Unexpected Style and Character

Date posted on October 14, 2020
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The days when people would automatically diss a bike justbecause it is Chinese-made is long gone. This motorcycle was actually designed by a French company to be marketed in Europe. It has been selling in Europe as the Mash 400 and it has been received well. This bike made its first appearance during the 6th anniversary celebration of Motorsiklo Xklusibo in Tagaytay and people were so amazed that it created a loud buzz  online and in the local circles.

The Motorstar Café 400 is powered by a 397cc, single cylinder, air-cooled, carbureted engine partnered with a 6-speed manual transmission which churns out 19.5 hp at 7,000 rpm. Locally, the bike’s power output is at par with other motorbikes in its class. At first glance, this vintage-looking motorcycle seems to be built for the country roads due to its naked looks and Brit post war-inspired design but make no mistake about it, the bike is more than adequate to take on the busy urban streets and will have enough pulling power to weave in and out of the daily Metro Manila traffic grind, should the need arise to use all the power inside the engine. You will be satisfied with the acceleration as a gentle pull on the throttle will instantly remind you that the bike has power. The low to mid range is where the bike thrives. We have personally tested the bike and we found out that it is more than capable to reach speeds of up to 150 kph with a lot more to give, however, be prepared for the usual single cylinder vibration you will experience as the rpms go up. With all these, combined with a 13-liter gas tank and an estimated fuel capacity of 25-30 km/l, riding the Café 400 will surely take you a long way.

The OEM 100/90×19 front and 130/70×18 rear Kenda Cruiser S/T tires are composed of medium compound of rubber which ensure lots and lots of kilometers worth of riding this bike before any thought of replacement. The deep offset tread grooves for all weather riding are present in this bike’s tires so that should add more riding confidence to anyone who would be taking on this steed. These tires are mounted on 1.85×19 and 3.0×18 spoked rims. Do not also be intimidated by the huge 19” front wheels as the steering is flexible and smooth. The suspension is a bit soft for a normal-sized rider, however, the riding experience is generally satisfactory, and this is also helped by the soft seat.

The braking system consists of a single front disc and a rear drum brake, further accentuating the classic look and feel of the bike. Initially, we looked for disc brakes on both wheels; however, upon testing the bike, we came to a conclusion that the current setup on the bike adequately supports the power output meaning the stopping power is good enough for the bike’s output. The front disc brake is strong too; just a small click on the lever and you would already feel the power of the brakes.

Driving the bike at night on the highway, the stock headlamps provided the much needed light intensity and light throw. With the advent of LED bars and LED headlights, it is unnecessary to add those to this bike, and it’s not just for ruining the bike’s classic look style, but more on practicality because the stock headlight pretty much can do the job as it is.

This bike is also equipped both with an electronic ignition and a kickstarter. Conveniently, the electronic ignition will not give you any problems whether it is a cold start or from a warmed up engine. It is suggested though to warm up the bike with a slight pull from the choke lever for 3-5 minutes before riding the bike.

Usually, when someone who came from small bikes considers an upgrade, that person doesn’t necessarily jump to a big bike at once, and more often than not it is due to budget constraints. It will not be the case with the Café 400. Admittedly, our bike choice usually ends up to where we could stretch our budget. If one could afford to buy or settle for, albeit reluctantly, a 160,000 Php 150cc bike, then one could surely consider skipping that “phase” and go straight to the legit big bike market. This is where the Café 400 comes in. At a respectable price that is similar or actually less than other 150cc-250cc bikes in the market right now, the Café 400 is the real deal when you want an expressway legal upgrade, with classic styling cues that could make people look twice.

This bike could be your everyday commuter, weekend bike, or for any occasion that you would need to enter any road with EX at the end (SLEX, NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX, CAVITEX, etc). After doing a strenuous test on the bike with the engine turned on for at least 3 hours at a time and with the running rpm most of the time being on the 7000-8000 rpm as a cruising range, the heat that was dissipated by the engine was still bearable, giving and assuring us of a comfortable riding experience. With that, along with the comfortable seat, one could travel relaxed for more than a hundred kilometers straight.

One thing that stands out in the Café 400 is its vintage styling. As it is, it looks like a café racer-inspired bike. From afar, it looks shiny and eye-catching. Initially, you will notice the chrome-like shine on the front fender, rims, round headlight, instrument cluster, and even on the dual rear shocks.

The ribbed leather seats match the overall design of the bike. The headlight installed is also reminiscent of the round post-war headlights in the 1960’s. The dual peashooter pipe and the rear frame meanwhile complements the bike’s overall look, giving us always a magnificent view from the rear, not to mention the loud grunt the exhaust makes every time you twist the throttle. The old-school brat styled seat also further magnifies the vintage styling cues this bike has, likewise is the old style teardrop gas tank that is elegantly shaped, giving the rider some kind of memory throwback from the yesteryears. There is also the presence of a pair of side tank grips that not only enhances the design but also has a practical purpose in giving the rider more grip during cornering or even during high speeds, giving a better control of the motorcycle. Even the finish of the engine was purposely made to look rough. To further enhance your vintage experience, you could actually opt to use the kickstarter instead of the more convenient electric push button start.

In spite of its Brit retro vintage look, generally speaking, the bike still maintains a low profile even though you will get multiple stares when riding it anywhere, whether it is because of the bike’s aesthetics or due to its loud rumbling dual peashooter exhausts. This bike will be a favorite among custom builders most especially the ones who would like to custom build bikes with relatively large engines and a stock looking café inspired look to start with. It is perfect also for those who would want to upgrade from underbones and will also be a welcome option for those who initially thought of upgrading to 150cc bikes of the same price range. It will be an enjoyable bike whether riding it in the back roads, highways, or even in the city. Indeed, it is a great time to be a motorcycle enthusiast. Spread the word ladies and gentlemen!

This was published in InsideRACING Magazine’s 2015 Volume 13 Number 10 issue

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