How the landscape has changed. In the first six months of 2012, 1648 sports bikes were sold in Australia – everything from basic go-fast fare such as the Hyosung GT650R to the hulking Kawasaki ZX-14R – while in the same period 4657 road bikes 250cc and under were retailed.
Even if Honda Australia’s made-to-order CT110 commercial arrangement with Australia Post is taken out of the 250cc and under equation, it still leaves an extremely robust figure of 3737 units and another sign of how the ‘glamorous’ have fallen out of favour, with the tiddlers doing more than their fair share to pick up the slack.
CFMoto is well ensconced in that 250cc and under top 10 with its Leader 150 naked, but by the end of the year it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another one of its bikes in the top echelon – even allowing for the fact it’s given its competitors a six-month head start.
The bike in question is the fully faired single-cylinder V-Night 150, which was only released at the end of June, 2012 at an extremely tasty price of $2690.
CFMoto has already blindsided the Bikesales Network once this year with the 650NK naked, which is a brilliant first-up effort for the export-orientated Chinese company.
Can it make it two from two with the V-Night 150, which now makes for four road bikes in CFMoto’s Aussie arsenal and whose competition includes the Yamaha YZF-R15 ($3999), Honda CBR125R ($3990) and Kymco Quannon 125 ($3590).
Unlike the 650NK, the V-Night’s long-term survival isn’t based on high-level powertrain refinement and millimetre-perfect chassis development, but instead on whether it’s covered all those small capacity commuter bike bases – functionality, ease of use, and budget-friendly running costs. Get those pillars in place and the odds are that the future will be bright.
And based on what we’ve experienced, CFMoto has come to play, boasting a commuter which has a nice level of finish, is extremely straightforward and easy to ride, and goes where you want it to every time. And with the bike weighing in at 127kg (dry) and with skinny 17-inch tyres, turning and changes of direction – with knees gripping the tiny tank — hardly raise a sweat for either rider or machine. And riding through traffic is a cinch on a bike which is just so slim.
Like most bikes in this class, the V-Night allows you to get into the groove within seconds of making acquaintance with it, and I reckon it’s a lot more entertaining than scooters of a similar capacity, save for some of the occasionally anxious moments at traffic lights when you don’t grab a big enough handful of revs.
The saving grace in this situation is the clutch on the V-Night has pretty good feel, so I didn’t stall the bike once during its stay – helped by the low first gear — but inevitably there was a little bit of over-revving to make sure I wasn’t going to hold up a chain of cars behind me.
The bottom two gears on the V-Night are quite low, and then they open up a little bit until hitting top (fifth) gear – but the transition from first to fifth still happens in the blink of an eye. The liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke is quite a willing revver, and spins up quite easily when it’s in the right gear – anything too tall and it will take a while to get itself into the mood, which happens around 6000rpm.
But that’s normal for this genre, and you have to be on the ball to keep it purring along. And I did push it hard on a number of occasions, bearing in mind our test unit was still going through its run-in phase.
I live about 70km from the Bikesales Network headquarters, the route taking in 100 and 110km/h freeways. I rode the V-Night home a couple of times just to see how it would cope in more open plains. And the upshot: it sits on 100km/h comfortably without feeling like it’s going to burst a vein, and the softly sprung suspension holds its own. Vibration is negligible, too.
Only strong head winds and hills are pressure points, but that’s to be expected when you’re riding the V-Night outside its comfort zone. But there are plenty of 100km/h arterials in cities, so it’s good to know the V-Night won’t be swallowed up by faster moving traffic.
And on longer hauls, the V-Night is quite roomy, with the pegs quite low in the chassis. The comfortable seat is a bonus, and if you want to ride on the edge of the rubber there’s plenty of ground clearance to make it happen.
It’s cold at my house in winter – we get snow a couple of times a year – and despite the carburetor-fed V-Night shivering overnight, it always started on the first flick of the starter.
The V-Night is good for 12.2hp (9.1kW) at 8500rpm, and 10.8Nm at 7000rpm. That’s more claimed torque than the CBR125R and Quannon, but down on the YZF-R15, which also has the most horsepower of the quartet.
Our fuel consumption in the city was 4.5lt/100km, so the 13-litre tank will keep you purring for a long time.
As for the brakes, at best they are ‘underdone’, which I reckon is the only real shortcoming on the V-Night. Even a really tight squeeze on the front brake lever doesn’t elicit much in the way of sharp performance, so you’ve got to allow yourself a fair buffer zone for the vehicles in front of you.
That’s the only major entry on the V-Night rap sheet, but I would also like to see some span adjustment on the brake and clutch levers. Otherwise the card is untouched, which is an indication of what a solid little performer the V-Night is.
The bike comes in three different colours: black (my pick), blue or white/red, complete with black wheels, engine, chassis and fairing infills. Red makes an appearance on the brake calipers and rim stripe, while the muffler is silver and quite shapely.
And the flashy part of the bike is the LED blinkers and tail lights, while the digital inset on the big and easy-to-read dashboard is also a beauty.
The V-Night is a commuter with plenty of conviction. It’s ridiculously easy to ride and makes good on its commuter brief. It’s also entertaining too, and I’d pitch for a 150cc motorcycle over a comparative scooter anytime.
After all, small capacity doesn’t mean riders should lack for spice in their two-wheel diet, even when they are starting out in the caper. On that score, the V-Night delivers, and at $2690 it’s going to attract plenty of admirers.