Discuss: Chinese bikes will take over from Japanese

Oriental, non-Japanese bikes are set to become the new Rice Rockets?

Fancy a Chinese? I do. Well, let me put it this way: in a couple of years I reckon I might.

Y'see, China is getting into motorcycles big time. And in the next few years I'll put a large bet down that they will be building the sort of bikes you or I like to ride. No, not the traditional commuters and small-capacity learner bikes you expect from them, but decent, middleweight to heavyweight machines, possessed of much higher complexity and capable of greater excitement levels than seen before from the Chinese.

It's no coincidence that at the unveiling of every major large-capacity motorcycle at every major motorcycle show this year there's been a major Chinese presence, with large numbers of Chinese chaps - rumoured to be high-ranking technicians - taking photos of the bikes and their component parts.

Not very many years ago, mention of a Chinese bike would conjure up images of a rickety old Jialing nail, shod with rock-hard Bakelite tyres that would see you on your arse at the flick of a wrist.

But Wuyang want to change the way you think of Chinese bikes forever. Discreetly tucked away at this year's NEC show on the David Silver Spares stand were five machines from Wuyang and their parent company the Guangzhou Motors Group.

Speaking at the show to Pang Ya Dong, senior engineer for the Guangzhou Motors Group, you get the feeling this is the advance party for a much bigger invasion. "These are the machines we're bringing in at the moment," smiled Dong. "But after that, we will see. We have 66 models in our range so we have many more we could introduce into the UK. In China we sell between 700,000-800,000 units a year."

That compares to total UK sales of two-wheelers in 2005 of 132,803.

The Guangzhou Motors Group got off the ground in 1986. They began assembly of their first range of motorcycles and scooters a year later and by 1992 they'd won a prestigious contract to work with Honda,
making machines for the Chinese market. And this is the key to why Wuyang could be destined for great things. As Dong says: "Our quality control is the same as the Honda standard. We feel this is important, as quality is so vital. That is why our bikes are more expensive than the opposition in China."
Wuyang and their parent group have built many Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys for the Chinese
market. Isuzu, too, trust them for licenced production.

Dong adds: "We would love to be seen in the same light as Honda around the world, but we know we have a way to go. This is the start."

Hot on the heels of Wuyang's entry into the UK has come the news that Jincheng has a technical link-up with Aprilia. The Jincheng Corporation is one of China's largest motorcycle manufacturers and this alliance with Aprilia is part of Jincheng's expansion plans into Europe and the USA.

It's not yet clear what effect this will have on the UK market, but Jincheng is looking to get a stronger foothold in Europe alongside Aprilia.

In 2005, Jincheng exported more than 500,000 bikes to 40 countries. That's huge. So, the link with Aprilia - owned since 2004 by Piaggio, Italy's largest producer of motorcycles - should not be underestimated.
China, it seems, could soon be following Korean firm Hyosung into the middleweight arena. The Comet and Comet R are both middleweight machines using a licence-produced Suzuki SV650 mill. With Wuyang already buildling small-capacity Honda engines under licence, all with fuel-injection and compliant with the Euro III emissions laws, what could they do with a 2007 Honda Hornet motor?

So laugh at them if you will. Yes, like we did at Skoda 20 years ago. But, like Skoda following their 1991 part buy-out by Volkswagen and subsequent 100 per cent buy-out a decade later, Honda's influence on Wuyang may yet bear delicious fruit.

* Would you buy a Chinese motorcycle? Let us know below