When you mention Chinese motorcycles, faces grimace and heads shake. Zontes wants to challenge that perception and move them even closer to their Japanese counterparts. Case and point is the Zontes S250. There are three models in the current line-up, two 125cc bikes and the S250.
Styling wise, the S250 is not an ugly bike. The design is definitely inspired by the Japanese naked bikes and makes a bold statement. This model is available in blue, green and orange. Only the blue is subdued, but the others are loud and bright. The headlight has a transformer-look to it, and the whole bike has a youthful appearance.
But let’s start with its position and role in the market. It has a 250cc, air and oil cooled engine, producing an underwhelming 24hp. The engine is fuel injected, so the bike is moderately spritely in traffic. The main thing is that in town you can keep up, or even get away from the traffic. Linked to a six speed gearbox, even highway speeds can be maintained, and maintaining a steady 120km/h hardly ever requires a downshift.
The switchgear has a distinctive non-Chinese look and feel and they feel solid to the touch. The instrumentation is rather spartan, and the small LCD screen displays revs, speed and fuel level. It has a clock, and one trip meter.
Disk brakes front and rear take care of the stopping duties. The front brake required some effort to get the bike to stop, but once you know what to expect, you will plan your ride and braking points a bit better. The front forks are mounted upside down which hints at its sporty nature.
The plastic around the exhaust is an odd choice and there are some sharp edges to look out for.
On the plus side, I love the clean lines of the Zontes. The bodywork is smooth with not a single screw in sight. Even the chained fuel cap sits under a neat lid. Zontes sells a luggage set with this bike, so they believe that you can do a bit of touring. In fact, the South African franchise took all three bikes in the range from Gauteng, all the way to the Buffalo rally in Mosselbay to prove their reliability.
I was sceptical about the S250, but the quality is better than expected and the performance is acceptable. They are sold with a 2 year, 20 000km warranty, so the real challenge is whether Zontes can corner enough early adopters for them to still be around once the warranty runs out. I sincerely hope that is the case because what we need now, more than ever, are affordable yet reliable motorcycles. – Words and pictures – Brian Cheyne