Next up: Ride & brakes
As sure as with electric vehicles, global warming and English world cup football disappointment, Chinese motorcycles remain the ‘coming thing’. And, backed by the popular success of lightweight brands such as Lexmoto and Sinnis along with Chinese/European retro mash-ups like Bullit (now Bluroc) and Herald, the question now is not so much a case of ‘if’ Chinese bikes are good enough – but ‘when’.
Or, more specifically: ‘When is a Chinese brand going to build, not just a budget, basic lightweight, but a truly credible mid or full-sized machine?’ Well, with the new CF Moto 800MT maybe that day has finally arrived.
Unlike most Chinese marques, CF Moto specialises in increasingly large bikes – until this year 300-650cc – with decent spec and distinctive Kiska styling (the Austrian design house which also pens KTMs).
For 2022 it’s ramped things up further, first with the CL-X700, a ‘retro-mod’ roadster with an uprated, old Kawasaki ER-6 engine, decent cycle parts and a c.£7K price, and now with the all-new 800MT duo.
With KTM (albeit last generation) power, in the form of the old 790 Adventure parallel twin, smart styling, a decent chassis, contemporary tech’ including modes and a TFT dash, and, best of all, a level of equipment, luggage included, that belies its £11K tag, the 800 MT has an awful lot going for it.
Visually, materially and even dynamically it’s not only easily the best CF Moto so far, is on par with many more established Japanese and European rivals plus, by its very nature, an excellent and very well equipped all-rounder.
Sadly though, it doesn’t quite end there. The MT may be the best Chinese bike so far, but at c.£11,349 it’s also the most expensive. That price may still undercut a (more powerful) £11,449 KTM 890 Adventure, but it’s not by much. And even if you take into consideration the included luggage, which, incidentally, is fairly small and won’t take a full face, bikes like Kawasaki’s Versys 650 and Versys 1000 tourers aren’t a million miles away.
It’s also a little raw around the edges then there are questions like dealer networks (CF Moto has 17, my nearest 42 miles away compared to Kawasaki with 60 and three within 30 miles), residual values, nothing (yet) to trade up to if you do a PCP and so on…
There’s no dispute, though, that the 800MT is a great, well-equipped all-rounder and China’s best bike so far. And, for £11K, maybe that’s enough.
Ride quality & brakes
Next up: Engine
As you might expect considering its KTM 790 Adventure roots, the CF Moto 800 MT Touring is a decently handling machine with pleasing and versatile proportions. The riding position is natural and relaxed – but not-intimidating – mid-to-large adventure bike: it’s upright, roomy with plenty of leg room for taller riders and an easy reach to the wide-ish adventure bars, and comfortable – for two.
This is not a skinny, tall, hard core off-roader like KTM’s 890 Adventure or Yamaha’s Ténéré 700, nor hefty and crude like a Guzzi V85TT. Instead the MT’s ‘just right’ and should make not only a versatile road bike but also an adequately-competent off-roader, too, at least in this Touring guise.
The view ahead adds to the satisfaction. The switchgear may be nothing special but it is familiar and unfussy. The screen adjustment may be awkward (two knobs making it impossible on the fly) but at least it is there and gives added protection when required, and, best of all, its fork tops which feature twin adjusters, and the aforementioned slick TFT together give a sense of class rarely associated with bikes with such origins.
Handling is neutral and adequate, too, although I never could quite shake the thought that the 800 MT’s suspension would benefit from some fine-tuning and that better road grip could come from a switch from the budget Maxxis tyres. But even without, the CF Moto’s ride is plush and sufficient, with plenty of adjustment yet to be explored, its steering is light, nimble and accurate and long distance touring comfort for two (with all the luggage required already in place) is delivered on a plate.
On top of all that I couldn’t really fault the brakes, either, with the four-piston radial calipers assisted by cornering ABS – although, being supplied by the Spanish, more budget, J-Juan brand, they did somehow also seem second best to the premium Italian Brembos usually employed by more expensive European marques or even the Nissin and Tokico versions favoured by the Japanese. But this, really, is only a minor gripe and something to be expected considering the 800 MT’s price.
Next up: Reliability
The new CF Moto 800 MT Touring and Sport’s liquid-cooled, DOHC, 799cc, 95bhp parallel twin is exactly the same as that of KTM’s old 790 Adventure (which CF Moto actually built on their behalf) which the Austrian off-road specialists have now dropped in favour of the larger, 889cc, 105bhp version currently seen in both the KT 890 Adventure and 890 Duke.
As a result, where CF Moto’s previous CL-X 700, which was based on an enlarged, older, cruder Kawasaki ER-6n parallel twin, was on the whole effective but also a little unrefined, the 800 MT’s powertrain instead naturally reminds of the slick KTM 790.
Delivery is grunty and tractable at lower revs before smoothing out and offering a pleasing turn of speed as the rpms grow and you feed it gears through the mostly slick quickshifter. There’s a pleasing bark through the exhaust. On the whole, 95bhp is ample for a ‘midi-adventure bike’ like this and my only complaints were occasionally iffy, slightly hesitant fuelling when very low down the rev range such as when pulling away plus also a sometimes hesitant or clunky ‘change through the ‘shifter.
That said, by it’s very definition, the CF Moto 799cc unit is also still a generation and 10bhp behind the latest not only from KTM but also those from some other European rivals, with Triumph’s latest three-cylinder 900 Tiger and BMW’s own parallel twin F800GS both springing to mind as more competent (but also more expensive) rivals.
Arguably, with this kind of bike – which is a more ‘entry-level’, mid-range adventure-tourer where the emphasis is on value – that matters less than it might, but it’s still worth bearing in mind. On the plus side, however, reliability should largely be a ‘given’ and there’s less reason than ever before to doubt the quality, performance and durability of a Chinese power plant.
Reliability & build quality
Next up: Value
CF Moto’s new 800 MT Touring and Sport duo are not only a step-up in terms of the Chinese firm’s previous size, performance and spec, they represent a noticeable improvement in build quality, too.
The overall machine has styling, build quality and proportions that are a step up from CF Moto’s preceding CL-X 700. Where the retro roadster, though good, was a little gaudy, with clunky fit and finish, the MT is understated, handsome and with a degree of class you could easily assume was Japanese. In addition, despite being KTM 790-derived, the MT Touring also seems more substantial and a genuine two-up tourer without the off-pitting massiveness of, say, a 1250GS or KTM 1290.
What’s more, as the powertrain is KTM derived, there should be few concerns about reliability, either.
Value vs rivals
Next up: Equipment
The new CF Moto 800 MT may be the Chinese brand’s largest, most ambitious, impressively performing and lavishly equipped bike so far, but it’s also still a budget machine who’s main ‘USP’ is value compared to rivals from more established and proven Japanese and European brands. And that’s really the whole point with the new 800MT.
In that respect it succeeds – although not by as much as we’re either used to or might expect from previous, more basic CF Moto models. At a true £11,349 (including OTR costs) the 800 MT Touring isn’t quite as cheap as it originally sounds (a panniered, more powerful, but lesser spec Kawasaki Versys 1000 Tourer, for example, can be bought for £11,679, while the fully-loaded, three-box but just 65bhp Kawasaki Versys 650 Grand Tourer is actually £1000 less).
On top of that, being a 95bhp machine, the 800 MT’s insurance premiums and running costs, including consumables such as tyres, brake pads, chain, fuel and servicing, will be significantly more than all previous, smaller CF Motos as well. Before buying it’s worth remembering that CF Moto can’t match the more expansive dealer network and residual values of the more established, proven Kawasakis, either.
Overall, though, the CF Moto 800 MT Touring is a well-equipped, good performing, smart looking, likeable and versatile addition to the midi-adventure category and is also good – and cheap – enough to make you think, hard – as long as you can live with the name on the tank and what it means as an ownership prospect.
The new CF Moto 800MT comes in two forms: the ‘base’ model is the £10,399 (as launched) Sport which comes with cast alloy wheels fitted with street-orientated tyres, and, as focussed on here and in the pictures, the £11,099 Touring version – with both prices before OTR costs, which are usually £200-250).
The latter instead has off-road style alloy-rimmed wire wheels this time with semi-knobbly tyres by budget brand Maxxis; three-box ally luggage, a quickshifter, useful crash bars, a centre stand, hand guards, steering damper and riding lights as well.
What’s more, that lavish spec comes on top of the base model’s already impressive specification which includes: TFT dash, adjustable wind screen, twin riding modes, USB charging point and so on. The 7in colour dash is decent quality and reminds of KTM’s version on the MT’s ‘sister bike’, the 790 Adventure, but is actually CF Moto’s own and is comprehensive and clear to read. Meanwhile, other electronic goodies include cornering ABS, cruise control and a quickshifter – but, oddly, no traction control.
Most of all that it is good quality, too. The aluminium luggage is lined to avoid scratching your prized possessions but, proportions-wise, is slightly on the small side – particularly the right-hand pannier (due to the exhaust) and top box, which isn’t big enough to hold a full-face lid.
And although the adjustable screen is welcome, its two knob adjustment system means it can’t be altered on the move and is also a little fiddly to operate even at standstill. Overall, though, and especially for the money, the CF Moto 800 MT Touring is a decently-equipped bike.