The 250cc Cruiser Comparison: AlphaSports (Hyosung) GV250, Honda Rebel…

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Suzuki AN 250 S

The 250cc Cruiser Comparison: (Hyosung) GV250, Honda Kymco Venox, Suzuki Yamaha Virago


In the market, in case you haven’t the oft-repeated conceit is that matters. If you’re not packing at a liter between your son, well, then you still be in grade school, the implication, or something to that In this might-makes-right environment, bikes naturally get the short since large-displacement cruisers in vast numbers and are very for their makers.

A less-than-enthusiastic to smaller bikes is understandable in an where each year the Big Thing looks more a semi than a scooter. Not are small-displacement beginner bikes ignored by manufacturers, experienced inevitably look down noses at them, dismissing as playthings, not real motorcycles.

is why, when we were this year’s entry-level we decided it wouldn’t be appropriate to veteran riders test lightweights; impartial analyses beginning riders would us with more realistic So we sent the power-monger types and recruited five newcomers to the enthusiasts for whom biggest necessarily mean best.

The Ego, Buddy

It’s not that many riders the sport of motorcycling on 250cc light, low and maneuverable, and most been around for so many you can usually pick up a used for a song. (And even if you a new one, they’re cheap to put on a credit card.)

But anyone through the classifieds should realize that beginner are built to a price point usually doesn’t place as a priority, but rather anvil-tough Fashionable or not, however, the are usually designed to warrant into Motorcycle Safety riding courses. If you’ve taken a motorcycle training you’ve seen these at ranges across the country. Our at the MSF explained that a motorcycle fit two out the following three criteria to as a trainer for its curriculum:

It must an engine displacement of 500 cubic or less.

It must have an weight of 400 pounds or less.

It have a seat height of 30 or less.

Our test bikes fit the MSF and the machines were a diverse Sure, we included the usual venerable Honda Rebel the bulletproof Suzuki GZ250 and the Yamaha Virago 250—but time we also brought in a of newcomers from the burgeoning market. With the Kymco 250 from Taiwan and the AlphaSports from Korea, it seemed the incumbents would have work cut out for them.

Our contenders decidedly traditional cruiser (except for the futuristic Venox), and all are for power at the bottom end and midrange, stop-and-go transitions less But engines of such small tend not to have a wide of usable power (these are between 15 and 32 horsepower), and the bikes are left gasping for top-end Riders need to stir the frequently to keep things

Then again, entry-level are meant to instill confidence and better riding skills for through practice, without the of too much power or a steep tag. So do they?

We went to the amateurs for answers. Our newbies perfect for the job since they a completely unjaded perspective. time on the test units was between an open course on a dry bed with an optional slalom (so riders could focus on the without the distraction of traffic), and a ride on the mean streets of Los

The riders rated bikes for handling, power and ease of Crib notes were compiled on braking, suspension, and value. Our crew ranged in from 5-foot-2 to 6-foot-2, in from 120 to 220 pounds and in age from 24 to 65.

To Stand Still

You want that doesn’t distract you discomfort, suggested our MSF contact asked what recent should look for in a new bike. Our scored all over the ergonomic depending on the size of the tester but everyone agreed the older-design bikes (particularly the Rebel) more cramped than the and AlphaSports entries. Larger commented that the Japanese were noticeably soft and over large bumps.

The and AlphaSports wore their a bit more tolerably, possibly of larger tires and better padding. The Suzuki received notices for its neutral riding which didn’t feel for any of our testers.

In the power wars, the proved it could still use its weight and high compression to good advantage, especially off the but many testers found the could catch up to it, with the a close third. The Suzuki was with the same critique—its cylinder did fine in bottom and power delivery, but had a sluggish and faded fast. The Rebel in this company—experienced riders and alike felt it was underpowered.

On the course, several testers concerns about the sponginess of the and Kymco’s brakes, while complained of grabbiness on the Virago. the Japanese bikes’ dated appealed to our group—one deemed the cute, and four others the Virago a thumbs up. The Alpha two votes for aesthetic favorite, the Kymco’s unusual flair three best-looking bike scores.

The Suzuki, alas, indifference, with not one tester it as his favorite.

Price and value important, too, and with of $2999, the Honda and Suzuki leaders in the value category, the Virago close behind. The Kymco lost points for the most expensive bike in the

After running these through the wringer, our five-person crew chose two clear with the big-boned AlphaSports 250 out the Yamaha Virago 250 by a slim We can’t say we’re surprised—it serve notice to the old guard even rookie riders to have new toys every now and

Not From Japan: AlphaSports’ Comes Out Swinging

AlphaSports may be a newcomer to the cruiser market, but its Classic reveals a build on par with that of major The bike has been manufactured by Motors and Machinery Inc. in Korea for the European and Asian for several years—and now Hyosung the GV250 to AlphaSports’ specifications for the market, too.

In classic fashion, the GV250 displays its engine with V-twin splayed 75 degrees apart. The not all retro, though—each cylinder is fed by valves operated by dual cams, with two Mikuni performing mixing duties. The valanced, low-slung package is together by a tubular double-cradle with an oil cooler hung above the forward cylinder.

stacked shotgun exhausts spent gases to exit on the

The front fork is shrouded in and two preload-adjustable springs support a well-padded saddle a mere 25 from the ground. The reach to the wide bar and a near upright position allows long moments; good thing, since the 3.7-gallon fuel will have you on the road for to 200 miles. A beefy (for crew) 16-inch front dons a 110/90-16 tire what is arguably the largest fender in the class.

Not surprisingly, the fender is also the longest in the The bike rolls on tubeless, rear rubber that an aluminum-cast wheel—the widest A five-speed transmission smoothly a chain final drive.

The incorporates the fat-fendered style in vogue with cruisers, and the of the Alpha’s fit, finish and gets high marks. The handlebar and forward-placed footpegs put you in the same ergonomic position as, a Road Star. It looks for a 250, but first-timers needn’t be Alpha weighs in under 385

Though cold-blooded at first the mill elicits a pleasant thrum once warmed. throttle application with gear changes produces 60 mph much effort, and on the road, all agreed that the unflappable engine encouraged throttle-wringing. this bike emphasized how the cockpit was compared to the Japanese our 6-footers felt at home the Alpha’s spread-out ergos, and veterans were pleasantly by its easy manners.

The same can create trouble in traffic, Two of the smaller testers needed to get used to the weight of the handlebar, its fat tire, at walking speeds. The 10.4-inch front disc delivered good stopping but didn’t provide much felt its double-piston caliper was in town, but larger and more riders felt there was for improvement.

On straightaways, the Alpha its power without fuss the gears, even at higher where three testers they approached the 80 mph mark very little complaint. A few commented that the fully instrument cluster (speedo, fuel gauge and … was a welcome sight compared to the bikes’ uniformly underwhelming

The Alpha may have a larger than the others, but save for a about heavy steering, was nothing but praise for the plump Everyone agreed it was the only one seemed like an honest-to-goodness Even as the second most bike of the quintet at $3599, out of five testers chose the as their pick for best lightweight. Japan Inc. take heed.

There’s a new kid in

AlphaSports GV250****Suggested base $3599

Wheelbase: 68.7 in.

Wet 383.2 lbs.

GVWR: 775

Seat height: 25 in.

Fuel 3.7 gal.

Average range: 180

Engine type: air/oil-cooled V-twin

Final drive:

Front suspension: 35mm

Rear suspension: 2 dampers, for preload

Wheels: cast 16 in. front, 15 in. rear

Handlebar 31.5 in.

This Rebel Yell: The Honda 250 You Remember School

If the Rebel looks to you, it should. Honda’s 250 has been around since and has put thousands of new riders through paces. The Rebel’s bulletproof and spare, retro styling a user-friendly package that’s to be easy on the eyes and even on wallets.

With the Rebel, you see is what you get—its air-cooled, engine has a perfectly square and … of 53 x 53mm, and each is fed by two valves. A single overhead cam by an automatically adjusted cam chain the valves. Compression is a low 9.2:1, and comes courtesy of a single Keihin unit.

Exhausts are expelled via a 2-into-2 with mufflers appearing on side of the bike. A five-speed gets power out to a chain drive. The 2.6-gallon tank fuel at approximately 60 mpg for a hefty cruising range.

A double-cradle supports the engine. The 33mm attached to an 18-inch front is directed by a wide, slightly bar with a single gauge for Amidships, you straddle a two-piece just 26.6 inches the pavement, supported by two dampers for preload (with no adjustability in the fork). The rear end rolls on a spoked wheel shod a 139/90 tire.

A 9.4-inch disc is stopped by a single, caliper up front, and there’s a setup in the back.

While the is no showstopper, three of our testers it attractive—the ’03 pearl-blue scheme was especially eye-catching. And quality is typically solid—the are metal and the badging details are well finished. Alas, all are built to a price, and sometimes it on the Rebel.

Little details a missing oil light, no tach, budget tires and a weak headlight stick out.

the Rebel is just as you remember it your MSF course—even vertically beginners are able to plant feet on terra firma, and its weight and nimble handling instant confidence. Good because this bike is for short people—our shortest at 5-foot-2, was still cramped on the and others maintained it’d be comfortable if the bar, pegs and were an inch further The only normal-sized feature of the is its wide handlebar, which testers to push the front end with ease.

This made the Rebel entertaining, and our experienced riders appreciated its ground clearance. Several complained that a long was required on the front brake to engage the 9.4-inch disc, but rookies felt instantly with the Rebel and remarked about its cornering ability and off the line. When push to shove, however, the Rebel out on power with larger riders.

The lack of power was a smaller tester even I felt more like I was a rabbit than a Rebel. riders could only the little Honda to a top speed of 70 mph any degree of comfort, and hill was a shift-y affair. Of course, hasn’t aimed this at experienced riders, and novices find the power output they stay off the highway.

we sifted through the post-ride testers ranked the Rebel or fourth, but its cramped quarters and mill very nearly its attractive price. All in all, say the Rebel is still a good for the money, if you’re under inches tall.

Honda 250

Suggested base price:

Wheelbase: 57.1 in.

Wet weight: 329

GVWR: 675 lbs.

Seat 26.6 in.

Fuel capacity: 2.6

Average range: 172 miles

type: air-cooled, four-… twin

Final drive:

Front suspension: 33mm

Rear suspension: 2 dampers, for preload

Wheels: wire-spoke, 18 in. 15 in. rear

Handlebar width: in.

Looks Can Be Deceiving: Kymco’s Has the Attitude of a Bike Twice its

Kymco, an acronym for Kwang Motor Company Ltd. has motorcycles since the ’60s and now to 44 countries on four continents. better known for its scooters, made its first venture the hallowed turf of V-twin with the 250cc Venox in

Sporting a healthy splash of chrome, the Venox’s large headlight, sleek shock and futuristic rear taillight all to unorthodox aesthetics, especially in tried-and-true class of bikes.

The gets its power from a V-twin, liquid-cooled engine in a double-cradle frame. What you not expect on a 250cc cruiser is overhead cams, eight and twin carbs to handle mixing and atomization duties. stuff for this lot, and the truncated exhaust pipes away from the rear on the right side only to reinforce the idea.

A 17-inch, alloy wheel is shod 120/80 rubber up front, and the wheel carries a 150-series on a solid 15-inch disc—the one in our quintet.

The slightly curved, seat hovers a manageable inches off the ground, while the sweep well back a pair of two-inch risers. the other bikes, the gauges tach) are mounted in a chrome pod the long 3.7-gallon fuel The rear forks are covered and chromed hoods over the bolts at the frame for a clean

Chrome air-pod covers the gas tank add to the sleekness.

The Venox is the heaviest and longest bike in our which elicited a variety of from our testers. Its rangy and wide saddle fit the two 6-footers but the Kymco’s raked-out front end in vague feedback and uncertain at low speeds, and the testers blasted it on evaluation forms.

The bike’s steering bore the brunt of the and a few noted that the handlebar adjustable—it was pinned in place. felt the Kymco’s hefty 420 tonnage was a lot of metal for any beginner to be around. Three others that the handlebar contacted the in tight turns.

One remarked the less-than comfortable configuration was OK he got used to it.

But riding the bike at was a different story. The bike’s and wheelbase resulted in a more stable ride, especially sharp bumps, and most the bike’s powerband was accessible a bit of urging. The gearshift seemed to fine on upshifts but felt on downshifts, according to some, and a positive action was required to decent cog swapping.

The Venox’s seemed to be a hit with all riders. By this is the best-looking cruiser in test, said one of our testers, and two gave it top marks for its unusual The Kymco’s dilemma seems to down to style versus and build quality.

For the $3999 price, the Venox isn’t a bad but smaller, beginning riders probably look elsewhere.


Suggested base $3999

Wheelbase: 64.3 in.

Wet 445 lbs.

Seat height: in.

Fuel capacity: 3.7 gal.

range: 170 miles

Engine liquid-cooled four-… V-twin

drive: chain

Rear suspension: 2 dampers, for preload

Wheels: cast 17 in. front, 15 in. rear

Handlebar 32 in.

Small But Big: The Suzuki Fat Style Screams Cruiser

from the timeworn GN250, the Suzuki cruiser offers no basic steel frame a single downtube bolts to a cradle underneath the powerplant. The four-… 249cc single has just two valves, which simple maintenance that be well within reach of the beginner. The SOHC head Suzuki’s Twin Dome Chamber, its two domes causing a swirling motion in the intake

This process is said to a faster burning mixture and power. A 32mm Mukuni treats the mix, which is released through a sporty exhaust in the form of spent Power is delivered via a five-speed and chain drive.

The simple skeleton offers a 32-degree rake for a relaxed posture. The fat 2.5 x front wheel wears a tire under a full which rides between fork stanchions. A flat bar dictates directional changes.

The seat rides 27.8 above the asphalt on preload-adjustable shocks connected to a 130/90-15 Brakes are as basic as you can get, a single-piston caliper working a front disc, and a mechanical-drum The Suzuki’s styling strikes a somewhere between full-figured and in a fair approximation of the larger Marauder’s lines.

There no rude awakenings once our saddled up on the GZ. The larger riders noted the plush damping—it for a comfortable ride, but didn’t much promise for a sporting The low seat height and forward controls fit four of the riders but we noticed the padding on the seat had substantially at the end of a long ride.

All said the brakes worked but several complained that a deal of effort was required to the GZ to a stop. The single-piston caliper was to blame for this poor

The GZ’s steering, however, high marks for predictability—the was stable, though some interpreted this as heaviness on the of the fat 16-inch front tire. clearance, however, left to be desired—our more enthusiastic found footpegs and various hitting the deck more they liked.

The consensus all riders was that the GZ was adequate town as long as nothing was attempted. The GZ earned good for fit and finish in this price but a few testers remarked that it and felt generic and boring, its basic speedo-only instrumentation.

At the GZ250 is a decent deal, it’s the same price as the and not nearly as powerful. If you’re motorcycling for the long haul, chances are you’ll outgrow bike in less than a

Suzuki GZ250

Suggested price: $2999

Wheelbase: in.

Wet weight: 331 lbs.

GVWR: 775

Seat height: 27.8 in.

capacity: 3.7 gal.

Average 145 miles Engine type: four-… single

Final chain

Front suspension: stanchions

Rear suspension: 2 adjustable for preload

Wheels: 16 in. front, 15 in. rear

Handlebar 30.2 in.

Last One Standing: Have All Yamaha’s Viragos

This Yamaha wears of its Virago family connection on its intake pods, a skinny wheel and the buck-horn bar are the obvious

Scratch a little deeper and a double-cradle frame with a 32-degree raked-out front end bellow its classic cruiser The gleaming, air-cooled 60-degree within displaces 249cc. of the cylinders gets its own single cam driving two valves, with a Mikuni carburetor handling the mixture.

A five-speed transmission the chain drive.

Holding the 1.6-inch x 18-inch wheel in are 33mm fork legs, get steering inputs from a bar. Twin shocks dual-rate springs keep the attached to the chassis, and support a saddle 27 inches from the A 130/90-15 Cheng Shin covers a 15-inch spoked wheel.

The Virago occupies the side of the styling spectrum. The plastic front fender a skinny front tire, a cropped, metal rear offers a sporty look of the chopper era. Continuing the vibe is a small 2.5-gallon tank. And those debatable pods just outboard of the One houses … space, the right side is part of the tract.

Dual staggered highlighting the starboard side of the are standard Virago character but the hideous antennalike mirror are a painful reminder of the bike’s leanings. Single pod instrumentation the triple clamp confirms

The Yamaha’s styling may be old news, but two rated it a top looker. And in the power the Yamaha finished either or second (depending on the size of the on the score sheets. The Virago’s strong performance came during the urban portion of our 6-footers had few problems around and smaller riders felt the had plenty of oomph off the line and power up to around 60 mph.

that the power fell off resulting in a top speed of approximately 75 Those smaller in stature they came closer to the 85 mph on the speedometer and were comfortable on the highway. The V-twin exhaust was a unanimous hit.

The Virago up the others in the braking department its large front brake The 11.1-inch rotor provided performance for more experienced but newbies voiced concern grabbiness at low speeds and a lack of from the rear. Either the Virago’s braking combo was the powerful in the group.

Ergonomics nearly perfect for our shorter with one exclaiming, After two I was still comfortable in the saddle, but riders weren’t quite as Several cited the narrowness and of the buck-horn bar, while one felt cramped by the peg positioning.

with these complaints, testers rated the Virago the lightweight, with the fifth giving it top honors. It seems is a reasonable price to pay for a Yamaha that can almost run with the big

Yamaha Virago

Suggested price: $3399

Wheelbase: in.

Wet weight: 328 lbs.

GVWR: 755

Seat height: 27 in.

Fuel 2.5 gal.

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