Lawrence Reviews the Jonway Predator
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:
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
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.
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
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. ďIím buying
your bike!Ē And so it was that I traded up from a Jonway Predator 150 to a
Jonway Predator 250. Same bike, just a few more beansÖ 8 horse power to 14.
What do you get and at
what additional cost?
Comfort / ergonomics:
No change. Itís 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
isnít bad at all. Iíve added a custom riderís pad under my bony old manís rear
end, mostly to get just a little more height to improve my riderís position.
Swinging a bigger piston, the 250 vibrates a bit more but neither bike is
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 Ė better than expected for the type. The 250 gets around 70 mpg.
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 youíre safer for that.
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 wouldnít get out with the trucks on Interstate 95, but 250ccs lets
you ride pretty much anywhere including high speed roadways.
The 250 has a bigger tank but burns gas faster. The cruising range for the 150
is about 130 milesÖ 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 Ė
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 250ís engine is running more relaxed and should see more total
miles before it eventually dies a natural death of mechanical exhaustion.
The area under the seat on a 150 will take a ĺ 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
but thereís 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. Iíve used a big soft cooler bag bungeed across the passenger seat to tour
on the 250.
Cruze Scooters, who sells and services my bike,
has a deep inventory of parts. Chinese parts generally wear out faster than
Japanese parts do Ė but theyíre much less expensive. You can buy a replacement
GY6 150cc engine for around 400 dollars. Thatís 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 dollarsÖ a whole lot less
money than buying a new bike.
Are Chinese bikes any
good? Iíve owned 5 Chinese machines
over the years. Iíve 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 Ė and heís done precious
little maintenance. (Heís still on the same drive belt!) Of the 4 bikes Iíve
ridden and sold, 3 are still running and I have no knowledge of the 4th.
If anythingís going to go
wrong on a Chinese scooter, itís 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 wouldnít roll over
after that. The main odometer was doing it too Ė 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 Ė and those seem to snap off easily. Iíll try a foam
tube type that mounts to the carb with a hose clamp instead. Youíll 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
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, theyíve 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. Thatís about it.
Given the low initial
cost, you can afford quite a lot of maintenance before youíll 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
itís 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 Ė but
itís still a great bargain.
Iíve 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 YorkÖ 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.
I put slightly heavier fly-weights in the 150ís
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. Iíve
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.
Thatís about it.
I think the Jonway Predators are good-looking
machines. Theyíre 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. Theyíre quiet,
comfortable and commodious. If youíre realistically doing 90% of your riding
locally and on nearby back roads, a 150cc engine is fine. Itís 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 Ė the 250
is best. Youíll lose a little storage and gas efficiency but gain a road
machine at a stunningly low price. Dollar-for-dollar, Iíve had more fun with
my Jonways than any bikes Iíve ever owned.
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 Ė and writing Ė since the 1960s. Heís a weekly newspaper columnist,
photographer and full-time teacher.