2016 - 2017 SSR Motorsports Snake Eyes
An Old-School Bobber On a Budgetby TJ Hinton, on
Nothing brings to mind the down-and-dirty custom-bike days of the ’70s and ’80s quite like a UJM-based custom bobber, and SSR piles on plenty of that old-school with its street-retro Snake Eyes. Built for the entry-level customer, and anyone looking for a somewhat whimsical nod to the custom culture for that matter. A 19-horsepower, 250 cc thumper drives the thing — plenty for trips around town or campus, but the real story here is with the overall panache that looks to be straight out of the garage right off the showroom floor. Join me while I take a closer look at this fun little ride that so clearly is looking to capture part of the U.S. market.
Continue reading for my review of the SSR Motorsports Snakes Eyes.
2016 - 2017 SSR Motorsports Snake Eyes
The factory wasted no time going for that signature look with a laced front rim and a front fender that was pared down to the bare minimum with blackout fork sliders in between. A blackout tripletree mounts a similarly-dark, single headlight can ahead of a pair of blackout clocks that contain all the instrumentation. The painters were relentless with the blackout treatment, and it goes on to encompass the handlebar, mirrors, frame, engine jugs as well as the cases, rear shock and swingarm.
In back we have another set of standoff, LED turn signals and a bolt-up taillight with all-black housings and hardware. Much like the front fender, the rear fender is clean, simple and just big enough to do the job with a flashy, pinstripe graphic for a bit of bling, you know, just to offset the complete dearth of chrome. The pinstripe graphic joins the “Snake Eyes” badge on the long, narrow fuel tank for a nice bit of continuity-of-design.
A solo seat rides on the shortest stub of a subframe, and believe me when I say that this isn’t a “two if they are good enough friends” kind of solo seat, I mean this is a one-butt saddle. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the butt in question will be more comfortable if it comes with its own padding, because there isn’t much in the way of cushion in the Snake Eye’s saddle. Just sayin’...
As cut down as the rest of the bike, the frame uses a single-downtube, stressed-engine layout to keep weight and bulk down to a minimal. The frame uses tubular-steel members to make up what little skeletal structure there is, and that material makes up the truss-like swingarm as well for a simple, homemade look that fits well with the rest of the bike.
Right-way-up forks support the front end with a coil-over monoshock to manage the motion at the rear, but neither end has anything in the way of adjustability. That’s really not surprising on such a small ride that obviously will never have to deal with passenger or cargo weight, but it does lock you into someone else’s idea of the perfect ride. At least the factory went with all-around disc brakes rather than go for a little-too-retro, drum brake action. There’s no ABS or linked brakes, but at least you get basic, honest braking. Fat, 16-inch hoops finish out the rolling chassis and beef up the custom look, but I would point out that some fat whitewalls would look pretty good on this ride.
Simplicity is a recurring theme with this bike, and the engine is no exception. The one-lung thumper is as basic as it gets with cooling fins to radiate waste heat to the atmosphere and a good, old fashioned, 26 mm CV carburetor to control the induction. A time-tested capacitor-discharge ignition manages the spark with nothing from the electronic wizardry shelf to complicate the works, but who would want traction control and rider modes on a bike like this anyway, right? The oversquare layout gives us a 72 mm bore and a 61.2 mm stroke for a 250 cc displacement and a warm, 10.2-to-1 compression ratio that will put you at the premium pump.
As charming as a kickstarter would be, even as a backup, buyers will have to be satisfied with just an electric starter. Oh well, retro can only go so far before it gets tiresome. A five-speed manual transmixxer crunches the gear ratios with a chain final drive to make the connection to the rear wheel.
In spite of its small size, the Snake Eyes is no scooter but a proper motorcycle with hand-clutch and foot-shift controls, thus making it appropriate as a learner’s ride. Power output is unintimidating with only 19 ponies on tap at 7,000 rpm, so this bike is unlikely to try to get away from you, even with its lightweight 265-pound heft.
Besides its looks, the price tag seems to be the Snake Eye’s strongest selling point. Here we have a street-legal motorcycle with enough displacement to get out of its own way and a $3,159 MSRP. Theoretically, this may garner some business from folks who may have otherwise bought a scooter, but I think the bulk of the sales will come from people already looking for a raw and gritty ride with a retro kick.
It’s tough to come up with a direct competitor for such a unique little ride, but I guess the things that make it cool are also the things that make it special. If I ignore looks and go by engine size, price tag and intended market, a few likely candidates come right to the forefront. First up are the dynamic duo from Suzuki: the race-tastic GSX250R and the classic TU250X. Both fall into the same displacement bracket and would appeal to the entry-level riders, but the TU rolls for $4,399 and the GSX another Benji more at $4,499, so if budget is the primary concern, the Snake Eyes looks pretty good at just over three grand.
However, if looks are important, these three cover the spectrum from crotch rocket to classic UJM to homejob based on a UJM, so your mind will probably be made up no matter the price. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Honda CB300F also fall into that foremost category, but at $4,999 and $4,149 respectively, they still overshoot the SSR product at the checkout counter. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the Snake Eyes may well just make its own kind of buyer without taking from any one market in particular.
“I love it! Seriously, if I were to build a custom job on a non-Harley model, this is just about what I might come up with if left to my own devices. Sure, I’d probably use a 450 Honda motor, but everything else would be chopped down and cut off to the bare minimum. Hope to see more garage-days rides make it to production soon.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I really like the simplicity of this ride. It looks old school and, from a mechanical perspective, it is old school. Fuel-injection haters can rejoice. For the price, we can almost forgive a little less fit-and-finish if need be, and for the looks, it’s retro-heaven."
|Engine Type:||250cc, 4 Stroke, Single Cylinder, Air Cooled|
|Bore And Stroke:||72mm x 61.2mm|
|Compression Ratio:||10.2 : 1|
|Max Output:||19 hp @ 7000 rpm|
|Start Mode:||Electric Start|
|Transmission:||5 Speed Manual|
|Front Suspension:||Conventional Forks|
|Rear Suspension:||Rear Mono Shock|
|Front Wheel / Tire:||Steel / 110/90-16|
|Rear Wheel / Tire:||Steel / 130/90-16|
|Seat Height:||32 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||7 inches|
|L x W x H:||78.3 x 30.3 x 36.6 inches|
|Warranty:||12-Month Factory Limited Warranty Coverage|