2008 Vento Colt - First Ride

Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

Motorcycle Cruiser is usually champing at the bit to test the latest and greatest from the Big Guys-but what excited us this time was the opportunity to test a "new" entry-level motorcycle, since that class remains virtually stagnant year after year.

Vento Motorcycles, USA is an American-based company, with most of its products being manufactured in China, and some assembled in the United States. In 2006, the company made its first foray into the motorcycle market with the 250cc V-twin Colt.

The Colt is simplicity itself in this age of EFI and ABS. The engine is an air-cooled, carbureted, 250cc V-twin putting out an unintimidating 24.1 horsepower and 11.6 lbs.-ft. of torque. The chassis is a single downtube, steel cradle frame, with conventional forks in the front and twin shocks in the rear. Throw on a skinny 21-inch front wheel and fat rear fender, sprinkle with chrome, and you've got a "starter" cruiser with a beginner-friendly 375-pound dry weight and 25.7-inch seat height.

At first glance, the bike looks fullsize and roomy. However, after settling down on the seat and putting one's feet up on the (yes) floorboards, it instantly becomes clear that the Colt is aimed at not only the entry-level rider, but at the short rider, too. At 5 feet 4 inches, even I was a bit cramped with the Colt's seat-handlebars-floorboards arrangement. The handlebar shape is user-friendly and the grips look good, but they are in fact hard and slippery. The toe part of the heel-and-toe shifter pedal is too close to the front crashbar, even for my modest-size 8.5-inch foot. With classic American-style looks-big fenders, raked-out front end, lots of chrome-the Colt is nicely styled, if a bit overdone, such as the faux air cleaner on the right side. Also, while the chromed, stamped-steel chain cover keeps lube splatter off the rider, it's rather disproportionate to the motorcycle. The speedometer is hard to read, and oddly, only the top third of the gauge is illuminated.

The non-EFI Colt is extremely cold-blooded, requiring the choke for more than a few blocks when starting out. I expected to have to wind the motor up the rev band but was a bit surprised at the anemic response while leaving stoplights. However, a merciless throttle hand and two upshifts will usually get the Colt to keep up with traffic. The engine vibrates at all rpm, varying in frequency and amplitude, but never putting hands or feet to sleep. The Colt managed a top speed of 78 mph (indicated) on the freeway, but the engine didn't seem happy going that fast. City commuting is its strong suit.

The Colt's suspension is nonadjustable and somewhat less than average at absorbing the bumps and potholes of urban American roads. The shocks are on the hard side, and the fork is less firm than al dente linguine. The large 21-inch front wheel looks great with its fat spokes, but used in combination with the skinny front tire results in some noticeable front-end flopping at low speed-not necessarily entry-level-friendly behavior.

As for the brakes, the best we can say is that they get the job done-with some persuasion. The front lacks sufficient power even for such a lightweight bike, and due to friction in the lever assembly, modulation was very difficult. Under hard braking, the soft rubber mounts for the bars allowed them to "clunk" as they moved forward, and the riser posts hit inside the mounts. The rear brake worked well but locked up the wheel a bit too easily.

At $3499 MSRP, the Colt is less than a bargain when compared with the other manufacturers' tried-and-tested offerings in the 250cc budget-cruiser class: Honda Rebel, $3199; V-Star 250, $3599; and Suzuki GZ250, $3249.

While we here at Cruiser always welcome new additions to the marketplace, the bottom line is that the motorcycle has to compete with its other classmates on all fronts-quality, power, handling, comfort, style and price. Though their first-generation offering falls short in all of those areas-save style-we hope Vento will be back in the near future with a vastly improved model.

2008 Vento Colt
Base Price: $3499
Powertrain: Air-cooled, carbureted, V-twin
Transmission/Drive: 5-speed, chain final drive
Displacement, Bore X Stroke: 249cc, 49mm x 66mm
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Horsepower: 24.1 hp at 7500 rpm
Torque: 11.6 lbs.-ft. at 6000 rpm
Wheelbase: 63 in.Rake/Trail: 36 deg./9.7 in.Seat Height: 25.7 in.Dry Weight: 375 lbs.