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SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler review

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You can save yourself a lot of hassle and money converting a small-capacity motorcycle into a scrambler by checking out the SWM Silver Vase.

SWM is an Italian-made brand with Chinese financial backing, so their bikes are made with Italian design and flair, but a bargain price tag.

The Silver Vase costs just $7490 on the road which compares pretty well with its closest competitor, the Yamaha SR400 at $8099 plus on-road costs.

And if you are after a stylish scrambler, the learner-approved Silver Vase is already customised for you.

There is also a Gran Milano ($7990) cafe racer and Gran Turismo ($7490) naked roadster which share the same frame and engine.

Single-cylinder heartSWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

They are all powered by a new SWM 445.3cc air and oil-cooled, four-stroke, SOHC, four-valve, fuel-injected, single-cylinder engine. Output is 22.4kW of power (30hp) and 35.8Nm of torque at 5300 revs.

The engine components are made by Shineray Group in China and shipped to the SWM factory in Lombardia, northern Italy, where the bike is built.

It’s a stylish little bike that turns heads everywhere you go. Not many have heard of SWM before, but those who used to race dirt a few decades ago remember them fondly.

Unlike many other scramblers on the market, this is closer to the original scrambler formula: a small-capacity road bike converted to race across paddocks on the weekends in hare scrambles events.

In fact, it’s named after the Six Days Silver Vase event which later became the International Six Days Trial.SWM Silver Vase 440 scramblerSWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

Traditional scrambler

When we picked up the Silver Vase from Brisbane retailer Heavy Duty Motorsport, it certainly looked like it came straight from the starting line of a post-war scrambles event.

It features knobby tyres on wire wheels, twin-shock suspension, chromed fenders, gaitered forks, metal panels and tank, wide and high bars, upswept twin exhausts, dual-pod instruments and an old-fashioned padded bench seat like the old dirt bikes.

Many old riders will love the overall nostalgic look that many young hipsters are trying to replicate with their custom builds.

Closer inspection reveals inconsistent fit and finish. Some aspects such as the paintwork are very good and some, such as the stickers and exhaust welding, look a little basic. But remember that cheap price tag!

You simply can’t compare this with a BMW R nineT Scrambler at almost three times the price!

SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler
Rough welds on the exhaust

Starting from scratch

There is a sticker on the rear chromed mudguard that suggests warming up the bike gently every time you start it. It also warns you should avoid “full load” for the first four hours.

The Silver Vase starts first time when cold (no kick-start only like the SR400). However, it can be a little cantankerous to start when hot.

Since it only has 30-odd kilometres on the odometer, I give it gentle revs and pull away, wary of not revving it too much for the first four hours.

So I take it on a highway trip with some twisties and some dirt thrown in.SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

The Silver Vase has a comfortable upright riding position with a relaxed reach to the bars and footpegs. You can move forward and back in the seat to suit your height and your knees will be nicely tucked into the tank recesses.

It’s a very relaxed position, but you can slide forward to attack corners.

Highway touring certainly isn’t this bike’s forte. It buzzes along at 5500 revs in fifth gear at 100km/h, sending a tingle through the bars, pegs and seat.

After half an hour it almost feels like my hands have gone to sleep.

Silver Vase handling

But there is no sleeping when you get into the tight corners. Despite a 19-inch front wheel and knobby tyres, it turns lightly into corners and holds its line pretty well for deep lean angles.

However, the rudimentary suspension, adjustable only on the rear for preload, does not like mid-corner bumps.

They unsettle the bike and you have to muscle it to hold it steady. That’s not difficult with those wide bars and the light weight of the bike.

It’s only 150kg dry, but has a massive 20-litre tank, so it ends up weighing about the same as the SR400.

That makes it light and manoeuvrable through tight turns and in traffic.

However, the lightweight frame that is bolted to a single centre strut does seem a little flexible.

SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler
Three frame bolts

At highway speeds, bumps can make the frame twist and the bike slightly weaves. It never becomes uncontrollable. Let’s just call it “character”.

However, I would regularly check the three bolts that link the frame to the front strut.

Loves to revSWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

The engine idles a bit rough at 2000 revs and it snatches and surges at constant throttle at low speeds. This improved around 500km when it was better run-in.

It prefers to be circulating between 4000-6000 revs for smother power delivery.

After 6000rpm, the single cylinder lights up and becomes more responsive before running out of puff around 8000rpm, well short of the indicated 10,000 limit.

Four hours later, I start feeding it more revs and the Silver Vase became even more responsive with robust midrange torque to pull you smartly out of corners. It actually feels stronger and more willing than the 399cc SR400.

SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

Trusty transmission

The five-speed gearbox and clutch are light and precise. Cogs change without a murmur and we found no angel gears. However, neutral can sometimes be a little difficult to find.

Ratios are well chosen for rapid acceleration with the fifth and top gear a bit short for highway riding. Yet there is still enough pull left for overtaking with a tested top speed of 130km/h.

The tall circular mirrors are wide and well placed for rear vision, although you have to pull the clutch in to get rid of the blurred vision.

I thought I was being followed by two bikes, but it was just my mate!SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler


After a full day of riding highways, twisties and a short Steve McQueen squirt across some grassed paddocks and double dirt tracks, I still felt quite comfortable and not at all tired.

The well-padded seat is firm but fair and the rubber foot pegs take away some of the tingle.

The rubbers can be removed for off-roading, however, you will find it difficult to stand as the top of the tank flares out and forces your knees apart.

This bike is best ridden sitting down, inside leg stretched out for support as you roost through a berm. I wouldn’t suggest any jumps or motocrossing, though. The suspension is too short and isn’t up for such punishment.

SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler
Smooth dirt roads are just fine for the SWM

It’s better sitting up straight as you filter through traffic, or sliding forward and backwards on the 820mm-high seat as needed in the twisties or spinning around a grassy paddock or easy trail.

The single 260mm front brake disc is strong and ample for the bike’s weight with good progression, but the rear 220mm disc feels spongey and is not very effective. Of course, there is no ABS.

On the dirt, the rear brake behaves more effectively in big clodhopping MX boots. An over-sensitive brake here would be a handful … or a footful!

It is shod with GoldenTyre GT201 rubber that feels quite grippy in most conditions and rates well with many adventure riders as a 50/50 tyre.


The dual-pod analogue instruments feature a speedo and tacho with a small LCD screen showing odometer and one trip meter. No fancy extras like a fuel gauge, just a fuel warning light.SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

Controls are also basic, but feel solid.

The 20-litre fuel tank is probably overkill for a bike this size. With fuel economy in the low 4L/100km range, that should see you riding over the horizon before the fuel light comes on.

We can’t provide reliable fuel economy figures because it was used mainly in the run-in phase.

There are a few items of concern on the bike. They include the choice of nuts and bolts, the rough exhaust welds, and the stickers that aren’t applied straight and look like they will soon peel off.

That’s to be expected on a bargain bike.

My only other complaint was a stiff rubber ring on the lockable petrol cap that made it difficult to replace. I’m sure it will loosen up with use.

Vase verdict

At just $7490 ride away, it’s the cheapest of the scramblers available and is the most authentic to the original scrambler definition.

I’d have one as a second bike for ripping down some dirt roads, across some grassy paddocks, commuting through traffic and riding up the mountain roads to my favourite cafeSWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

SWM history

SWM does not stand for Speedy Works Motors, but SVVM or Sironi Vergani Vimercate Milano after founders Piero Sironi and Fausto Vergani started the business in Milan.

SWM manufactured Observed Trials, Enduro, Motocross and off-road motorcycles in the 1970s and 1980s. They started with small capacity Sachs engined enduro bikes and began making Rotax engined trials bikes in 1977.

The brand was revived in 2014 with funding from the Shineray Group and are manufactured in the former Husqvarna manufacturing plant in Lombardia in northern Italy. 

The SWM range in Australia also includes the RS300R, RS500R and RS650R enduros, SM500R and SM650R supermoto and Superdual 600.

SWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler specificationsSWM Silver Vase 440 scrambler

  • Price: $7490 ride away
  • Engine: Air-cooled & oil-cooled SOHC 4-valve single cylinder four-stoke
  • Capacity: 445.3cc
  • Bore x Stroke: 90 x 70mm
  • Engine oil capacity: 2.8-litres
  • Transmission: 5-speed
  • Clutch: Wet multi-plate with cable control
  • Ignition: GET
  • Fuel system: EFI
  • Start: Electric
  • Front suspension: 43mm conventional fork with 125mm of travel
  • Rear suspension: Twin shock with pre-load adjustment and 90mm of travel
  • Front wheel: 19-inch with 260mm brake disc
  • Rear wheel: 17-inch with 220mm brake disc
  • Seat: 820mm
  • Wheel base: 1441mm
  • Clearance: 191mm
  • Fuel tank: 20 litres
  • Weight: 151kg (no fuel)
  1. That is one ugly bike. No part of that design flows. The creases on the tank juxtapose poorly with the fenders curves, giving the bike an awkward silhouette. Those pipes are hideous and the bars look like an after thought. 7k is too much.

    1. James, this is exactly what appeals to me on this bike. I think the design is great, but agree it is somehow different from others which I find interesting. It’s pretty comfy as well btw.

      1. On the internet everything looks good but I had a chance to see the real bike, man it looks so so ugly, old fashioned, it looks very poor both aesthetically and the quality of the parts. I like old fashioned bikes but this one looks like coming from a developing country. What SWM has done here they brought an existing cheap Chinese bike to Italy and assembled it. Though I can’t understand how all this back and forth of parts and bikes being delivered across the world inflicts on the cost of this cheap toy.

  2. I have test ridden one and was impressed: If you expect the smoothness and slickness of a modern motorcycle a la Japanese, move on… If you are after a true motorcycle experience old school style with a bike that does everyghing well but has it’s own character, this one is a steal for that price.

  3. Thank you for clearing up something. Every time I have asked the local dealer about the 440cc engine they said it was Italian. Seems now that it is as I suspected manufactured by the parent company in China.
    When I quoted this on the SWM Facebook page where they published the article…..they dropped your article and deleted my comment. That doesn’t inspire confidence.

  4. hello, i have had one for two years, i have a new round factory tank and seat unit fitted, makes it look great, i have also had the ecu remapped,which makes a big difference to the way you can ride it, smooths out the lumpy low-running and gear-change and give much smoother revs all round, i have scrambler wide er bars fitted , taken off the the ugly exhaust cover and polished the stainless pipes, also gone are the passenger pegs,and the decals,
    it is now much admired,runs well and is great to ride, cross country as long as you dont do serious jumps it is is very good, i will be changing the tyres to more serious off road stuff soon, . for the price its well worth it,

    1. Can you link some photos? Would love to see what people have done to theirs

      1. Nog, how is the bike quality wise? Any major issues?
        Also, how did you remap the Ecu? Went somewhere local for it?

        1. Hi Nog, I am very interested in where you got your ECU remap. doing that to smooth the low running would make a good bike even better. The dealer here does not seem to know about it.

  5. I have one and I love it. This is the most enjoyable ride I’ve had. I use it to commute to work, low speeds, some traffic, this bike does the job and I always get there smiling.

    1. I am thinking of buying one.
      How long have you had it for and how is reliability? I know it’s made of Chinese parts in Italy.
      I want it as a commuter, so I don’t want it breaking down on me.


  6. I love the style as it recalls the 70-80s when motorbikes were simple and reliable.
    Currently it’s selling for $4,990 ride away limited stock 14/06/2019.
    I know SWM brand and I used to ride one of their 125 motocross back in the 70s, very very generous engine and reliable bike.
    Just I’m worrying about this Chinese manufacturing and the scarcity of information around it.
    In Australia we are used to buying stuff “designed” in Australia and assembled in Asia, or another BS story is garments made with cotton produced in Australia but made in India.
    SWM’s story is a little different but I’m still cautious when a business is not 100% transparent in their talking.
    Respect to Shineray Group for reviving the glorious SWM brand and congratulations for making a successful simple 70s looking style motorbike.

  7. Hi , I have purchased a Gran Turismo that is the same motor etc. I find it comfortable and easy to ride. A retro old style look that is good for me, as is the uprite seating style.
    I was interested in what NOG said about remappng the ecu and the improvements it gave. Who did that, an SWM dealer or who else can ?? Who makes the ECU.

  8. One question that came to my mind is, why the SWM can only reach 130 km/h with a 445 cm³ motor?!
    Is it because you just did not test higher speeds or is it really the limit?
    The SWM should make at least 160 km/h.
    My 250 cm³ and 17 PS motorcycle has already a top speed of 130 km/h.

    Is the transmission that badly chosen or why it is seriously slow for that big motor?

    1. I can confirm that all is said here match with a road test I found on Youtube.
      Remember that this is a “scrambler” so it also rides off road and it needs more power in difficult situations. The max speed is 130 but the user changed the front sprocket you can guess with a bigger one to have more speed.

  9. I ride a BMW Urban GS and I am thinking of getting myself a ‘town-bike’. I am contemplating a Royal Enfield Classic 500, as I had one before and I miss it. But I am also a little intrigued about this SWM. I am a bit worried about a few things though – 1) parts and service in the long term, 2) build quality (Chinesium?), reliability and resale. Any thoughts?

      1. +1 to that, go for the real brand because SWM is only a marketing thing. I saw the bike and it looks so so poor, obviously they brought a cheap Chinese bike back and forth to Italy. I can’t understand why so many people here say that this bike looks good, maybe they get paid for these troll comments or they can’t be taken as reliable thinking people. I don’t know.
        The Royal Enfield is made in India because it has to be cheap but still better than a SWM that is just a registered business name and nothing more.

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