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MD First Look: AVA Swift 250

We’ve all seen the photos—grainy shots of exhausted-looking Italians, draped over small-displacement Singles, cigarette dangling from a lower lip. Photos from the great era of Italian motorcycling, the 1950s, when buzzy little bikes competed in time trials on public roads, time trials like the Motogiro d’Italia. This fabulously celebrated and fondly remembered race that covered over 5000 miles of public roads, before a tragic accident ended public roadracing events in 1957.

What was remarkable about the giri were the small sizes of the comepting machines. Classes started at 75cc and worked up to the big-bore 175s—sounds like a big bore instead of small-bore, but thousands of spectators lined the routes and competition was incredibly fierce. When you think about it, why do you need more horsepower than your shoe size to have fun on a motorcycle? If everybody is giving it all they’ve got, bumping elbows, drafting and making kissing-close passes, that’s racing, even if you’ll struggle to break the speed limit.

This kind of racing is emotionally evocative, so you’d think the OEMs would be stepping over each other to build a ‘giro replica…and you’d be wrong. Not even Ducati, one of the last (functional) major brands to have actually participated in these events has traded on that stock, though Vespa gets kudos for building rally-themed scooters (yes, they raced scooters). And that’s a shame, as the simple, clean, racy looks of these bikes are just what our Spartan post-bust culture would seem to relish.

Enter industrial designer Adrian Van Anz, a man with a lust for small, lightweight cafe racers. He’s got big plans to introduce the American Velocity Works (AVA) Swift, a machine with vintage looks, modern engineering—and a Chinese-built price tag. Anz says the motorcycles are being built by Longcin, a China-based company that also makes components for BMW.

Anz introduced his new bike at the Quail Lodge Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California on May 4. Anz says he was influenced by 50s, 60s and 70s cafe racers and GP bikes, and it shows in the Swift’s humped seat, low drag bars, skinny tires and long, long fuel tank. Fit and finish, say those who have looked at the bike up close, is much better than the average Chinese-built motorcycle—easy to do on a press-launch prototype (all it takes is time and money), hard to do at a factory used to churning out simple, low-cost basic transportation for developing nations. Anz says he can do it, by paying more for higher quality and value, but “for the Chinese, this is a huge culture shift.”

The styling is nice, but maybe you’re wondering about performance? After all, there’s no replacement for displacement, right? I’d say you’re mostly right, but you can make up for less power by shaving weight. I speculate the 249.4cc overhead-cam Single may produce power in the mid or even high teens, which doesn’t sound too impressive until you hear Anz’s claim that the bike will weigh under 200 pounds. Then you can expect a triple-digit top speed, snappy acceleration and handling that will redefine nimble.

Other details: its got full lighting, will be 50-state legal, has real rearset footpegs, electric and kick start, has optional passenger accommodations (for an up to 165-pound passenger, which means that the bike’s load capacity is greater than its weight) and a front disc brake. Pricing will start at $3950, according to Anz. I’m looking forward to my first test ride. I may even start smoking. Ciao!

58 Comments

  1. peugeotiste says:

    small bikes, big pe_ises !

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  2. Guy Reynolds says:

    A little surfing and I came up with a page for the Chinese manufacturer’s specs for another model they make with the 223CC engine. It makes about 14hp at 7,500 and meets some pretty tough Euro3 regs.

    http://skyteam.en.alibaba.com/product/219368550-200528401/SKYTEAM_V_Raptor_250cc_4_stroke_street_motorcycle_EEC_font_b_Euro_b_font_III_EURO3_Approval_120_80_18_180_80_14_.html

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  3. Randy says:

    I don’t think this is going to thrive in the wave of new small bikes considering the $4,000 MSRP. Maybe at $3K.

    The reviewer thinks this bike will hit 100mph, with 15-18 horses? My WR250R will just touch 90 on the GPS and that’s with 25 RWHP. If I cafe’d the bars and lowered it maybe another couple mph. Smooth tires maybe another couple.

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  4. sl says:

    I don’t think alot of people realize what this bike is for. It is a toy. Yea, there are a ton of other bike that will do things better than this one. Remember honda made a 50cc race bike around 8 years ago. It was priced pretty high, and it would have sucked on the freeway. Motorcycles are not just apples. Hell their not just apples and oranges either, i imagine there are a couple kiwis in the basket.

    My piont is don’t tear into a bike because it isn’t what you want. Accept it for what it is, if it isn’t for you move on.

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    • sl says:

      Yea, im ranting. Heck most comments like the damn thing. Sorry, long day.

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    • Dave Kent says:

      Good post. There are those of us who, if left in charge of expanding motorcycling as a more widely accepted pastime and lifestyle, would allow their narrow focus to destroy the entire thing in short order.

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    • MGNorge says:

      I agree with the sentiment here also. It’s not just motorcycles either, visit almost any automobile blog and you see posters applying their rather narrow view toward any vehicle that doesn’t meet that criteria.

      Even though I’m a big boy now and wouldn’t fit the smaller bikes I have always missed them when the market took them away. What richness and diversity. When I first started riding in the mid 60′s there were bikes of all kinds with displacements starting at 50cc and rising by sometimes no more that 5cc – 10cc at each step. What was very unique at the time was that all along each step a different engine design was used in many cases. Hard to believe today when the short and economic way is to use the same basic engine and bump its displacement. I am so glad to see their return even though they are no longer for me. I hope they do for today’s youth what they did for me, give me a lifetime of passsion for motorcycles.

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  5. Provologna says:

    He obviously nailed the looks. It really does make you wonder (as Gave mentions) why on earth the large current OEMs lack all interest in bikes like this that touch such a tender nerve, generating so many burning, abstract dreams associated with the past.

    I’m Clydesdale sized. If this thing was about 40% larger in stature and overall performance, with only moderately increased cost, I’d find the orange colored version almost irresistible.

    Even as it sits it’s a gem.

    The Royal Enfield Bullet is tempting, but too costly. Interestingly, a rider pulled up to a parking lot at USU Tuesday on the standard RE. It’s classic styling, color, fuel tank decal, and relaxed cadence were very enticing. I’d bet the Bullet is a gas.

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    • Gary says:

      …why on earth the large current OEMs lack all interest in bikes like this…

      Because bikes like these just don’t sell well enough at all. Many say they love this style, then don’t buy it, or say it costs too much.

      Case in point: “The Royal Enfield Bullet is tempting, but too costly.”

      Royal Enfields aren’t THAT expensive, if you want one, then buy it.

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      • Provologna says:

        Yes, I get your sentiment. Again, though, it’s likely far too small for me. Plus no dealer support within reasonable distance. So it’s not just the money. When I say it’s too costly, I’m comparing it to Honda’s state of the art CBR/CRF 250cc injected models for about 40% lower cost.

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  6. Provologna says:

    Re. “all Chinese-made goods are junk:” BMW makes automobiles in China. Not saying this lovely looking new bike is BMW quality, rather saying China manufactures top-tier automobiles with technology two decades beyond this AVA motorcycle.

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    • Andrew says:

      Yes, and interestingly enough BMW is no longer synonymous with quality the way they used to be… although they still charge premium for their products to be sure!

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    • Joe Bogusheimer says:

      ps, I’d rather have this for three grand, even if it is a smaller displacement:

      http://alliancepowersports.com/models/Wolf.html

      Made in Taiwan by a company that will stand behind its products with a brand name that they actually care about (i.e. intend to continue to use for sometime), with a 2 year warranty. Looks pretty nice, too, if not in quite the same vein as the reviewed bike above.

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  7. Ed Chambers says:

    Another really cool looking yet mostly useless little motorcycle.Mabey cool if I lived in the same town that I worked but alas as I have discovered the hard way the freeway kills singles.Even my XL650 was only good for about 20,000 mi with a daily 40 – 50 mi freeway commute.And $4000? no thanks I’ll keep my well worn 2000 SV650 thank you.

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  8. Rick in Tempe says:

    Why isn’t this an AVW–what’s the second A for? And Gabe you make light weight sound like it makes the bike go faster–it doesn’t, it only hits it available top speed quicker. So, with “mid to high teen’s” horsepower, there’s no way this would touch my 1966 X6 Hustler on either E.T. or top speed. It does look better, though.

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  9. jim says:

    Looks the part, not sure about materials, components and build quality. I wouldn’t want to be a dealer. I ran into a guy with a new madass that said it broke down on the maiden voyage home from Milwaukee. He was in the process of getting is sorted. He shrugged and said, “yeah, I kind of expected that given its made in China…” What percentage of the hipster-douchbag customers for this one will be so forgiving?

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  10. David Duarte says:

    for that price, I’d spend a couple hundred more and get a Honda CBR250R with a decent warranty and dealer network. AVA would need to offer a Hyundai like warranty for people to bite on it, especially at that price. I love the styling, but will the quality be up to par? And dammit, put a rear disc on it. Drums are a pain in the ass. I don’t want to have to take the wheel off to do brake work.

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  11. Trent says:

    At first glance I thought Ava was the chick grabbing the fence .. What size tires are those? Will they be available in Pirelli? :) How much fuel does that tank hold? Cool bike, but for a couple grand more, I’d rather buy a Ninja 300. Thanks for the article, Gabe!

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  12. Ralph says:

    So many wicked cool little bikes coming out now, I love it! Hard to decide what I like, they’re (mostly) all nice.

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  13. Hair says:

    Great product. And no vintage machinery was harmed during the build. whoot!!!!

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    • SausageCreature says:

      “And no vintage machinery was harmed during the build.”

      I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a CB400F or XS650 that’s been butchered by a horribly done cafe or street tracker conversion, shook my fists and yelled, “Nooooooooooooooo!” to the sky in impotent rage.

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  14. Tom Shields says:

    That’s pretty effing cool.

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  15. HotDog says:

    I just soiled myself. I want one in white.

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  16. Agel says:

    Nice , I want one !

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  17. Wendy says:

    If have to ride a vintage alike, then this is the way to go. I just have to get black leathers, a pudding bowl, a white scarf and loose 125 pounds.

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  18. Dave Kent says:

    That’s a beautiful bike. But those are some scary skinny fork tubes…

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    • GuyLR says:

      At first I thought you were over reacting about the tubes but after some study they look like they might be 31mm! Even my ’64 Parilla 250 has 35mm fork tubes. Replace those white wheels some nice alloy rims and come up with a tachometer option to replace the three idiot lights too.

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  19. Morgan says:

    It looks exactly like the Skyteam Ace that’s available here in New Zealand in 50cc and 125cc versions. It in turn is copy of the limited edition Honda Dream 50 that came out a few years ago. It in turn was a homage to the CR110 50cc “production racer” from the ’60s. So the look is actually classic Japanese. BTW the Skyteams also have Loncin engines so this bike is their big brother with a new name.

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    • blackdeth says:

      Good catch. This looks exactly like the Skyteam Ace but with a 250 engine. The higher price must be the cost of getting approval to sell it in the US. I give AVA credit for bringing this into the US.

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  20. sl says:

    I want a pic of someone sitting on it. Is it anything more than “to the coffee shop and home”. Oddly enough it would still live up to the name cafe bike.

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  21. Gutterslob says:

    Can anyone tell me about the number 17 emblazoned on the tank? Perhaps some sort of historical significance?
    It just happens to be my favourite number, and also the number I have on my plates (we don’t get custom plate names where I live) on both the bike and car.

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  22. Shaunock says:

    Please, PLEASE bring this to Australia for under $6k.

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  23. jake says:

    A 500 to 600cc with similar styling and weight control selling for a 1 to 2K more would be more attractive to the American market and sell by the boat loads. Wonder why they do not do so?

    Also, at some point the Chinese will begin to make higher quality motor vehicles. It is not as if they are genetically or culturally incapable of producing quality. Who knows, maybe now is the time. The bike certainly looks good from the photos.

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    • ErikS says:

      The Chinese have been building high quality motorcycles for some time now. The reason you don’t see them is because established importers are not asking for them. Go to Mexico, Central America and South America and all you will see are Chinese 200s and 250s. They are like the old school timex watches, they thrive on abuse and zero maintenance, they takes their lickin and keeps on tickin. So far the biggest bike they make is about 600 cc or so, but it won’t be long. The missing component is for one of the Chinese manufacturers to take charge of marketing and sales like Honda did in 1959, when made in Japan was just a euphemism for cheap junk….

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    • Azi says:

      That would be an Enfield Bullet.

      CF Moto do the modern-styled 650 for your suggested price range as well.

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      • jake says:

        Bullet Cafe Racer costs 7500 and weighs over 350lbs. The suggested bike would be 5900 and weight less than 300lbs. Also, its styled more uniquely than the typical cafe racers which usually come out. Rare to see one which looks like this one here in the U.S.

        CF Moto kinda of looks like a cheapened out Buell to me. The Chinese ought to buy the defunct Buell brand and sell the revived bikes for less. That would be one way to crack the U.S. market.

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    • johnny ro says:

      I like it. Need the right pace to ride it.

      Looking for a 600 version?

      There is a 1986 Yamaha SRX6 for sale in Augusta, Maine, right now on craigslist. That beautiful and delightful bike was a classic US marketing flop. Same for the SRX250. Hard to sell that sort of thing in the USA in any volume.

      For the AVA bike, I think the Chinese won’t lose any money, with their worldwide market and low costs. I hope AVA makes money and moves forward with his plans.

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  24. Cameron says:

    Five years ago I had a 1974 Yamaha RD60 with a GT80 motor. 110km/h is very exciting on a 171lb (soaking wet) little zinger that feels like not much more than a bicycle. Cornered like it was on rails. I have more fond memories about that bike than any I ‘ve owned before or since.

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  25. Andrew says:

    Every western manufacturer outsourcing their actual manufacturing to China claims *their* product will be much higher quality than the Chinese average and guess what? They never deliver on that promise. (Cleveland CycleWerks, I’m looking at you!)
    I’d like to believe this one will be different but my experience says otherwise.

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    • Tim says:

      I have an Eastman guitar, hand built in China, and not inexpensive (around $1,400) but I would challenge anyone to find a better looking, better sounding, better made guitar for under $3,000. Made in China doesn’t have to mean junk, but the company having something built there needs tight oversight and they need to use quality materials. The problem is most companies focus solely on the bottom line cost. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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      • stratkat says:

        Challenge accepted…
        ever hear of a good ol classic called the American Standard Stratocaster, made here in the good ol USA in Fullerton CA since 1954.

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        • Provologna says:

          Eastman is an acoustic flat top, not a solid body electric (Strat). The challenge is to find a flat top under $3k better than his $1500 Eastman. My vote for closest competitor is an Eric Schoenberg-designed Recording King, also Asian sourced.

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      • Tim says:

        I should have clarified that the acoustic guitar in question has a hand carved archback design, and is carved out of solid mahogany. It isn’t a run of the mill dreadnot. The woods are all first rate, Engleman spruce top, etc. There are certainly great American made guitars out there in that price range, many I would be proud to own, but for one with woods of the quality used in my Eastman, and a hand carved back, you would have to pay much more.

        But my point wasn’t to trash made in America. We still make many of the best products in the world here, provided you have the means to buy those products. Unfortunately, I couldn’t justify a comparable $3000 to $5000 American guitar. Music is not my profession and I’m not especially good at it.. My point was that if an American company is truely committed to having a quality product built in China, it can be done.

        Oh, and I’m also a big fan of Fender, so you’re preaching to the choir, Stratcat. I have an awesome American made Telecaster sitting in my family room right now.

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    • Neil says:

      I sat on a Cleveland Cycle Works misfit. The suspension was a joke. It did not even move when I sat on the bike. Brakes. Cables. Electrics. All need quality control. The brake and clutch feel were also awful. Not only that but how are these Chinese treating their neighbors? Besides the jobs, what’s in it for them? What crook gets paid off? And then all their foul air heads to our West Coast from havving no environmental controls as well. Build it here. We have plenty of people out of work. Get them off welfare and building bikes instead of voting in Mister Everyone Has The Right To Do Anything They Want So I Can Get More Voters.

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    • Neil says:

      I rode my Suzuki TU250 to the train station today. Ten miles one way. It was awesome. I did not need 1000cc’s to get there. So, this bike looks like it could be awesome. It looks nice. But can we ride it, safely, and will it function like the TU does?

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    • Dave says:

      Every piece of “Chinese junk” we’ve experienced here in the US was approved by an American product manager. China makes what you ask and pay for. There is a great deal of very high quality Chinese made product in the US but you never hear about it because nobody complains when stuff works.

      This would be a $10k bike if it were made in the US.

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  26. Norm G. says:

    re: “When you think about it, why do you need more horsepower than your shoe size to have fun on a motorcycle?”

    i don’t have the answer. gonna have to direct you to marc marquez for that one.

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  27. MGNorge says:

    Attack of the small bikes! Love it!

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  28. George Krpan says:

    It’s really, really cool.

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