Batten down the hatches | Cyclone spins in with help from Norton, Aprilia

Cyclone gets ready to sweep in from the east as the re-organised brand from China's Zongshen previews a new 400cc sportsbike and adventure motorcycle

Cyclone RC401, Cyclone RX401


It seems one cannot move for precocious new Chinese motorcycle brands expressing desires to wing in from the east to tackle the European market, though the latest pretender - Cyclone, from Chongqing Zongshen - certainly has some interesting credentials to back this up.

Granted, Visordown has been ‘accused’ of amplifying the Chinese-flavoured tales on these pages, but in reality it’s simply a measure of just how many brands are gearing up to invade these markets with models likely to be lower in the price bracket than their intended rivals.

Moreover, many are now doing so by shirking their Chinese-accented company identities in favour of new, more globally palatable monikers.

So in the same way Colove has become Excelle and QJ Motor is effectively Benelli, the latest to perform a metamorphosis is Zongshen, one of China’s biggest motorcycling conglomerates, which has created the Cyclone.

While many of its models to date have been thinly-veiled re-engineered Suzuki and BMW projects, a fresh wave of models are emerging from a combination of technology sharing deals, albeit with their own design stamp.

Its most striking preview to date has been the Cyclone RA9, which has taken the running gear for the now discontinued Aprilia Dorsoduro and shrouded it in a very distinctive style that it is set to retain when it reaches production.

Interestingly, according to Cycle World, the tweaked 896cc engine has appeared in patents affixed to the name ‘Gilera’, a scant-used member of the Piaggio family, with whom Zongshen has been forming a close relationship with recently. Could we be seeing Gilera making a big bike comeback in the near future with its badge on a European-spec version of the RA9?

Meanwhile, Cyclone has also recently presented sketches of two brand-new models in the 400cc range - the RC401 sportsbike and RX401 adventure motorcycle. Fitting into the recent trend of sportsbikes to sit in that bracket, such as those previewed by both CFMoto and QJ (Benelli), the RC401 boasts 45hp and a sharp-looking design.

The RX401, meanwhile, is a distilled version of the larger RX850 (formerly RX6 - pictured above), which are anticipated to lead Cyclone’s European ambitions as a rival to the likes of Triumph Tiger 900 and soon-to-be-launched CFMoto 800MT.

Most interestingly about this model is that the RX850 will use engines derived from Norton in one of the few surviving vestiges of the British firm’s erstwhile management structure headed by shamed ex-CEO Stuart Garner. 

Originally presented as a 650cc V-twin created by essentially halving the 1200cc V4 from Norton, the engine size has now grown to 850cc and will come with 70hp at 8,500rpm.