2018 Kymco Spade 150 First Ride Review

Kymco throws their name into the minibike mix.

Kymco Spade
Small in stature, big in character!Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

Kymco says: “The spirit of the Spade 150 is in the fundamental fun of riding.” Motorcyclist says: “A little rough around the edges, but the fun’s definitely there.”

There's an undeniable sense of juvenile joy that comes from zipping around the streets on a minibike, and the fact that more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon shows that the market has true potential. With Honda's Grom a huge seller, and Kawasaki hot on their heels with the Z125 Pro, it was only a matter of time before we saw more entries from other notable marques. Kymco's Spade 150 seemed to appear out of nowhere —but is it a "sizable" competitor?

Small Bike, Big Attitude

Right off the bat, Kymco decided to give the Spade just a bit more oomph than the others with an air-cooled, 149cc, 4-valve, single-cylinder engine that produces a claimed 12 hp, the sound from which terminates in a rather large and humdrum-looking muffler. It’s not exactly the peppiest thing in the world, but it gets you up and moving at a decent pace. At your feet, you’ll find all the standard motorcycle controls exactly where you’d expect them to be: a shift lever which allows you to toggle between any of the five gears available (that’s one more gear than both the Grom and Z125 Pro), and a rear drum brake. Your left hand is given the task of managing the incredibly light clutch, while the right hand engages the front disc brake (which lacks ABS).

Kymco Spade
The Spade's air-cooled, 150cc 4-stroke engine provides a claimed 12.0 horsepower at peak rpm, and features a 5-speed transmission.Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

A simple gauge cluster sits just above the circular headlight, displaying engine RPM on an analog tachometer, and the speed readout on a digital screen. The cluster itself is basic—almost cheap feeling—but it gets the job done.

The Spade has a 1.6-gallon steel tank that’s vaguely reminiscent of a design seen on smaller Japanese motorcycles from the mid ‘70s. It’s larger than that of the Grom, but still less than the Z125. A bench-type seat rests just behind it, rounding out the tail section rather eloquently. In keeping with the old-school appearance of the bike, a set of twin shocks (adjustable for preload) help sort out rear-wheel travel, while a non-adjustable telescopic fork manages the front end, albeit without the aid of compression or rebound damping adjustments. A set of small, 12-inch rims mated to a pair of grippy tires means the Spade 150 won’t fight your control inputs, however will be more susceptible to upsets from road inconsistencies.

Kymco Spade
The gauge cluster features a digital speed readout along with an analog tachometer. It feels a bit on the cheap side, but it gets the job done.Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

The Ride

A cold and windy morning in Asheville, North Carolina served as the perfect backdrop to test out Kymco’s new mini-monster. With a promise that the Spade would be fun and inviting to newer riders, I threw a leg over the lowest-in-class 28-inch seat height , and immediately noticed the relaxed riding position, as well as the increased heft over the Grom/Z125 (Kymco claims the Spade’s wet weight is 266.2 pounds). I didn’t feel cramped at all on the miniscule machine, though I can see how larger riders might find the ergonomics constricting.

The lightly-sprung suspension soaked up most of the road’s irregularities without much fuss, only the occasional deep rut or lurking pothole causing the fork to bottom out (more akin to the Grom’s bouncy suspension, one area the Z125 improved on).

Kymco Spade
The Spade can keep up with city traffic, so long as you're generous with the throttle and expeditious with your shifts!Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

The levers on the handlebar are non-adjustable, however I didn’t feel that the reach was too much of a stretch for those with smaller hands. The footpegs placed my feet in a very relaxed riding position, similar to the larger standard machines. A brief press of the starter button easily persuades the diminutive engine to life, and a full sweep up to the 8,500 rpm redline returns the mild buzz you’d expect from a small, single-cylinder machine.

Watch Ari and Zack rock the Honda Grom and Kawasaki Z125 Pro around the streets of San Francisco in this episode of On Two Wheels!

As I pulled in the clutch, I noticed two things: it was very light and easy to pull, but was rather spongy feeling. When I dropped the bike into gear, I was rather amazed at the distance my foot traveled down with the shift lever before I felt the transmission engage, lacking the tight, well-sorted feel of its Japanese counterparts. As I gained speed, I noticed that the gearing was on the shorter side.

The power produced by the Spade definitely isn’t earth-shattering, but on a small bike where you sit low to the ground, it can feel like you’re really moving—until you get passed by the Toyota Prius wanting to merge into your lane. Still, it’s zippy enough to keep up with the bustling city traffic, so long as you’re generous with your throttle input and don’t mind brief encounters with the first four gears.

Kymco Spade
Aftermarket accessories are already available through MNNTHBX, including a custom exhaust, fender eliminator, and top triple clamp. Check out their modified Spade (above, right) in comparison to the stock Spade (above, left)!Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

The brakes slowed the Spade down well, though I really wish the front brake had been equipped with ABS, entry-level riders in mind. The rear drum provided more feel than I had expected, which I was thankful for. Around tight corners, I had a tendency to drag the center stand while maintaining a brisk pace—a little unnerving, and something to watch out for.

One thing I noticed after a day of riding was that the clutch on the Spade kept feeling a little inconsistent—as in, the engagement wasn’t as crisp as it had been earlier on in the day. I’ll go out on a limb and say that it was probably due to the fact that it had been abused by journalists doing burnouts and full-throttle launches, but even the Kymco reps had mentioned that we should try to be a little “friendlier” to these specific clutches.

The gauges gave me just enough info to get by, and aside from the analog tach needle constantly playing keep-up with the engine RPM’s, I found it to be easy to read.

Kymco Spade
If you're looking for a small, agile ride that's the same size as a scooter but still offers the excitement of shifting, the Spade might be your perfect around-town errand runner.Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

The Final Word

Being a fan of minibikes myself, I have to say that this recent influx of microscopic machines to the U.S. has been fantastically fun, and Kymco’s Spade does well to continue in the steps of its Japanese rivals. For around the same price as the Grom or a Z125 Pro, you can expect a bit more power, slightly more room, a less aggressive stance, and retro looks. If this is the look you prefer over the sportier motif its challengers, keep this bike squarely in your sights. If you’re hunting for the best quality for your money, I’m inclined to say that Kymco still have some work to do on the overall fit and finish of the Spade, as some of the inconsistencies with the transmission particularly had me a little nervous. Still, the Spade is a solid contender for first time riders and fun-seekers alike, and offers much to enjoy.

Kymco Spade
The Spade is one of those bikes that promotes spontaneity and enjoyment, reminding us to take life a little less seriously and to smile a little more.Photo: Michael Spain-Smith

TECH SPEC

Evolution: Kymco takes aim at the minibike market with a retro-inspired, beginner-friendly micro machine.

TECH
PRICE $2,999
ENGINE 149.4cc air-cooled single-cylinder
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 12.0 hp @ 8400 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 8.0 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel semi-cradle frame
FRONT SUSPENSION 37mm telescopic fork; 3.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION dual shocks adjustable for spring preload; 3.4-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Two-piston caliper, single 220mm disc
REAR BRAKE 140mm drum
RAKE/TRAIL 25°/3.3 in.
WHEELBASE 47.2 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 28.1 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 1.6 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 248.6 lb. (dry)
AVAILABLE August 2017
CONTACT kymcousa.com

Verdict: Stylistic variety and some extra power keeps the Spade in the running if you're looking for an ultra-compact classic cruiser.