Fantic Caballero 700 review and UK roadtest

A motorcycle pulls a wheelie on a private road

Toad’s been out and about this week testing the new Fantic Caballero 700 in the summer sunshine

OFFICIALLY announced earlier this year, the new Fantic Caballero 700 cements itself as the flagship bike in Fantic’s retro scrambler range

The new 700 is still a funky-looking street scrambler, as is the case with the Caballero 500, although beneath the bodywork there are a host of big differences between the two models. To get under the skin of the new bike, Visordown sent Toad to the pretty county of Kent, for an on-road and light off-road test of the new retro machine. 

Fantic Caballero 700 UK price

The new Caballero 700 comes with an OTR price of £9,699 to UK riders. For that you get the bike as ridden in the pictures, with all the billet aluminium parts, Marzocchi 45mm USD fork and rear shock, and the Arrow-designed twin-pipe exhaust. A lot of bikes in this segment would have you thumbing the accessory catalogue to match the spec that we see here.

Compared to the Caballero 500, which starts at around £6,700, the 700 is a fair step up in price, but it’s also a significant step up in spec and equipment too. Over and above the 500 you gain the Brembo brakes, Marzocchi suspension, the CP2 engine (widely regarded as one of the best parallel twins of the modern era) and IMU control. And for those of you now googling the price of a Yamaha MT-07 or XSR700, it’s not really a fair comparison. The Fantic is dripping with pretty bits of detailing and the sort of neat design touches that you simply don’t get from mainstream manufacturers. Plus you have the additional benefits of IMU-controlled cornering ABS, switchable traction control and ABS deactivation to the rear wheel. A very different beast this bike most certainly is.

For me, the new Caballero is more aligned with bikes like the Triumph Scrambler 900, Ducati Monster, and Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen. Power output aside these are about the only machines that match the spec, style and level of componentry found on the Fantic.

Fantic Caballero 700 engine

Given the lofty status awarded to the CP2 powerplant, it would have been easy for Fantic to simply slot it into its fancy new frame, bolt on the bodywork and send the bike out into the big wide world. They didn’t do that, though, and having ridden the bike on the roads and trails of Kent, it’s all the better for the fiddling they’ve done. 

The team spent around two years fettling the motor, with Arrow coming on board to assist with the intake and exhaust and Fantic developing its own engine management system. Out on the road, the engine feels slightly more gutsy than the MT-07 or XSR700, with the same rich spread of mid-range torque to play with and all without sacrificing top-end power. 74hp is the quoted number, but the new Fantic seems to ride with a bit more urgency than the other bikes that use this engine.

The intake and exhaust are one reason, although a slightly shorter final drive seems to be doing the majority of the heavy lifting. One thing the Caballero 700 does very well is pull a wheelie. Flick the bike into off-road mode (which disables the traction control) and it’ll happily hoist the front wheel skyward in first and second gear. And while we are on the subject of the gears, I had no complaints on that subject after a day in the saddle. The lever has a nice, light and direct throw that allows clutchless shifting, and the clutch is two-finger-light for when I did use it.

The biggest takeaway from my day on the bike though was how different the character of this engine is than the other CP2-powered bikes. The delivery, feel and sound of the Cab’ is unique to this machine. It has retained the playful nature of the 500 with a bit more oomph and added refinement. The exhaust note is raucous without being overbearing, although you sadly don’t get the same snap, crackle and pop on the overrun as you do on the 500 single-cylinder. I did find the throttle connection to be a little jerky just in the first few degrees of operation, although this did improve as the day progressed. Overall, though, it’s a pleasure to ride.

Fantic Caballero 700 brakes, chassis, and suspension

With a new engine, a new frame was needed, and Fantic have taken the CP2 motor and used it as a stressed member, mating it to a new machined aluminium swing arm. Like its smaller sibling, the 700 retains those lovely CNC-machined parts like the swingarm plates, top and bottom yokes and rear brake and gear levers. On the looks front, there is a lot of good stuff to drink in and it helps to give the bike a nice premium feel. As mentioned, the suspension comes from Marzocchi and the Brembo callipers at both ends round out an all-Italian chassis package that sets this bike head and shoulders above the Japanese competition.

A country B-road on a sunny day really is the natural habitat for a bike like this, and with lots of sunshine and blue skies, the roads around Fantic’s Canterbury base did not disappoint. Unlike some other bikes in this segment, the Fantic’s chassis provides you with a fairly firm ride, which is probably just about soft enough to allow some light off-roading. And when I say light, think smooth gravel trails and un-rutted, dry-ish green roads. Out on the road it’s not the fastest steering bike on the market, but it is easy to ride briskly and comfortably if the worst of the potholes are avoided.

Take the bike off the paved roads and onto a dirt track and you’ll still be able to have some fun, but you will have to keep an eye on the tasty-looking carbon exhaust shield. With 150mm of suspension travel and not much more in the way of ground clearance, hitting a boulder or tree root at speed would make a bit of a mess of the underside of the bike. It’s reflective of how Fantic is marketing this bike: not as an off-road capable machine, like they have with the Caballero 500, but as a street scrambler with light off-road ability. Think of it like a Triumph Scrambler 900. It looks like an off-road bike and you can take it off-road, but you’re going to have to respect its physical limitations.

The single front disc on the bike is adequate for a bike of this size and weight, but it does have a progressive feel and the pad compounds don’t offer masses of bite. For more severe braking events you’ll be rolling three or even four fingers around the span adjustable lever. The rear brake has a slightly sharper feel, and allows you to tighten a line in a corner when on the road and get the back end stepping out on dirt.

Fantic Caballero 700 electronics and equipment

With the Fantic you get a worthwhile smattering of electronics, headlined by cornering ABS (from Continental) and footnoted with all-LED lighting. To flick through the rider modes you use the mode button, to disable the ABS at the rear disc the ABS button. It’s all very refreshingly simple and the riding mode can be changed on the fly with a closed throttle. There are no TFT menus to navigate, and no multi-level options to choose from, and I quite like that. Adventure bikes, and even some of the mid-weight nakeds on the market, are becoming so focused. It’s almost like a manufacturer is pushed to add more tech and more levels of intervention because it’s what the rest of the bikes in the class are doing.

Crowning the cockpit is a neat TFT dash which is a big improvement over the dinky LCD found on the Caballero 500. It’s nicely laid out, although picking out the rev-counter can be an issue as it’s not a series of blocks that signal the engine speed, just a thin red line and red highlight around the outside of the tacho. The TFT will also switch themes depending on the level of light, and I did find it would do this at some fairly random times and not just when riding under trees or in the shadow of buildings. With the TFT you also get Bluetooth connectivity, for answering (and declining, more likely) calls and selecting music on the go. Given the bike’s minimalist approach to switchgear, which is another bonus in my mind, I’m not sure how easy this would be while on the move.

What we liked about the Fantic Caballero 700

  • It’s got the looks and the X-Factor when you get out on the road

  • The lightly revised CP2 engine is a joy to use

  • A slick gear change and a light clutch should make town riding a doddle

What we didn’t like about the Fantic Caballero 700

  • Initial throttle opening can occasionally feel clumsy

  • The bench seat isn’t the comfiest

  • Another inch of ground clearance would be good

Fantic Caballero 700 verdict

I really didn’t know what to expect with the Caballero 700. On the one hand, you’ve got a phenomenal engine in an all-new frame with high-spec brakes and suspension. But, as we’ve found before with bikes like this, that doesn’t necessarily make it a winner. It’s also easy for manufacturers with motorcycles in this retro naked and scrambler segment to forget that bikes are meant to be ridden, and not just looked at. Thankfully Fantic didn’t make this mistake.

The Fantic Caballero was the perfect bike to go for a play in the country; it’s unimposing, attractive, and playful enough that you’d not get bored of its box of tricks for many thousands of miles. Granted it is more expensive than some of the mainstream competition, but it’s not like that extra cash is hidden away. The Caballero has some flashy bits of jewellery that it likes to wear rather than hide away for safekeeping.

It’s also a bike that opens up a level of exclusivity you can’t get from a Yamaha, Honda or even a Ducati. Bikes bearing those names on the fuel tank will be two-a-penny at a bike night, but you’ll be hard-pushed to spot another Fantic, and that’s always a nice feeling.

More information on this new model can be found on the official Fantic website.

A big thank you to Fantic UK for having us along, and thanks to Jon Bentman (TRF) for providing the photography and leading the way.

Fantic Caballero 700 spec

Engine: Liquid-cooled eight-valve, two-cylinder, four-stroke,

Engine size: 689cc

Bore & stroke: 80 x 68.6mm

Max Power: 74hp at 9000rpm

Max Torque: 70Nm (51lb-ft) at 6500rpm

Fuel supply: Electronic injection – dual throttle body ø 38mm

Starter: Electric

Gears: 6

Clutch: Wet multi-disc

Exhaust system: Twin stainless steel exhaust

Chassis: CrMo steel single-frame

Front suspension: VRM-Marzocchi ø45mm upside-down

Front travel: 150mm

Rear suspension: VRM-Marzocchi monoshock with preload adjustment

Rear travel: 150mm

Wheels: Spoked with aluminium rims

Tyres: Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR, 110/80 R19, 150/70 R17

Brakes: 330mm floating front disc, Brembo four-piston radial caliper – 245mm rear disc, Brembo caliper

Active Safety Device: Continental cornering ABS (switchable) + Traction Control (switchable)

Instrument panel: 3.5’’ TFT Bluetooth connectivity Lights: full Led front and rear

Seat height: 830mm

Wheelbase: 1460mm

Weight: 175kg without fuel (but with coolant)

Fuel capacity: 14 litres

EU: Approval: Euro5

Price: £9699OTR

Triumph Speed 400 and Scrambler 400X

Triumph Speed 400 and Scrambler 400X - A first look review of the new lightweight Triumphs