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Scooter Review

Daelim S1 125 Review

A new scooter joins the upper echelon. What’s not to like?

Words by JEREMY BOWDLER,photography by LOU MARTIN

According to the press release, “A cool guy with fascinating angular shapes is coming to us.” Now, discounting my handsomely chiselled features, the only other cool guy with fascinating angular shapes in the vicinity is Daelim’s S1 and, in a workplace that has become jaded with the steady coming and going and to-ing and fro-ing of scooters, the favourable comments about the S1 are quite striking.

Most people think it looks sharp ... and expensive. And that’s an interesting reaction given Daelim’s positioning of the S1 as a premium scooter, at a premium price. In effect, the looks of the scooter have already done a lot of the hard work. If the scooter office is any judge of horseflesh, then the signs are good. But while looks alone may form the basis for a flirtation, when it’s time to get serious then what’s inside is what counts.

Anyone with a long memory (or a shelf full of scooter magazines) will remember we were quite impressed with Daelim’s weirdly named, but very practical NS125 III. It was fast(ish), practical and well(ish) built. It was, basically, a scooter that punched above its weight, and was built, as they might have said, tolerably well.

The new S1 is completely different. A sketchy command of history and a sense of delicacy prevent me from talking about Korea’s relationship with Japan, but the S1 isn’t likely to make it any better.

The Korean company Daelim has Honda quality in its sights, and why wouldn’t any company aim for the standard-setting marque for build quality? What's more, the first two weeks of a wet Sydney winter prove the company’s not far from the mark. Two weeks of wet commuting and the S1 scrubbed up as good as new. No alloy blooming, no rusty screws, no residual effects at all. Polished up a treat, it did, as you can see in the photos, which were taken the day the scooter (sadly) left our tender care.

But the ability to keep a showroom gleam for a couple of weeks – though impressive – is hardly likely to make Daelim a household name, so we have to look deeper, beneath the lustrous paint. How about under the seat? A handy trunk light and powersocket complement the storage space. One of the clever features of  he S1 is the shift of the fuel filler cap to the legshield. This makes filling the scooter easy (and quick) as you don’t need to worry about splashing fuel into the underseat storage area. Not that you have to fill the tank all that often. With a 9.5-litre capacity and an average economy figure (including in-town and two-up) of 3.9L/100km you should be right for 250km between sips at the bowser. What fuel crisis?

Part of the reason for the good economy must be the fuel-injection system, replacing the carburetor set-up of the outgoing model. Fuel injection is generally much more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than a carburetor since the electronic control module makes decisions about how much fuel and when to deliver it rather than a vacuum operated at the end of a long throttle cable.

But all the clean running and fuel economy in the world ain’t going to be your friend if your scooter can’t pull the skin off a custard. The NS125 sure could; what about the S1? The S1 claims more torque than the previous model, and that is borne out by the seat of the pants dyno. Once speeds get over about 40km/h, the S1 is strong and flexible, easily able to deal with the demands of a busy commuter.

Off the line, however, the S1 felt slightly flat as the centrifugal clutch wound up and drive was delivered. Interestingly, the flat feeling wasn’t accompanied by cars flashing by as I waited for some forward motion, so I suspect the feeling was just that. Anyway, holding the rear brake on while accelerating as the lights changed rendered the question mark academic and it’s easy to recommend the S1 as a day to day ride.

What makes it even easier is the scooter’s wet weather performance. While riding in the rain isn’t the most pleasant of experiences, it can certainly winnow the wheat from the chaff as far as commuters go. The S1 never put a foot wrong, and was even encouraging in the wet, due in no small part to the combined braking system. The right-hand brake lever operates the front brake as normal. The left-hand lever operates the rear brake and one piston on the front brake caliper, offering partial braking at the front at the same time.

This is a version of a system Honda has been using on some of its motorcycles (and scooters) for some years and it is very effective, offering shorter stopping distances with more feel at the lever. An added benefit is that is seems not to interfere too much with dragging the rear brake for stability and low-speed manoeuvres. At the risk of appearing a technophobe, it just works. So I forgot about it.

One thing I didn’t like, however, was the front headlight. It looked impressive with its twin-stack design and large reflector, but it lacked depth and penetration. Then I turned it on. I’m so used to automatic lights-on that I didn’t notice the lightswitch. At that instant I had to revise my opinion of the lights. They’re great – especially high-beam.

I’m wracking my brains trying to think of stuff I didn’t like. There could be more underseat storage, but that’s true of pretty much everything. There could be more Daelim dealers, but that’s beyond the scope of this test. There should be more Daelim riders, but that’s up to you. Oh, the owner’s manual. It’s easy to make fun of some of the tortured English translation, but there is an absolute wealth of information on how to ride well and safely (as well as the usual guff about maintenance).

So I can’t even complain about that.

And I certainly can’t complain about the S1. The shed’s looking pretty empty without it. ✽

As published in TW SCOOTER MAGAZINE - 25/08/2008
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