Last year, CFMOTO returned to the U.S. market with a seven-model lineup. The company’s list of models has since grown to 10, ranging from the 126cc Papio minibike to the Ibex 800 T adventure bike. CFMOTO’s best seller worldwide is the 300SS, a lightweight sportbike with full bodywork.
One of CFMOTO’s value propositions is affordability. The 300SS has an MSRP of $4,499, which is $400 less than the Honda CBR300R and $1,000 less than the more powerful Yamaha YZF-R3. But CFMOTO is going to have to do more than offer a better price to compete with brands that have already earned the trust of many American riders.
However, curious to see what makes the 300SS so popular, I spent a month riding it on a variety of city streets, highways, and winding country roads.
Swing a Leg Over
The 300SS is powered by a 292cc Single that makes a claimed 29 hp at 8,750 rpm and 18.7 ft-lb of torque at 7,250 rpm, numbers nearly on par with Honda’s CB300 range of bikes. It’s fairly lightweight at 364 lb, and it sports a narrow seat with a 30.7-inch height and has a 3.2-gallon fuel tank. Riding on a steel trellis frame, the 300SS has an inverted fork and a single rear shock with five-position preload adjustability. For 2023, color options are Nebula Black with red accents (as tested) and Ghost Gray with blue accents.
When I picked up our test bike and first swung a leg over it, I was immediately impressed by its appearance alone. The lines on the bodywork are well-done, the colored stripe on the wheels adds personality, and the air vents under the passenger seat make the 300SS look like it means business. Aside from looking cool, it also has good fit and finish.
The only thing about it that seemed odd was the reach to the mirrors. It’s not something I think about with a new bike often, but when I reached up to adjust the mirrors, they were so far away that I could barely touch them. However, I was able to set the mirrors where I wanted them without having to adjust them throughout the ride, so it wasn’t much of an issue.
Since I picked the bike up in a suburb of Nashville, I had to putter along for a few miles before I could really open it up and see what it could do. Right away, the bike felt easy to ride, and that held true when I was able to get up to speed. Its small size and easy-to-control clutch make it nimble and responsive. The gearing felt dialed in just right. The 292cc engine had plenty of power to zip off from a red light and get me down the interstate, but it never felt like it was trying to run away without me. The 300SS’s smaller size, flickability, and affordability make this bike a smart choice for new riders.
For a bike with a price below its competition, the 300SS has a few features that were pleasantly surprising additions. For example, it comes equipped with two ride modes: Eco and Sport. I started out using Eco mode but switched to using Sport primarily. There’s not a big difference between the two modes, but Sport is a bit peppier and more fun. And this is a bike to have fun on. It gave me confidence in curves and had me grinning from ear to ear. Shifting gears is smooth, and the sporty seating position made me feel like I was riding faster than I was – in a good way.
However, that sportier seating position is not ideal for longer trips. Maybe if I were more used to the sporty ergonomics, I wouldn’t feel fatigued so quickly. As it was, I could ride the 300SS for about 45 minutes to an hour before I started looking for a spot to pull over and shake out the aches. For bopping around town or going on quick sprints close to the house, the narrow profile and firm seat were perfect and put me in a controlling position.
In the sweeping curves through the hills of rural Tennessee, the suspension was just right. The only time I regretted having firm suspension was on the potholed and bumpy Interstate 40 through Memphis, but that section of road is notoriously rough on all vehicles. Everywhere else, the suspension provided a nice balance of control and comfort.
Helmet: ScorpionEXO Covert FX
Jacket: ScorpionEXO Women’s Cargo Air
Gloves: Joe Rocket Ballistic Ultra
Boots: Joe Rocket Trixie
While riding around town, several people approached me to ask about the bike and told me they thought it looked really cool. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s something to be said for a bike that’s both fun to ride and fun to look at, and the 300SS is both.
Another nice touch for a low-price bike is the 5-inch TFT display. The display shows everything you’d expect: odometer, tachometer, speed, fuel level, voltage, temp, time, and gear. When switching ride modes, the layout changes, making it easy to tell the mode has changed but maybe a little harder to find what you’re looking for if you’ve already gotten used to the other layout.
The display is easy to read as long as it’s not in direct sunlight. When the sun was behind me, I found myself having to move my head to shade the display to read it, which was a little annoying. The display also connects with the CFMOTO RIDE app for navigation and playing music. One feature I appreciated was the security alert. Once connected, the app will alert your phone if the bike is rolled without keys in it, a handy feature if someone tries to take it off your hands while you’re not around.
My only other beef with the display is that, while using the navigation, once the distance to your next turn or destination is less than 0.1 mile, that distance is given in inches rather than feet or yards. Maybe you’re better at judging distances than I am, but if you asked me to walk 5,864 inches in one direction, I’d have to pull out a calculator to figure out approximately how far I needed to go. It wasn’t a problem on the sparsely populated country roads, but while riding in downtown Memphis, it was hard to know if I should turn at the next block or the one after that. Even though I’d prefer measurements in feet instead of inches, having navigation on a low-price model was welcome, and I appreciated all the other information and features available through the CFMOTO RIDE app.
Stopping power comes from a 4-piston caliper and a 292mm disc up front and a 220mm disc and single-piston caliper in the rear, and ABS is standard. The rear brake performed its job well, but the front brake felt a little weak. Luckily, such a small bike is not hard to slow down, but if it were much heavier, I’d want more stopping power up front.
Along with the Bluetooth connectivity, ride modes, and the TFT display already mentioned, the 300SS comes equipped with LED headlights, taillights, and turnsignals. This isn’t a bare-bones and cheaply made bike; it’s a well-built machine with thoughtful additions that make the riding experience even better. All-in-all, the 300SS provides a lot for your money.
CFMOTO’s 300SS gave me confidence that the brand is on track to earning its keep on American streets. It’s a fun ride with cool looks and an affordable price: the perfect recipe for attracting new riders, whether they’re new to riding in general or just new to CFMOTO. If you haven’t ridden a CFMOTO before, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and with more than 200 CFMOTO motorcycle dealers in the U.S., there’s probably one near you.
2023 CFMOTO 300SS Specifications
Base Price: $4,499
Warranty: 2 yr., unltd. miles
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled Single, DOHC w/ 4 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0 x 61.2mm
Horsepower: 29 hp @ 8,750 rpm (factory claim)
Torque: 18.7 lb-ft @ 7,250 rpm (factory claim)
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 53.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.1 in.
Seat Height: 30.7 in.
Wet Weight: 364 lb
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gal.