There are a few reasons why India doesn’t have many CKD (Completely Knocked Down) motorcycles below the Rs 5-lakh mark – and the biggest reason is price-sensitivity. You see, bikers here are spoilt for choice, and can have highly-capable, made-in-India machines like the KTM Dukes and the Royal Enfield 650 twins at a price that is literally half that of other countries. Then there are other big, well-known brands who sell highly-localised or completely India-made bikes offering impressive levels of performance and equipment at amazingly low costs.
It is in the midst of this price sensitive segment that Cleveland CycleWerks has made its debut in India. This company has its headquarters in America, but its bikes are made in China and shipped out to India as kits where they are assembled at the company’s new plant outside Pune.
Localisation is a low 5 percent (owing to the Indian battery and tyres) and this applies to both models currently available in our market – the Misfit and the Ace Deluxe, the latter being the one we spent a week with to bring you this review.
Small. Yes, that is exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you spot the Ace Deluxe. So small, in fact, that its dimensions are similar to that of a 125cc commuter. This is a positive for a quick and nippy city motorcycle and it also makes it more accessible to shorter riders.
The Ace Deluxe we were riding was finished in matte black and it tied-in well with the all-black theme of the motorcycle. The colour scheme on it was well-executed, the blacked-out bits didn’t look like an afterthought and most areas had a similar finish on them. That being said, the finish itself wasn’t all that great – but we will get to that, shortly.
Continuing with the styling, the motorcycle has a nicely-shaped 14-litre fuel tank and minimalist front and rear fenders. The seat is flat and has a tasteful ribbed pattern on it, but isn’t the most spacious, and positions the rider on the seat-strap which is essentially the pillion grab handle. This leaves the pillion forced to hold on to either the rider or the rails, which are awkwardly positioned toward the side of the Ace Deluxe.
The bike's headlight, turn indicators and mirrors are all round and enhance its retro appeal. While the bike misses out on LED lighting, the beam from the halogen headlight is adequate. The oval taillight and twin-pod dials match the overall styling as well. However, its twin-pod dials don’t display much; they are basic and only convey the motorcycle’s rpm, speed and odo. The Ace Deluxe misses out on a fuel gauge and a reserve light, leaving you dependent on the motorcycle’s fuel tap – hello 1960s!
As you get closer to the motorcycle you will begin to notice many areas where the quality levels are unacceptable. To begin with, the matte paint finish has already caught stains and scuffs. Meanwhile, the exhaust appears almost industrial, up close, and looks very utilitarian. We also wish the front fender sat slightly closer to the front tyre, the near-one-inch gap is unnecessary on this street bike.
The switchgear is among the lowest quality we have experienced in a long time. Additionally, the rear brake lever is crude and positioned in way that it ends up scraping on almost every speed breaker, sometimes even without a pillion on board. The motorcycle also has no storage space, and the side panels that cover mechanical bits – like the air-filter and battery – click into place without a very convincing hold. The seat remains fixed, too; and while it does look decently finished, we found it a bit short in height and lacking in terms of cushioning.
This motorcycle also appears to have the left the assembly plant in India without going through an extensive check. The brake and clutch levers don’t sit at the same height; and the former is positioned a bit too high. The headlight isn't positioned correctly either – the low beam hits oncoming traffic in the face while the high beam tries lighting up the sky.
Living with it
A 229cc engine on a motorcycle that weighs just 133kg (claimed) is a recipe for fun, right? Well, not so much on the Ace Deluxe. This 229cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder engine makes a claimed 15.4hp and 16Nm of torque and comes paired to a 5-speed gearbox. Let me just get this out of the way, the bike doesn’t feel like it makes those figures and is unrefined and unhappy to rev. The power delivery is jerky at low revs and non-existent above 6,000rpm – well before the 9,000rpm redline mark on the dials. The mid-range between 3,000-6,000rpm is quite decent, though.
The gearbox on this motorcycle is perhaps an even bigger disappointment. The shifts are loud and grating and finding neutral gets irksome at times. We decided to test it with a Vbox and discovered that the Ace Deluxe hits the 60kph mark in 6.34sec, but the bike could not reach the 100kph figure in our tests. However, we have found that with a sufficiently long stretch of road, the dial does eventually cross the 100kph mark.
On the upside, the upside-down fork and twin-shock absorbers offer a decent ride that irons out most of the smaller bumps on our roads. Additionally, the foot pegs are mid-set and the handlebar is positioned just right offering a comfortable riding position with good leverage. In terms of handling, the bike doesn’t have the stability we’d like it to have, but once you trust your gut and turn in with commitment, the bike does then offer a decent level of control through the remainder of the corner.
Braking performance on the Ace Deluxe is adequate as well – it managed to go from 60-0kph in 18.58m which is at par with 160cc motorcycles. The rear brake is beginner-rider-friendly and only tends to lock-up with the hardest of stamps. However, the bike is missing ABS and Cleveland has managed to buy itself time till April 2019 by officially launching the bike at the 2018 Auto Expo before the ABS deadline of 2018 (for all new products). Sales only began many months later.
The Ace Deluxe was first launched at an absolutely unrealistic price of Rs 2.24 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), Cleveland then went on to lower the price to Rs 1.85 lakh (for the first 200 customers). However, even at the reduced price, the company is asking for way too much and for some perspective: Rs 20,000 less can land you a Bajaj Dominar 400 ABS.
The Cleveland does offer good style and the promise of what could have been a fun city bike for those who absolutely must stand out from the crowd. But until the price is significantly lowered – along with a big improvement in refinement and quality – we cannot recommend this motorcycle.