French motorcycle manufacturer Voxan have recently sorted their financial problems and are poised to enter the UK market with their range of 1000cc V-twin machines.
Insidebikes.com Editor Alastair Walker rode the Cafe Racer model, which offers a blend of old school torquey charm and hi-tech handling from its unique chassis. Mike Gordon took the pics.
Voxan have been around for nearly ten years now, but as they started out with a low volume, almost hand built product, they suffered some problems in 2001, which led to the receivers being called in. Since 2002 however, Didier Cazeaux and his industrial conglomerate have been investing in turning Voxan around. So now, after racing at the TT in 2005, the company is now ready to export beyond France and the UK is one of the key markets they are looking at.
With three models, all based on the 996cc V-twin, housed in their own unique chassis, Voxan hope to reach the discerning customer, who wants something more individual than a Japanese four, or more modern than say a Guzzi V-twin. The Voxan Cafe Racer is arguably the most likely to succeed in the UK, where bikers are notoriously sceptical about new marques.
The first thing that strikes you about the Voxan Cafe Racer is the meaty engine. It’s a 996cc, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder four stroke, running fuel injection and an ignition map designed to promote smooth torquey, midrange power.
The motor is set very low in the chassis, which comprises of two steel tubular backbone sections, which have screw-in type housings at the swingarm, and the steering head. Voxan’s chassis design allows these screw-in sections to be formed with small variations in the angle/size of the frame mounts, so that a small change in the factory setting has a discernible effect on the steering geometry, wheelbase, or overall weight bias of the bike. Clever stuff.
Running a dry sump, the Voxan engine has two oil pumps, one to move liquid from the oil tank under the seat, another to actually flow the lube around the 98mm X 66mm engine cases, via the tubular frame. The motor has a big radiator and cooling fan, plus a tiny oil cooler, located near the monoshock.
The Vee angle of the engine cylinders is 72 degrees, similar to an Aprilia Mille, or a Vincent and the bike definitely feels slightly more compact than say a Ducati 999, or a Guzzi Le Mans 1100. Yet oddly, the Voxan has a longer wheelbase than the big 999 Duke – 1475mm versus 1420mm for the Ducati.
But on the upside, the Voxan is light for a big twin too, at 185kgs dry, compared to say 189kgs for the Suzuki SV1000 or Aprilia Mille and 186kgs for the 999. You certainly feel that the Cafe Racer is relatively light when pushing it about, or parking it, although it remains a heavier bike than the average Japanese four cylinder sportsbike.
Marzocchi 41mm forks grace the front end of the Cafe Racer and they offer a firm, but reasonably compliant ride, alongside the underslung Paioli monoshock and beefy swingarm. The handlebars are almost `ace’ but have enough height to make life in urban traffic bearable. The seat position and rearsets all fitted me perfectly too, but I think taller riders might prefer the Voxan Black Magic retro, which has a longer stretch to the controls.
Warm the motor up a little and the Cafe Racer soon responds well, with a lovely rush of power between 4000-8500rpm. Peak power of around 100bhp is developed at 8000rpm and red line is nine grand, so there’s no point in revving it excessively. In fact, that would spoil the overall fluidity, the balance the Cafe Racer has at speed on a twisty A road.
The Voxan feels very precise, solid and responsive at the front end. You gain confidence quickly and whilst the back end will occasionally twitch in protest if you nail the throttle coming out of a hairpin, it generally handles typical `biker’ roads with agility and finesse. It isn’t in the Ducati 999S class, but the Voxan Cafe Racer does have the edge on bikes like the Guzzi Le Mans, which is arguably one of its likely rivals in the market.
One detail which is Guzzi-like, is that the Cafe Racer needed a little bit of toe-jiggling to find neutral sometimes inside its 6 speed box. Not quite sorted yet, but hopefully Voxan’s development at the TT might offer an improvement or two in the gear selector mechanism in the near future.
The half fairing may look a bit dated, with its twin headlights and curiously droopy snout, but it works well at speed and the saddle is more comfortable than it looks. But I wouldn’t fancy being a pillion, despite the option of removing the seat hump and jumping aboard, as there’s absolutely nothing to hold onto at the back of the bike.
Some details on the bike, like the rearsets, the white faced clocks, or the massive 320mm Brembo brakes, help give the Voxan Cafe Racer a classy, business-like appearance. It looks like a bespoke, connoisseurs motorbike and worth the likely £8000-ish UK asking price.
But other aspects of the bike, like its notchy gearbox, the occasionally splutter from the fuel injection on the over-run, or its dated looking fairing/headlight section, suggest that Voxan still has a way to go before a great number of bikers will be tempted to buy something this unique and rare.
Personally, I loved riding the Cafe Racer and found it genuinely unique, exciting and alive. It isn’t as smooth and effortless as an SV1000 Suzy, or as involving to ride hard as a Ducati or Aprilia. Yet it has a laid back charm, a kind of old school grunt that makes you wonder what Rickman might have done with a TL1000 motor.
I hope that Voxan can convince some riders to take a chance and try something different.
Get Voxan motorcycle insurance for the Cafe Racer 2005.
|Engine||996cc, V-twin, DOHC, liquid cooled, four stroke|
|Bore and stroke||98 x 66mm|
|Peak power||100bhp @ 8,000rpm|
|Carbs||None, digital fuel injection by Magneti Marelli|
|Frame||Twin steel tubular, variable screw-in mountings, using engine as stressed member. Oil bearing frame.|
|Forks||41mm inverted Marzocchi|
|Steering rake||24.5 degrees|
|Rear suspension||Paioli monoshock, underslung, multi adjustable.|
|Wheels/tyres||120.70 ZR 17 inch front, 180/55 ZR 17 inch rear. Michelin Pilot Sport OE fitment.|
|Fuel capacity||18.5 litres.|
|Estimated top speed||160mph|
|Warranty||2 years unlimited.|
|Colours||Orange, red or silver.|