Up until the last decade, Chinese motorcycle companies were nowhere on the world map. A “Chinese motorcycle” traditionally meant the two-wheeler was either a cheap copy, a low-quality small commuter, a futile attempt, or all of the above.
But the tables have turned big time in the recent past. Chinese giants have slowly deep-rooted themselves in the international two-wheeler market, via an array of strategic partnerships. These help popular companies cut down on manufacturing costs and cater to the populous Asian market, in exchange for rights to their engineering recipes. In fact, this has become quite a trend now, and there’s a high chance your favorite bike maker has also jumped aboard it. Owing to this, we’ve curated a list of five popular companies with Chinese connections to keep you up to date on the matter.
KTM And CFMoto
The 799cc, twin-cylinder mill continues to power the 2023 790 ADV
Perrier Mobility, the parent company of KTM, has an extensive joint venture with CFMoto (or ChungFeng Moto). Under the JV, CFMoto manufactures several KTM motorcycles and engines for the Asian market while the Austrian giant allows the use of its engines in CFMoto-branded motorcycles. The CFMoto 800 MT (powered by KTM’s 799cc, twin-cylinder mill) and the 1250 TR-G (with the Super Duke 1290-derived 1,249cc engine) are both fruits of this tie-up.
Meanwhile, the KTM-CFMoto joint venture has also leveled up in the recent past. CFMoto now manufactures the engines for the 2023 KTM 790 Adventure for all global markets, whereas KTM is set to take over CFMoto distribution in Europe this year. The tie-up extends to the Moto3 world championship too, where CFMoto runs two rebranded KTM RC250GPs under the Prustel GP Racing colors.
Harley-Davidson And QJ Motor
The smaller Harley HD350
Back in 2019, Harley-Davidson announced a strategic partnership with China’s Zhejiang Qianjiang Motorcycle company to foray into the popular small-capacity segment. Though Harley-Davidson has been tight-lipped on the matter, the two giants recently received approval from the Chinese government which enables them to manufacture motorcycles. Soon after, the Chinese trademarks (and images) of the Harley-Davidson X350 and X500 were leaked, followed by confirmation of the X350’s American arrival.
For reference, the Harley-Davidson X350 and X500 are basically rebranded QJ bikes. They employ 353cc and 500cc parallel-twin engines (respectively), alongside modern underpinnings like upside-down forks and dual disc brakes, all borrowed from QJ Motor with subtle tweaks. The only notable change is a more Harley-like design language, with a retro round headlight and a Street 500-like subframe.
MV Agusta And QJ Motor
The MV Agusta Lucky Explorer 5.5 is built by QJ Motor
Yes, even Italy’s exotic MV Agusta has Chinese ties. The bike maker has been in a strategic partnership with the Qianjiang group since 2020, with the key aim to expand the former’s presence in China. As a result, QJ vouched to open 21 new MV Agusta dealerships in China, but we don’t know how that’s going. What we do know, though, is the MV Agusta Lucky Explorer 5.5 is the fruit of the MV-QJ tie-up. It’s not only built by QJ Motor but also employs a QJ-derived 554cc, twin-cylinder engine. In the meantime, the tie-up also allows QJ Motor the right to use MV Agusta engines, confirmed by the sighting of QJ Motor’s upcoming Ducati Panigale V4 rival. The sport bike will be QJ’s most powerful motorcycle, courtesy of its Brutale 1000-borrowed 999cc, inline-four mill.
Moto Morini And ZNEN Group
Moto Morini is all set to enter the American market this year
The newest entrant in the American market – Moto Morini – also has a Chinese connection. Well, it’s more of a family affair, as the bike maker is owned by China’s Zhongneng Vehicle Group (or ZNEN). The Chinese giant acquired Moto Morini just a few years ago in 2018, but only handles the manufacturing side of things. So the company still operates out of its Italian headquarters in Milan, where the research, design, and development take place. This also explains why the Moto Morini X-Cape 650 felt quite premium in the flesh. Anyway, Moto Morini will enter the American market in a couple of months with the X-Cape 650 ADV and Seiemmezzo scrambler.
BMW Motorrad And Loncin
Though Loncin produces BMW engines, the German giant prohibits Loncin to use its engines
Now, this might come as a surprise, but BMW has been tied-up with China’s Longxin Motorcycle Industry (or Loncin) for upwards of 15 years. In the early years, the Chinese company produced BMW’s G650GS engines and the same 652cc, single-cylinder engine also birthed the Loncin LX650 (or CR9). With increased trust between the parties, Loncin is now responsible for BMW’s F 750 GS and F 850 GS engines, alongside the full production of C 400 X and C 400 GT maxi-scooters. So the next time you hop aboard any of these Beemers, just know you’re sitting atop a Chinese product.
To round off, this list is just the tip of the iceberg, nearly all your favorite bike makers can be traced back to China in some way or the other. The only point we’re trying to make here is that you shouldn’t bash any relatively new motorcycle company due to its origin, since there’s a high chance your current steed is also Chinese in some way. Give the new motorcycles a fair chance, check them, take them for a test ride, and then bash them if it seems fit.