Voge 500DS review by Paddy Tyson
The motorcycling middleweight class is certainly buoyant at the minute and the Voge 500DS is another bike to jettison in and appear to tick all the appropriate boxes. It’s A2 licence-friendly, under 200kilos, economical, and has the all-important beak…
But Voge (with a soft ‘g’) is a new brand to the UK and another to recently arrive here from China. Started in 2018 by parent company Loncin, it has solid backing from the industrial giant which produces 2.5 million motorcycles a year, millions of generators, 150,000 ATVs and of course all the engines for BMW’s F750 and 850GS models.
The new 500DS has styling that’s bang up-to-date, but with Loncin’s engine-building prowess I’m going to start this review with its beating heart, the 471cc liquid-cooled parallel twin, which is exactly the same displacement as that in Honda’s CB500X, and fully Euro 5 compliant.
With around 47bhp it’s not a scary/exciting bike to ride as power delivery is fairly flat. The good news is this makes it straightforward for anyone to use but, and it’s a big but, it’s not a relaxed ride. The final drive ratio is so low the engine remains very busy and revs much too highly for a touring/adventure machine; 5,000rpm at 58mph. The six gears themselves are pleasantly spaced, gear selection is both smooth and definite with a light cable-operated clutch, but first gear is almost redundant because of the low overall final drive. Thankfully, being chain drive, it’s an easy fix. I’m convinced an extra tooth on the front sprocket (or conversely losing a couple from the rear) would transform this machine and further improve economy and thus range, which is already good.
Even with the high revs I found it possible to get a test-best figure of 76.9mpg over mixed road types, falling easily to 60mpg with a bit of motorway time. The tank capacity is 16.5 litres (3.6 gallons) so that should provide a possible range of over 250 miles. During the 750 miles I was able to ride I always crossed the magic 200 miles before looking for fuel, although I never managed to squeeze in any more than 13.6l. On one occasion that was after 32 miles of flashing red fuel gauge and an illuminated little yellow fuel pump symbol. I know, I should have ridden it dry in the interest of journalistic integrity, and really would have if I’d had it for more time, because tank range is so important in overlanding. It must be noted though, that all of those economy figures were attained while all three luggage boxes were attached, so creating maximum drag.
For such a frugal machine that tank size is good. Being metal it won’t be affected by E10 fuel and it enables the use of a magnetic tankbag, but it doesn’t appear to be well baffled so you can feel the fuel slosh around.
Ergonomics and equipment
The tank sits well between the knees and the low-slung position of the footpegs enables an easy transition to standing should you wish to. I didn’t get the opportunity to ride off-road but did bimble up and down some gravel tracks and found the handlebar position and width to be a good road/dirt compromise. The footpegs would need to be larger if you were to stand for longer but I’d be loathed to remove any rubber cushioning as they buzz badly at road speeds.
The small screen is very effective in both of its manually adjusted positions (no tools necessary) and wind noise isn’t anything I’ve made notes about so it clearly doesn’t impact. The USB power socket and the TFT display sits in behind the screen providing all the usual information: speed, revs, fuel, temperature, time, fuel economy and odometer, though sadly just one trip meter. Apart from speed, which is centrally positioned, clear and well-sized, I can’t say the layout of the screen conveys all of its information terribly clearly or in an aesthetically pleasing way. The fuel gauge reads vertically on the right, the temperature gauge reads horizontally left to right at the bottom, rev counter reads backwards from right to left and then turns 90° and runs vertically. In low light conditions, under trees and suchlike, the screen responsively switches to a black backlight which is nice, but in the dead of night it was still too bright to glance at without having vision momentarily impaired afterwards.
The lights at both ends of the bike look great and can’t be confused with any other machine out there, especially the ‘Starship Enterprise’ rear. Both utilise LEDs which is great news for travelling as they draw very little power and the rear contains multiple diodes so they won’t all fail at once. The indicators are very cool using sequential LEDs to impart even more directional information. What I can’t tell you is how good the headlight is at illuminating the road ahead because I could only spot trees and overhead wires and couldn’t work out any easy way to adjust the beam.
Suspension and chassis
As tested the rear suspension was set low but I haven’t been able to ascertain if this was part of a ‘low seat’ adaptation, so I didn’t measure free-standing clearance with reference to off-road use. The low seat meant secure flat feet on the ground but also limited clearance on roundabouts and twisty roads.
The cast 17-inch wheels at both ends sit beneath suspension from Japan’s KYB company but it is non-adjustable, other than for pre-load at the rear. The combination of monoshock rear and upside-down front forks, in association with the standard issue Pirelli tyres, provides a surefootedness which isn’t deflected by over-banding or other road surface irregularities. Even sunken and badly patched roads are handled with aplomb unless you really press on, when heavy-braking over bumps can bottom-out the forks. But that’s only in extremis.
The braking power is provided by another famous name – Nissin – and there’s plenty of feel and the ABS is unobtrusive.
The frame is steel – a real boon for overlanding – so if the corrugations cause stress fractures or you are charged by a rhino, you’ll be able to get it welded. Even with the extra weight the steel may generate, this Voge 500DS still comes in at 188kgs which adds to the great sense of confidence it instils in use. And when you have to pick it up, which I did when it fell over… In my defence it only fell because, with the low rear suspension, using the side-stand often leaves the bike almost vertical. This was one of those times. The great news is that the adjustable levers were protected by the handguards and the standard-fit, all-encompassing crash-bars meant there was no damage at all.
By comparison, the centrestand is just wonderful; one of the best and easy to use. It reminds me of old two-stroke MZs where it was so perfectly balanced you could take out either wheel if you needed to. With the Voge 500DS the balance will depend on the contents of your panniers of course and those standard-issue alloy panniers are very good. They were completely watertight while I had them and are configured such that you can open them front to back or back to front, as each hinge also acts as the clasp and the lid retaining strap is centrally positioned. On the lid there are four bungee/strap points should you wish to carry any extra stuff.
The 3-piece luggage system is currently included in the £4999 price, but this is just a 2021 introductory offer and will soon be an optional extra.
This Voges 500DS isn’t perfect, but is built from good components, is ergonomically comfortable, is light and is certainly frugal with a good range. Despite claims to the contrary, that engine does have an uncanny resemblance to Honda’s CB500 and given Loncin’s proven ability to make engines I have no doubt it’ll perform well over time. There are just two things that are impossible to ignore: First, that the gearing is too low for overland travel (though easily rectified) and second, that it’s only £4999 including a two-year parts and labour warranty.
The Honda CB500X is £6249 for the 2021 base-model without handguards, luggage etc. so the Voge’s closest rival is probably Benelli’s TRK502X which comes with spoked wheels in the more adventurous 19” and 17” sizes and is also Chinese (though assembled in Italy) retailing for an extra £800. Although it has a much nicer dashboard and a bigger tank, it’s also heavier and thirstier.
Currently the Voge 500DS is only available in the silver grey pictured, though a spoked-wheel model is due and may be available in Black and Red as offered in North America and other market areas.
|Configuration:||8-valve, twin cam, parallel twin|
|Max power:||47.6bhp @8,500rpm|
|Best test economy:||76.9mpg|
|Fuel capacity:||16.5 litres|
|Kerb weight:||205kg wet|
|Front suspension:||KYB upside-down non-adj forks|
|Rear suspension:||KYB mono-shock adj for pre-load|
|Front tyre:||120/70 x 17” Pirelli Angel|
|Rear tyre:||160/60 x 17” Pirelli Angel|
|Front brakes:||Twin 298mm discs (Nissin calipers)|
|Rear brakes:||240mm Disc (single-piston caliper)|
|Instrumentation:||TFT display with speedometer, gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip etc|