Surely one of - if not *the* - most comfy 125s on the market, the VanVan is a very sturdy looking effort. Both tyres are oversized, but the rear hilariously so (same as the Yamaha TW125). Marmite retro styling, is how it tends to be described. Its looks will either click instantly with you or not - they're an odd admix of enemy dispatch rider, winebago bike and '70s off-roader. Personally I love it. To my mind it's one of the few bikes being manufactured today that doesn't look like it's made mostly of Lego, or else been modelled on a kid's Transformer toy.
In some ways it's not much more than a two-wheeled quad bike - one bloke asked me if I rounded up livestock on it. I grinned - sheepishly. Arf. It does love to bimble through the mud of the back lanes, and it'll inspire learners' confidence in a trice. But it also has an insatiable taste for narrow streets and urban settings – the big tyres and broad seat soak up those neglected road surfaces like no other. Please note too that the shorter rider will have no trouble reaching the ground on the VanVan.
As mentioned above there's also a very informative website that encourages owners to undertake maintenance – youtube uploads and step-by-step photographed guides are numerous, all provided by professional and very seasoned riders and mechanics. Suffice to say the bike's small thumper engine is a simple affair – oil changes, chain adjustment and various other regular jobs are a breeze. First time fettlers will be in their element.
True, it has little to offer in the way of speed – but it enjoys trying, and will whisk you up to 50 in a way that'll soon have you smiling. And don't be surprised if, when you pop out for a paper and packet of Cutter's Choice, you find yourself taking an hour or more on the way back.
You don't get a rev counter, and you don't even get a petrol light on the older carb models (but there's an old fashioned tripometer that makes it easy to keep track of how many miles you've done since filling the tank). Nor does it have a centre stand – which makes chain oiling a bit hard if you don't have a drive to wheel it back and forth on. So yes, it's a very basic affair, the VanVan – making for really trad motorbiking. Also, the paint is a bit thin in places, and you really must try to keep that rear mono-shocker greased because it'll catch the worst of the weather where it is. There's a really simple way to extend the rear mudguard, however – a common mod that all owners should get on with. Ditto a 'fender extender' for the front too – where once again crap gets flung into the frame. But with these easy tasks done, and if owners take a little time to regularly spritz the VanVan w/ WD40 type products, and maybe dab on some Wax Oyl and/or grease around the frame and beneath (where the sump plug is), the VanVan will probably run forever with regular oil changes.
Price-wise you'll need to spy your chance – I dropped on an '04 plate earlier this year with just 96 (!) miles on the clock, and it cos me just under £1500. Yeah – the bike had been laid up for 8 years (no idea what the story was, because the bike had clearly not been ridden, dropped or even run in). They come up on eBay every week – and similar bikes can go for over two grand one week, and 1500 the next. Took me a few weeks to get a CBT, then I needed an MOT and one or two other things (carbs cleaned), but in the last couple of months I've put 1500 miles on it. Most of that at half throttle. But the bike's run in perfectly now, and is always really eager to please. I'll never sell it. I couldn't – it's far too good.