Sanglas 500 S2 Road Test
Riders who, like me, are getting on a bit —
well, past 30 anyway — are a two-faced lot.
I used to have an old Velocette Venom. I swore at
it, twisted my leg out of joint trying to start it,
went through countless rags and dusters trying to
keep oil off it, and often joined in the popular chorus
of the day which went: "Why can't someone make
a four that doesn't leak oil?"
Then, some years later, you find yourself propped
up against a bar and drooling about the "great
old singles" you used to know, and what their
untold advantages were over the modern breed of look-alike
rice-burners. It's only when you ride a bike like
the Sanglas 500 S2 that you come to your senses, recognising
both good and bad points about the traditional single-cylinder
Sanglas is a new firm into this country, although
they have been making the big singles, especially
for the Spanish police force, for many years. Their
single-cylinder range attracted a great deal of attention
at the Earls Court Show, and they are likely to have
a good following here.
The S2 "V5" — on account of its five-speed
gearbox — is a curious mixture of ancient and
modern: cast wheels, disc brakes and fibreglass headlamp
cowling and seat unit keep pace with the times while
underneath it all, the reliable SOOcc pushrod single,
whose pedigree stretches back to 1943, plods on unconcernedly,
its only real concession to the 1970s being the electric
starter bolted to the left-hand side.
As far as appearance goes, the Sanglas doesn't seem
to know quite what it wants to look like. The traditional
lines of the engine match the beautiful sweep of the
front exhaust pipe to perfection: there's a classic
beauty about it. Then, abruptly, the modern, black-painted,
heavy-looking silencer goes and spoils it all. Likewise
the glass-fibre box moulding at the back of the seat,
while providing a usef u\ attachment for grab-rails
either side and a drop-down carrier, and offering
space inside for your sandwiches, is heavy and ponderous-looking.
But there's no denying the attraction of the Sanglas
engine. Old-fashioned maybe, but it still gives almost
as much power as the Yamaha single, and is so delightfully
easy to ride it's relaxing therapy. Instrument console
looked smart, but needles wavered around.
You nneed to look at the rev counter all the time:
you can feel when it's time to change up a gear by
the vibrations. Just as well, because the Spanish
instruments were not that accurate and tended to waver
about quite a lot.
The motor looks and feels like an old Matchless single:
in fact if Matchless had kept going they'd probably
be making bikes very much like the Sanglas today.
The gearbox was always easy to use, with smooth changes
both upward and downward. But it's no use trying to
ride the Sanglas like your average Japanese rocketship.
Trying to crack through the gears for standing quarter-miles
was frustrating because the clutch had a delayed-action
effect, and at first the revs would rise with no matching
gain in speed. It's a gentlemanly bike which needs
to be treated in a gentlemanly fashion.
In one department the Sanglas was head and shoulders
above the old British bikes: no oil-leaks at all.
Throughout the test the motor stayed clean: what a
pity the rather rough-looking sand-cast casings couldn't
be polished up bright.
And who says you can't fit a starter-motor to a single?
The Sanglas item, its mounting redesigned for extra
strength and durability, was faultless. Although a
valve-lifter is situated beneath the clutch lever
for kick-start fanatics. I never used it for starting.
I simply pressed the button and after a couple of
chuffs it fired up every time. The silencer might
look ungainly, but it's extremely efficient, muffling
the big single's boom to perfection.
Telesco shocks worked well, but rear brake wasn't
so good. The short, stubby handlebars lurk behind
the neat-looking flyscreen cockpit moulding, and the
matching speedo and rev-counter are laid out Japanese-style
with a row of warning lights for indicators, lights,
flashers, electrics and oil between them. The oil
light never stopped flashing intermittently at very
low revs, although the oil was topped-up.
The dual seat is comfortable and well-padded. To
raise it, a key is inserted into the side of the seat
itself. Beneath, the electrics are logically laid
out and easily accessible, probably the result of
lessons learned with countless police bikes.
For a modest power-output at the rear wheel of only
25bhp, the Sanglas is incredibly well braked. The
patented front twin-disc gave instant stopping power,
the hefty-looking Telesco front forks pitching smoothly
downwards as the tyre squealed to a halt. The Sanglas
features a third disc brake on the back wheel, although
for some reason ours was almost useless, needing a
tot of lever pressure before anything happened. I'm
sure this was just a maverick, because the front ones
Suspension is well complemented by the Telesco rear
units, with adjustable preload and Hydrabag reservoirs.
Although the suspension mopped up big bumps excellently,
there was a rather remote feel to the front units,
and not a lot of feedback to the rider.
The very upright riding position probably has something
to do with police bike practice, too. For a rider
of my size, everything fell to hand very easily and
the over-riding impression of the S2 was of a very
easy machine to ride. It doesn't require a great deal
of thought from the rider, allowing him to concentrate
all the more on important things, like the road ahead.
The speedometer, as already mentioned, was not very
accurate. At an indicated 50mph the electronically-timed
speed was only 43.18. At the machine's top recorded
speed of 91.15mph, the speedo was indicating 105mph.
The slow clutch action didn't help the standing start
quarter-mile speeds, and the best the Sanglas could
do was 16.53 sec with a terminal speed of 78.26mph.
The Sanglas leaflet says the tyres are Michelin M38s-3.25
x 18 front and 3.50 x 18 rear. But ours were definitely
Dunlop. They performed adequately, although the front
•vre had been fitted the wrong way round.
What a thumper! The Sanglas almost has an old British
This did not affect roadholding to any great extent.
We simply checked more often to make sure nothing
was breaking up. A big single always vibrates, but
the only annoying Sanglas vibes came from the fuel
tank, while one of the rear indicators worked loose
on its mountings.
The unit-construction engine, with a compression
ratio of 9.3 to 1, is claimed to produce maximum power
at 6,700rpm and maximum torque at 5,000. Lubrication
is by dry sump with pressure feed, and the electric
starter has a bendix drive direct to the crankshaft
Handlebar controls are novel although fairly straight-forward.
On the left-hand side is the parking and headlight
switch, dip and flash switch and horn; on the right
the starter button, kill button and indicator switch.
Engine-wise, nothing is very sensational: just a
continuation of long-proven ideas for simplicity and
longevity. The cast-alloy cylinder head is fitted
with bronze valve-guides and inlet valve seating,
and the redesigned crankshaft assembly is fed by a
high-pressure oil pump. There is also a primary drive
shock-absorber. At the end of the test I was left
with mixed feelings about the Sanglas. Instead of
trying to emulate more modern machinery, I'm sure
it would be a good idea if a high-performance version
were available, with a sportier exhaust crackle, spoked
wheels and alloy rims, drop bars and rather less of
the glass-fibre clutter. In other words, it wants
to look more like a Cold Star or Thruxton Velo.
Yet I cannot end on a dismal note: the Sanglas is
full of good virtues like simplicity, lightness, fuel
economy that can stretch a gallon to over 60 miles
— and that handsome exhaust beat that could
only belong to a big single. If you love singles,
and have a handy £1,329 to spare, it's the bike