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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

SINNIS 250 RETROSTAR , or finding something to suit

A few posts ago I bemoaned the fact that, post stroke, I could no longer manage to heave around a heavy motorcycle so opted to get a Honda CG125 "tiddler".

Experience with this and improving strength led me to consider something a little larger and "classic". A 1981 Honda 200 "Benly", which had been restored to very good condition. Why this particular bike? My wife had one, new, in about 1980 and I remembered it as a delightful, light little machine.

A summer's use of the Benly brought me to realize that traffic and road speeds have increased exponentially since 1980 and perhaps I needed to look at old motorcycles through less rose tinted and more practical goggles!

All these machine changes have been at very little cost (I count "fettling" expenses as part of the fun of owning motorcycles) since they have been bought and resold via Ebay.

What next?  It was time to think outside the box. I needed something with a bit more snap, crackle and pop. It had to be comparatively lightweight and have an electric start. My riding, these days, is of the fair weather variety, no rain if I can help it and definitely no frost or snow. Riding of motorcycles is on hold from November through to March! Rides are at the most 100 miles per day and I eschew motorways, preferring the byways and lanes of this green an pleasant land. So, heresy, I considered a CHINESE MOTORCYCLE. This one, the Sinnis 250cc Retrostar,  is imported by a distributor in Brighton, not too far away from me and they have dealers over much of the UK, Kent included.

Previously Chinese bikes had a bad name for shoddy finish, but quality control has improved considerably. They are also, still, very cheap to buy, a new one of this model retailing at only £2400. I researched Ebay and bought this  for £1700, a year old with only 3000 miles (5000 kms) run. The first owner was moving abroad and delivered it personally to me, his wife following in their car.

It cruises at  60 mph, tops out at 70 and covers about 80 miles to a gallon of petrol. The weight, crucial for me, is only 285 lbs. (130 kgs) and, since it won't be used during inclement weather on our salt-strewn roads the finish  should last for my requirements.

For those  who know about motorcycles, the styling reminds me of a 1960's Triumph Trophy and on the overrun it emits a delightful "twitter and pop" reminiscent of a 1950's BSA Gold Star. So an old man is made quite happy. I think Chinese motorcycles are probably going through what Japanese bikes went through here in the early 1960's when us British referred to them disparagingly as "Jap crap" and look what they did to our complacent and badly managed industry!.


Vita said...

What a cutie! HH accompanies a guy on trips with a 2016 Ducati Multistrada with his 2005 Kawasaki 250, which goes as fast as he wants it to, even if it's not as fast as the Ducati. Hope you have many years of joy with your Retrostar. Descriptive name.

I showed this to HH and he came into the kitchen asking me if I liked Terry Pratchett. Ha! He didn't say a thing about your new wheels, but I'd already shown him an article on them. Anyway, when I came home from shopping today there was the 1954 BSA B-31 in the drive all loaded up with camping gear again. Turns out he was just testing out different bags, and had taken it to the top of the nearby mountain peak. The same bike that ran out of gas the other day. Yard art.

Mort will be playing soon in the local community theater.

Roderick Robinson said...

As you know between 1959 - 1960 I was moped editor for the magazine presently called Cycling Weekly, then called Cycling and Mopeds. A job without status, rather comical when explained, but (this was what counted) it allowed me a foothold in London and the opportunity to say a non-sentimental goodbye to the West Riding of Yorkshire where none of the young women found me to their liking.

It was a job I wanted to leave amost immediately after I started but before that happened (I moved to a hi-fi magazine) there was work to be done. I must have road-tested over a dozen different makes of moped from Italy, Belgium, France, Germany and, finally, Japan. Needless to say the worst and crudest was British, the Phillips Panda, in effect a bicycle equipped with an engine that might have been fashioned with an adze and hardly enough oomph to propel a lawn mower.

It was then I developed an attitude towards powered two-wheelers and later to four-wheelers: that by and large my favourite would always be the newest on the expectation that it would have bypassed some of the many faults that characterised its predecessors. That there was no joy in mechanical inadequacy; that the past was not only a different country (thank you L. P. Hartley) but also a country where one travelled more apprehensively, more slowly, came to a halt less certainly, and perforce became more familiar with the shoddy way mechanical things were put together.

This attitude seemed entirely justified by the last moped I tested. For one thing it had the ability to reach 42 mph whereas the Panda couldn't crack 30 mph, it carried a rechargeable battery while all the others were direct feed (ie, you stopped and the lights went out), the detail was designed for this machine not slightly modified from equipment current in the thirties, and it even incorporated integral leg-shields in tough plastic. It was of course Japanese.

The rest is an oft-told story but for a long time the Japanese did have one major failing - the names they chose. I mean, what sort of confidence does Benly generate? For me it suggests something feeble that flexes. Or a cough syrup byproduct. Later, for inscrutable marketing reasons, we got the Camry and the Celica (admittedly cars) - names that were supposed to gain universal acceptance but which, like the universal tool, fitted no one's preferences. Finally, thank God, we got the Fireblade.

Fettling, ah yes. An activity that perhaps dates back to horse-drawn carriages. Owning a vehicle that doesn't require you to finish off jobs the manufacturer should have done means having time to read a book or do something new.

I offer a new aphorism: the view through rose-tinted spectacles is, by definition, imperfect.

Avus said...

"Retrostar". Yes a good name for a bike designed to look like a scrambler replica. (I do like my bikes to look like bikes, not plastic Easter eggs). Thanks for your good wishes, which apply both to the bike and to me!

I have just read "Mort" for the first time. Typical Pratchett, an apprentice for Death....

Avus said...

Thanks for that long and interesting comment. I rather thought you would be in agreement about some of the dreadful items which the failing and complacent British motorcycle industry foisted on us during the '60s. Have you ever read "Whatever happened to the British Motorcycle Industry" by Bert Hopwood? It is incredible that Edward Turner (managing director of Triumph/BSA) did a tour of the Japanese industry in 1960 (they gave him a courteous welcome and showed him all). He then wrote a report on his return saying that the Japs might corner the "tiddler" market but they would have no effect on British motorcycle sales since we concentrated on the bigger machines.... So we went back to burying our heads in the sand, using worn out methods and machinery and living on our 1930's racing successes.

Yes, the Jap names for bikes (and cars) sound ridiculous to us, but often had meaning in Japan - I looked up "Benly" and it means "practical". (But I suppose a Honda Practical would not have much advertising clout here. Probably better to leave it sounding like a cough mixture.

Hyun said...

I read well about your viewpoint of British bike's failing.

In Korea, there are ridiculous things that riders love very much the oil leakage on the newest 500cc models of Royal Enfield on the reason that oil leakage is a beautiful appealing point of Enfield.

I understand that kind of nostalgic mood of classic bikes, but it is unforgivable that the new bike with U$9,000 leaks oil on the engine in the 21st century industry!