SWM OUTLAW 500 (2019 - on) Review

At a glance

Power: 30 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.7 in / 805 mm)
Weight: Low (320 lbs / 145 kg)

Prices

New £5,299
Used N/A

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The SWM Outlaw is a charming introduction to the retro market. Keenly priced and stuffed with quality components, it isn’t in the same league as a Triumph or Ducati Scrambler derivative, however at no point pretends to be.

With just 30bhp on tap, the bike’s single-cylinder engine packs ample punch for town work and is the perfect antidote to high-speed, chin-on-the-tank weekend blasts. That said, it does struggle when you show it a faster A-road or motorway.

Despite its Chinese origins, the engine feels solid and you can’t help but grin as it barks its way through the smoothly-fed gears. It also looks superb, however intermittent electrical gremlins and cheap-feeling graphics highlight a questionable level of build quality that could have future repercussions.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Ample ground clearance and wide motocross-inspired bars make the Outlaw a joy to behold along a winding back road. Although by no means sporty, the grip level from the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber far outstretches the bike’s performance, giving you the confidence to push on the wide bars and commit to every turn.

Around town, the light clutch, narrow tank and low seat height also make it an unintimidating congestion-buster, perfect for shorter riders and novices. A thick padded double seat also means plenty of comfort for your rear on longer rides. That said, some taller riders may find the bike slightly too cramped, with the 805mm seat height and high pegs potentially causing some discomfort.  

Bringing the bike to a stop is a powerful four-piston radially-mounted Brembo front caliper, which adds an additional touch of class and allows you to bring the bike to a stop quickly in a controlled and precise manner. 

With the ABS only ever pushing back against the lever during hard braking on particularly rutted roads, the powerful stopper is complemented by the premium Pirellis, which bite the tarmac with purpose. 

Once under brakes, there is also minimal dive from the front end, thanks to well-damped 43mm fully-adjustable upside down forks, which dispatch with most bumps in the tarmac on their standard setting.

This is aided by the adjustable twin rear shocks, which help complete the classic look, and instil a confidence that the bike would be capable of tackling the occasional light trail, too.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

At the beating heart of the SWM lies a Chinese-produced motor from Shineray, based on the Honda XBR500.

Performing best below around 6000rpm, the A2-friendly unit delivers a distinctive chug as you short shift through the smoothly-fed gears, complemented by the shotgun-style twin pea-shooter pipes that exit just below the pillion seat. 

SWM Outlaw 500 engine

An easily-managed introduction to retro motorcycling, the engine feels surprisingly revvy for a single, however it starts to get lost at higher motorway speeds, producing a noticeable vibe through the pegs and bars at around 7000rpm in top gear, which in turn distorts your view through the mirrors and shakes the front brake lever.

What’s more, poor fuelling at low speeds means that fourth gear at 30mph results in the bike lurching forwards, despite holding a constant throttle. That said, knock it either up or down a gear and the problem went away.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Despite being a new model, our 600-mile-old test bike was not without fault, having already developed an intermittent fault within the left-hand indicator. Occasionally flashing too fast, or pausing before activating, it raises questions about long-term reliability.

That said, despite the preconceptions surrounding Chinese motorcycles, the Shineray engine feels solid, as does the slick gearbox. Plus, being based on an '80s Honda and with no fairings to remove, basic maintenance should be relatively straightforward.  

Despite a decent engine, a downpour during the photography day led to the bike’s clocks resetting themselves, before producing an ABS warning light and error code on the dash.

Having spoken to SWM about the problems, a spokesperson for the UK importer, Three Cross Motorcycles, told MCN that such issues would be covered under warranty and that questions could also be answered by UK-based experts here.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Powered by a 445cc, air-cooled single producing just 30bhp, the SWM Outlaw offers a refreshing change of pace within the often twin-cylinder-biased retro naked market.

Delivering a distinctive thrapping engine note reminiscent of a mud-plugging trailie, the dinky Italian boasts contemporary European styling to rival many mainstream manufacturers, only at a fraction of the cost.

SWM Outlaw 500 exhausts

Littered with high quality bolt-ons befitting bikes almost double the price tag, on the face of it, the SWM appears to be serious value.

This is compounded further when you consider a Yamaha XSR700 costs £7099 and features conventional forks and cheaper-looking two-disc, two-piston front brakes. That said, the parallel twin motor produces 74bhp, making it a viable option in a wider range of scenarios.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

From its chunky upside down forks, to its motocross-style bars and side-mounted, twin-exit pipes, the Outlaw sports a premium look befitting a bike far outstretching its £5299 price tag.

This is complemented further by the powerful four-piston Brembo radial caliper, which adds an additional premium feel at the front end.

That said, the bike comes equipped with just one single LCD clock unit, reminiscent of Yamaha’s retro XSR range. Spec is basic, containing your revs, speed, odo, one trip meter and a clock. Fuel is dealt with via a warning light.

Specs

Engine size 445cc
Engine type Four valve air-cooled single
Frame type Steel single tube beam with double cradle
Fuel capacity 16.5 litres
Seat height 805mm
Bike weight 145kg
Front suspension 43mm upside down forks, fully adjustable
Rear suspension Double hydraulic shocks, preload and rebound adjustable
Front brake 320mm disc, four-piston radial caliper, ABS
Rear brake 220mm disc, one piston caliper, ABS
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 150/60 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 62 mpg
Annual road tax £67
Annual service cost -
New price £5,299
Used price -
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 30 bhp
Max torque 26 ft-lb
Top speed 90 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 226 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

Both the SWM Outlaw and the new Ace of Spades have been produced off the back of the SWM Gran Milano Café Racer, with the Outlaw losing some of its on-road bias in favour of a retro trail bike look.

Other versions

There is only one model of SWM Outlaw, however other models such as the Six Days 440 makes use of the same single-cylinder motor.

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