Riding the Cadwell
‘All it lacks is a big twin-leading shoe front drum brake’
Since we’re battling the Brit café racers this week – how about one of these? This is the latest model in the AJS range, a Chinese 125 that’s got all the hallmarks of a Sixties Brit – from the wire wheels to the upswept silencer, pin-striped classic tank and chromed clocks. It’s got the look– but how does it ride?
AJS have been around since 1909, but the new AJS Cadwell isn’t a rebirth. For 17 years the current owner has been importing Chinese scooters and 125s and simply applying the AJS badge – the Cadwell is just the latest of these, but it’s the first one with retro looks that are in keeping with the marque’s hallowed name.
Low bars, solo seat, alloy rims, flipup filler cap, twin shocks and a pair of traditional white-faced clocks all look the part, with a choice of black/gold or silver/black tank and side panels. Everything is in proportion, and the illusion of a 1960s café racer works well – all it lacks is a big twin-leading shoe front drum brake.
Underneath all this is a bog standard made-in-china 125cc commuter, powered by a simple two-valve aircooled motor mustering a claimed 9.2bhp driving through a five-speed gearbox. It’s also one of the ‘old’ 125s, with a carburettor and non-linked brakes – from next year all 125s will have combined brakes and fuel injection along with a higher price.
I love the Cadwell’s simplicity, and the way there’s a sense of occasion as you climb aboard, helped by those lowish bars and all the retro styling cues. This is a small bike with a low seat, so it’s hardly intimidating, and the footrests are too far forward to provide a genuine café racer crouch. The engine, too, is a quiet and polite 125 that wouldn’t make much impression on a burn up round the North Circular.
It goes better than you might think though. It’s certainly not fast, but given enough time will rev right out to the 10,000rpm redline, and hold an indicated 60-65mph, feeling relaxed and unstrained. The Cadwell will even creep up to an indicated 75mph – so it has no problems keeping up on dual-carriage-ways. Buzzy vibes do come through at these speeds, showing up in the otherwise good mirrors, but they never get too serious.
Still, no one is likely to buy a Cadwell for motorway cruising, and fortunately it handles well, is stable at speed and tracks well through corners. The suspension is the basic spec you would expect but it all works. Chinese-made Kenda tyres grip well and nothing touches down early. That’s backed up by decent brakes, with a very good four-pot caliper on the front.
The AJS is well put together, with nice touches like alloy rims and a stainless steel exhaust. If it doesn’t look café enough, then clip-on bars and piggyback shocks are on the options list.
‘I love the Cadwell’s simplicity, and the way there’s a sense of occasion as you climb aboard’
Spoked rims, stainless steel pipe and chrome shocks give Cadwell a classy look
Reborn in the 1970s, AJS Stormer took the motocross world by storm