Top 10 Chinese bikes

Are they really the next big thing?

Top 10 Chinese bikes

THE Chinese motorcycle industry is a confusing maze of intertwined companies, often sharing parts, rebranding other firms’ machines or brazenly copying well-known designs. For most European riders, the idea of a Chinese bike is synonymous with throw-away scooters and learner-legal 125s.

Often these bikes are scrap the moment a spare part is needed, and build quality ranges from ‘terrible’ to ‘why did they make the frame from cheese?’

But China’s bike industry is improving fast, and there are actually plenty of bikes out there that merit a second look – or would if they were available internationally.

Here’s our top 10 countdown of the most interesting and capable bikes to emerge from China so far. Starting with...

10: Sur-Ron Angel

No, we haven’t had a chance to ride it, or even to see one close up, but the Sur-Ron Angel looks like a pretty convincing electric motorcycle. The firm claims a moderate 60-mile range and 60mph performance, which isn’t much to shout about, but a cast alloy frame weighing just 7.8kg, plus ABS brakes and decent styling mean it’s the sort of thing that could actually be quite appealing over here if it was cheap enough.

ChangJiang is one of China’s oldest motorcycle makers. It spent decades churning out ancient-looking sidecar outfits that were derived from Russian WW2 models, themselves copies of pre-war BMWs. However, it’s recently launched a new outfit based around CFMoto’s proven 650cc parallel twin, and a retro-styled solo version is also expected.

On looks alone the 2018 Zontes 310 S is worth including, and there are plans to sell the bike in Europe too. It’s set to appear in both naked and faired forms and could be an interesting A2-licence option if the price and quality turn out to be right.

CFMoto will inevitably feature pretty heavily in this list. Not only is it a Chinese firm that makes mid-capacity models, but they’re available worldwide. The 650TK shares the same 650cc twin – near identical to Kawasaki’s ER-6 engine – as much of the rest of the range but fits it to a decent-looking and well-equipped tourer.

Only just launched, the RX4 is a 450cc single-cylinder adventure bike, and given that Zongshen is one of China’s big engine manufacturers (and has now done a deal with Norton to produce its upcoming 650cc twin) it’s likely to be decently reliable. In China, this bike is hotly anticipated, and should it go on sale in Europe it’s easy to imagine it becoming an appealing option for A2 licence holders.

While it’s branded as a Benelli in many countries, this machine – variously named as a QianJiang, Keeway or Generic in other nations – is very much a Chinese model. It’s unique in this company as being the only four-cylinder offering. Sure, it’s fairly old tech and certainly not a replacement for a Japanese four-cylinder 600, but it’s an indicator that China’s industry is heading in the right direction.

Again, we haven’t had a chance to see this close-up yet, but the Motrac MG500 definitely looks interesting. The engine is a close copy of Honda’s CB500 twin, and is built by fellow Chinese firm Loncin (which is also due to use it in a range of its own bikes, including a naked sports bike and a retro machine). Priced right, we could imagine this being a tempting alternative to a CB500X.

It’s that CFMoto 650 again, this time in naked form as a direct alternative to a secondhand Kawasaki ER-6n. In its latest, Kiska-styled form it actually looks good, and the firm’s Isle of Man TT racing activities have granted it a level of credibility. In the UK, it’s sold under the WK Bikes banner, and costs £4799 brand new.

Are we cheating by including the Benelli Leoncino here? After all, it’s supposed to be Italian rather than Chinese. But Benelli is owned by QianJiang and the Leoncino’s development took place over there. It’s got the firm’s 500cc parallel twin, as used in the TRK 502, allied to wonderful, neo-retro scrambler styling. If it can live up to those looks, it promises to do very well.

Yes, it’s another of those CFMoto650s. The MT is the firm’s latest offering, with Kiska-led styling and an interesting position as a sports-tourer with a hint of adventure bike in its tall shape. It doesn’t slavishly follow the beak-and-bullbars mould of most of these faux-adventure machines, though. It’s more like a Versys 650 with a sharper, sportier style. The 650MT tops this list because it’s something you might actually choose purely on its own merits, not as a bargain-basement alternative to a used Japanese bike.