Motorbikes

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Last week, we ran through some of the most popular 125cc motorbikes from some of the biggest manufacturers. In the second part of our look at this growing sector of the market, we turn our attention to the rise of the Chinese market.

When they first began appearing, Chinese motorcycles developed a bad reputation. And, to be fair, this was not entirely undeserved. Cheap materials and components resulted in machines that looked decent but didn’t last.

However, Chinese manufacturers have made rapid progress in improving quality, and there are now a few manufacturers creating some very reasonably priced machines which benefit from competitive insurance costs.

While most of these bikes won’t have quite the same level of polish as the products of the big manufacturers, the price difference is large enough to make a few of them worthy of consideration.

It’s often difficult to find reliable information about these bikes. Ask for information on one of the many motorcycle forums on the net and you’ll instantly get a bunch of dudes materialising to tell you that they’re all bad, end of. Dig a bit further and it turns out that most of them are either passing on outdated information or stuff they’ve learned second-hand.

There is information from people who actually own them but it takes a bit of research, and most of their advice can be boiled down to “as long as you keep it serviced it’ll be fine.” And, certainly for beginners, knowing a little about how to maintain a bike is a useful skill to develop. Even after replacing the stock tyres with something better and replacing a few components here and there the price will still be significantly less than a bike from a more established brand.

It’s worth bearing in mind that when Japanese companies started selling bikes over here they had exactly the same criticisms directed at them, but within a few years the quality had improved and Japanese bikes were some of the best and best-selling in the world.

While European and Japanese brands remain at the top of most bikers’ wish lists, for anyone looking to get a foothold into the wonderful world of motorcycles, a Chinese bike costing a fraction of the price will look extremely tempting.

The 125 owner’s group on Facebook is a good place to start looking for information from owners of any bike you may be interested in. There are also groups for many specific bikes too.

Lexmoto

One of the largest Chinese brands, Lexmoto, offers a range of motorcycles and scooters in a variety of styles, in what we shall generously call loving homages to classic styles, along with more modern variants, too. One of the larger manufacturers, it has a growing network of dealers and a solid supply chain for spare parts so there’s less of a worry if you’re planning on keeping the bike for longer than it takes to pass your test.

Lexmoto Venom 125cc

Lexmoto Venom

Lexmoto has a good range of bikes available for less than £1000. Models like the Arrow , Vixen and the ZSA are specifically marketed as entry-level bikes, with super-reliable pushrod engines to limit the potential for hilarious breakdown shenanigans.

Scooter fans are not left out, with a range that offers both recreations of classics and more modern styles for prices closely orbiting a grand. For anyone feeling that spending less than a grand on a new motorcycle would bring dishonour to their family, there are models that cost in the region of £1,500 like the Venom.

This particular model includes an MP3 player with USB or microSD card, one of those features that will seem very quaint in a few years time, rather than just a little quaint as it does now. Still, in terms of slightly awkwardly implemented extra features it may be the thing that tips the scale for you.

Zontes

While all Chinese manufacturers are the new kids on the block, Zontes is one of the newest. First arriving in the UK in 2010, its products have quickly garnered a passionate fan base.

 

Zontes Mantis 125cc

Zontes Mantis

Zontes’ newest machine, the Mantis 125, is an appealing fusion of classic and modern aesthetics. With a price tag of £1099 it’s sure to be a popular choice. At £1299 the Tiger seems like another strong option for beginners, with a more traditional classic style. Meanwhile the Panther and the Monster have the purely modern end of things in the bag.

Sinnis

Sinnis uses technology licensed from Yamaha and Suzuki. The bikes are slightly pricier than LexMoto’s offerings, but they’re still great value especially when you compare the recreations of classic bikes to the cost of getting an original and the ongoing maintenance costs.

Purists may scoff at the very thought of buying a pre-made bobber, and you may lose hipster points with your new/old Cafe Racer, but you can always counterbalance that by growing your beard a few more inches, or perhaps another tattoo?

Sinnis Heist 125cc

This guy knows what’s up (Sinnis Heist 125cc behind)

If you’re happier living in the future Sinnis also has you covered. If you want a sleek, modern design the SP125 is the obvious choice, while the Apache is a rugged Supermoto.

Somewhere in the middle of the retro/modern continuum is the Max 2, designed to be a comfortable commuter bike, and the Stealth, which at 150kg is a relative heavyweight in the world of 125cc.

The SC125 is a cruiser with retro touches, while the SP125 reflects more modern styles.

Keeway

Keeway is part of the QianJiang group, the second largest motorcycle manufacturer in China. It is also owner of the oldest Italian manufacturer, Benelli. Its current roster includes the RKS125 and the RK125, incredibly reasonably priced bikes that may well be exactly what you’re looking for if you’re a little on the short side.

2015 Keeway Superlight STD

Keeway Superlight STD

Keeway also has a rather gorgeous Cruiser for less than two grand which it went and called the Superlight STD. Chortleworthy name aside, it’s a rather groovy-looking bike.

X Blade

X Blade X6

The X Blade X6’s polygonal wingmirrors = hella futuristic

A UK-based company aimed at supplying learner-legal bikes, X Blade takes Chinese bikes and rebrands them for the UK market. The X6 is a mean, sleek-looking beast that could be ready to slide into a dark gritty reboot of Streethawk. £2000 is a pretty good price, although the lack of a nationwide network of dealers might make sourcing spare parts more difficult than those from other Chinese manufacturers.

Lifan

Although one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in China, Lifan is one of the less well-known Chinese brands over here. Its current range includes the Mirage, a classic sportsbike with naked styling. The Mirage is yet another satisfyingly chunky-looking custom-styled cruiser. For people who feel nostalgia for the 1980s rather than the 1950s, Lifan has the Grit and the Edge, which are supermotos that look like they could transform into robots at a moment’s notice.

Lifan Grit 125cc

Lifan Grit, transform and roll out!

The company also has a selection of scooters, from the vaguely Vespa-shaped Beat to the more contemporary lines of the Aero.

Honley

Honley is the UK brand name for Zongshen motorcycles, renamed after the Yorkshire village home to its UK distributors, Earnshaw’s Two Wheel Centre. Specially designed for the UK market, the bikes have great fuel economy and have established a good reputation for quality despite some of the cheapest prices on the market.

The Honley HD3

The Honley HD3: undeniably nice to look at

The HD2 is a modern, sporty commuter bike. It’s capable of an impressive 173 miles per gallon (with careful driving, naturally). The HD3 meanwhile is a bike with hints of classic café racers in its DNA, and comes in striking black and gold trim. Both cost less than £1000, and are almost certainly worth a go to see if they’re right for you.

 

 

  • Mark Sheerin

    Lexmoto valiant the best of them all 14000 trouble free kilometers this year

  • Mark Penrice

    Always good to revisit the knowledgable hilarity of Teflon Mike’s posts, but what was it on that BCF thread in particular we were looking at? I lost the plot somewhere before the bottom of the first page.

  • Medivac

    I have a Honley HD1 and I love it with a passion, but my only gripe is it rusts instantly, 1 month after purchase, constantly having to maintain nuts, bolt heads and the forks 🙁 oh and new exhaust after 1 year o/, still love it though and goes forever on £10 😀

  • Peter Mcclements

    still second rate rubbish

  • secretagentmole

    Other half just picked up a 1 years old Zontes Monster, willing little bike, capable of 60mph. Nice 125cc engine, easy to read clear clocks, no MOT for another 2 years. The local Honda would either take it as a trade in against a bike and give £100 off, or give teh previous owner £700 off with no trade in. She bought it from the previous and only registered owner for £300! A one year old bike for £300?

    Works, starts, rides, handles nicely, as well composed as any 90s or 80s Japanese 125 will be, just for way way less. She is happy!

  • Ian Brown

    Im thinking of downsizing soon, I fancy an Herald, or Sinnis 250, any owners out there, would like to hear comments etc?

  • Ragnarok

    I see the art of forming mature, reasoned discourse is alive and well…..

  • ianthetechman

    At one point whist i was learning, i owned a few KSR models they were formally known as generic.
    Although they were not as good as Jap bikes, for the money it was hard to go wrong considering what you actually got for the money

  • Simon O’Brien

    i have owned a lexmoto Michigan 125 for over a year now have been from windsor to devon and back on the A roads the bike has never let me down .i’ve clocked up over 4000 miles and still going strong few minor pits in the chrome but nothing to get in a twist about for people wanting to get in to biking i say give lexmoto a look

  • Storm

    Sinnis Vista 125, got it for 500, managed to get 80 out of the thing going flat out down the country roads and doesnt even seem bothered, had 11 owners, only had to replace the regulator for 25 quid and being is has a Suzuki Maruder 125 engine its reliable as all hell, love it 😛

  • Jose Vela

    I am from Ecuador, South America. I have a Keeway Superlight – itś the 200cc version. It is a great motorcycle, runs good, (can’t put 100 M/hr on it). If you want it to commute from home to work and back, it is a definite YES. I have had it for three years and it stills looks like new, I have crossed the country from north to south and east to west various time and have never been left stranded.

    The only major thing I had to do to it was change the stock tires with a set of Pirelli’s – the originals were very bad…from there on, the rest works perfectly.

    If you ask me, I do recommend the Keeway Superlight.

  • Joe

    I have the zontes panther 125 and on a flat it will do 75 at a push and nearly clocked 80 down hill it is stock appart from a bos performance exhaust (loud)

  • Peter Mcclements

    thanks thor for your advice ,,i will stick to quality scooters and bikes

  • Jon Taylor

    agreed!

  • Jon Taylor

    I have a 27 year old Suzuki 450, I use it every day of the week, it cost me around £9 in fuel, it’s still got it’s original nuts, bolts, forks and exhaust.

  • Tracey Unsworth

    can any one here PLEASE help i have a keeway strike 125cc that needs a new exhaust quoted £157 well outta my budget what is the keeway a copy of x

  • isaac

    I am from Singapore and brought a 2nd hand Keeway 200 RKV for about 3 months now, clocking over 5000 KM so far. The bike has been good to me i will say its great from getting point A to point B as a commute bike, and has no issues so far. I manage to clock a petrol mileage of 34km/l and i like the no frills to maintain bike. But do change the tires, the stock tires is poor quality.

  • Roger DaddyRatz Windsor

    show winners eh Nothing second rate rubbish about my AJS 125

  • Neil Ramotar

    Had a similar problem with a Sym Jet 01 scooter failed MOT due to leak on exhaust.
    Bought a replacement on eBay for £45 and fixed it myself.
    Can be done

  • Roger DaddyRatz Windsor
  • Roger DaddyRatz Windsor

    This site failed to even mention AJS chinese made bikes Award winnners 2014 2015 2016