Lawrence Reviews the Jonway Predator January, 2015
Lawrence contacted us about his Jonway scooter. He, very kindly offered to provide a review based on his real-world use of the machine. How could we say ‘no’? First, here’s what his quick riding bio:
I am a professional writer / photographer and editor at large of a sailing magazine, as well as an old biker since the 60s. A Honda 305 Scrambler was the biggest bike I’ve ever owned and generally, I’ve always been comfortable with 150-250ccs. In 2012, I completed a 2,500 mile ride through the 7 NW states as a fund-raiser for local homeless, raising a total of $25,000. The bike was a CFMOTO 250cc V5, now defunct.
After putting over 11,000 miles on my Jonway Predator 150, I have to say I’m impressed. I have the advantage of a fairly local dealer who sells these and knows the mechanics inside and out – plus I take good care of whatever I’m riding. But I use my rides as primary transportation – even in the New England winter, road conditions permitting. So I really use my bikes. I’ve taken several 500 mile rides in the mountains of NY, VT, and NH… added some hard side bags for extra storage… made a few mods to the seat, a clip-on cover I first made for the V5. (You DO think about saddles a lot when you spend 8+ hours in them at a time.)
Now let’s jump right into the review that Lawrence provided:
My Jonway 150cc Predator after 11 thousand miles
I started riding in the 1960s, a little 500 French motorbike I got through Montgomery Ward. I rode it everywhere, even took a 600 mile trip on it. I had a bunch of used bikes through my college years and after, found I was perfectly happy under 300 CCs – and still am. Then I raised my kids and went 30 years before at 60 I got back into riding again. For the money, I’ve had good luck with several Chinese bikes, ranging from 150 to 250 CCs.
My latest is an air-cooled clone of the old Honda Reflex. I change the oil every 1,000 miles, get the bike tuned with a new belt and roller weights roughly every 3,500 miles. (When the belt and weights get worn, the bike has to rev higher to get speed and the engine is over-taxed.) I’m on my second set of tires and I’ve had to replace several bulbs in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been riding it. Parts are cheap on Chinese bikes, so you save on the purchase – save during use – save when you have to replace anything. I always add a small squirt of Enzyme to the gas at every fill-up. When the engine finally dies, I can put in a new one complete with new CVT transmission for around $400. In 11 thousand miles, the Predator has never broken down en route… never stuck me somewhere.
The dash is a perfect imitation of the Reflex set-up but illuminated in red light at night. Headlights are adequate on high but I may look into halogen bulbs. The speedo is wildly optimistic. 35mph is really 30. 70 mph is really 60. Once you know that, you’re good to go. The mile counter seems fine. The mirrors vibrate at idle but smooth out at speed. I’ve added a custom clip-on cushion to change my riding posture into something slightly more upright and add a touch of padding for my bony backside.
I guess I’ve got the thing broken in by now, because I’m faster and getting better mileage than when the bike was new. The Cruze Scooters mechanics in Rockland MA did a kick-ass valve job recently and replaced worn roller weights with something just slightly heavier. Result: the 150 will do 60 mph on the flat just at the 8,000 rpm redline. I wouldn’t flog the bike all day that way, but I can hold my own on the Mid-Cape highway when I need to. Keeping it at 6-7,000 rpm, you can cruise all day at 50 – 55 mph. And, since the valve job, I’m getting around 90 miles per gallon.
It’s not supposed to be this way. Supposedly, Chinese bikes are cheap, unreliable and ultimately disposable. Then people treat them that way, skip routine maintenance, and when they finally break, they say, “I told you so.”
What you see in the photo is my Predator, customized with hard bags, used as my primary transportation. Winter, too. I put more miles on my bike than on my car. (Saving even more money by reducing wear and tear on a much more expensive machine.)
I’ve been taking road trips down the scenic routes of Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. I’ve toured the White Mountains, Green Mountains, Catskills and Adirondacks – so 150ccs can take the hills, even if you have to slow down on the long up-grades.
A utility trailer is a welcome addition. You can trailer your bike to the scenic country, unload and start riding in the places you want to be. (Handy too if you ever break down which, to date, the bike never has.)
At almost 70, I’ve owned a lot of bikes since the 60s. My Predator has given me more pleasure for less money than any bike I’ve ever owned. It’s good-looking; I get compliments. There’s a lot of storage for groceries or trips. It starts every time at the first touch. (Don’t give it gas; just touch the starter.) It’s quiet and doesn’t tick off the neighbors when I leave for work at 7:00. And it only cost me 1,400 bucks. Eleven thousand miles and I’m a happy man.
Lawrence Brown is a teacher, photographer and professional writer. He lives on Cape Cod and has his Predator serviced at Cruze Scooters in Rockland.
Lawrence Reviews the Jonway Predator 250 September, 2015
Not that long ago, I was writing in praise of a Chinese 150cc Jonway Predator scooter, saying it was all most of us need. Then I turn around and buy a bigger bike. What gives? Well, a wonderful lady who teaches in the classroom next to mine has just had the Year from Hell. I confessed to having impure thoughts about getting a slightly bigger bike and she grinned from ear to ear. “I’m buying your bike!” And so it was that I traded up from a Jonway Predator 150 to a Jonway Predator 250. Same bike, just a few more beans… 8 horse power to 14.
What do you get and at what additional cost?
Comfort / ergonomics: No change. It’s the same bike. The configuration offers slightly more leg room than the Honda Forza and the Suzuki Bergman 200, and the forward foot position has the toes slightly less upright, which is more comfortable. The windshield does a pretty good job and the seat isn’t bad at all. I’ve added a custom rider’s pad under my bony old man’s rear end, mostly to get just a little more height to improve my rider’s position. Swinging a bigger piston, the 250 vibrates a bit more but neither bike is annoying.
Costs: The purchase price of a 150 is around $1,400. For a 250, add $500. For reliable transportation, both prices are an amazing deal. With my 150 well-tuned and given a new drive belt, I was getting at least 90 mpg – better than expected for the type. The 250 gets around 70 mpg.
Acceleration: The 150 moves briskly off the light and will step out from most auto traffic unless some muscle-car motorist is determined not to be beaten by a scooter. The 250 will beat him too, if that matters to you. Where you really notice the extra power is what happens at 40 mph when you grab a handful of more gas. The 150 will gradually pick up speed; the 250 will pull forward smartly. So in a flow of moving suburban traffic, you drive defensively and keep in the mirror view of the guy in front of you. With a 150, it will be easier to back out of situations than jump forward away from them. The 250 can leave things behind it more easily. You are not going to wheelie a maxi-scooter under any conditions and you’re safer for that.
Top speed: Tuned with a new belt and roller weights, my 150 could wind out to 60 mph on even ground, that at the red line of 8,000 RPMs. It cruised happily all day at 50 MPH at 6,200 rpm. The 250 tops out at 72 mph and cruises happily all day at 60, sustaining 65 for 15-20 minutes without undue strain. I wouldn’t get out with the trucks on Interstate 95, but 250ccs lets you ride pretty much anywhere including high speed roadways.
Cruising range: The 250 has a bigger tank but burns gas faster. The cruising range for the 150 is about 130 miles… and around 150 miles with the 250cc engine.
Fan/air cooled vs. water cooled: The 150 was fan-cooled. As far as I know, it never over-heated – but there was no temperature gauge to tell. The 250 is water-cooled. Engines tend to like being water-cooled. The 250 runs 50 mph at several thousand fewer RPMs than does the 150. That should mean that on a 3 day road trip down scenic rural byways, the 250’s engine is running more relaxed and should see more total miles before it eventually dies a natural death of mechanical exhaustion.
Storage: The area under the seat on a 150 will take a ¾ helmet, laid on its side. The 250 cc engine takes up more room and the under-seat area has a higher floor. It will take a half-helmet bottom-side down, but there’s clearly less under-seat storage. The best top-case trunks, sold by MegaMotorMadness.com as regular equipment on their bikes, offers a really cavernous space. There are soft side-bags you can purchase after-market. Figure out a way to protect the sides of your scooter or the bags will sand down your paint after a while. I could unpack a large duffel into the spaces of my 150. I’ve used a big soft cooler bag bungeed across the passenger seat to tour on the 250.
Parts: Cruze Scooters, who sells and services my bike, has a deep inventory of parts. Chinese parts generally wear out faster than Japanese parts do – but they’re much less expensive. You can buy a replacement GY6 150cc engine for around 400 dollars. That’s the whole drive-train with a new warranty. My 150, as sold, had 12,000 miles on it and was still running fine. A 250cc engine will likely cost closer to 600 dollars… a whole lot less money than buying a new bike.
Are Chinese bikes any good? I’ve owned 5 Chinese machines over the years. I’ve ridden 4,000 miles on my first 150, 13,000 on my first 250, 6,500 miles on a 250cc motorcycle, 12,000 on my Predator 150 and 4,000 miles so far on the new Predator 250. Nine years after I sold my first Chinese scooter, the man who bought it still loves riding it – and he’s done precious little maintenance. (He’s still on the same drive belt!) Of the 4 bikes I’ve ridden and sold, 3 are still running and I have no knowledge of the 4th.
If anything’s going to go wrong on a Chinese scooter, it’s likely to happen almost immediately. My Jonway 150 was burning headlights out every 1,000 miles but a new voltage regulator (covered on warranty and not expensive anyway) took care of that. After 12,000 miles, it starts first touch and runs like a top. My new 250 runs great too but the trip odometer got stuck at 100 miles and wouldn’t roll over after that. The main odometer was doing it too – but miraculously, that part spontaneously healed itself and started working. Still, the unit needed replacement under warranty. The air cleaner on the 250 has flimsy tabs to connect it to the frame – and those seem to snap off easily. I’ll try a foam tube type that mounts to the carb with a hose clamp instead. You’ll want a nearby dealer who can set the new bike up properly, maintain a supply of parts and be happy to do the occasional valve adjustments and CVT belt and roller replacements.
The odometer on the 150 was wildly optimistic. 35 mph on the speedo was really 30; 70mph was really 60. The new bike is more accurate. 70 mph is really 65. The fit on the glove compartment door is very sloppy. But overall, they’ve all been good running machines. Change the (synthetic) oil religiously every 1,000 miles and add a tiny squirt of ENZYME or some other anti-ethanol to each new tank of gas. Keep an eye on your tire pressure and occasionally do a walk-around and check your screws and bolts for tightness. Change the gear oil every 2,000 miles. Break a new bike in gently and keep the speed down for the first 300 miles. That’s about it.
Given the low initial cost, you can afford quite a lot of maintenance before you’ll come out better buying a Japanese scooter. I sold my bike cheap to a colleague and still recouped over two years of repairs and maintenance. The fantastic mileage helps pay for the bike in saved gas bills. Run a 150 a lot with reasonable care and it’s almost paid for itself in 3 years. With a 250, purchase price is higher and gas mileage is lower, so it might take longer for it to pay for itself – but it’s still a great bargain.
Ultra-light touring: I’ve trailered my 150 to the mountains of New York, New Hampshire and New York and got in two 500+ mile trips. With a 250, I can go down the highway on 2 wheels to get where I want, then enjoy the back roads when I get there. The Predators have a long wheel base and are stable en route. Recently, I took a 5 state loop through Mass., Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York… 700 miles. I did 410 miles in one day and felt just fine the day after. Big bikers always ask if I came all that way on that – but they are polite about it when I say yes… getting 70 mpg… and that I paid under $2,000 new.
Mods: I put slightly heavier fly-weights in the 150’s CVT transmission and saw an improvement in top end with little lost in acceleration. I invented a Velcro-attachment system to mount a small set of hard bags to my bikes. The top-case trunk is decorated with a band of reflective tape. Some small reflective decals and tape have been added to my helmet also. As headlights hit me at night, the whole bike lights up. I’ve sleeved some foam pipe insulation over the hand grips. These dampen vibration way down and insulate my hands in cold weather. It’s possible slightly heavier fly-weights might add a few miles per hour to the 250’s top end, but I’m pretty happy with it already. As mentioned, I might add an aftermarket air-cleaner. That’s about it.
Summary: I think the Jonway Predators are good-looking machines. They’re cloned off the old Honda Reflex, which was a damn good bike. Frankly, I think PREDATOR is a pretty silly name for a Chinese scooter, suggestive of menace these scooters do not have and do not want. They’re quiet, comfortable and commodious. If you’re realistically doing 90% of your riding locally and on nearby back roads, a 150cc engine is fine. It’s more fuel efficient, has more storage and is more economical to buy and run.
If you expect to run on interstate roads or need a cruising speed of at least a mile-a-minute – the 250 is best. You’ll lose a little storage and gas efficiency but gain a road machine at a stunningly low price. Dollar-for-dollar, I’ve had more fun with my Jonways than any bikes I’ve ever owned.
Sources: In the North-east, Cruze Scooters.com in Rockland, Mass. imports, retails and services their own scooters, has a big inventory, tons of parts and deep expertise in Chinese bikes. I got my 250 from them and my 150 from MegaMotorMadness.com, an online dealer in California. Both bikes were Jonways. I’ve had good luck with both. (Megamotormadness has assigned different names to the Predators. Look for the photos for a match. Their inventory varies over time depending on when their next shipment has come in.)
How does the Predator 250 stack up against its ancestor – the HONDA REFLEX?
I ran a Honda REFLEX for several years and consider it the gold standard for scooters. Nothing ever broke. With Hondas, you know you can ride anywhere and have a parts and service network nearby if you need it. If you were thinking cross-country, a used REFLEX would make a lot of sense. A decent, low-mileage used Honda will cost about $1,000 more than a brand new Jonway. It will weigh 50 pounds more and be 10 MPH faster. Frankly, at my age, a mile a minute on a Jonway is fine with me. Parts will cost significantly more with a Honda, but last longer. The suspension on the Honda was a little stiffer than the Jonway’s… better for high-speed cornering but for an old guy with a bad back, the Jonway’s rear shocks are softer – and they’ve never bottomed out underway. Physically, since the Jonways are virtual clones of the Honda Reflex, the bikes look the same. Once you get past 250-300 CCs, the unit cost and the gas mileage combine to make it very hard for any bike to ever recoup its cost through gas savings. If the Reflex can cruise at nearly 70 MPH, who needs to go faster than that? If cruising all day at 60 is OK, the Jonway works fine too. In sheer quality, the Honda is the better bike, but given the low initial cost of Jonways and the modest cost of parts – even replacement engines – a well-maintained Chinese bike is a viable alternative. After almost 40 thousand miles on Chinese scooters, I remain a happy man.
Lawrence Brown has been riding – and writing – since the 1960s. He’s a weekly newspaper columnist, photographer and full-time teacher.