Have you ever wanted to ride like Jeffrey Herlings? You know, hold the bike wedged while swinging off the clutch, valve-bouncing your way from corner to corner on a factory bike?
THIS FEATURE WAS PUBLISH IN ADB ISSUE #469 – OCTOBER 2018
WORDS: Mitch Lees
Photos: JACOB REMIN & ML
If you’re hand is up then you need a run on a YCF BIGY 190 MX ZE Factory.
The YCF concept (quality pitbikes that can be raced or ridden on a full-size motocross track by adults) is the brainchild of two Frenchies: Yannick Coquard and Dimitri Bera. Coquard is an ex-national motocross racer and, the story goes, that Bera, a French technician living in China at the time, and Coquard caught up over a ham baguette and a bowl of Chinese noodles to work out the best way to train in the winter months in France.
While quaffing chardonnay and Baijiu, they decided they needed something that would be small enough to be ridden indoors but still capable of allowing them to replicate the aggressive techniques used on full-sized bikes.
So, in 2004 the first YCF minibike was built, and YCF claims the brand has never grown up (I think that’s meant to be a French attempt at humour).
The concept has been very popular with riders from all parts of the world, not just the cold parts, with the likes of Ken Roczen, Antonio Cairoli and Ashley Fiolek all mounting up to ride one, even if it is just to get a hotdog on race day.
YCF now sells bikes in 14 countries. Their popularity is growing as they’re easy to ride and cheap to buy.
They run quality parts with the ability for a grown adult to ride them like a full-sized dirtbike. But are they more than just a cheap pitbike?
DISPELLING THE MYTHS
While YCF might be a French company, the bikes are made in China, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing anymore with most manufacturers now building some of their models in developing countries such as China and India. YCF’s R&D is done in France and under competition conditions, meaning they must follow strict quality guidelines, and YCF bought a factory in China in 2009.
Buying a factory allows the company to control quality and also the industrial process. All of YCF’s bikes meet EC standards. At first glance the BIGY 190 MX (BIGY because it has larger diameter wheels: front 17-inch, rear 14-inch), looks just as factory as Jason Anderson’s Rockstar Husqvarna. Don’t be fooled by the aesthetics, this isn’t a factory weapon but, for a bike that sets you back a little under $4k, it’s pretty damn impressive.
All the welds, bolts and castings seem decent and the air-cooled engine, while needing a good five-minute warm-up, didn’t falter, and the suspension inspired enough confidence to convince me to jump it.
HOLD IT WEDGED
With only 190cc of Chinese Zen at your disposal, you’re in no danger of flipping off the back of the BIGY 190 MX. Sure, an absolute beginner could manage to whisky throttle their way to a laying out, but most amateurs will be fine. With electric start as standard, the BIGY was a cinch to turn over, but it coughed and spluttered for the first few minutes so you’re best waiting at least five for it to warm up.
If you’re used to hydraulic clutches and EFI then the BIGY will feel a little dated when you first put it into gear. The clutch lever is heavy and the pull isn’t smooth or linear. There’s a fair bit of freeplay and you don’t have a wide engagement point so lever accuracy is key. But, once you find the first of the five gears the little 190cc revver will really bounce!
The power was all torque which, for a big bloke like me, is essential in a small-capacity bike. Sure you have to be on the gears a little but the bottom-end torque allowed me to rocket out of corners and find enough juice to pop over jumps.
In a bike like this, I’d much prefer bottom-end grunt to top-end because it will need all the help it can get. In fact, the torque was so good you could power through a corner with minimal clutch use to stay in the meat of the powerband, ensuring you were never short of grunt.
SIZE OF THE DOG
The BIGY sounds awesome thanks to a black “racing” muffler. I assume YCF call it “racing” because it looks less agricultural and more “racey”, but it works! The pipe breathes cleanly and doesn’t hold back the limited ponies. The power is impressive considering most of the bikes I ride have double the capacity of this one.
With a wheelbase of 1305mm, a seat height of 890mm and a wet weight of 87.2kg, the BIGY 190 MX is the easiest bike you’ll ever ride, unless you’re over 190cm. I hover around 188cm and I could comfortably pilot this bike around the track without my knees, feet and elbows getting in the way. But, if you are closer to 200cm, the cockpit may cramp your style. Like, your knees will get in the way of the ’bars.
The BMX-style handlebar and ’bar risers gives you more room and a comfortable seated position. You can easily get your leg out for ruts and corners without getting it caught and the distance from the perch to the ’pegs is about right. The space between the footpegs and the gearlever and brake pedal is enough to fit my size-11 boots but I did find it easier to change gears when standing.
Because the BIGY 190 MX is so small and the weight is all down low, scrubbing, turning and simply putting this bike where I wanted was a breeze. It amazed me how easy it was to manhandle without feeling cramped. For beginners, the simple act of being able to touch the ground will ensure some level of reassurance and the wet weight of 89kg means if you have to deploy the outriggers most people should be able to catch the weight.
JUMP FOR JOY
Racing the BIGY 190 MX around a full-blown supercross track may end in death. However, if you can sneak onto a kids’ track or even your local BMX haunt, the BIGY 190 MX will shred. The Engi suspension offers compression and rebound damping adjustment (there’s not much, but it can be adjusted) with the fork and shock providing an undisclosed amount of travel.
To test the suspension, we headed out on a kids’ track at Gwandalan, NSW, and could comfortably jump everything without worrying that the frame or suspension would snap. It would be perfect for something like Dylan Long’s minibike track (check his Insta page) or to replace your 70cc muck-around bike when you’ve come home from work and need to release some tension when your other half is giving you nadda.
While I managed to bottom the suspension when not quite clearing some jumps, the rest of the action was what you’d expect. It’s not top-of-the-line KYB or Showa gear, so it feels a little harsh across some of the choppy stuff and doesn’t soak up braking bumps like your big bike but, unlike other pitbikes, it does still hold up on decent jumps. You’d expect a pitbike to be soft and spongey, with my weight forcing full compression of the springs, but the BIGY 190 MX has more of a motocross feel to it.
With a torquey engine, roomy cockpit and firm, aggressive suspension (for a pitbike) the 190 BIGY MX is an awesome addition to your moto collection. It’s not going to replace your weekend ride but it will provide hours of fun when you desperately need to get through a long week. And if you’ve got a mate with cash, buy a dozen and go on one hell of buck’s party!
YCF BIG Y 190 MX ZE Spex
Type SOHC, two-valve
Bore & STROKE 62 x 62mm
Compression ratio 11.0:1
Fuel metering Keihin PE28 carb
Tank capacity 5.8L
Transmission Five-speed constant-mesh
Clutch Cable, wet multiplate
Seat height 890mm
Ground clearance 325mm
Weight 87.2kg wet
FRONT Engi USD fork, travel N/A
REAR Engi monoshock, travel N/A
Front YCF twin-piston, 220mm wave
Rear YCF single-piston, 200mm wave
Handlebar YCF non-tapered
Front tyre Arro 70/100-17
Rear tyre Arro 90/100-14
Price & Contacts
Phone (07) 5520 2483
Warranty Six months, parts only