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Lance Cali Classic 125 Scooter ReviewReview of the Cali Classic 125
June, 201
2

Can the body style of a scooter prejudice a review? In 1996 Honda launched the "Joker" scooter in Japan (it was called the Shadow in Europe). It had a bulbous retro design and did quite well, especially with younger riders. It wasn't long before Joker "clones" started coming out of mainland China in massive numbers. Even Italy got in on the game with the Aprilia Mojito. For a while in the US marketplace, there were so many different Joker clones that one could barely keep track of all the different names and importers, most of the scooters were of very low quality. By the time the Cali Classic hit the market, I admit that I had a oh-no-not-another-Joker-clone attitude about the scooter. Yes, the body style can prejudice a review(er). 

Lance Cali Classic Fly Il Bello

I picked the Cali Classic up from Marty Mataya at GoMoto in Minneapolis. Marty is the local SYM and Lance dealer and is a great guy. Marty also carries one of the better mainland Chinese brands, CF Moto. Marty is one of the "good guy" dealers and has the knowledge and customer focus that keeps guys like me going on and on about how important it is to have a good dealer for ANY scooter brand. I immediately succumbed to my attitude about Joke clones. The fact that the Cali Classic fired rightLance Cali Classic Good and Bad up and ran perfectly did nothing to lessen my attitude. I rode to my office and pulled into the designated motorcycle/scooter parking right next to a... Chinese Joker clone. This particular clone is a Fly Il Bello (Fly is no longer in business) which is, quite honestly, one of the better examples of Joker clones. A quick glance at the two scooters side-by-side made me feel like a dope for having so much of an attitude about the Cali Classic. The superior quality of the Cali was obvious.

Though certainly not free of flaws, the Lance Cali Classic 125 is a good scooter and a very good value. If you want a Joker clone, go out and buy a Cali right now and know that you'll be getting a good machine... or you can read on for more details and to see me further humbled by my own often baseless attitudes.  

Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy

GPS Mouonted on the Handlebar of the Lance Cali Classic 125 ScooterUtilizing a GPS unit to perform some testing is a routine part of our reviews. With some scooters it can be a challenge to find a good mounting point. Not the case on the Cali Classic as there is ample bare bar area to attach stuff. Most scooters have speedometers that are pretty optimistic, they indicate faster than the actual speed and sometimes quite a bit faster. The Cali Classic more accurate than most being only about 7% optimistic. At an indicated 30 MPH the actual speed is 28 MPH. At an indicated 40 MPH the actual speed is 37 MPH and at an indicated 50 MPH the actual speed is 47 MPH.  The odometer is a bit more accurate than the speedometer - an indicated 21.3 miles was actually 21 miles. The fastest speed I was able to achieve was 52 MPH. The speedometer indicated 55 MPH and the Lance specifications for the Cali list a top speed of 59 MPH. There are three factors in play here that likely impact top speed. In the first place, I am NOT a small person. At 220 pounds I am a larger load than a typical Cali buyer. In the second place, the scooter was new and not yet broken in. Third, I kept running out of road when doing top speed checks. The Cali is slow to accelerate about 45 MPH and I would often have to slow down for traffic or a stop light when trying to wring out those last few MPH. Fuel economy was 89 MPG which I consider quite good for a 125cc scooter carrying a big load with a not-yet-broken-in engine. The fuel tank holds just over a gallon so 90 miles or so is pretty close to the effective range of the Cali Classic.

Features 

Lance Cali Classic 125 SYM Fiddle II 125 Kymco Agility 125The Lance Cali Classic 125 is manufactured in Taiwan by SYM. SYM is a top tier manufacturer capable of quality that is equal to any manufacturer from Japan or Europe. The Cali Classic has a lot of similarity to SYM's Fiddle II model, so I included that in the comparison. I also added the Kymco Agility 125 because it's the only other sub-$2,000 new scooter that I think is of decent quality. Other than price and engine displacement, it's really not a direct competitor of the Cali Classic because the style and ergonomics are so completely different. All three scooters have air-cooled, carbureted 125cc engines, disc front and drum rear brakes, a 51" - 52" wheelbase and weight 220 to 240 pounds. The SYM and Kymco both offer two-year warranties while the Cali Classic has a one-year warranty.

Lance Cali Classic 125 Wheels

Lance Cali Classic 125 Dash and HeadlightThe Lance Cali Classic has a 12" front tire and a 10" in the back. The control configuration is standard for a modern automatic scooter - the left hand controls the rear brake, turn signals, high and low beam headlight and horn. The right hand controls the throttle, front brake, engine kill switch and electric starter. To start the scooter, just turn the ignition key to the on position, grab a brake lever, and press the starter button. The Cali Classic fired up instantly every time, hot or cold. There is also a kick starter.

The three-pod dash cluster is smallish overall. The speedometer/odometer is located in the center and biased to miles with kilometers smaller and on the inside edge of the indicator. The fuel gauge is to the right and there are three indicator lights to the left, one for each turn signal and one for high-beam. These were very weak and I couldn't see them at all in bright sunlight. The headlight is incandescent and fairly weak. Riding at night meant living with only adequate illumination of the road ahead. Of course the (arguably) greatest revival scooter of the past decade, the Genuine Stella, originally came equipped with an even weaker headlight and it didn't hurt Stella sales at all. The turn signal and brake lights also utilize standard bulbs but are brighter than the headlight. On the plus side, the fuel gauge was a pretty accurate indicator of how much fuel was in the tank. A LOT of scooter fuel gauges seem to be more of a "yes" or "no" indicator - when on full you have an indeterminate quantity of fuel and the gauge will rocket to empty at some mysterious point. 

There is a helmet/bag hook on the front that was strong enough to hold the handles of two clothLance Cali Classic 125 Under Seat Storage grocery bags securely. The underseat storage is VERY limited. There is no space for a helmet to be kept enclosed under the seat, but one can put a helmet strap D-ring over a post and then close the seat to "lock" a helmet to the scooter. There is also no rear luggage rack standard on the Cali Classic. Native hauling capacity is limited to what one carries bungeed to the rear portion of the seat, resting on the floorboard between one's legs, or on one's body in the form of a messenger bag or backpack. A nice looking rear luggage rack is available as an optional accessory. There is also a hard topcase and rear rack kit available. There are flip-out passenger footrests and a chrome passenger grab rail on the rear. The seat latch release is located on the port side rear of the scooter and operates with the same key as the ignition. The fuel filler cap is located under the seat.     

Riding Impressions 

As I mentioned earlier, the Cali Classic 125 fired right up every time - warm or cold - and quickly settled into idle. Acceleration off the line was adequate and even up to about 45 MPH. Above that speed it takes rather a while to wring more out of the Cali. Roll-on acceleration from 30 to 45 MPH was good. Stopping with the frontLance Cali Classic 125 Reach Brake Levers disc and rear drum combination was good and the brakes responded quickly to a strong application. Reach on the levers is VERY long (more on ergonomics later). Handling was good with a tiny bit of a vague feeling on "center" when riding, almost certainly due to the very wide handlebars (more ergonomics). Road conditions are passed through to the rider without a lot of jarring or harsh feel. You'll know you went over a big bump in the road, but you won't toss out a filling or anything. Everything worked perfectly (turn signals, horn, etc.) which is certainly not the case with a lot of mainland Chinese Joker clones. Remember my attitude about Joker clones? I admit I was riding the Cali Classic actively looking for something wrong and I have to say I couldn't really find anything major. Taiwanese manufacturers are world class and SYM certainly builds a fine machine. Top speed on the Cali Classic 125 is about the same as the Honda Elite 110 that I reviewed last year, and that scooter costs $1,000 more than the Cali. A Genuine Buddy 125 will smoke the Cali Classic 125 in acceleration and top speed, but that scooter also costs $700 more.

Lance Cali Classic Scooter Beverly Harrington Camille RamirezLet's talk about the ergonomics of the Cali Classic. I'm not what you'd call a tall guy (5' 8") and I felt cramped on the scooter. As you can see from the picture to the left, my wife Beverly at 5' 6" just had enough leg room. My good friend Camille (don't even bother emailing me, she's married) at 5' fit on the Cali Classic with room to spare. Camille could touch (though not flat-footed) at a stop and found the Cali quite comfortable. Also notice where Beverly and Camille are situated on the seat. I found that I had to sit on the hump in the seat to have enough leg room. I would guess that a taller person could do well on the Cali Classic IF they were willing to have the seat modified. Any good upholstery shop that works on motorcycle seats can easily re-shape and re-cover a seat on a scooter. By increasing the seating area for the driver (and reducing/eliminating passenger space) a good amount of leg room can be found.

Bob from Scooterville (6' 2") also road the Cali Classic and, as expected, couldn't find a comfortable position. Bob is a Genuine, Kymco, Vespa, Piaggio, Vectrix and Hyosung dealer and he was also riding the Cali actively looking for things to criticize. He did notice a fairly strong harmonic vibration from the powertrain when at a stop with the rear brake engaged, but really couldn't find anything major toCamille Rameriz Smith Lance Cali Classic 125 Scooter complain about. I do just have to mention how incredibly lucky we are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to have dealers like Bob and Marty who are competitors, but still friends and truly focused on their customers. I can't think of very many places were one can get dealers to ride "other" products and know they will give honest opinions.

Having Camille run around briefly on the Cali Classic also brought up a very valid position. A person's riding impressions of any given scooter will depend on what (if any) scooter they currently ride. Camille has had a TNG Venice (small 50cc) for several years and to her the Cali Classic felt incredibly smooth, roomy, and fast. I suspect a large number of Cali Classic 125 customers will be first-time scooter buyers. As long as they aren't expecting lightning-fast performance, they will probably be very happy with the ride on the Cali.    

Fit & Finish

The Cali Classic 125 has the best fit and finish of any Honda Joker clone I have seen. The body panels are perfectly aligned and the quality of assembly is top notch. There is a lot of shiny plastic (plastichrome some call it) that may or may not suit your personal taste, but it's not cheaply executed. The switches, lights and other components look durable if not particularly high end. Here we enter into one of the areas that helps explain the price point on the Cali Classic. How can the same company that makes the $2,300 Fiddle II produce a VERY similar scooter for $300 less? I'm pretty certain that the components utilized on the Cali Classic, though of good quality, are cheaper than those utilized on the Fiddle II.

I spent a fair amount of time going over the Cali Classic, looking at the fasteners, body seams, hoses, electrical components and so forth and I will admit that my prejudices about this particular Joker clone were wrong. The scooter is put together very well and I would assume that it will hold up well.

Conclusions 

Lance Cali Classic 125 Scooter Three Views

I was more impressed with the Lance Cali Classic 125 than I expected to be. The build quality is very good. The performance is adequate and the fuel economy is very good. The look is appealing and the majority of people who saw the scooter liked it. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a $1,999 scooter. There's just nothing else at that price point with the same mix of retro looks and Taiwanese quality out there. If I were getting one for myself, I would have the seat customized to move the rider position further back and I would add the rear luggage rack and probably a topcase. The Cali Classic is available in Butterscotch Yellow, Arctic White, Matte Black (reviewed), Metallic Silver, Ruby Red, Midnight Black and Sky Blue. A big THANK YOU goes out to Marty Mataya of GoMoto in Minneapolis Minnesota for facilitating this review.

David Harrington

Marty Mataya GoMoto Lance Cali Classic 125 Scooter

Send mail to David@HarringtonBusinessGroup.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: August 22, 2013
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