Johnny Pag Spyder 300

Story by Roger Parsons// Photos by Roger Parsons
January 1 2009
Johnny Pag Motorcycles

The name Johnny Pag might be new to some in Canada, but Johnny Pag Sr. has been building custom bikes in his shop called Bikers Dream for high profile customers in Orange, California since the ’70s. His son, Johnny Jr. has grown up in the shop learning the custom motorcycle trade from the ground-up. Starting at 13-years-old with a broom in his hands, he worked his way through a succession of jobs to become a custom builder in his own right. Next putting his hand to production customs in the late nineties, Johnny learned the importance of quality control and consistency.

These lessons came in handy for Johnny Jr. when sensing room in the marketplace for a stylish, economical motorcycle, he set out to work with a manufacturer in China to build motorcycles that would have a custom look at a very affordable price. In 2006, after 18-months of research and development, the air-cooled 250 cc twin-cylinder Spyder was born. Since the first model rolled off of the production line, a number of improvements and refinements have been implemented. Changes include a switch to a larger, liquid-cooled engine with improved balance tolerances for increased power and reliability, while offset triple trees were employed to increase trail, removing the tendency of the radically raked front end to ‘flop’, and improve slow speed handling.

Johnny is keenly aware of the suspicious eye cast on manufactured goods that come from China, but confidently states that his success stems from the fact that he stands behind the product that carries his name, and he works diligently to ensure complete customer satisfaction. Johnny visits the manufacturer frequently, but has also hired staff in China to work closely with the factory on day-to-day operations, ensuring that quality remains up to his standards. The Johnny Pag Spyder 300 has found a ready market and growth has been rapid with exports going to Australia, South Africa, Europe and South America. The Canadian distributor for Johnny Pag shares Johnny’s view on customer service and stocks a full range of service parts ready for quick delivery to dealers across the country. Canadian compliance of Johnny Pag motorcycles meet Transport Canada regulations and dealer deliveries of the Spyder began early in the summer of 2008.

Arriving at Stoney Creek Choppers of Dundas, Ontario, I encountered a full line-up of new Spyders in front of the store. As delivered standard with flamed paint jobs in silver, black, pink, candy blue and red, it was an impressive sight in the late Indian-summer sun. With it’s kicked out front end, the custom look and stance of my candy red ride made a great first impression. Before taking possession, I gave closer inspection to build quality. Striking a balance between a custom look and an attractive price point, some details on the Spyder could be improved upon. More attention to things like cleaning up flashing in the webs of the wheel hubs and overspray under the rear fender would enhance the appearance, but these are purely cosmetic issues that require a close look to notice.

With a stab of the electric starter, I headed out to join light, city traffic. The dual carbureted overhead cam 2-valve 270 cc parallel twin has the beans to get up to speed in town, with rapid acceleration from a stop requiring heightened revs, an initial quick slip of the clutch and stirring through the light shifting 5-speed gear box. The claimed 24-crankshaft horsepower at 6,500 rpm provided enough spunk to stay in the traffic flow on major highways showing an indicated 120 km/h on the tank-mounted speedo, with reserve power available. Vibration, while not terribly noticeable, was present at all speeds until the ‘sweet spot’ between 100 and 120 km/h was reached. At this range the motor hummed quietly, vibration virtually disappears and the mirrors, which to this point only gave a vague impression of what was behind, became clear and solid.

Stability at speed was found to be good, but at parking lot pace the 42-degree rake of this long bike made handling a bit unsettled. The large steering radius can make turning in tight spots a multi-point affair, but the light weight and low seat height, work together to make an easy job of it, giving confidence to new riders and those short of inseam. The Spyder’s long wheelbase of 185 cm (73 inches), handled pleasantly and was light and easy to toss around in the corners.

Dual disc, twin-piston hydraulic calipers up front and a hydraulic twin-piston caliper pinching the disc out back handled braking chores efficiently. The front brakes provide good feel and power, especially considering the slim 80/90 tire on 21-inch wheel, and the rear proved to be more than powerful enough to lock up the 180/60 tire on the 16-inch rim with a heavy application.

The Spyder’s custom hard tail look is actually a soft tail type design with dual adjustable shocks mounted under the bike. They offer 6.35 cm (2.5 inches) of travel and do a good job of isolating the rider from normal road irregularities, but with the limited travel, major bumps and potholes can be felt through the seat.

The length of the 39 mm forks make them look willowy, complementing the chopper style, but they don’t exhibit undue flex and with 11.4 cm (4.5 inches) of travel, bumps are largely kept at bay.

Ergonomics provided by the feet-forward controls combined with the wide straight bars give the correct ‘bar hopping position’, but predictably conspire to place more weight on one’s tailbone, limiting long range comfort. Having said that, I found that rides of up to an hour and a half weren’t a bother.

Gas prices might be coming back to earth for the time being, but people of my vintage will still have a hard time calling 80-cents per litre a deal. My expectations were high that with this modest displacement twin, fuel economy would be excellent and the Spyder didn’t disappoint. Without trying, I easily achieved a fuel sipping 3.62 L/100km (78 mpg) on my com-mute that includes highway and some rural and in-town driving. This gives a theoretical range of 435 km (275 miles) from the 15.9 litre (3.5 gallon) tank.

After a few days with the Spyder, I got used to the surprised looks on people when I told them the cost of the bike is just over $5,000. A friend who currently rides a full sized cruiser, thinking that it would be much more, made me repeat the price several times before she believed me. Getting past the price, she said that the 272 kg (600 lb) weight of her current bike is becoming difficult to handle and takes some of the joy away from riding for her. Sitting on the 163.3 kg (360 lb claimed) Spyder, she felt that she had found her new ride.

Joining the entry level market with a high level of standard features, along with the assurance of a one-year warranty, plus styling that always draws a crowd, the economical and fun to ride Johnny Pag Spyder 300 has already been finding many Canadians willing to plunk down the $5,399.00 to call one their own. MMM

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