Crouching Cruiser Hidden Dragon

by Tammy Wanchena

Being the wife of a motorcycle magazine mogul definitely has its advantages. Every bike that this paper reviews winds up in our shop for a spell with its keys within my grasp. One would think that this would mean I would ride each of these machines. There are three things that hold me back. Number one: I’m chicken. I have yet to crash and I am convinced that when I finally do, it will be on someone else’s expensive bike. Two: My husband is always out riding them so opportunities are few and far between. And finally, reason number three: I am vertically challenged. While I may not appear short, my inseam is less than 27″ and I handle the weight of most motorcycles on my tiptoes. When asked if I would review the new Kymco 250 cc Venox I thought, “Now that’s a bike I could handle!”

Bob from our local Kymco dealer, Scooterville, generously offered to ride the bike home from work since he lives conveniently close to review61aour offices. When we arrived at the pick-up location, there were two bikes in Bob’s driveway. One was a scooter. The second was a large, fat street bike resembling a Harley V-Rod. I assumed, being only 250 cc, that the scooter was the bike I would be riding and that I had misunderstood the assignment. Nope! Weighing in at a remarkable 419 pounds, this was the largest 250 cc I’d ever seen! I was so intimidated that I made my husband ride it down the steeply inclining driveway it was parked on. It took a lot for me to admit that.

They say that riding is 90% mental. I’m often 100% mental. I have psyched myself out of riding more than one bike I could have easily handled. Once I got past my original fear factor, I hopped on the bike and rode her home. Piece of cake! The seat was at 29″, much lower than the seat on my own bike. The Venox is lighter than my BMW R65 so handling her was no problem.

The seat was wide and comfortable and I loved the riding position. The handlebars were close enough and I was just the right height, 5’5″, to sit straight up without leaning over the tank. For me personally, I could not imagine a riding position being easier on the back. A chiropractor’s dream! My husband, on the other hand, could not have looked less comfortable with his 6’8″ pouring over the tank with his arms practically doubling over the bars. The Ringling Brothers Circus theme kept playing through my head watching him try to manhandle this short, fat little beast and his knees were practically up to his chin!

The bike had no problem hitting speeds over 65 mph in top gear, but was definitely not designed for racing. I could feel the weight of the bike in cornering city streets but I never took her out on the freeway and most of my corners were taken at slower speeds. One thing I love about the Venox is that the bike tells you if you are riding in the wrong gear. Her purr rises to a roar telling you to shift into a higher gear. This is a fantastic asset to beginning riders. The bike does start to vibrate heavily if you remain in the wrong gear. Yes, we here at MMM take our bike tests very seriously and try to review from the point of view of the least experienced rider.

review61bThe brakes were strong and easy to use. My only complaint was that the grips were oversized and incredibly hard on my short hands. I had to slide my hands to the very end of the handlebars just to reach the grips. Having to do so repeatedly left me at the end of each ride with my hands hurting pretty badly. This problem was compounded by the fact that there weren’t adjustable levers. If I was to buy one of these machines I would have to replace both the grips as well as the brake and clutch levers with ones better suited to my small hands.

I liked the traditional look of the Kymco. The Venox looks as a street motorcycle should look. A V-Twin engine, no fairing, no windshield; the bike has a simple, yet masculine look. Short and squatty, but still easy to mistake for a much larger bike by not only myself, but a number of guests of the Annual Cycle World Show where the Kymco debuted. According to the dealer most people assumed it was a 750cc to 1000cc machine. The gas tank is so fat! I liked the color, Gun Metal Gray, complimented with plenty of beautifully polished chrome.

This was my first Taiwanese bike experience. The Venox is a great bike for beginning riders. It’s also a great bike for the vertically challenged. The ticket price reads around four grand, which I feel is a little steep when you consider its competition.

by Sev Pearman

Are you just starting out and are looking for a ride that doesn’t intimidate? Maybe you recall the fun and freedom you felt when riding on a smaller bike. Or perhaps you a looking for a second bike upon which to commute or do errands. If any of these descriptions fits you, may we direct your attention to the Kymco 250cc Venox cruiser.

“Whatsa Kymco?” you may ask. Kymco is a Taiwanese manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters. In business since 1963, they first manufactured engines and complete small bikes under license for Honda for 30 years before creating their own brand of scooters and motorcycles. Kymco currently sells their machines in 64 countries worldwide.

Kymco offers a two-year/20,000 Km warranty on engine parts and labor. Local dealer Scooterville and U.S. importer STR Motorsports are quick to mention that warranty claims on Kymco machines have been negligible. If Kymco’s quality control meets Honda’s tough standards that is proof enough for us.

The engineering on the Venox is first rate. The motor is a state-of-the-art, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve per cylinder, 90º V-twin little screamer. A 58mm bore and 47.2mm stroke yield a 249.4cc displacement at a 11.2: 1 compression ratio. Max power is 28 horse, with peak torque 14 foot pounds at 8,000 rpm. This is no small potatoes, folks. The Venox’s engine cranks out 112 hp/liter, output on par with current sportbikes.

While no VTX, the Venox is surprisingly capable on the freeway. I easily held 60 mph on I-94, with throttle remaining. I could reach 70 mph, but that would flag when climbing a grade or meeting a strong headwind. Keep in mind that the bike had to fight my 240 lbs. without any fairing or windshield. The little Venox seemed happiest cruising at 55-60 mph on secondary highways.

While you could easily ride it to Sturgis, the Venox is best suited to commuting or doing errands. It is small enough to squirt in and out of traffic, yet powerful enough to pull you out of the way of SUV-driving moto-boneheads. It is a perfect campus machine. Plenty of style, inexpensive to buy and operate with room for a friend. For the first time in a long time I found myself having fun negotiating city and rush hour traffic.

Braking performance also delivers. While the rear is a drum, it has adequate power and good feel. A deliberate stomp on the rear lever was required to initiate a skid. Front braking comes via a single stainless rotor nabbed by a two-pad sliding caliper. It had excellent feel, no doubt aided by the braided stainless steel brake lines(!) Braided lines are better than plain rubber as they limit line expansion under hard braking. No matter, both brakes were more than adequate to stop the 419 lbs. (claimed) Venox plus rider.

Other engineering touches make the Venox user-friendly and add convenience. There are functional human-sized passenger pegs and four chromed bungee hooks at the rear. A large oil-level sight glass makes oil monitoring easy. Big bright LED idiot lights are easy to see while underway.

The headlights also exceeded expectation, especially the high beam. We liked the punch of the pattern, as it threw additional light toward the shoulders. A way cool Euro passing function is integrated in the three-position headlight switch. While in low beams, you can rock the switch toward you to flash your brights. MMM first saw this feature on European machines and have grown to love it.

A bike ridden in dense city traffic needs functional, practical mirrors and these are outstanding. Finished in rich chrome on beefy stalks, they are completely clear and vibration free, even at higher revs. All mirrors should be this good. Ducati, are you reading this?

Maintenance chores have also been addressed. Sidecovers come off after two 5mm hex screws are removed. Kymco provides an Allen key/screwdriver “McTool” behind the front fork for this purpose. The right sidecover reveals the fuseblock. The Venox takes modern blade fuses. The left sidecover contains the toolkit. The maintenance-free battery resides under the seat, and should never require anything. For battery access, pull the left sidecover and get the correct wrench to remove three 12mm fasteners. The seat then lifts off revealing the battery compartment.

The Venox was kept to its $3,899 MSRP by omitting some features. Hand levers, while well-finished, are non-adjustable. The clutch is activated by cable, which is cheaper, lighter and simpler than a hydraulic unit. The Venox has only a sidestand and no centerstand is available. Big deal. Use the savings on the purchase price to buy a hydraulic bike lift for $90.00 at Sears. There currently are no manufacturer accessories, but the aftermarket already offers saddlebags, rear racks and windshields that fit.

The styling of the Venox is its strong suit. The little 250 drew favorable comments and questions at fuel stops and a barrage of wonder at two different motorcycle dealerships. People wanted to know what it was, who made it, and how big was the engine. Most people thought it was 500 or 650cc and everyone was surprised at its 250cc size.

Many riders thought it was a V-Star® 650 or some other Yamaha. Two people thought it was some sort of baby (H-D) V-Rod®. Pen and paperless Suzuki Savage® rider Jose´ L. demanded the key fob so that he could remember the dealers name and website.

The massive engine appears larger than its actual displacement. Throughout the Venox stylists made parts larger than necessary to add visual mass and volume. The handlebars are big-bore cruiser 1-inch diameter over the 7/8-inch size on most machines. Finished in deep chrome they rest on gracefully arced drag risers.

The deception continues with the fuel tank. While actual volume is a healthy 3.7 gallons, ‘chrome’ cheater panels on each side of the tank make it appear much larger. The tank wears a cool chrome binnacle that houses the speedometer and fuel filler. The chromed filler is a sano flush-mount flip-up unit. Details like this give the Venox much presence and credibility. Even the speedo needle is styled; a thick chrome spear that fills the gauge. No tach is available.

One nit is that the odometer and tripmeter read in kilometers only. Better get good at multiplying by 0.625 to figure your remaining range. One tank saw 120 Km/80 m in 3.0 gallons or about 27 mpg. That was under hard riding on a new motor with your ample tester. Mileage in the 50’s is easily doable with a light throttle. Your mileage will vary.

The super-sizing continues with the wheels and tires. The front is a tubeless 120/80-17″ balloon and rides on a hefty 5-spoke cast wheel. It reminds us of the front from a Honda Shadow Spirit®. Cast wheels are typically cheaper and lighter than spokes. This helps reduce both price and unsprung mass. The silver finish of the wheel ties in with the all-metallic theme of the bike. The rear is a tubeless 150/80-15″ riding on a polished aluminum ‘disc’ wheel, reminiscent of a Fat Boy®.

Overall, the Venox is very clean. Kymco studied popular cruisers and paid great attention to detail. All hoses, cables and wires are review61ddiscreetly routed. There are smooth transitions between shapes and the lines of the bike integrate well. Even the welds are tidy, with the exception of the swing arm. These are crudely painted over, no doubt a concession to cost. The overall fit and finish are surprisingly high for a bike in this price range, and exceed that of many bikes costing much more.

A cruiser ain’t a cruiser without chrome, and the Venox wears plenty. Mirrors, handlebars, handgrip trim and the headlight bucket up front; the speedo binnacle, tank cheater panels, radiator end caps, engine cases and headers in the middle; the mufflers, rear shock shrouds, chain guard, fender stays and blinkers in the rear are all dripping in your favorite brightwork.

In general, parts are beefy and substantial looking. Machined surfaces exude a quality milled appearance, especially the top triple-clamp. The test bike, finished in Gun Metal Gray, had a cool metallic theme which incorporates different metal finishes. The cast front wheel, spun rear wheel, satin finish switch clusters, chrome pieces and polished aluminum bits all unite with the paint scheme into a cool total. One nice trick is matching the finish on the cylinders with the wheels. It ties them together and helps unify the bike.

The major styling gaff is the flared twin-megaphone exhaust. Some riders liked it and felt that it complimented the style of the Venox while others thought it was “trying too hard” I personally vote ‘No’ and feel that the exhaust echoes the in-your-face upswept pipes of a mid-nineties Magna®, one of the ugliest motorcycles ever produced.

If you have an inferiority complex or just want to keep ’em guessing, it’d be pretty easy to make your Venox anonymous. The Kymco name on the chrome lower triple clamp is easily removable. Metallic plastic badges on the tank could be easily jettisoned. A swipe of Bestine-soaked rag would lose the white “Kymco” screen on the back of the seat. Greater stealth still could be had by removing the cheezy, ugly, DOT-mandated, side reflectors. The only fly in the ointment is the Kymco name debossed in the chrome engine cases. Where there’s a will…

The owner’s manual is a hoot; full of “Chinglish” that recalls Hong Kong martial arts films. We were reassured to read (and we quote) “When starting the engine, the battery must be installed to facilitate starting…” and “…be sure to lock the steering handlebar to prevent pilferage.” One more – we can’t resist, “The tools in box are attached to this motorbike and you can put what you need in the rest space, too.” The toolkit does reside on a small tray under the sidecover and is merely adequate. Unfortunately, the additional storage area in all US-spec Venoxs has been filled with CA emissions plumbing, courtesy of the EPA. The importer is contemplating a fix or you could reclaim the space by &endash; ahem &endash; modifying the emissions system and remove the offending parts yourself (for closed-course use only.)

 

MMM thanks Scooterville for their assistance with this review. Scooterville is the exclusive Twin Cities area dealer for Kymco motorcycles and scooters. They can be reached at 612.331.SCOOT or www.scootervilleMN.com

 

Smirks:
• Diminutive motor makes way more power than it has a right to.
• Bigger bike proportions and styling.
• Attention to detail exceeds expectations.

Quirks:
• Kilometer-only odometer + tripmeter.
• Storage space MIA due to CA emissions crap.
• Larger displacement models still on the horizon.

Wife’s First Reaction:
“250cc? That’s like a lawnmower.”

Selected Competition:
Buell Blast; Honda Rebel 250 and Nighthawk 250; Kawasaki 125 cruiser and Ninja 250R; Suzuki GZ 250; Yamaha Virago 250; MZ 125 cruiser.

M.M.M.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *