FANTIC CABALLERO 250 SCRAMBLER (2018 - on) Review
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Think Fantic and your thoughts might drift wistfully to 1970s trail bikes, chunky off-road boots and Kickstart on TV.
Created by Mario Agrati and Henry Keppel-Hesselinkis in 1968, the firm began life exporting enduros, mini-bikes and even go-karts, before moving into the UK market in 1972 - producing a range of sporty 50cc sports mopeds.
Fantic Motor then moved into trials in the 1980s, before falling on hard times and fading away, ceasing tading in the UK market place over a decade ago.
However, now they’re back, loud, proud, Italian-owned and still strong to their off-road roots. Fantic are well and truly up and running.
There are already 21 UK dealers and in them you’ll find a 50cc-250cc enduro range, 50cc/125cc supermotos and even a Fantic electric mountain bike.
But what’s really floating our retro boat is the Caballero range, available in Scrambler or Flat Track flavours.
The 125s are already out and the 500 is due at the end of the summer, but right now we’re in Italy, just up the road from Fantic’s Treviso factory, to ride the Caballero 250 Scrambler, hot off the production line and in dealers any day now.
Aside from styling, the bike tested here is mechanically identical to and costs the same as the Flat Track.
The Caballero 250 Scrambler is an impressive piece of kit, especially for the price. Dripping with Italian designer labels, its build quality is superb and the styling is bang-on. Its modestly powered single-cylinder motor is refined, but characterful, with a charming, poppy, trails-bike-like exhaust note.
Even more remarkable is how taut and together the chassis is. It’s light, handles and brakes beautifully and is a piece of cake to ride.
It’s just the thing for zipping around town, thudding through tight terrain and even off-road. In a class dominated by big, heavy, contrived retros, the simple Fantic is a breath of fresh air.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The best thing about the Fantic is its chassis. Credit to the small factory team of young engineers (Fantic’s CEO is former Aprilia, Laverda, Moto Guzzi and Piaggio technical boss Mariano Roman), the Caballero 250 Scrambler rides and handles like it’s had years of development.
There’s no slop in the chromoly chassis, meaning the handling is crisp and the brakes are sharp. The suspension also offers a great mix of comfort and control.
With a natural, comfy riding position and just 130kg (dry) to lug around, there’s nothing hard about riding the Fantic, whether you’re in town, out in the country lanes or even attacking light off-road.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The 28bhp liquid-cooled 249.6cc motor is a gem, with a burbling exhaust note and an easy spread of power.
With a sweet gearbox and light clutch, it’s easy to pilot around town and there’s just enough power to keep things interesting.
Think 250 enduro bike kind of power, but slightly long legged for B-road cruising, and you won’t be far off.
It lacks the performance of other, bigger-cc multi-cylinder retro bikes, such as the Ducati Scrambler 800 range, Yamaha XSR700 and Suzuki SV650X, but it’s lighter, purer and more fun on smaller roads.
Don't be put off by the Chinese motor
The engine is sourced from Chinese firm Zongshen and fettled by Fantic back at the factory. Now I know what you’re thinking, but you’re way off.
The motor is actually a peach, and when you dig deep there simply aren’t many new bikes around nowadays without parts made in Asia.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
It’s too early to say how durable the Fantic’s Zongshen motor will be, but it’s in a mild state of tune, so don’t expect any nightmares. Chassis parts are all tried and tested, so there should be little problem there.
With a 21-strong dealer network across the UK and a two year warranty, there should be plenty of support, if something goes wrong.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Priced at just a little more than a new Japanese 125 at £5399, the Fantic Caballero 250 is stonking value for money.
Styled to mimic the original ’70s Caballero, featuring the same front and rear single light unit and red peanut petrol tank, the new machine looks like it's stepped out of a time warp.
As well as looking the part, the minimalist price tag also bags you superb build quality and a flawless paint finish.
What's more, the Fantic is also packed with lovely parts and attention to detail - boasting LED front and rear lights and wavy brake discs, alongside premium Bybre calipers, Tommaselli bars, Domino grips, Arrow cans, spoked wheels and a digital clock.
The Fantic Caballero 250 Scrambler is littered with high-quality parts, which help set it apart from other small-capacity retro bikes on the market.
Despite using a Chinese-produced engine (which is nothing to be sniffed at), the Fantic boasts solid aluminium machined yokes, fork bottoms and footrest hangers.
Helping to complete the scrambler package is a fantasitc '70s soundtrack, thanks in part to set of twin Arrow cans. The fuelling and throttle response are also perfect.
While the styling might mimic that of days gone by, this bike is thoroughly modern - using a digital dash, ABS, LEDs, radial brakes and wavy discs.
|Engine type||8v single-cylinder|
|Fuel capacity||12 litres|
|Front suspension||Non-adjustable Fantic FRS 41mm USD forks|
|Rear suspension||Single Fantic FRS rear shock adjustable for rebound damping|
|Front brake||320mm wavy disc with Bybre four-piston radial caliper|
|Rear brake||230mm rear disc|
|Front tyre size||110/80 x 13|
|Rear tyre size||130/80 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£44|
|Annual service cost||-|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||28 bhp|
|Max torque||17 ft-lb|
|Top speed||95 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
The Fantic Caballero 250 Scrambler was launched in 2018, alongside a 125 and 500 Scrambler.
A 125, 250 and 500 Caballero Flat Track were also introduced at a similar time, which enjoy slightly different styling, however remain mechanically the same.
Alongside these bikes, Fantic are also producing a range of 50cc to 250cc enduro and supermoto bikes, with the 50cc variants remaining single-cylinder two-strokes, before swapping to four-stroke engines from 125cc and upwards.
Owners' reviews for the FANTIC CABALLERO 250 SCRAMBLER (2018 - on)
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