Herald Classic 250 and Herald Café 250 review | £2842 | 21bhp | 14.4lb-ft | air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Tested by: John Milbank Photos: Joe Dick
After the popularity of the HMC Classic 125, a larger capacity bike was inevitable. The company is looking to develop a keen following with its range of bikes, so all new machines will carry the Herald Motor Company branding (the Café we rode still has the HMC logo on the tank, but these were being changed as we visited the workshop).
Both the classic and the Café share the same price, engine and running gear, but they’re very different machines to own…
Tell me about the engine
The 250 air-cooled motor is simple and cheap with its single carburettor, but it’s very effective. Spinning up quite freely, it has no problem pushing the bikes comfortably to 75mph (with a claimed top speed of 80mph). The Classic and Café share this engine, breathing through exhausts styled to match the bikes’ designs.
What’s the chassis like?
The twin-piston calipers grab single front discs, with a single-piston caliper on the rear. The tubular steel frames are identical, but like the upside-down forks, are painted to suit the bikes. The rear grab rail can be unbolted, which may interest those looking to personalise their bike.
The rear shocks are upgraded Racetek piggy-back units, adjustable for rebound, compression and preload, while the 17” spoked wheels are shod with quality Avon Roadmaster rubber.
Should I buy one?
Compared to some similar Chinese machines, the Herald carries a premium price. However, that includes the excellent Avons, the improved shocks (Racetek is owned by Herald’s parent company), a Yuasa battery, genuine NGK spark plug and cap, uprated EK drive chain, SBS brake pads and Silkolene engine oil and brake fluid. The real question is whether you should buy the Classic or the Café.
Any bike can have problems, and it’s fair to say that cheaper Chinese machines can occasionally be susceptible to the odd quirk. One of the Café’s mirrors broke during our test ride, snapping off at the stalk, but this was replaced immediately, as it would be for any customer calling on the unlimited-mileage, two-year parts and one-year labour warranty, which is backed-up by a well-stocked warehouse of spares.
So what’s it like to ride?
I really was surprised at how much fun these machines are – the engine isn’t going to worry 600cc sports bike riders, but it’s plenty of fun both in town, and out on the country roads. The first time I barrelled into a roundabout on the Café 250 I had a slightly nerve-wracking moment as I tried to use just two fingers to brake: if you need to stop fast, use all four! That’s not to say there’s a problem stopping, but if you’re used to larger machines with more powerful anchors, you just need to recalibrate your brain. Not an issue for new riders, but there’s potential in these motorcycles for more experienced riders too… see the panel.
The Classic makes absolute sense as soon as you climb on it, but the Café felt strange at first – my natural inclination was to sit against the tank, which made the clip-on bars feel odd, and also created a rather twitchy feel to the front in bumpy corners. However, slide back and adopt the true ‘café racer’ pose and everything falls into place.
The Avon tyres, as you’d expect, inspire huge confidence even on damp country lanes, and in town both machines are easy to control. Which you buy will depend on what you want to use it for – the Classic is an obvious choice for daily use, with its high, wide bars and comfortable, flat pillion seat. If Sunday rides to the local meet are more your thing, then know that the Café bought out more excitement from passers-by during our photo-shoot, one even asking excitedly if it was a Triumph Bonneville. Book a test ride at one of the 46 Herald dealers, and you’ll soon know which is right for you.
Price: £2842 OTR
Engine: Air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Power: 21bhp (16.2kW)
Torque: 14.4lb-ft (19.5Nm)
Kerb weight: 142kg
Seat height: 780mm
Tank size: 12 litres
Why I want a Herald Classic 250
I’m 42. I currently ride a Kawasaki Z1000SX and a Ducati Monster S4R. Why would I want a little 250?
During the test of the Classic and Café, I got to ride a Mutt 250. Herald has partnered with Benny Thomas of Boneshaker Choppers and already offers a customised Mutt 125, based on the company’s Classic 125. Still in prototype form, the Mutt 250 was far more fun than the chunky knobbly tyres, wide bars and loud exhaust should have allowed. Backwards and forwards on the same corner for our photographer, the Continental Twinduro rubber encouraged me to lever the bike over, and the ride to each location had me grinning like a fool as I took on a new persona. Cruising steadily on this custom machine, I was inspired to build my own.
Herald will be gauging reaction to the Mutt 250 at the NEC’s Motorcycle Live, and I hope it becomes a reality. But with relatively cheap parts (a fuel tank costs £90), I’d be tempted to snap up a Classic and create my own special…
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