You may have heard of Fantic if you’re familiar with the off-road scene of the late ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, where the manufacturer had enduro success and became European champions. Since then, quieter times followed, but in 2017 Fantic was reborn, and the latest model to roll off its production line is the new £9,699 Fantic Caballero 700 Scrambler.
The Cabellero name has been previously used on the likes of its 2018 250 model, but since then a range of 125s and 500s in various different retro scrambler and rally guises have hit the market, and now the 700 Scrambler has joined the party. So, what’s it like to ride?
At the heart of the Caballero 700 Scrambler is a 689cc parallel twin motor, the same CP2 unit that Yamaha uses in its popular MT-07 in fact, which pumps out 74hp and 70Nm of peak torque which translates into an engaging ride in the Fantic set up.
With a twist of the throttle from pretty much anywhere in the rev range, you get a decent surge of torque delivered in a responsive and smooth manner, and it has a good sense of urgency about it, too. To accompany that is an addictive bark which escapes the highly positioned single-sided and neatly designed twin exhausts.
The fuelling is lovely and smooth, with it behaving nice and predictably lower down in the rev range which makes it a doddle to ride around town, and there’s no issues to speak of when you’re working the engine harder, either, which is when it’s at its happiest.
Chassis and ride quality
Upon first look at the 700 Scrambler’s styling, inspired by Fantic’s 125 RC from the ‘70s, complete with its 19” front and 17” rear spoked wheels, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s going to provide a pretty mellow and relaxed ride.
Of course, it’ll bimble along happily at a gentle 30, 40, 50mph to your local café, but I don’t think that’s where this bike is at its best. With its lively motor along with a balanced and pretty stiff chassis and suspension set up, it’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Fantic’s new high-resistance steel frame and swingarm machined from aluminium casting is a key contributor to its balanced stance and precise handling, and although the 45mm upside down Marzocchi forks aren’t adjustable, which is a slight surprise given the price point, they work well straight out the crate.
There’s preload adjustment at the rear which provides some level of customisation, and there’s a 150mm of travel at each end which delivers a nimble yet composed ride, and is on the sporty side. I’m not sure that anything beyond a light gravel lane would suit the 700 Scrambler, but its 500 Rally and Explorer siblings have an extra 50mm of travel which would make these the Caballeros of choice should you want to head onto the trails.
Tech and equipment
The Caballero 700 Scrambler offers a neat 3.5" circular TFT display and shows all the essential information clearly, and it’s easily navigable when sifting through the rider modes. The only minor issue we had was the rev counter's lag on acceleration and deceleration.
The inclusion of solid Brembo 4-piston callipers on a single front 330mm disk and 240mm rear, switchable cornering ABS and traction control adds a layer of safety and sense of confidence, along with its three riding modes – Street, Off Road, and Custom – allowing you to tailor the bike's performance to your preference and riding conditions.
In Street mode, both traction control and ABS are active, Off Road mode unlocks the bike's potential on the rough stuff by turning off the rear ABS while keeping the TC on. The Custom mode then lets riders fine-tune their settings to give a unique mode.
The retro scrambler market is a competitive one, and the Fantic Caballero 700 Scrambler goes up against stiff competition. The Ducati Scrambler 800, priced at £9,995, the Triumph Scrambler 900 at £9,795, Yamaha's XSR700 at £8,260, and the Moto Morini Seiemmezzo SCR at £6,999 are all worthy contenders.
Key factors like dealer network, awareness of the brand and finance deals are all important considerations when it comes to buying a motorcycle, and that might just sway some riders in the favour of the likes of Ducati, Triumph and Yamaha.
The Ducati and Triumph also offer a bit more kit and a bit of a better overall finish, but if you’re in the market for a retro scrambler, the Caballero 700 should definitely be on your test ride list.#
I was excited to ride the Caballero 700 Scrambler, but I ended up enjoying it for different reasons than I originally thought I would.
Its appealing and authentic retro scrambler style is a slightly deceiving one, and I had to regularly remind myself the type of bike I was riding, because it rode and performed more like a middleweight naked twin. But that’s partly the reason why I loved it.
It offers you all the retro-cool that a scrambler brings, as well as the thrill of something a lot sportier. So for under £10k, you almost get two bikes in one, and that can’t be a bad thing in today’s economic climate.
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Words: Andrew Luckie
Photos: Too Fast Media Group