FANTIC CABALLERO 500 SCRAMBLER (2019 - on) Review
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Feelgood bikes don’t come much more heart-warming than the Fantic Caballero 500 Scrambler. Its Chinese motor may not have the power or kudos of its big gun retro rivals and it lacks their electronic wizardry, too, but it’s all the better for it.
A simple joy to ride, it’s packed with meaty, real world punch, charm and a generous level of equipment. Light, smooth and accurate it’s happy to burble serenely through town, flow through B roads and even get its tyres muddy.
When it comes to dirt bike-inspired retros the Caballero 500 Scrambler is a surprising gem and as easy on the wallet as it is on the eye. Put simply, the Fantic is the light, simple affordable, cheeky Scrambler Ducati should have built…but never could.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Inspired by the Italian firm’s 70s scramblers, this bright red retro is light, simple, punchy and so well rounded, you’d swear it had been around for years.
It’s so much fun and easy to get on with that you can’t help but smile when you’re near it and offers the perfect antidote to everything that’s too serious in biking, like zillion mph race replicas, pretentious adventurers and stuffy tourers.
Arriving hot on the heels of the 125 and 250cc Caballero Scramblers launched last year, we also rode the prototype 500 on the mountain roads near Fantic’s Treviso factory and came away more than impressed. Its single cylinder engine packed a delightful punch and it was all wrapped up in a taught, classy chassis.
Polished, refined and given the Euro4 stamp of approval, this full production version offers a refreshingly pure and thrilling ride.
Set plush with a touch of firmness for control, the suspension won’t jar your wobbly bits and with its beefy forks, yokes and sticky Pirelli dual purpose Scorpion Rally STR tyres, the capable Caballero carves neat lines and doesn’t flop about alarmingly in the corners.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Its refined, modern, 43bhp, 449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder motor is built in…China, by Zongshen. But don’t get too hung up on where it comes from, because when you dig deep you’ll find that even the most premium of bikes for sale now have a smattering of Asia about them.
Built to Fantic’s spec, once it knocks at their factory door, it’s slotted into an Italian-built steel chrome moly tubular frame and garnished with lashings of tasty cycle parts
Don’t expect demonic performance when you turn on the taps – the Fantic is calmer than that and doesn’t take itself so seriously. Think of the Scrambler’s motor more like a thrappy enduro engine with all the rough edges smoothed off.
Long-legged, with a seamless spread of power and emitting just the right amount of single cylinder ripples, the fuelling is perfect, the clutch light and gearbox accurate. If all Chinese engines can be this refined, bring it on.
Acceleration is delivered in crisp, meaty dollops and with such little weight to push along (just 150kg dry) there’s enough oomph to keep you grinning as you blast out of sleepy villages and into B-road heaven. Arrow pipes and a deep airbox roar provide the perfect scrambled soundtrack, but removing the baffles as soon as you get the Fantic home will surely be too great a temptation to resist?
There are no electronic rider aids to spoil your fun, except for ABS, which you can switch off where, free from silicone sorcery, the Fantic will handle gentle green lanes and stunt like a field bike.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Tried and tested Italian chassis parts should cause any major problems and despite their reputation, Chinese engines are usually reliable – it’s usually the bikes that disintegrate first.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Few machines can match the Fantic for price, but of course Ducati’s Scrambler comes close in terms of spirit, albeit for nearly two-grand more.
The Bolognese retro’s bigger V-twin motor has more power, advanced electronics and wears a more famous badge, but it’s massive 39kg heavier, less agile and not as much of a hoot to ride.
Just standing still the Fantic gets off to a good start. The styling is bang on and there’s something about a ‘500’ with yellow number plates. It conjures images of gnarly 80s 500cc road racing and motocross weapons, making makes riders of a certain age go weak at the knees.
You get a lot of classy kit for your money: LED front and rear lights, billet ali footrest hangers and yokes, wavy brake discs, Bybre calipers, Brembo master cylinder Tommasselli bars, Domino grips, Arrow cans, spoked wheels and a digital clock. Fit, finish and paintwork are superb.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 4v, single|
|Frame type||Tubular steel backbone|
|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 wave disc with Bybre four-piston radial calipers|
|Rear brake||230mm rear disc with single-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||110/80 x 19|
|Rear tyre size||140/80 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£67|
|Annual service cost||-|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||43 bhp|
|Max torque||32 ft-lb|
|Top speed||105 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
2019: Fantic Caballero 500 Scrambler released
Caballero Flat Track 500 As Scrambler with 19in rims and flat track style seat unit and tyres, Big-wheel handling isn’t as sure footed as the Scrambler on the road.
Fantic Caballero Rally 500. 50mm longer travel suspension, adjustable forks and shock, Michelin knobblies, aluminium swingarm, cross-braced handlebars, sump/radiator/headlight guards.
Caballero Scrambler and Flat Track also available in 125 and 250cc guises.
Owners' reviews for the FANTIC CABALLERO 500 SCRAMBLER (2019 - on)
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