end and seriously funky styling, kicked up at the rear with the tailpipe exiting just to the right of the tail light and a cute fly-screen around the rectangular headlight and minimalist instrument pod.
It comes with scarlet plastics - or black all over if that's the message you want to send - and projects a lot of street cred, perhaps more than the mechanical bits can live up to.
This is not, after all, a fire-breathing, half-litre monster but a 10.5kW, mildly buzzy street bike. Nevertheless, it cranks out a useful 13Nm at 7500rpm and accelerates briskly through the gears up to a true 108km/h, with the speedometer needle deep in the no-man's land beyond 120.
It will cruise happily, with just the faintest tingling through bars and pegs, at an indicated 100km/h all day - or as long as your butt will hold out on the firm, narrow, enduro-style seat - promising more than 300km on the contents of its eight-litre fuel tank.
It has wide, off-road handlebars, a tight 1400mm wheelbase and a pretty steep steering-head angle, so the Supermoto turns in like a ridgeback after a rabbit - especially if you steepen the steering still further by hitting the front brake hard and using most of the front suspension's 90mm of travel in the ensuing nosedive.
The brakes' floating callipers are also old technology but the Supermoto comes with stainless-steel braided hoses that give the brakes instant response and accurate modulation.
The combination of sharp braking and quick steering makes this narrow little bike capable of changing direction at lightning speed.
Sensitive to sidewinds
The other side of that coin, of course, is that the Gomoto becomes a little twitchy at high speed and is more sensitive to crosswind than a slower-steering bike would be.
Just don't hang on to the handlebars like grim death - a light touch on the grips makes most of the misbehaviour go away.
The seating position is great for around-town hooliganising and the lowest point of the saddle is directly above the short, tucked-in footpegs that are, unfortunately, mounted on under-engineered brackets - those on the test bike were drooping before its first service at 1000km - and the rear brake lever is too short, too high and too far out.
It was almost impossible to place my right foot comfortably without applying a little rear brake all the time, with deleterious effects on both the brake pads and the bike's performance; I usually wound up with just my toes on the footpeg, which became awkward after awhile.
The reach to the bars is very short so you find yourself leaning into the bike with elbows aggressively akimbo - even if you're just going to the corner café for milk 'n eggs.
That positions your head directly over the cute (but easily legible) little speedometer in its angular pod, along with the usual clutch of warning lights - including a neutral light which came on twice while the bike was in second on the day I got it but never again thereafter.
Must have been me, I s'pose.
There's no rev-counter - motards generally don't have them - so you soon learn to change by ear. The Gomoto seems to run out of puff quite soon after its power peak anyway so there's nothing to be gained by revving the nuts off it.
Motards also have spoked wheels; unfortunately Gomoto's early GT125 models quickly gained a (deserved) reputation for corrosion on the poorly cadmium-plated spokes, which is why current models from this company have cast alloy wheels - except for the Supermoto.
The test bike's spokes were already showing signs of the dreaded cancer after 800km; the only way to cure it is to specify stainless-steel spokes, which would add appreciably to the bike's price.
The Supermoto is nevertheless a big step up for Gomoto; it's more than affordable, workaday transport - it has style and streetwise character all its own.
Commuting on it tells the world you ride a bike not because it's economical and practical but because it's fun- which is why I arrived at work every morning for a week with a naughty grin on my face.
Some bikes do that for you.
- Test bike from Gomoto SA.