by Stephen Heller
It seems like every week there’s a new scooter being introduced to the newly booming US scooter market. For the most part these scooters are just clones of what is already here, but with a different name and price tag. For the new scooter buyer it can make things difficult to sort out which scooter is actually worth the money, and which one isn’t worth its weight in molded plastic. For the most part, if someone is asking me which scooter they should buy, I tell them don’t buy one that you cannot get dealer support for (e.g. don’t buy an unknown brand over the internet.) Secondly, I tell the eager scooter buyer to find out how easy it is to get parts if something wears out. Because no matter how good the bike is, something will eventually wear out, and you don’t want to be left with a useless bike in the back of the garage, no matter how much you paid for it.
That being said, I think that I have found a new brand that is worthy of a look and a ride. That brand being TGB or Taiwan Golden Bee, manufactured out of, you guessed it, Taiwan. TGB has been manufacturing scooter parts for Italian and Japanese scooter companies since the late 70’s and are still the suppliers of the Constant Variable Transmissions (CVT) for Piaggio (Vespa), Suzuki and Peugeot scooters. TGB has been manufacturing and selling scooters of their own design in Asia since 1989. The US distribution of TGB is through Cobra Powersports, stirred up some press this past fall by having three riders ride 150cc delivery scooters from New York to Los Angeles to demonstrate the durability of their scooters. The 11-day, 2,800 mile trip was completed without a single mechanical failure.
The scooter that I road tested was their 50cc dual sport scooter, the 101S Adventure Series. The 101s lists at $1599, which is at the low end for prices among the established scooter manufacturers and is about $250 dollars below the list price of a Yamaha Zuma, which I would say is the scooter that the 101s is competing against. Most noticeable about the 101s is the wide, knobby 10-inch tire, which gives the scooter its dual sport look. The scooter’s style is what you would expect for something aimed at the on/off road set; tough and utilitarian. The front grill guard surrounding the square headlight reinforces the 101S’ tough style. The seating position is comfortable, and the seat is not stepped for a second passenger, so if you want to sit further back on the seat you are not sitting on a bump. A shorter person won’t have as much trouble finding a comfortable position on the seat either. I am 5’10” with an inseam of 30″ and I had no trouble touching the ground with both feet flat. That being said, at 178lbs the 101s is light enough to hold up easily with one foot on the floorboards. The 101s is well balanced from side to side and doesn’t seem top heavy at all.
On close inspection the 101s is a solid bike. The bike is built with molded plastic over a tubular frame. There are no lux features on the scooter, but all of the standards are there in a utilitarian dash, speedo, fuel gauge, indicator lights and odometer. The right handle has the switch for the electric starter and a two way kill switch. The left side has the blinker switch, horn and high-low beam. The 101s is a 2-stroke automatic and this leads to my only real gripe about the bike; it is oil injected so there is no need to premix, but the access to the 2-stroke oil tank is a bit awkward. The two-stroke oil is added in front of the seat near the floorboards. To access the oil tank, a cover has to be unscrewed and a funnel (provided) is needed to get any oil in there. On almost all of the automatic scooters that I have ridden the filler for the oil tank is right next to the gas filler. The under-seat storage is large enough for a half helmet and a screwdriver to get at the oil tank.
On my first ride out of the dealership after picking the bike up, I took it down a set of unused railroad tracks. The ruts in-between the ties made for a very rough ride. But that was the point, to see if anything would come loose and also to check the suspension. Well it isn’t a MX bike, but it did hold up with no problems. The suspension is stiff but handled all of the bumps. On road the suspension is not noticeably firmer than other scooters. The wider tires, which help in the gravel, didn’t hurt performance in traffic or around automobiles. The bike is very maneuverable and stable in corners.
The 101S Adventure Series is a 50cc bike and is restricted to a top speed of 30mph so it can be titled as a moped. The bike I tested had the restrictors removed and had an indicated top speed of 42 mph. This is middle of the pack when it comes to top speed for 50cc bikes. Because of the nature of the transmission, the power is always there from the get go. I didn’t feel underpowered in the streets and the acceleration was often faster than the cars around me. The190mm disk brake on the front and a drum brake in the rear had me stopping fast and safely.
As an entry-level scooter it has all of the function of its higher priced counterparts and is a lot of fun to drive. The 101s comes in Yellow, Red, Blue and Black. More info about the TGB line of scooters can be found at www.cobrasales.com