What do you do if you're a former Buell designer and you find your new career teaching powersports designs is just not quite enough? You create a new American motorcycle company and build innovative bikes, naturally.
That's the short version of the story behind 47moto, a new company led by President Mike Samarzja that plans to start producing three models in two displacement sizes in the spring. Samarzja, who has been working with a team of powersports industry types scattered on two continents, had a prototype of the first model ready to show at the AIMExpo this past weekend.
Samarzja was the Buell design manager for more than 17 years and then created the Harley-Davidson-sponsored powersports design program at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. "I just missed getting my hands dirty," he said, explaining the new venture.
Despite his background, the 47moto bike is quite different from any Buell. The three 47moto models are modular and highly adjustable designs that will be eventually be offered in a 250 cc version and a 300 cc version with Bosch ABS brakes. The goal is to provide a bike that is fun to ride but is also practical and affordable enough, both in the purchase price and in operation, to make it easy for the buyer to justify the expense. While I didn't question Samarzja in depth about the target audience, the 47moto models fit in with the AIMExpo theme of bringing new riders into motorcycling and they're another entry in the growing list of options for a lightweight ride well suited to urban life, which is where more and more people are living.
After deals fell through with other engine suppliers, 47moto finally reached an agreement with SYM, a Taiwan manufacturer that has both supplied parts and built vehicles for companies such as Honda and Hyundai. SYM currently builds everything from small motorcycles to buses that are sold around the world, but has only recently sold vehicles in the United States.
Working out of a facility in Minnesota, 47moto will dismantle SYM T2 250i motorcycles and use the engine and some other components to build the Mosquito, using their own upgraded pieces. The 250 cc single-cylinder, four-valve, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine with a balancer and a six-speed transmission will stay the same. The manufacturer claims 25 horsepower from the thumper. The SYM T2 250i also comes with some nice bits that are retained, such as the 17-inch wheels, adjustable brake lever and braided steel front brake line. But from there, 47moto takes over and starts upgrading.
From a SYM into a Mosquito
The 47moto frame changes the bike's rake and trail but the real interesting part is the additional adjustability it provides. The ride height can be changed by adjusting a threaded rod where the rear shock connects to the frame. The rider can lower the ride height without sacrificing any suspension travel. The sidestand is adjustable to match changes in the ride height and the footpegs are also adjustable.
The modular nature of the frame allows the company to swap a few parts easily to make a different model. In addition to the single-seat Mosquito Café Fighter prototype Samarzja showed at AIMExpo, there are plans to build the Dragonfly 2-UP Sport, a two-seat version with a windscreen, and the Firefly City X Adventure (that's pronounced "City Cross" and I'm surprised there isn't a Buell trademark issue with that name, but then other old Buell names are also being used elsewhere) that comes with handguards, a headlight guard and a tail rack and tank rack for carrying cargo. The Dragonfly and Firefly will probably be available in a year to a year and a half, Samarzja said.
The same three models will later be built using a 300 cc SYM single-cylinder engine. The 300 cc models will come with a Bosch ABS braking system. No date for availability of the 300 cc models has been set yet.
Right now, the price on the Mosquito is $4,994 while prices have not been set on the other models. Samarzja said the 300 cc models will probably end up being perhaps $500 more expensive. The price for the Mosquito is guaranteed through the end of this month for buyers who put down a $100 refundable deposit.
My thoughts: Will the Mosquito get swatted?
When Lemmy, Spurgeon and I all find something interesting (Lemmy: "I'd ride the hell out of that."), I figure it's a sure bet that we should tell our readers about it. I also admire the guts of anyone who tries to put together a new company and take on giants with decades of experience. I don't for a minute underestimate the difficulty of that.
It seems to me that the 47moto team has latched on to the right trends by building accessible bikes that appeal to young, urban riders. The difficulty lies in the fact that the big guys have also spotted that opportunity and the competition in the 250 cc to 300 cc segment is broader and fiercer than it has been in decades, if not ever. The list of bikes that are less expensive than the Mosquito includes the Honda CB300F and Rebel 300, the Suzuki GW250 and the smaller urban runabouts like the Honda Grom and the Kawasaki Z125 Pro. Spending a little more opens up differently styled options such as the Suzuki VanVan or TU250X or more performance from the Kawasaki Ninja 300 or Yamaha YZF-R3. There's a lot to choose from, all from well known names with established dealer networks. Of course none of those other motorcycles offer the adjustability of the Mosquito.
Can a small company in Minnesota stand up to that kind of competition? I admire them for trying and I hope we all get the chance to see Lemmy and Spurgeon on a Mosquito test bike some day.