REVIEW (Updated): When a hovercycle just isn’t enough
Packaging & Extras: (1.5/5)
This toy comes in a decently sized box (11.7 x 17.1 x 7 cm) adorned with Matchbox commissioned artwork that seems to draw more inspiration from the toy than the show. There’s something really nostalgic about opening a classic toy’s box and seeing that Stryofoam tray that kept it housed safe from the tribulations of being shipped from the factory to the store then to your house. You don’t get that with Matchbox toys. This toy comes twist-tied to a piece of cardboard. Along with the toy you get:
2) A marking guide for those stickers
There’s nothing in the way of extras here. The decals provided are critical as the toy is very dull without them. Instructions? This thing is so simple, you won’t miss them. The silver lining to this toy is that it didn’t come packaged on a blister-card… but it probably should have.
Charm & Collectibility: (2/5)
Some may think I’m being generous here but anything labeled Robotech will automatically get one point and anything called a Cyclone or Ride Armor will automatically get another. Beyond fans of those two elements, this thing really has no charm or collectibility. Though it’s certainly a heroic vehicle, there is no transformation, no metal content, and no notable gimmicks. Retailing for just $4.95 back in 1985, this bike was only $0.50 more than the action figures from the line. Though it accommodates the action figures nicely, it’s clearly too large. At 13.4 cm long it’s more like 1/14 scale than the 1/18 to 1/20 the figures would be. For those of you that are Robotech or Ride Armor/Cyclone uber collectors, there are likely several variations of this toy. The one pictured was made in Macau (as shown by the stamps beneath the feet pegs). There are likely others made in either Japan or China that could have some very minor cosmetic differences as seen in Matchbox’s Battlepod toys.
Sculpt, Detail, and Paint: (5/10)
Toys have come a very long way since 1985. A lot of that progression has come since I first reviewed this toy on anymoon, when the only competition was Gakken toys released in the same era. These days we have modern offerings from CMs, MegaHouse, Beagle, and Sentinel that blow the classics out of the water in terms of how well they represent the vehicle in the anime. This Matchbox offering gets close enough for you to recognize what it’s supposed to be and no closer. The proportions of the bike are off, the visor isn’t clear plastic, and the wheels are flat. Details are sparse out of the box but the stickers help with that. The claims made on the box are almost humorous: “Super Design Detail” is a bold overstatement.
It has wheels (with rubber tires no less!) that spin and it looks like a decent enough motorcycle but the big design plus is that you can put the rider on the toy in a somewhat natural pose. Not only does it seat the rider, but the rider can be seated and hold on to the handles somewhat realistically. Sure, the Scott Bernard action figure is hideous but look at him, he’s actually riding! That’s something Gakken was never able to figure out (excluding their fixed rider 1/20 scale VR-52F). Yes, the handle bars had to be pushed back of where they should be but I’m willing to make some allowances. There are pegs for the feet to keep the ride attached. The only other significant design element is the vehicle’s kickstand. It moves to be less cumbersome but never really gets totally out of the way.
Durability & Build: (8/10)
This toy is all plastic but it feels neither frail nor sturdy when held in hand and its simplicity means it will handle play well. One thing some owners might want to be cautious about is the kickstand beneath the vehicle; trying to get the bike to lean will cause a lot of pressure on this plastic part.
How do you articulate a motorcyle? You could incorporate working steering/handle bars, wheels that spin, flip out foot pegs, retractable kickstand, clutch/handle mechanisms, and/or a suspension. This toy has wheels that spin so it accomplishes one of these things. A more functional and accurate kickstand and adjustable steering would have been very nice touches (yes, I’m harping on the kickstand thing). Other Ride Armor/Cyclone toys benefit in this section from additional articulation opportunities in armor mode.
Total Score: (21.5/50)
This is a good toy only in that it is sturdy, an action figure can be made to ride it, and if you give it a push on a smooth surface it will roll far away. Beyond that, it’s really playing to the lowest common denominator. The design and the appearance of the toy are both exceedingly plain. Matchbox really should have purchased the Gakken 1/20 bike mode only mold and tweaked it to have the curved pegs of this toy for handlebars. That toy looks much better and otherwise accomplishes the same things. A WAY better route to go would have been to sell the new generation characters in their REF armor and then sell cyclones which could be disassembled and put onto the action figures… but that was obviously too much to ask.
June 28, 2020: Added 4K pictures, additional details, and 4K comparison video to the Gakken bike mode only VR-52F toy.
April 18, 2012: Added HD resolution photos, line art comparison, other Cyclone toy comparison, and HD Video review.
July 31, 2007 – Pictures were cleaned up, new pictures were added.
May 24, 2006 – Original post