2019 FB Mondial HPS 300 review, test ride
9th Mar 2019 6:00 am
The HPS 300 marks the return of a famous Italian brand that was heavily into racing. However, today, the story is quite different.
Hipsters are a confusing bunch. They go to great (sometimes ridiculous) extents to avoid being considered mainstream. Deconstructed coffee, for instance, is one such fine example. Considered one of the most hipster trends out there, deconstructed coffee (as the name suggests) is the ingredients needed to make coffee served to you in separate beakers for you to make yourself, instead of just receiving a ready-to-drink cup of coffee. Now, while I steer clear from the infamous coffee fad, I can’t escape hipster motorcycles. These days, they’re just everywhere, and have started to make such good business sense that the bike you see here is actually named ‘FB Mondial HPS 300’, where ‘HPS’ actually stands for ‘Hipster’. Thankfully, the first part of that name holds a much deeper meaning.
FB Mondial is a company that dates back to 1948. It saw quite a lot of success in racing, with multiple world championships accrued between 1949 and 1957. The company ran into the ground due to financial issues in the late 1970s and was only resurrected in 2014 with the first concept of the bike you see on these pages. Go back 70 years and the company founders would have never imagined that their motorcycles would go on to be built in China and sold across the world as a fashion statement; but this is the way things have gone. So let’s take a look at what the new Mondial has to offer.
On the face of it
The HPS 300 isn’t trying reproduce the company’s racing DNA – its specialty lies elsewhere. It is here to offer something else, which should be apparent from its oh-so-unique design. But it’s not just unique, it’s proportionate and, in my eyes, is one of the best-looking motorcycles under Rs 5 lakh. Almost every piece on the bike appears as if it has had considerable thought gone into it. The headlight, for instance, is teardrop-shaped and not round like on most retro motorcycles. The tank has just the right amount of bulk and the tail is chopped at just the right point. What also add to the bike’s character are the large, spoked 18-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel. Similarly, the short front fender and side-mounted exhaust add to the scrambler-esque appeal. The view while riding is not that bad either. In front of you is a handlebar that arches inward with retro balloon grips and bar-end mirrors at both ends. And there is the offset instrument cluster that is fully digital and heavily inspired from the one on the Ducati Scrambler. Step back and you’ll catch a strange mix of scrambler, flat tracker and café racer in there, but somehow, the whole thing works.
Offset digital gauge is a nice touch.
There were, however, a few things that could use some work. For starters, the switchgear is cheap and flimsy, and some of the plastic bodywork near the tank doesn’t fit very well. The engine plumbing also looks a bit too industrial, especially on the left. Similarly, the use of different hardware all over the motorcycle, like Phillips and Allen bolts, give it a shed-built appearance. The lengthy belly pan adds to the overall design, but it scrapes quite easily on big speedbreakers and the bike feels lower than the quoted ground clearance of 155mm.
Balloon grips look and feel nice.
Smaller than life
Don’t let the pictures fool you into believing that the HPS 300 is a large motorcycle. The bike is surprisingly compact in the flesh, with a seat height of 785mm and a kerb weight of 147kg. I am about 6ft tall and I just about fit on the motorcycle. Individuals with a larger stature will find the ergonomics unpleasant, to say the least. The problem isn’t in the setting of the pulled-back handlebar, but in the uncomfortably high and rear-set foot pegs. The placement of the pegs is more extreme than a KTM and given the small stature of the bike, cramps in the knees, hips and back aren’t very far off in the distance. The pegs themselves are also quite slippery; it was more than once that I found my right foot sliding off after a gear change.
That’s all the space the pillion gets.
You may have heard how hipsters like their hybrid cars, like the Prius. Well, if you haven’t, they really do, and environmental friendliness is all the rage. However, when it comes to motorcycles it’s quite the contrary; here they don’t mind their loud and brash petrol engines in the least. But the HPS 300 isn’t a fire-breathing beast. While the name might suggest otherwise, this motorcycle uses a 249cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC motor that comes paired to a 6-speed gearbox.
Let’s talk numbers
The engine, as with the rest of the bike, is made in China at the Piaggio-Zongshen facility. It makes 22.8hp at 9,000rpm and 22Nm of torque at 7,000rpm and it is in this department that the HPS is the least impressive. The motor has a gruff feel to it, which is decently controlled at lower speeds but gets harsh above 6,000rpm. However, its lack of refinement doesn’t mean the bike is a dud in the performance department. Our Vbox tests revealed a 0-100kph time of 11.82sec and we noticed a speedo-indicated top speed of 141kph, which admittedly did take a long time getting to. These numbers are decent, but are towards the slower end of the current 250cc crop.
Exhaust heat shield can get toasty.
While this isn’t a deal-breaker, it is important to note that the liquid-cooled engine also throws off considerable heat, which flows toward the rider’s left leg. The right leg, meanwhile, is advised to stay clear of the exhaust shield that flows by where your leg would meet the motorcycle – it can feel quite hot here. We didn’t notice this in our riding boots, but you wouldn’t want to ride in sneakers and shorts – not that you ever should.
A radiator guard is much needed.
What we liked is the well-balanced chassis. Front suspension is handled by a modern-looking USD fork, while the twin shocks at the rear keep with the retro vibe. Ride quality is slightly firm, but decently comfortable but we noticed that the high-speed ride was a bit lumpy. The CST (Cheng Shin Tyre)-branded tyres were pleasantly impressive in terms of the levels of grip and composure they offered. But don’t let the blocky tread tempt you into going off-road – the bike just doesn’t have the ground clearance or riding position to indulge this.
Low belly pan is prone to scratches.
We also like the braking performance of the HPS. The four-piston caliper with a 280mm disc at the front and single-piston caliper with a 220mm disc at the rear slows down the bike well. The predictable lever feel along with the well-calibrated dual-channel ABS system also helps taking this bike from 60kph to 0 in just 18.29m.
Proceed with caution
Motoroyale has brought the HPS 300 to India as a CKD, and that makes it expensive. At 3.37 lakh (ex-showroom, India), the HPS 300 costs a good deal more than much more powerful and better equipped bikes like the newly-launched CB300R (Rs 2.41 lakh), BMW G 310 R (Rs 2.99 lakh), KTM 390 Duke (Rs 2.44 lakh) and the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (from Rs 2.50 lakh). However, the HPS 300 does come with an air of exclusivity since it is the only bike of its kind on sale in India – that is, until the KTM-powered hipster Husqvarnas arrive this year.