I think it’s safe to say that the Buddy from Genuine is a phenomenon in the scooter world. The story of Genuine Scooters is largely the story of the Stella and the Buddy. There have been (and continue to be) other scooters, to be sure, but those two struck a chord that continues to resonate with the scooter-buying public.
The Buddy hit the ground running in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since. Initially offered with a zippy 50cc 2-stroke or an unusually fast 125cc 4-stroke, the Buddy was the right scooter at the right time. The combination of quality components, attractive design and skilled marketing put the Buddy at the front of the scooter craze. It’s cute, it works well, there are TONS of accessories available and Genuine has done a great job of marketing the scooter.
A couple of years later, the International Buddy appeared with a 150cc powerplant. Offered in two-tone colours with whitewall tires and LOUD horns, the success of the Buddy line continued.
Now we’re here in 2009 and there’s a performance Buddy – the BlackJack. The concept of the BlackJack reminds me a little of some of the 1960s and early 1970s small-frame Vespas. It’s based on a scooter that one would not necessarily associate with “performance” yet it delivers a fun riding experience when pushed a bit. The brakes and suspension on a standard Buddy 125/150, though more than adequate, don’t encourage “sporty” riding. To me, that’s what the Genuine Blur was for. The BlackJack integrates some goodies from NCY along with the dealer-installed option of a performance exhaust from Prima that results in a package that is MORE than the sum total of its parts.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Genuine certainly does a good job of delivering on a complete scooter that strikes a chord. Several chords in fact. Want a cute, quick 50cc scooter? Get a Buddy. Want a retroish two-tone with class -leading 150cc speed? Get a Buddy. Want a surprisingly good-handling, flat black scooter with an exhaust note that growls? Get a Buddy.
This review is going to be a bit different that others we have done. I own a BlackJack. I’m going to get other people to ride this machine and report on their findings. I’m going to play with adding accessories. Additions to this review will be posted at www.JustGottaScoot.com
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
For this review, I left the original exhaust on the BlackJack for the first 300 miles of riding. I wanted to do the break-in and then see if there was a big difference in “the numbers” between the stock exhaust and the performance exhaust. There wasn’t. As I have come to expect from most scooters, the speedometer is optimistic. It indicates about 10% faster than the actual speed. When the speedometer indicates 30 MPH, the GPS reads almost 27 MPH. When the speedometer indicates 50 MPH, the GPS reads 44 to 45 MPH. The top speed and fuel economy numbers have been adjusted to reflect the inaccuracy of the speedometer.
Top end searching was quite an experience. The GPS mount that I normally use would not stay on the BlackJack. After two near drops of the GPS unit, I either held it in one hand, or just used duct tape. I DO NOT recommend riding a scooter a highway speeds on a very windy day while trying to hold a GPS unit. After break-in with the stock exhaust, I was doing my top speed tests on a windy day so it was a little tough to find a spot without nasty head-winds or “pushing” tail-winds. I also weigh in at about 220 pounds. The best I could get out of the BlackJack was a GPS indicated 64 MPH (the speedometer indicated about 73 MPH). On a slightly less windy day, a 160 pound volunteer reported a speedometer indicated 75 MPH. I didn’t want him to risk his life holding the GPS unit, so I’m estimating his actual speed was 66 MPH. With the performance exhaust installed, the top speed stayed the same. WITH NO CHANGE IN CARBURETOR JETTING, I have not noticed much of a change in performance on the BlackJack after installing the exhaust. I am planning to up-jet to a 95 in the near future. My seat-of-the-pants feel is that there is slightly more mid-range with the performance exhaust installed. What DID change is the sound. The optional performance exhaust gives the BlackJack a serious growl that I think sounds FANTASTIC.
Fuel economy on the BlackJack was all over the place. A scooter is generally going to get its best fuel economy at slow speeds (30 MPH) with a small rider (120 – 150 pounds). After break-in, having a 220 pounder riding in high winds trying to find the top speed resulted in 61 MPG – the worst result we recorded during the review. With my wife (115 pounds) running around parkways in the St. Paul area, fuel economy was 85 MPG. That’s quite a spread. I would say that an average sized rider running at 30 – 45 MPH most of the time could expect about 80 MPG on average. If you are a smaller person and live at speeds of around 30 MPH, you may well see better fuel economy.
Of course a big part of the “problem” with fuel economy on the BlackJack is how much fun it is to thrash the bike around. I found my right wrist suddenly twisting like mad for no good reason other than fun. This total lack of discipline on my part certainly contributes to the less than stellar fuel economy results.
Genuine doesn’t provide terribly complete specifications on their website or literature. I had to get the dry weight of the Buddy from a shipping scale. I had to get seat height from a yard-stick, T-square and level. That problem was minor when faced with the issue of coming up with other scooters for comparison. I really couldn’t think of a major brand scooter that offered performance goodies on a 150cc bike. In the end, I went with a couple that have a sporty look and offer a platform on which to add after-market performance components.
In this comparison, the BlackJack is the most expensive, but comes equipped with the best components already installed. To get the suspension, brakes, CVT and exhaust up to the standard of the BlackJack, a TGB or Piaggio owner would have to invest considerable money. The BlackJack is the lightest, has the lowest seat height, and the best warranty (roadside assistance is included). I guess what I’m trying to say is that there really isn’t a DIRECT comparison scooter in the market just now.
The BlackJack shares a lot with the other Buddies in Genuine’s line-up. It has nice bright lights, good storage space, a 12V accessory plug, high quality switches and controls as well as the usual optimistic speedometer and fuel guage that’s really just there as a reminder. Throughout our testing, the gauge would read “full” when filled and then race to “empty” when there was still nearly half a gallon of fuel in the tank. Like the Buddy International, the BlackJack has a LOUD horn as standard equipment. Seems like kind of a small thing, but it shows the consideration Genuine has put into the Buddy line. Making other drivers on the road aware of scooters is a concern and this horn will definitely get you noticed.
Unlike the other Buddies, the BlackJack has a solo seat. I found it very comfortable. It’s also a bit taller than the seat on the other models. Though the passenger footrests are there, integrated into the bike, the Blackjack is really a one-person mount. The BlackJack is also stuffed with goodies including a NCY billet racing fork, NCY adjustable pre-load and dampening rear shock, a NCY big front disc brake with dual piston caliper, and (as a dealer-installed option) a Prima performance exhaust.
The operation and control layout of the BlackJack is the same as other Buddy scooters. For that matter it is the same as most modern scooters. The left hand controls the rear brake. On the left control there is also the high/low beam selector for the headlight, the turn signals featuring push-to-cancel and the horn. The right hand twists the throttle (and twists the throttle, and twists the throttle, and…) and controls the front brake. On the right control there is the “engine off” switch, hazard flashers and the starter button. On the right side below the hand-grips is the multi-function switch. It turns the ignition on and also engages the front fork lock or operates the seat release.
The rear-view mirrors are on long stalks and actually allowed even a wide-load like me to see at least some of what was behind me. The front tray is useful for small items and I actually powered my GPS unit with the accessory plug. Everything worked flawlessly on the BlackJack during our review.
Remember back in the 1970s, that souped up Opel/VW/Datsun that your friend had? Really? You do? Wow, you ARE old….. The BlackJack reminds me of that small, cute car that was actually much faster and handled much better than you expected it would. The same could be said of some small-frame scooters from that time. I’ve put a lot of miles on various Buddies. 50cc, 125cc, 150 Internationals, lots of different Buddies. They are all quick for their class, they all have nimble handling and decent brakes. The BlackJack continues with the quick acceleration common to the other Buddies and adds excellent braking and sportier handling. The ride is firmer and feels more secure in corners. You will still be limited by the 10 inch wheels, but for the “spirited” riding that a lot of people enjoy, the BlackJack’s suspension delivers the goods. The rear drum brake was easy to modulate and only locked up under HARD pressure. The front brake is a dream – strong, controllable and no fade.
The BlackJack is NOT a replacement for the Genuine Blur. The Blur is no longer offered in Genuine’s line-up, but it was more of a native sport scooter than the BlackJack. The Blur had handling and breaks that were among the best I’ve ever experienced on a scooter.
The suspension on the BlackJack responds quickly and holds well, even on rough roads. The combination of light weight, strong engine, a CVT that likes the low/mid speed ranges, superior suspension and strong brakes results in a scooter that is easy to ride at a very quick pace. Yes, the ride will feel stiff. I would rather have a scooter that gives me accurate feedback on the road than one that is too soft or wallows. The solo seat on the BlackJack allowed me to sit further back than I would on another Buddy which results in a nice riding position for cruising the local parkways.
The BlackJack comes off the line quickly and has nice roll-on acceleration in the mid-range. When cruising at 25 – 45 MPH, a nice little leap forward is just a throttle twist away. Getting to the top end of the BlackJack’s speed takes a while. Though capable of maintaining highway speeds, this is NOT a good choice for a touring scooter. The same elements that make it blast to ride around town (light weight, quick handling, small wheels, etc.) are at odds with the heavier weight, large wheels, wind protection and so forth that make for a good highway touring mount.
For this review, the BlackJack was ridden by Lora at Scooterville, my wife Beverly, me, a couple of friends, and even a couple of people from shops that carry competing brands. Lora has a Buddy 50 that is pretty built-up. She loved the BlackJack. In fact, I had to lock her in the restroom at Scooterville, steal the keys from her jacket, and sneak out the door just to get it away from her. I’m SURE someone has let her out of the restroom by now… Bev was very pleased with the BlackJack and preferred it to her 125 Buddy. Even competing dealers expressed a very positive opinion of the BlackJack.
Fit & Finish
The BlackJack is available in any colour you want as long as it’s flat black. The solo seat has red trim, the wheels are red, and whitewall tires are standard. The graphics reflect the card-playing nature of the name. As I have found with other Buddy models, the panels are well finished and fit together nicely. The switches and controls are very good, one of the areas that usually show the cheapness of a “bargain” scooter. The next time you are out riding around on your Buddy, park next to one of the $850 Chinese scooters at the mobile phone store and you’ll see what I mean about the switches and controls.
Having been introduced in 2006, it’s only a few years that we have had Buddy scooters available. They have demonstrated lasting quality and I expect the BlackJack will be no exception.
What are you looking for in a scooter? Great fuel economy? The Buddy 125 would be a better choice. Long distance highway riding? Get a Burgman, Xciting, Majesty or CityCom. Something that will accomodate your 6’8″ 300 pound frame? Nope, sorry, a Buddy isn’t for you. Do you want excellent handling and braking? A smaller scooter that won’t bore you? A machine that brings a big (just slightly evil) grin to your face? Go out and get yourself a BlackJack.
Lora Murtha of Scooterville in Minneapolis Minnesota Rides the BlackJack
The rumors are true, I have a love affair with another scooter. The Genuine Black Jack 150 has stolen my heart. I love my little Buddy 50 (well, ok it’s a 70cc) and have over 12,000 miles on it. I ride that thing everywhere, but when I had the chance to steal Dave’s Black Jack for about 2 months I jumped at it. (Thanks Dave!)
It’s not even fair to compare the speed on the two scooters. I am quite a speed demon (stuck on a 50cc so not THAT much of a speed demon), so the ability to take it on the interstate was a BIG plus for me. (Don’t worry Dave, I didn’t do it that often) I have always been impressed with the acceleration on the Buddy. When the light hit green and I took off I really surprised the guy next to me in the car. I was able to stay ahead of him going up hill. I do not think he was pleased that a girl on a scooter was beating his car.
Besides beating cars off the line I was really impressed with how it handled on the corners. The upgraded suspension allowed me to scrape the center stand around some tight corners. My commute takes me on a few twisty tight corners and the Black Jack performed so smoothly. It never felt like it was going to bounce out of control no matter how hard I leaned. I hardly felt the bumps in the road, which is especially amazing on any of the Minnesota roads in early spring.
Being on a scooter always has some risks involved. One of which is people never seeing you and pulling out in front of you and then stopping, or doing something equally as frustrating. This scooter is equipped with two wonderful devices to help you in these situations. The first is the air horn. I think I saw a lady throw her coffee up in the air when I hit that horn. The second being the amazing brakes. I never knew one could almost stop on a dime. I didn’t have a dime with me or I would have tested this theory. You grab those little black levers and you stop! I didn’t lock up the rear tire or hit the car that pulled out in front of me, but I did come to a safe stop and was impressed.
The Black Jack might not be for everyone, but it is defiantly something for me. I love the looks; the flat black with the red rims and whitewall tires just makes me smile. The performance is quite an upgrade to what I have now so of course I love that. Now I just need to find a way to squeeze a fourth scooter into our already packed garage.
Custom Reflective Checkerboard on the BlackJack
Yes, I am out of my tiny little mind. Lots of people have told me this, especially after they see that EVERY scooter or motorcycle in my garage has checkerboard on it, usually reflective. I’m a firm believer in doing whatever one can to increase visibility to other drivers when I’m on two wheels. To this end, I added custom graphics to a Genuine Buddy BlackJack. The material used is high grade 3M red reflective material that was hand-cut and applied to the front, sides, and rear of the Scooter.