Cleveland Cycle Werks Misfit Bike Test


If last month’s Bonnie/Sporty shootout on ChopCult proved anything, it’s that practically any motorcycle manufacturer can build a fun, reliable freedom machine for around ten thousand dollars. What would a company’s prospects be if that target MSRP were a third the scratch? This month we’re going to find out.

In another life I used to test 20-inch bicycles for a monthly slick called BMX Plus! I worked for Hi-Torque Publications, home to Dirt Bike and Motocross Action, among others. It was long-time MXA editor Jody Weisel who showed me how to craft an honest appraisal of a machine’s bona fides while shedding light on its shortcomings without insulting the readers’ intelligence or crushing the commercial fortunes of the manufacturer and potential advertiser.



Stock Misfit (right) still features some cool-looking parts for its $3200 price tag


This delicate dance sometimes gleaned less than desired results, especially when it came time to take glory shots of the bike in action. Said photos had to be exciting enough to lure readers into the story without destroying the bike in the process, not an easy assignment when mass-produced parts and high-volume assembly came into play. To insure getting money shots that would keep both our editor and the advertising department happy, we took a pro rider and the test specimen to some huge jump and encouraged him to launch body and bike into the stratosphere. One roll of Fujichrome was usually all it took for a wheel to buckle or a frame to snap. At that point it was my job to trot out terms like “entry-class” and “good for the money” to hide any dubious test bike’s shortcomings in a murky cloud of obfuscation.



The aftermarket pipe looks stylish and definitely improves the engine note coming from the Misfit's 250cc one-lung mill


I never felt good about the process, and conversations with disgruntled manufacturers and ex-advertisers only made it worse. Eventually my unseasoned idealism got the best of me and I quit writing bike tests forever. It was too difficult to report the truth without fear of retribution.




After a 27-year sabbatical from the product-review trenches, I’m sheepishly reentering the game with Macintosh and Nikon blazing. The recent arrival of two Misfit café bikes from Cleveland Cycle Werks signaled the end of my retirement. In the three decades since my own first stab at product analysis I’ve come to loathe writers who state opinion as fact, an all-too-common faux pas these days, especially in the low stakes game of chopper media.




Consequently, I will try hard to toe a very objective line in my assessment of this American-designed, Chinese-made 250cc street machine. Undoubtedly I will wax philosophical—not literal—on at least a couple matters of fact. Thanks for understanding.



I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride…


The two machines Cleveland Cycle Werks provided for our informal evaluation were delivered in both stock and modified trim. Critical mods on the hopped-up Misfit included clubman bars, taller gearing and a custom stainless-steel megaphone exhaust. For our 90-minute scoot around the hills and dirt roads of Murrieta I chose the stocker. Biltwell’s Mike D hopped on the modified Misfit to lend observations and opinions.



The upright bar that comes stock on the Misfit is surprisingly comfortable


From both an aesthetic and ergonomic perspective, neither of CCW’s café-inspired street bikes seem suited to my short, thick frame. At five-nine and 215, I look and feel like a bear on a unicycle aboard anything smaller than a Sportster. On the other hand, Mike D’s chiseled triathlete body looked right at home on the bike I chidingly dubbed “the Charley-Davidson.”



Black chrome is a curious color that we're told will see limited production before matte black engines make their debut as a running change


Despite my prodigious heft, the Misfit’s 14-hp, 250cc single accelerated our combined mass to a thoroughly wrung-out 70 mph in just under 22 seconds by my rough calculations. If you’re in a hurry there are faster ways to get around town, but few are cheaper. I’ve owned bicycles that cost more than the Misfit’s $3195 MSRP. In the realm of high-mileage commuter vessels, the Misfit's claimed 98 miles per gallon puts so-called "green cars" like the Prius to shame. When you compare stickers, it's no contest: slow-sipping motorcycles like the Misfit leave hybrids, clean diesels and similar vehicles in the dust.



Misfit cockpit is tidy and well appointed


Fuel-friendliness aside, what exactly does one get for 32 dead Benjamins? According to the manufacturer’s website, the Misfit features a “CG series” counter-balanced 250cc single-cylinder engine with “a performance-enhancing cam curve” and redesigned intake and exhaust tracks to meet EPA/CARB and EEC standards. CCW goes on to say that Honda “originated” China’s Lifan factory, which is where the Misfit’s powerplant is manufactured, and where I am led to assume the complete bike is assembled.




Other quasi up-market features on the Misfit include electric start, progressively wound coil shocks with adjustable spring preload and remove reservoirs, two-pot hydraulic brake calipers with wave rotors and braided stainless-steel lines fore and aft. A clean tach and speedo binnacle behind a diminutive aero dome above the headlight dress up the cockpit and lend substance to the Misfit’s café style. The fuel gauge in said binnacle was a joke, however, and occupied far more real estate than its metronomic needle bouncing deserved. Swapping the positions of fuel gauge and tach would be a more performance-oriented spec change, in my opinion.



We flogged both bikes on this rocky dirt road, and nothing fell off or bent. We've ridden 13-thousand dollar Harleys to Baja that can't make the same claim


The Misfit’s hand controls boast intuitive buttons and levers for controlling choke, blinkers, lights and engine firing, and its grips feel no better or worse than any stock grip I’ve held on motorcycles costing three times more (are you listening, Harley?) The fork is an upside-down model with a look similar to that of practically any mid-range sportbike, albeit of a slightly smaller I.D. Remember, the Misfit weighs around 300 pounds soaking wet—a lightweight machine by any standard.




The Misfit’s rubber foot pegs, steel toe shifter and welded tubular brake pedal felt commensurately sturdy and looked appropriately well spec'ed. While I personally love the cold-forged alloy brake pedal on late-model Sportsters, the welded chrome unit on the Misfit worked just fine, too, and looks at least as good as the agricultural plate-steel unit on the ’07 Dyna parked in our shop.



The tach (center) should be where the gas gauge is, and the gas gauge should be replaced with a dipstick taped to the down tube. In a word, it sucked


As stated earlier, the Misfit is Cleveland Cycle Werks’ entry into the café game. Misfit stable mates include The Ace and The Heist. The same quarter-liter, air-cooled 5-speed engine powers all three machines. For the record, it is my respect for the English language and disdain for Ebonics that prohibits me from mimicking the model-name spelling as it appears on the Misfit’s flanks.



The plastic pillion cover on the back of the seat can be removed to open up space for a claimed 552 pounds of combined rider and cargo


The carefully crafted litany of features and benefits on their website have me convinced that CCW founder Scott Colosimo is a bright guy. Why try so hard to imbue these diminutive street bikes with fake bad-boy attitude through ghetto-certified spelling tricks? Given their birthplace and dearth of horsepower and heritage, a less braggadocio approach to branding seems like a smarter plan. I know that's just one man's opinion, but I was careful not to state it as fact. In my opinion this motorcycle is fun, affordable and good-looking—it doesn't need tarted-up text treatments to communicate its mission.



Chinese-built remote reservoir shocks looked nice and worked adequately on our admittedly short ride

Branding conventions aside, after spending an hour flogging the Misfit on dirt roads and shitty tarmac, the bike I initially felt silly on eventually struck me as a good fit, indeed. For the inveterate chopper freak with at least two machines in his quiver, the Misfit makes an excellent third bike for fun around town. I reached this conclusion after just one ride, and Mike D agreed.




Billdozer’s test ride aboard the hopped-up Misfit included a spin with his 17-year-old son, who opted for the stocker. During that father-and-son excursion another ownership scenario presented itself: the Misfit struck all who rode it as a perfect first bike for women, teenagers and bantamweight first-time riders.




Regardless of which category you fall into, certain aspects of Misfit ownership demand consideration. First, there’s the challenge of finding a dealer. The CCW website lists 31 shops in the continental US, a situation that could make obtaining parts and service difficult. Assuming your Misfit runs like a top, there’s also the question of aftermarket accessories, or more to the point, a lack of same. Long-term plans for the stock Misfit in our quiver include doing a chop how-to, at which point we’ll know more about the machine’s challenges and limitations as far as mods and retrofitment are concerned.




After spending 90 minutes riding the Misfit and three hours researching the machine and its manufacturer on the Internet, my advice to potential Misfit owners is this: If you think Cleveland Cycle Werks' entry-class café racer is perfect for you, you’re probably right.




Cleveland Institute of Art Scott Colosimo interview:'s Misfit test:


Tech specs

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Comment with Chopcult (29)

Commented on 6-13-2012 At 08:05 pm

Gene, do you own a Heist?

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 07:46 am

How does that compare with a Honda Rebel which has about the same cc's and price tag?

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 08:25 am

I definitely dig these honest reviews. With the shortcomings announced, I would still consider one for around town. Probably one of the cooler looking stock bikes available.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 08:41 am

As somebody who works with these little 250cc's on the reg ( I teach basic riding courses for extra money) I can say that with regular maintainance, these bikes, including the Lifan, continue to run reliably.... Despite being dropped, crashed, and generally thrashed on by brand new riders. I definitely agree with the last statement, 'if you think this bike may be perfect for you, you're probly right'.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 08:42 am

The rebel should have more power bc it has one more cylinder but im not sure

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 09:03 am

That's a neat looking little bike and I'm sure that it's fun to ride. Probably a little underpowered for someone my size but surely a good city bike.

I went to the website and looked at the other ones. The Heist looks pretty neat too and might be more appealing to most CC members although the idea of a Chinese bobber that has stolen some serious styling cues from the pages of this website might not sit too well.

Props to CCW for putting themselves out there.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 09:26 am

Cool 250's comin' outta CCW

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 09:57 am

I meant to tell Harold about this, but I went to my local moto dealer who stocks all the major Japanese brands. Here's what I found on the hangtag (obviously you would try to negotiate this down) but it shows how the dealers are adding more than 25% to the MSRP for what they call A.D.M. "Additional Dealer Markup"? Not sure what the acronym stands for but it adds up to a lot.

2012 Honda CBR250RC
$4099 + $1160 ADM = $5259

2012 Kawi EX250JCFAL
$4449 + $1160 = $5609

Yamaha XVS250BCB
$4190 + $1160 = $5350

I didn't check the Rebel 250, but it's listed as having an MSRP of $4190, so I would assume this means it'll get the add-on that the rest of the bikes did. If you can really get a CCW for the list price + tax it would be substantially cheaper.

It's a neat little bike and would be a cooler choice than a scooter for the right person.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 10:07 am

Interesting review. Thanks CC.

I haven't ridden a Heist, but did check one out. It's got more style than anything Harley (or anyone else for that matter) is building today and for less than half what the cheapest Harley is costing. Kick start's a nice touch too. Give it the chops of an XS650 and I might give it a look. It's also legit by Transpo Canada, so only so many corners can be cut.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 10:14 am

"I didn't check the Rebel 250, but it's listed as having an MSRP of $4190, so I would assume this means it'll get the add-on that the rest of the bikes did. If you can really get a CCW for the list price + tax it would be substantially cheaper."

Thanks for the comparison and I stand corrected on the price, I hadn't checked for a long time.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 10:55 am

Lifan/CCW 450 , anyone?

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 12:11 pm

My laugh out loud moment of the day is "Charley-Davidson." Charlie may not surf, but in this instance, he certainly rides. And you can take that several ways.

Do about 30 minutes of due diligence and you'll find the many ways relationships between U.S. corporations and Chinese companies make their way to the Chinese military. They ride the coattails of our joint partnerships to throw our ideas back at us--probably as ICBMs.

I feel bad just writing this.

Thanks for alluding to what you couldn't say straight out, McGoo!

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 02:37 pm

how long until used ones pop up at sub 1000 prices? hmmmm

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 04:13 pm

Been riding a Heist for almost 2 years now... nothing but love from me. Jet the carb, stainless exhaust, heavy duty chain and a 16t front, perfect in the city ridable on the highways. Can't wait to see what the future brings from CCW.

After that lead up I was hoping you'd huck it over some doubles and bad-mouth their Wald headsets.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 05:14 pm

Interesting read, didn't even hear about these. I'm not savvy to the price costs of manufacturing and building in the US, how much would that add to the price? I'd be interested to see how much an all-US made minimalist setup would cost if made here. If you could get one in at under $5000, I think you'd have yourself a niche space under Harley price points but popular with customizers interested in supporting US made products. I mean they're selling Royal Enfield Indian-made and Ural Russian-made bikes for twice that! Is this feasible? If the price point was closer to 7 or 8 K, I think you are in Harley territory at which point most people with go with a Sportster, so no good.

I don't know maybe I'm just just nostalgic for manufacturing in the states. To have "Cleveland" in the name and have it made in China is kinda a bummer. Nothing against the company, in fact Scott seemed passionate about his work and goals, which is a key point for me buying anything. And, I am typing on an Apple computer assembled in China, so I realize the irony here...

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 05:34 pm

An Apple computer with labels on it "`Designed in California,Assembled in China." I'd like to see a CCW That's "Assembled in theUSA, from domestic
and imported components" ..But I fear that's only going to happen if they start
selling kits that the end-user does some final assembly on (in the USA)

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 07:44 pm

CCW just announced over the weekend that they are moving production from China to Cleveland and adding 2 new models: The Chinese plant that does their castings is the same plant that does castings for Harley-Davidson. I can't wait too see them here in NC.

Commented on 6-18-2012 At 09:54 pm

Wow that's seriously the most inspiring news I've heard in awhile! Great first step in bringing some manufacturing back to the US, and now really rooting for Cleveland Cycle Werks! And i can live with the spelling mistakes, Harold, reminds me that it's an American company!

Commented on 6-19-2012 At 06:13 am

This is some grade A bullshit man. Is Chopcult about promoting chineese scooter culture now? This community just took a major credibility loss in my book. I guess it was just a matter of timebefore greed struck.

Commented on 6-19-2012 At 02:04 pm

We'd probably feel better about it if was Taiwanese or Japanese or Thai?
There aren't any small displacement American motorcycles,and there haven't been for a good many decades. Unless Honda or somebody assembled some
here, but I'm only aware of large displacement Japanese made-in-America bikes. Like Goldwings, Kawasaki Vulcan 1500's

Commented on 6-19-2012 At 02:09 pm

"CCW just announced over the weekend that they are moving production from China to Cleveland and adding 2 new models: The Chinese plant that does their castings is the same plant that does castings for Harley-Davidson. I can't wait too see them here in NC."

I stand corrected. Or at least I HOPE so.

Commented on 6-20-2012 At 12:18 am

I don't care. I will not buy one fucking nut from China.

Commented on 6-20-2012 At 06:44 am

If you ride a late model Harley you already did...if you own a tv, computer, cell phone,vehicles made in the last 15-20 years, bought parts at any local auto parts joint...

so relax Francis.....

Commented on 6-20-2012 At 11:09 am

i did an extended interview with scott colosimo in march on my site. they are slowly moving toward manufacturing and assembling EVERYTHING in the usa.

you can read it at

great review, harold. your dipstick fuel gauge remark had me laughing.

Commented on 6-20-2012 At 04:47 pm

Not for sure what spelling error is refered to in post #18 but if it is the word "Werks" in the name then that is not a mis-spelling. Werks has several meanings and is open to interpretation . In this case I would think it refers to ; Werk- when an accomplishment has been met.

There are others such as Custom Werks in NC who distributes motorcycle parts exclusivly to MC shops. There is also Klock Werks who make windshields for motorcycles.
Enough drivel from me on that.
I like the bikes and the excitement and energy this guy is putting forth. To start off he has to have engines from somewhere. Maybe after he gets things rolling he'll have his own, I mean, China is making exact copies of Honda engines which the patent has expired on so who knows, maybe Cleveland Cycle Werks will follow suit and make there own tooling so the engines will be American made.

Commented on 6-21-2012 At 01:30 pm

Wooley, I was referring back to the original comment in the review, on the fact that the model is officially called "Tha Misfit".

Go Kraftwerk.

Commented on 6-23-2012 At 09:13 am

For an almost apples to apples comparison, the 2008/9/10 Suzuki GZ250 had an MSRP of $2999. That's a tough nut to crack.

Commented on 6-23-2012 At 04:27 pm

the suzuki is a really good price, 53, but it's not half as interesting as any bike made by ccw for a couple hundred more bucks.

suzuki, like honda and the rest, make safe-looking and incredibly dated entry-level bikes.

the ccw bobber, the heist, is a looker. clean lines. no bs. yeah, no real rear suspension but that's part of the price of being cool.

the heist might be a dated design, too, but it's dated 1969, not 1989.

Commented on 7-5-2012 At 07:17 pm

Alright! I'm liking this little bike a lot! The kinda crazy/ironic thing about this feature for me? I was literally in the market for a used Rebel (or equivalent) to convert into a cafe' style bike. Now...voila. This might be the next "fun" bike that I hit the streets on.
I really must chuckle at some of the anti-chinese comments on this thread. Like, "I won't buy one f#%king nut from China". C'mon...really? Think about who makes the toys that your children play with, the computer that you read ChopCult articles on. Every time you go to Wal-Mart you are giving your hard earned bread to China. Half of the aftermarket parts that are on most of your choppers are made there. I say this not out of love for these products, but out of a sense of realism concerning the world market today. definitely looks cooler than any other "entry level" or "commuter bike on the market currently!

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