Forget everything you've read or thought, the Hardknock Kikker is a unique motorcycle that manages to encapsulate the tradition of US bobbers, but has its own style and offers a riding experience like no other.
Writing this has taken me a few weeks but I can tell by the number of hits this site is taking that there is a huge interest in the Kikker.
So here is the first 'road test' in the UK of the 200cc Hardknock Kikker 5150.
I was a fan before I had the chance to ride it and arriving at Workshop Chops in Nottingham I was genuinely impressed by the set up. Boss man Gaz is a biker, he knows his machines, his workshop has three Kikkers, a Sportster in pieces and he rides a tidy Superglide (yep I know it's FX and tons of letters, but it has shocks and a couple of nice Jack Daniels custom touches).
The main point here is that the Kikker is a kit bike and that means a whole host of rules and regs you need to work your way through to get one legally on the road in this country. And in truth even in the US not every state makes it easy to put a Kikker on the road.
The bloke who owns Kikker, Kelly, must be raking it in after six or so years and he is already a legend for his telephone manner and way of dealing with customers who he thinks don't know one end of a spanner from the other. But as far as Gaz is concerned Kelly is a top bloke who has bent over backwards to see that the Kikker has a fair shot in the UK.
And Workshop Chops are leading the invasion of our little island.
This is a 110. Whitewalls but leading link front forks which won't take the 200's weight and slimmer larger front hoop, cute but hand gear change is semi-auto (like a C90) while the 200 has the full-fat suicide shift
If you are interested in the 110cc or 125cc versions, take a look on the web, there's plenty there. They're cool too but I'd come to see and sample the newly-assembled 200.
It looks the part and is physically small. That's not a criticism though. I loved the red wheel rims and whitewalls, if you don't then there is a list of options to ensure you can find the bobber style that suits you.
The 200 - unlike the smaller versions with their horizontal cylinders - is an upright single. The engine's made in China and looks very like a Honda single of the same capacity. But don't let that be seen as a negative. The last bastion of communism has got the hang of building engines in just a few years. It'll be reliable, and if it blows up, new one can be had for a couple of hundred quid... it's almost cheaper than changing the oil.
I was impressed with the workmanship on the Kikker. The frame is robust with neat welds, a good paint finish and, as the ads in the US tell you, there are no plastic parts. Can't say I was too taken with the simple handlebar controls in the style of an Italian sports moped from the 1970s, but they do what they have to do.
The little single fires up immediately (kick or electric) and settles into a single throb, with a loud (straight through pipe mind) but distinct note.
Here's the trick though: it's a foot clutch, hand change. Just like it used to be (Harley only dumped the foot clutch for good in the sixties and ALL Indians operated that way).
I was fascinated and while Gaz can modify the control for any buyers to incorporate a lever on the change or bar, for me this is the essential heart of the willing little custom machine.
OK, it takes some getting used to but on my third attempt we were off down the road heading for the hills.
The sound is magnificent, the changes once rolling are a piece of p*** and the speedo nudged 60 without problem.
The vibes were noticeable but not violent enough to irritate and the hardtail, which Gaz had reminded me repeatedly meant this was no modern machine, was barely noticeable. It handled too, certainly on par with with a cruiser and the 15-inch donut whitewalls gripped nicely. It was dry mind, but who is going to take this out on a rainy day?
OK, in truth the vibes saw a couple of bolts come loose, but she'd only been fully assembled a couple of days before. A bit of blue Loctite and I don't see a problem.
But it was a hoot to ride, people stop and stare. The rider is involved - you have to be if only to battle your clutch hand instinct. It is a blast though.
I didn't try a feet up U-turn, I didn't try slow speed filtering in traffic, both would be a challenge with the foot clutch but once mastered, you are gonna be up there with the best and it's still hugely cool.
Do not think this is like a Jap commuter that can be abused and left without a moment's care.
A Kikker needs a little attention, a little rider fettling and involvement.
Gaz has cracked the whole SVA Type approval minefield and he'll put one of these little beauties on the road for you for two and a bit grand. That's a bargain. The kit would cost you two thousand dollars as is in the States, that's without shipping and the type approval minefield.
Then you set about making it your own.
This bike will sell to a person who 'gets' the US Bobber thing and wants a ready made work of art but likes to tinker. The kind of mentality that attracted people to the Indian Enfield Bullet when they first imported into the UK the late 1980s.
This little machine has character by the bag full and it's unique. It's already a sales phenomenon in the United States, so it already has heritage.
The second group of potential buyers I see will be youngsters, new riders who 'get' the Bobber custom scene. They can own a new machine without equal AND they'll learn a bit of spanner work too. Now that is a novelty these days.
And of course, for the biker who has everything, this will be a must add to the list.
I came away from the Kikker loving it and it lived up to my expectations.
For anyone who has a big cruiser and wants something to play with, this fits the bill. too.
But more importantly, these bikes will build their own cult over here. For someone who can wield a spanner and likes to improve their ride, for the man (or woman) who recognises biking kicks are not measured in pounds Sterling or bhp, but in the simple enjoyment of your machine.
As an only bike, the Kikker may not be the best choice, but there is nothing like it.
I believe Workshop Chops has a great future bringing this little slice of Americana (with a dash of Chinese) into the UK.
Right click HERE to see Workshop chops website.
This is the machine I rode at Workshop Chops, call Gaz on 07702015378 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh yes, Gaz told me where the name 5150 originates. In California a 5150 is part of the welfare code which allows a qualified officer or clinician to order the confinement of a person who they think has a dangerous mental disorder. And it's pronounced 'fifty-one fifty'
I've also published this on my Sukuki B-King blog