CHINESE ADVENTURE BIKES: Have they come of age?

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Are Chinese manufacturers getting nearer to building an adventure bike to rival the competition?

Announcing you’re riding a Chinese made motorcycle often elicits the same response to ordering the Smoked Turd in a lavish restaurant.

Over the past few years, the Chinese have been making a push into the adventure market with a few different models that represent a wide range of takes on what the modern adventure bike is and it’s clear the average adventure bike is improving step-by-step.


From the ‘There’s no way I’m riding that bell-end on wheels,’ to the reasonably decent offering at a cheap price point.

THE NUMBERS GAME: The adventure bike is still a small player

Chinese manufacturers pump out an insane number of motorcycles a year to the domestic and international markets. The internet tells me I can lose weight if I buy an Abdominator Pro and drink only silkworm urine for a month – it also tells me that in 2019 China produced around 17 million motorcycles, backed by a rapid growth of electric bike sales (chinamotorworld.com) which sees around 350 million people choosing an electric bike for transport.

In January 2021 alone, the production and sales of electric motorcycles reached 321,700 units and 306,100 units, which represented a year-on-year increase of 159.87% and 200.87%, respectively. To be clear, this has nothing to do with e-bikes which also sell like crazy, these are mostly electric scooters of which some have progressed technologically to the point of being connected to the Alibaba Cloud.

But Hungry Jacks make hundreds of thousands of fries every day and let’s be honest, they’re shithouse compared to Maccas. Numbers don’t maketh the motorcycle greateth.


China has about 200 motorcycle manufacturers slaving away to bring people the joys of hitting powerband on a Beijing street. Many of the larger ones are engaged in joint ventures with better-known brands like Jianshe which has a deal with Yamaha, or Loncin which is beasties with BMW and CFMoto which is in close contact with KTM and its Kiska design house. Some brands perhaps more familiar to us are in fact all Chinese with SWM being owned and built by Shineray, while Benelli is actually Qianjiang.

Chinese motorcycles have a long way to go before they’re able to compete with the Japanese and Europeans in both upper-end quality and dealer networks in western countries, but small steps are being taken towards building a bike that will be capable off-road so let’s take a look at a few of the offerings, some available here and some not, for 2021.

BENELLI TRK 502X

aDVENTURE BIKE

Let’s take the Benelli TRK 502X for example. I’ve ridden it quite a bit on and off-road and can confirm that it has quite a fun little engine that’s on fuel. It doesn’t like going around corners on dirt roads though. It’s comfortable even on long days, but components fall off it with little encouragement.

It’s a really nice-looking bike that doesn’t quite meet the marketing hype of a bike, “Designed to meet the needs of the most demanding riders who wish to travel without boundaries,” because definitely has boundaries that you don’t have to be demanding to reach. But for $9,890 ride-away, it’s a great commuter with a two-year warranty and a choice of four colourways. I couldn’t love it, but I can’t hate it.

CFMOTO MT800

adventure bike

CFMoto’s upcoming MT800 looks like it will be the spearhead for future adventure efforts with an engine straight out of the KTM 790 Adventure as well as KYB suspension (read more about it here). The bike is a big statement and while pricing is yet to be released, if it comes in substantially less than $15,000 then it will find willing wallets keen to empty themselves straight away.

ZONGSHEN RX3

There are a heap of bikes getting around with names like M1nsk’s TRX 300i, the Sinnis Terrain 380, CSC RX3 or the Cyclone RX3 but they’re all built by Zongshen and based on the company’s RX3 or RX3S models.

It has decent styling and at first sight, it looks like it’s been fitted out well with crash bars, panniers and a decent screen and at a reported price of just over $4000 in the US, it’s undeniably cheap. But the build quality and performance off-road is dubious at best.

eveRide ADV in the States did a great, even-handed test on an RX3 he actually bought and came to the same conclusions after some time behind the bars. You can check that out below.

ZONGSHEN RX4

In 2017 Zongshen entered the Dakar rally on their then-new NC450 Rally bike. None of the five bikes finished but to the company’s credit only one through a mechanical issue. The engine was then placed in the RX4, Zongshen’s flagship adventure model. They sell in the US as a CSC RX4 at just 4,995.00 and it comes with a 7-inch TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity as well as LED lighting, adjustable windscreen, spoked wheels, bashplate and crash bars and topped off with a three-piece pannier set. That’s the equivalent of an adventure bike family meal.

Of course, none of the inclusions matter if it can’t corner on the dirt and the cheaper price point may suggest that Zongshen has skimped on the most expensive aspect which is good engineering. There’s a lot of science that goes into ensuring an R 1250 GS or an 890 Adventure R can corner and teams of engineers don’t come cheap.

If this hit Australia at less than $7000 it’d be a decent starting point for someone with a wallet unburdened with mounds of cash. If something breaks it should be cheap to replace (and hopefully no great waiting time), and if it gets one more rider out and about with an acceptable degree of reliability then it’s a good thing.

VOGE 650DS

Loncin is a massive company with fingers in many dumplings. It produces around 2.5 million motorcycles a year which is close to 7000 bikes a day. They also started making engines for BMW’s G650GS in 2005 and in fact, the current F 850 GS runs an engine built by Loncin. Voge is reportedly the company’s premium brand and the 650DS is the bike they’re hoping will grab the dirt squirter’s attention the world over running that same engine from the G650GS.

It promises a TFT screen with Bluetooth connectivity, BOSCH EFI, tubeless tyres, spoked wheels and LED lights as well as a power output of 49 horsepower and a weight of 192 kilograms. The 650DS appears to be a step forward from the Loncin DS8 that debuted in 2018, also with the G650GS engine but with less refined styling.