There’s nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a gridlock with your car, jealously eyeing the motorcyclists who zip through the traffic while you sit boxed in with no hope of escape.
With ever worsening traffic jams causing major frustration, the prospect of commuting to work by motorcycle is becoming ever more attractive, if only to maintain your sanity. Bikes are one thing, but what about scooters which are much cheaper but also far less powerful? The appeal of these little two wheelers is their ability to scoot through gaps in the rush-hour traffic and get you to work quicker, not to mention their affordability and low running costs.
To see whether it had any chance of enticing me out of my car, I recently tested one of the growing crop of cheapie Chinese scooters flooding into the country, the 150cc Big Boy Sportflite F35.
At only R8750, including a oned-year or 10 000km warranty and roadside assistance, personal transport doesn’t come much cheaper than this. The Sportflite is fairly well featured, with a more comprehensive instrument panel than you’d expect at the price including a speedometer, fuel gauge, digital clock and battery voltage display.
It has a decent-sized storage area under the flip-up seat to accommodate some shopping, large enough to stash a helmet. The Chinese scooter is attractively styled with neatly-fitted plastic panels, and LED turn indicators. There’s no chain to oil as the rear wheel is driven by a belt, but the maintenance schedule is quite busy as it requires a service every three months or 2000km.
The Sportflite is fiendishly easy to ride, and even people who’ve never ridden a motorcycle before will feel instantly at home in the saddle. Just slide on, thumb the electric start, yank the twist grip and off you go. It’s super light and nimble, and there aren’t any gears to worry about as the Big Boy Sportflite has a continuously variable transmission.
The only controls are the throttle and brakes located on the handlebars - your feet don’t do any work at all.
The ride is quite harsh with those small wheels though, and this scooter didn’t take kindly to speedhumps and rough roads, which exposed some flimsiness from the frame. The brakes, which feature discs front and rear, are impressively effective. The Sportflite runs on the smell of a fuel rag and the tiny 6.3-litre fuel tank should give a range of up to 250km.
So would I give up my car? Not quite yet. The Sportflite proved very handy on short trips such as nipping off to the local shops, but on longer commutes, especially those that involved freeways, it felt just a little too underpowered. On a downhill the 150cc bike’s top speed is an indicated 95km/h, the general cruising speed is closer to 75km/h while on some uphills the scooter barely reaches 60.
This kind of pace makes you a sitting duck on freeways or urban thoroughfares as cars, minibuses and trucks scream past, making you feel as if you’ve accidentally wandered into a Formula One race. More power is required - perhaps at least a 250cc motor - to tackle open roads.
But I reckon a scooter such as this will make a lot of sense once the highway robbery kicks in (aka the electronic tollgates on Gauteng freeways) when the alternative routes become clogged with traffic. - Mercury Motoring