Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ridden Voxan Street Scrambler

France has so much to offer - steady on chaps, we're not talking about Carla Bruni.
 One of my favourite things about France is its splendid roads - often through fine scenery, connecting historic towns and far less congested than here in Britain.

What a shame they don't have a French motorcycle to ride on them. But wait, you may not have heard of it, but there is a French bike and guess what - it's just as quirky as you'd expect from our friends across the Channel.

Voxan was established back in 1995 in Issoire in France and whilst their first prototype was released two years later, it wasn't until 1999 and beyond that their Roadster, Café Racer and Scrambler models were in the showrooms, with the Street Scrambler appearing in 2003.

Classic cool
Its styling is timeless and classic. There's a distinctly classy air about the bike which is perhaps why they haven't messed with the design in the five years of its existence. Next to rivals like the Benelli TNT Café Racer or Moto Morini's Corsaro Veloce 1200, the Street Scrambler looks petite and unfussy.
And to ride, it feels like a chopper in comparison. The seat's soft and low and you feel as though you've slipped inside the bike rather than sitting on it. As a result, the flat handlebars feel strangely high.
The instrument display consists of two circular dials which are perched above the bike's headlight. Both the rev counter and speedo have an old fashioned look about them and yet the design suits the bike perfectly. Dual slim exhaust pipes are stacked on top of each other to one side, just below seat height.

And although there's a real elegance about them, they emit a sound not dissimilar to a Harley-Davidson with full Screaming Eagle kit. All Voxan motorcycles are powered by the same 996cc, 72-degree V-twin engine.

French Harley
It is very much in the Harley mould - there's a certain degree of mechanical noise and obvious vibrations, enough to tickle your fingers, shudder the mirrors and encourage you to keep the revs nice and low. Tingling extremities weren't the only reason I kept the needle below 7,000rpm though.

Despite the red-line being at an indicated 9,500rpm, the bike insisted on spluttering way before that, and never at the same place in the rev range. I'd just executed a swift exchange of ticket and Euros, together with my very best smattering of French at the toll booth and had nailed the throttle.
I'd been keeping my focus firmly on the road ahead until the power delivery suddenly felt stifled. Red line, I thought, but glanced down to see the needle swaying at 7K. It seemed odd, but I shifted up and tucked in.
Another splutter: this time at 8K, as if to confirm the bike's individuality and unpredictability. This was clearly a random fault on this particular bike. It's the first I've ever ridden, so I can't give any direct experience of reliability or other mechanical quirks. For everyday pottering and gentle playing, the Voxan Street Scrambler has much to offer.

Gallic ease
It's very easy to ride and the torquey engine favours a lazy attitude towards the six-speed gearbox. The brakes do manage to bring 190kg of bike to a complete standstill, but they're not sports bike sharp in doing do and feel as soft as the bike's suspension.

Push on and the Street Scrambler wastes no time in reminding you of its restricted ground clearance, amongst other limitations. I was still steaming ahead on the same stunning three lane ribbon through southern France when I became acutely aware of the bike's handlebars swaying under the pressure of both the ride and the strong side-winds.

The movement didn't appear to show any signs of slowing, and oddly enough, neither did I! As I continued my constant (and healthy) pace into the fast right-hand sweeper, the side-to-side motion of my arms progressed into a gentle but very definite rotational twisting throughout the bike's steel twin-spar chassis.

Needless to say I backed off and silently apologised to my French friend. I felt inconsiderate and over demanding, like I'd just dragged my 90-year-old nan to an all-night rave.

Verdict
This bike's strengths are very much in the sporty cruiser mode - perhaps I've invented a new class there - it handles better than a Harley, but not as well as a Ducati Monster. There is a handful of UK dealers and the rarity value is currently part of the attraction.

People tempted to buy one will do so for its character and individuality - it's for posing, not track days. I found it good fun, a likeable bike as long as it's in a relaxed environment. And no-one wants to live life in the fast lane forever, do they?

Need to know
Engine :666cc V-twin
Power :100bhp@8,000rpm
Torque :68.6lb/ft@6,500rpm
Top speed (mph);n/a
Transmission: six-speed, chain drive
Weight (kg): 190
Seat height (mm): 810
Fuel tank (litres): 14.5

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