Super Soco TS1200R Review
It’s the SUPER of the FUTURE. Urban transportation gets a new spark with this all-electric commuter.
If, like me, you remember Bernie Fraser and his monotone delivery spruiking industry superannuation funds in the late 1990s, you’ll know I’ve co-opted his slogan for the title of this review.
So, what does this minor cult figure have to do with the Super Soco TS1200R electric motorcycle?
Well, both seem simple at first glance and both are, to be honest, a little odd. But dig deeper and you’ll find there’s more happening than what’s on the surface.
For example, Fraser was a former governor of the Reserve Bank and challenged the government of the time on its monetary policy. His high degree of financial knowledge brought credibility to the industry superfunds advertising campaign, making them very successful. He had one hell of a distinctive voice, too!
Read on and you’ll understand that, like Bernie, the TS1200R also has a distinctive “voice” and there’s a lot more going on with this electric motorcycle than first impressions suggest. And that’s before you even ride it.
Familiar Origins, Fresh Face
Super Soco is a completely new name in the Aussie market, but when I approached the TS1200R, I spotted something familiar – gracing the swingarm was a ‘Vmoto’ badge.
A familiar name to me – and I’m sure to many of you reading this – Vmoto was (and still is) an Aussie company that was a major player when the scooter scene here was booming a decade ago. When the local market for step-throughs dried up, Vmoto all but disappeared. They certainly didn’t die, though.
The company reinvented itself as a purely electric brand, creating bikes like the Super Soco presented here, as well as scooters of various configurations and badges.
Beyond the TS1200R I tested, there’s also a ‘TC’ companion model that adds a café racer look and a bit more power to the same platform, while the ‘CU-X’ is a scooter in the Vespa mould. Both of these are going through homologation now, so should be here in the latter half of 2019.
The Super Soco badge these bikes wear isn’t just a rebranding exercise for Australia: it’s being pitched to most Western markets, including the UK and Europe, but the Vmoto name remains in use on scooters for Asian markets.
When I was introduced to ‘Super Soco’ last year, I thought it was European; a view reinforced by the modern, on-point design of the TS1200R and its companions. In terms of style, the TS1200R reminded me a little of recent Benellis (hence the ‘European’ assumptions), but this is a Chinese designed and built effort.
Configured like a roadster/naked, the TS1200R looked sleek and stylish from all angles, with the angular, geometric shape of the “fuel tank” and side plastics continued in the LED head and tail lights, the seat design and even the mirrors and brake master cylinders. There was a bit of a “Star Wars” look about it, too – the white version reminded me of a stormtrooper!
Pop culture references aside, Super Soco have done a great job in making the TS1200R stand out from the crowd with the design. The quality of finish is pretty good, too, but it’s when you look closely at the bike that you start to understand that it stands out for other reasons.
A Different Approach
It may not be the first thing you see, but the first thing that really takes your attention on the TS1200R is the absence of pedals. There’s no gear shifter pedal on the near side and no rear brake pedal on the offside. Of course, the electric powerplant means there’s no gearbox, allowing the rear brake control to be relocated to where the clutch lever would normally be. The throttle and front brake lever remain in the traditional spot on the right-hand handlebar, so it’s not completely mind-bending!
This configuration of controls will be familiar to scooter riders, but for those whose riding history consists of “conventional” motorcycles, the placement may take some time to get used to.
A benefit of this layout is that the footpegs can be placed pretty much anywhere, so Super Soco have made them three-position adjustable to suit riders of various heights. With a little bit of work, the handlebar can be rolled forward or back, with adjustment possible on the levers, too.
Riding position is as you would expect from a roadster, with upright, neutral ergonomics and a comfortable 770mm seat height. It’s when you’re astride the TS1200R that you notice how light it is, too.
Even with an 11kg battery in place, the TS1200R weighs just 78kg, which is positively feather-light for a bike of this size. Obviously, removing an internal combustion engine, gearbox and related parts accounts for most of this, but Super Soco have been smart about weight saving in other areas.
With the electric motor placed in the rear hub, both the swingarm and rear subframe are made from aluminium, so there’s no rear weight bias. Alloy rims also feature, with plastics used through the rest of the bike.
The next thing to get your head around is that there’s no key starting in the conventional sense. While the TS1200R does come with a key for the seat lock, the actual locking and unlocking of the bike’s ‘ignition’ is via a small circular fob.
Locking the bike with that same fob activates an anti-theft alarm, which sounds an audible siren when the bike is moved, also locking the motor in the rear wheel to make movement harder.
Starting is via a push button, like on modern cars, with a kill switch on the right-hand handlebar. Also on the right-hand bar is the selector switch for the three ‘power modes’ the TS1200R offers.
The power is the final thing to get your head around.
While the ‘TS1200R’ tag gives the impression that this bike carries oodles of grunt, it’s far more humble in its output. Despite a listed 120Nm maximum, the TS1200R is rated the same as a 50cc moped in terms of power, which has its pluses and minuses.
The plus is that this capacity – and a limited top speed of 50km/h – means the TS1200R is not only LAMS approved, but also an ‘LA’ category machine, which means it can be ridden on a car licence in WA, SA, Queensland and the Northern Territory. No such concessions apply in other states, though.
The minus is that a 50km/h maximum restricts the bike to inner urban use. Even a 60km/h zone will push the TS1200R to its absolute limit, so forget about riding this bike beyond the suburban fringe.
The launch ride for the TS1200R started from Mid Life Cycles in Cremorne (the sole Victorian stockist for Super Soco), with the route taking us through the CBD to the Melbourne Star observation wheel north of the city.
From start up, the TS1200R is amazingly quiet, without so much as a Bernie-like drone from the Bosch electric motor! In fact, once in motion, the only things you hear are wind and tyre noise… and other traffic.
Of the three power modes – 1 (Eco), 2 (Normal) and 3 (Sport) – the first was almost useless, even in stop-start traffic. Trying to get away from the lights in the ‘1’ mode was positively dangerous. You really needed the 2 mode as a starter, while the 3 mode made reaching this bike’s top speed easier. The downside of the maximum-power 3 mode is that it burns through the 1.56kW/h battery quicker. Super Soco claim a range of 80km on a fully-charged battery, but regular use of the 3 mode will drain it much quicker. This, I imagine, is where the 1 mode comes in – it’s almost like a ‘limp home’ mode that’ll keep you moving while using the minimum possible energy.
The battery itself can be recharged off a standard 240V outlet, using the supplied power inverter charger. There is provision on the bike to carry another battery, effectively, too, doubling the range to a potential 160km. If I was buying this bike, I’d certainly invest in the second battery – despite its $1,000 price – to reduce range anxiety.
Pickup in 2 and 3 mode, while not explosive, was good, and you can swap between modes on the fly thanks to the integral ‘FOC’ (Field Oriented Control) that’s responsible for delivering the power – think of it like the gearbox in a conventional motorcycle in that it determines how much power is sent to the driven wheel.
On the launch, I found the differences between 2 and 3 modes to be almost imperceptible, but I’m sure a longer ride would give a better understanding of this bike’s capabilities and how to best use them.
Being an inner-city launch, we couldn’t really exploit the TS1200R’s handling prowess, but it was effortless to ride and surprisingly stable on the roads we did cover, with good performance from the suspension and standard 17-inch wheels, even on Melbourne streets criss-crossed with tram tracks. As you’d expect from a machine that’s so light, it was easy to throw around, making manoeuvring through inner-city lanes and alleys a breeze.
While we didn’t put it to the test on this ride, I’m told the TS1200R does struggle on steep hills, so be warned if that’s a characteristic of your area.
The seat was slim but comfortable, while the wide handlebar made steering easy.
The all-LCD instrumentation has a special coating to reduce glare, with large and clear displays for the speed, range, riding mode and remaining battery life. There’s also an amp meter, tripmeter, temperature and clock display.
Finally, the one thing that you do need on a bike like this – in the environment it’ll be ridden in – is good mirrors, which the TS1200R certainly does have.
The TS1200R’s braking, like the ride quality, was another pleasant surprise. The front and rear discs – 220mm and 180mm, respectively – looked puny at first glance, but were all you needed for a bike of this weight and hauled it up well. Instead of ABS, there’s ‘EBS’ (Electronic Braking System); a somewhat similar connected braking system.
There’s also a standard Bluetooth connection, enabling you to monitor your bike’s settings via a free app.
Complex, but Simple
While it’s very much a “modern” bike, the Super Soco TS1200R is also quite simple, in that it lacks a lot of the rider-assistance features and other high-tech doo-dads that are increasingly common on modern bikes.
At just under $5,000 ride away, this bike is cheap to buy, too. Batteries, while pricey at $1,000 each, can be recharged around 1,000 times – that’s only $1 per charge. No petrol, no oil, no chain and no sprockets mean the only other consumables are brake pads and tyres, so the TS1200R will be a very economical motorcycle to run.
I can see various corporations and government departments purchasing these bikes to show their “green” credentials, but take-up by private buyers will be a tougher nut to crack.
Aside from its obvious virtues of being cheap and environmentally friendly, the Super Soco TS1200R has a lot of other things going for it, but will it become the “urban transportation” of the future? Who knows, but if it replicates the results of Bernie Fraser’s industry superfunds campaigns, it’ll be a sure-fire winner!
Super Soco TS1200R – price specs
Type: Bosch hub-mounted electric, w/FOC engine management
Bore x Stroke: N/A
Compression Ratio: N/A
Max Power: 2.4kW (untested)
Max Torque: 120Nm
Power Source: 60V, 26Ah lithium ion battery
Final Drive: N/A
Frame: Steel tube, cradle-type w/aluminium subframe and swingarm
Front Suspension: Telescopic fork
Rear Suspension: Monoshock
Fr Wheel: 17.0-inch alloy rim
Rr Wheel: 17.0-inch alloy rim
Fr Tyre: 70/100-17
Rr Tyre: 100/70-17
Front Brake: 220mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 180mm disc, single piston caliper
LxWxH: 1889mm x 702mm x 1300mm
Ground Clearance: 198mm
Seat height: 770mm
Kerb Weight: 78kg (89kg w/2 x batteries)
Battery Capacity: 60V 26Ah
Battery Range: 80km/battery (claimed)
Recharge Time: Approx. 5 hours
Orange, Black, Red, White
LAMS APPROVED: Yes (and LA Approved)
PRICE: $4,990 Ride Away
WARRANTY: 3-year battery, 2-year parts and labour