FIRST RIDE: Sinnis SM-XE 125



Those with a taste for the mud often eschew big adventure bikes for something a little lighter, that’s capable of hitting the trails harder and faster. That’s where the Sinnis SM-XE 125 comes in.

Back in the 70s and 80s trail bikes were properly big business. But that’s not really the case nowadays. If modern riders want to hit the rough stuff, generally they’ll think about buying an adventure bike and not a lightweight, motocross-derived machine with lights and a numberplate. I don’t really know why that is… personally, I love a trailie. While they might not have the natural road manners or the two-up comfort and carrying capacity of a proper ‘adventure’ motorcycle, they’re far easier to ride off-road. And to me (and many others like me) that’s very important. Honda’s CRF300L is the perfect example. But the easy-going dual sport from Japan will set you back six-and-a-half grand. That’s a lot of cash. What if you only have £4,000 to play with and you want a brand-new bike with two years’ warranty? How about the new SM-XE 125 from Sinnis?

Never heard of Sinnis before? The Brighton-based importer has been selling bikes built by Chinese manufacturer Jinan Qingqi in the UK since 2006. And over the last 16 years it’s made a name for itself, supplying some of the best-value machines on the market. That should come as no great surprise, considering its partner Jinan Qingqi is one of the largest and most reputable manufacturers of small motorcycles in China, making parts for both Suzuki and Peugeot (in addition to producing small-capacity motorcycles for the domestic market, too). Of course, there are still a few issues regarding the perception of Chinese-manufactured machines by the wider motorcycling community in the UK. But with each passing year quality improves – and the suggestion that Chinese motorcycles are poor-quality machines that’ll fall apart before you’ve even ridden them out of the dealership is increasingly far from the truth.

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Over the past few weeks we’ve had the latest learner-legal trail bike from Sinnis on test, taking the chance to put it through its paces on the Tarmac and dirt. Here’s how we got on.

Looking at the SM-XE in the flesh for the first time, there’s no denying it’s a good-looking machine – and for a road-ready trail bike on a budget, it looks the business (thanks in part to its upswept exhaust, bash plate, MX-style seat, knobbly tyres and a suicide stand). You’d easily be forgiven for thinking there’s more than a 125cc on offer, with its big-bike styling and tall seat disguising its limited, learner-friendly power output.

It’s a nice place to be, too. Despite the seat being very firm, it’s comfortable enough for long stints in the saddle, thanks in part to the soft suspension set up, but we’ll get into that more later. The standing position’s nice and natural. I’m 6ft 1in tall and I got on better than I thought I would. I’ve ridden bikes of all shapes and sizes and you’d be surprised at the amount of variance in standing comfort. The Sinnis is pretty good.  But one of the best things about the SM-XE is its weight. Tipping the scales at 141kg, it’s incredibly easy to manoeuvre out on the open road; paddle round car parks; turn on the trails; and even pick it up (when you inevitably drop it) off-road. Its seat stands at 885mm, which is on the taller end of the spectrum. Once settled in with the suspension compressed I could get both feet flat on the floor with room to spare. Anyone under 6ft might not find things quite so easy, but the bike’s light enough that most riders should be able to manage as long as they can get one foot on the floor.

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The Sinnis is powered by a 125cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine which kicks out just 14-and-a-bit bhp, so although it’s not going to be setting any records for speed, it’s pretty respectable for a learner. It’s plenty nippy enough off the mark, and out on the open road you’ll easily get the jump on traffic, up to about 40mph, before acceleration becomes a little more laboured up to its top speed of around 60mph. Consequently, overtakes are pretty much out of the question and instead you’d do better to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. It’s a nice amount of power on the trails though, particularly for the less-experienced riders it’s aimed at.

The Sinnis is equipped with single discs at both the front and rear. They’re not especially sophisticated, but there’s enough bite to pull the lightweight little bike up without any trouble. There’s ABS, too, which isn’t usually ideal if you’re riding off-road, but actually I didn’t find it too intrusive (although it would have been nice to be able to turn it off).

Suspension comes in the form of telescopic USD forks at the front, and a monoshock at the rear. In practice they’re more than up to the job, and offer a reasonable balance between comfort and performance. As you’d expect it’s all set up fairly soft to help the bike deal with the worst that the roads and dirt can throw at it – it works well on the road but is probably a bit too soft for proper off-roading. It’s so soft that if you hit any big bumps or lumps on the trails you’ll be bounced around, although a more confident rider can compensate for that by soaking up some of the impact with their legs instead of relying entirely on the springs to keep things in check.

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Its 21-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel are the right size, but they’re clad with budget Timsun tyres. It was bone dry for the duration of our test, and the tyres lapped up both Tarmac and trails with ease, never struggling for traction and never failing to find grip. I’ve no idea how they’d perform in the wet, but I suspect they’d do a decent enough job based on looks alone.

Right, so who’s going to want to part with their hard-earned cash for the Sinnis SM-XE 125? Personally, I reckon it’s easy-going, confidence-inspiring nature would help to make it a great first motorcycle for those on a CBT (providing they’re tall enough to swing their leg over it with confidence). Alternatively, I could see it ticking boxes for an older rider who wants to dip their toe into trail riding, without having to clamber over a gigantic adventure bike (or fork out the massive amount of cash bikes from more established manufacturers often command). Admittedly, there are alternative machines from other ‘budget’-focused firms, but Sinnis has a proven track record, a good reputation and a decent dealer network, so you should have plenty of confidence in buying from them.

With decent power delivery low down in the rev range, nimble handling and a good quality of finish (considering its price), the Sinnis is not to be sniffed at. If you’re looking for a small-capacity, lightweight, affordable machine that’ll handle some commuting, slow-paced touring, and (most importantly) a few green-lanes, the SM-XE is definitely worth a look.

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Engine: 124cc liquid cooled, four-stroke

Power: 14.8bhp @ 9500rpm

Torque: 8.4ft-lb @ 8500rpm

Transmission: 6-speed/chain driven

Frame: Tubular steel single loop cradle frame

Suspension: (F) Upside-down telescopic forks (R) Link-Actuated monoshock

Brakes: (F) 290mm hydraulic single disc (R) 240mm hydraulic single disc

Wheels/Tyres: Spoked/(F) 2.75 – 21 (R) 4.10 – 18

Seat height: 885mm

Weight: 141kg

Fuel tank: 6.5 Litres

Price: £3399 + OTR


WORDS: Nicholas Ellis / PHOTOS: Ross Mowbray]


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